Thursday Spotlight

Thursday Spotlight: Deniz Ayaz On the “Unpredictable Nature” of Watercolor and More

Whimsical, precise, and meditative, Deniz Ayaz’s illustrations and watercolors may make you hungry. She often creates tempting portraits, though her skills reach far beyond illustrations of food. Deniz has had works featured in leading outlets including The New York Times, Print Magazine, and more, and below we get to know the Greenpoint artist who dishes not just on her drawings but her favorite places to get baos, ice cream, and more.

Greenpointers: You mentioned you’ve lived in the neighborhood for a few years! Any favorite spots? How has Greenpoint treated you?
Deniz Ayaz: I remember the first time I went to Greenpoint. It was a small field trip with my illustration class to Pencil Factory in 2011. Meeting some of my favorite illustrators there was very inspiring and I can say that this neighborhood has always treated me well. I’ve met inspiring people (including my husband), discovered new spots, and never felt like I was not in a concrete jungle. 

Some of favorite spots in the area are Lot Radio for Saturday afternoons, Baoburg for yummy baos in the backyard, Polka Dot for homemade apple pie, Van Leeuwen for coffee ice cream, Maha Rose for soundbath, and Magick City for dancing, which I’ve recently discovered and been amazed by the space and events.

You dabble in a few different mediums: watercolor, ink… any favorites, and why?
I love the fluidity and unpredictable nature of watercolor. In the past, I’ve painted with various mediums including oil, acrylic, and gouache and it was great to experiment with all of them before finding the “one.” I enjoy creating abstract patterns in watercolor and most of the patterns I like tend to be the ones that are less structured.

Nowadays, it’s quite common to see people planning every second of their lives and try to control every little thing. As a result, it becomes hard to enjoy spontaneity. For me, painting with watercolor is a great way to let go, and it’s quite meditating.  Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Sustainable Work Blooms at Greenpoint’s Flower Clvb

Flower Clvb at the Greenpointers Spring Flower Power Market
Our Thursday Spotlights often feature the multitude of painters, ceramists, and cartoonists in our colorful neighborhood. But Greenpoint’s cultural scene reaches far beyond visual artists, and florist Grace McDonald more than proves that with her small business, Flower Clvb. A sustainable, creative medium, floral designs are a vital part of many a celebration, as Grace below outlines. Get to know her work — and favorite flower — below!
Greenpointers: How long have you been in Brooklyn and where is your businesses based out of?
Grace McDonald: I have lived in Brooklyn since 2013 and I am a studio florist based in Greenpoint.

Flowers is such an interesting and lovely medium, how’d you get into this type of artistry?
I come from an arts administration background where my primary duties involve connecting contemporary artists with youth. Floral design combines my love for art, nature, and coordinating as I administer an experience for clients that brings out the full expression of who they are. Working with my hands and in a medium that grows from the earth is deeply satisfying to me.

What kinds of requests would you say make up the bulk of your business?
Most of my clients are brides, however I am beginning to receive more inquiries from companies who are interested in planning a fun team building activity or who need flowers for corporate events.

Where do you source your flowers from?
During spring, summer and fall, I try to source as much of my flowers as possible from local farms and supplement with beautiful blooms I find on the 28th Street Flower Market. There are also great local blooms at certain wholesalers at the market as well. During the winter months, I primarily buy from the 28th Street Flower Market or from a local wholesaler in New Jersey that is often able to find me blooms that are American-grown, if not local. I have also found the Union Square Greenmarket to have really incredible and affordable local flowers in the summer.

Are there any kinds of projects you love working on?
I love experimenting with challenging large-scale installations. I am always looking for interesting alternatives for installing without floral foam since floral foam is so bad for the environment. There is almost always a foam-free solution, it just might take a little time, creativity, and the hands of a great team.

One more question: what’s your favorite flower?
I absolutely love poppies. I love how hairy the stems are and how their blooms are often covered in little pods when you buy them. They are a flower that surprises you when they emerge from their pods and I think there is something mysterious and whimsical about them.

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Thursday Spotlight: How Litter Inspired the Playful Erik’s Paper Route

Erik’s Paper Route took part in our Spring Market earlier this month!
Hard times makes for progressive art, and boy is Erik Jacobsen having fun with our current political bonanza. His small business, Erik’s Paper Route, takes the litter of candy wrappers and transforms it into something that — all at once — is vibrant, quirky, and pointed. Below, he explains the birth of his company and his hopes for the future, but to see his work in person, join him at the upcoming Greenpoint Open Studios!
Greenpointers: You’ve lived in Greenpoint for a couple years. How has the nabe and community treated you?

The neighborhood felt like home immediately. My downstairs neighbor Jean had, until recently, lived in the same apartment for 50 years, and her love for Greenpoint was infectious. She was the first to welcome me and my fiancé to Brooklyn, and she always insisted on giving us fresh bread every week from a local Polish bakery.  

I’ve met lots of wonderful creatives in the studio space at 108 Bayard who have been incredibly supportive and friendly. It’s inspiring seeing people pursue their passion full heartedly in the fields of fashion, photography and design.

Erik’s Paper Route is such a lovely name. This may seem random, but did you have a paper route as a child?

Sadly no! Having grown up in the Jersey suburbs I did ride my bike constantly as a kid to get around and there was always a freeing feeling associated with it. “Paper route” is a play on words for me as I head in a new direction with a new medium. Paper routes exist to spread the news and Erik’s Paper Route was created out of a need to express my reaction to it.

Can you discuss the origin of your company?

Moving to Brooklyn three years ago was a pivotal moment for me and represented a dream fulfilled. Having lived in DC for 10 years prior, I was surprised by the volume of discarded candy wrappers on the sidewalks and streets of NYC — and I loved it. DC was an amazing city to live in but my old neighborhood didn’t offer me the grit or beautiful chaos I found in Brooklyn. 

Erik’s Paper Route started in January 2018 as a reaction to seeing a lot of perfectly filtered photos and influencer social accounts on Instagram after a long day at my day job. As great as social media can be at giving people a platform to share their work, it can also be overwhelming and make you question, “Am I doing enough creatively?” or “Why am I the only one who hasn’t been to Costa Rica?” It’s all really silly when you think about it but it was a natural response for me. Sometimes you just need to take a break from your phone and that’s when I saw a stack of multi-colored paper staring at me on my desk. I started to rip it up into letters that spelled out the phrase “Stop Comparing Yourself to Everyone Else” and that’s the moment when everything changed for me and this new route began.

Your work has a strong political bent, but also a nostalgic one. Can you discuss how those ideas coalesce?

Everything stems from a loss of innocence I experienced growing up — learning that everything is not what it once may have seemed. A lot of my work relates to repurposing food and candy packaging from my childhood. The sheen of a candy wrapper has lost its luster to me seeing it dirtied on a Brooklyn sidewalk, which I also see as a metaphor. I’m nostalgic for a time where I would buy airheads for 25 cents at my local pool during hot summers — but relating it to my life now — the white mystery airhead flavor represents our current president. A “what’s that airhead gonna do next” type of mentality. I try to imbue a playful and mischievous tone into my work to address serious issues that have become more apparent to me as I’ve gotten older. 

A former art teacher told me that altering one minor component to a project can drastically change the meaning of something entirely. I’ve kept that in my mind as I work. 

If you eat too much sugar you’ll get a cavity and I like to play with the idea that these sweetly package treats should be consumed with care. Don’t believe everything you see just because you saw it online or heard it on the news. 

Politics is not something I thought of as much growing up. As I got older and went to college in DC I couldn’t help but become hyperaware of what was going on in my backyard. I am extremely fortunate to have grown up in a time where, as a gay man, I’ve seen my rights increased precisely at the times I truly wanted them. When same-sex marriage was legalized in the US in June 2015, I visited the White House that night to see it emblazoned in the colors of the rainbow. That was a moment of great hope and validation to know I was good enough to make my voice a little louder as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

With this current administration there’s a lot more at risk, and my artwork is the best route I know of to vocalize my disapproval of Trump. 

Your work is on paper — what instruments do you use for your drawings? Is there a digital component?

I use an X-acto knife to cut all my pieces. Sometimes I’ll get stubborn and won’t change the blade for a couple weeks which causes it to get more blunt and harder to use — but working with my hands and the paper medium has allowed me to release myself from the expectation of perfection. And to be honest, supplies and blades are expensive so I really like to let the tools run their course til I absolutely need something new. I’ll just roll with what I’ve got til my next payday. It’s forced me to not be as wasteful and I love that. There’s no such thing as messing up to me with the medium — only happy accidents — perfection is boring. 

The digital component comes only when I photograph the pieces to create prints. I’d like to experiment with a laser cutter to mass produce my pieces. The idea of creating something I first made organically by hand and then mass producing it is fascinating to me. Time is money. I’m constantly thinking, as a small business, how I can work smarter, not harder. 

Any projects you have coming up? Anything else you’d like to discuss?

I am working on a new series that involves the idea of chance. I love the concept of games like checkers and chess and how the small moves you make can have a huge impact on your end goal. I’ve learned the most successful people have made lots of small moves in the right direction over time, and I want to do the same as it relates conceptually to my work.

I’m moving away from candy and food packaging at the moment and experimenting with new subject matter that involves scenes from everyday life made from paper. I’ve always found inspiration from everyday ordinary things.

Greenpoint has been the perfect home and launch pad for Erik’s Paper Route. I’ll be participating in the Greenpoint Open Studios June 8 and 9 and am looking forward to sharing my work with more people in the community.

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Thursday Spotlight: Buket Savci on Creating “Fleeting Moments of Pure Joy”

 

BBBBB (Buket’s Bunny Boy Beach Bed), 2017, oil on canvas, by Buket Savci
These are dark times, there’s no denying it. From political unrest and environmental crisis to smaller gripes like seasonal allergies and MTA woes, it’s easy to get bogged down in this concrete jungle we call home. But Buket Savci, this week’s featured artist, is here with a salve in her magnificently colorful and fantastically buoyant works. Buket’s paintings, along with Jacob Hicks’, will be the inaugural works at Wrong Side of the River (67 West Street, Suite 312) now through May 3. Their exhibition, Wonderland, is a welcome balm to our times and a stunning exercise in collaborative creativity. Below, we get to know Buket and her work, but most importantly her contagious and relentless optimism.
Greenpointers: How long have you been in Brooklyn?
Buket Savci: I live and work in Brooklyn; I’ve been in Bushwick for a little over three years. Before that I lived in Astoria for almost 10 years. But I’ve had my studio in Greenpoint since I received my MFA from New York Academy of Art in 2012. I also studied painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
Your Wonderland series is so fun! What was the inspiration for that at Wrong Side of the River?
I am so glad to hear you enjoy our title for the show. I have been working on these series of paintings for a few years now, which are about the fleeting moments of pure joy and happiness. I create paintings addressing the ephemerality of happiness while using objects like balloons as a metaphor for our short lived contentment.
I really enjoy using saturated vivid colors, and I think everything else is so negative and dark so at least my paintings should be colorful and fun. That’s why I use the colors that makes me happy, and I enjoy including humor in my art. But actually I am not that joyful. Life is not easy and I had my share of traumas. Unfortunately a few years ago I had a major depression and even my psychiatrist was constantly telling me that my art will save me. Painting is my passion, and it is this wonderland where anything can happen, so I choose to make it fun and colorful like a playground.
Passengers, 2018, oil on canvas, by Buket Savci

There is this profound quote from a Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet; he asks to Abidin Dino, who was a famous Turkish artist. “Could you make a painting of happiness?” So all these led me to question what is real happiness, when and how we feel real joy, and how do I express this through painting.

Painting lets me live these fleeting moments in detail and throughly over a course of weeks even months. I want to create a niche of fantasy, where both the figures and I as the painter can be just like a child — innocent and playful, carefree and bold. A visual playground far away from all the darkness enclosing us outside and inside, blossomed through sincerity and trust.

Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Buket Savci on Creating “Fleeting Moments of Pure Joy”

 

BBBBB (Buket’s Bunny Boy Beach Bed), 2017, oil on canvas, by Buket Savci
These are dark times, there’s no denying it. From political unrest and environmental crisis to smaller gripes like seasonal allergies and MTA woes, it’s easy to get bogged down in this concrete jungle we call home. But Buket Savci, this week’s featured artist, is here with a salve in her magnificently colorful and fantastically buoyant works. Buket’s paintings, along with Jacob Hicks’, will be the inaugural works at Wrong Side of the River (67 West Street, Suite 312) now through May 3. Their exhibition, Wonderland, is a welcome balm to our times and a stunning exercise in collaborative creativity. Below, we get to know Buket and her work, but most importantly her contagious and relentless optimism.
Greenpointers: How long have you been in Brooklyn?
Buket Savci: I live and work in Brooklyn; I’ve been in Bushwick for a little over three years. Before that I lived in Astoria for almost 10 years. But I’ve had my studio in Greenpoint since I received my MFA from New York Academy of Art in 2012. I also studied painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
Your Wonderland series is so fun! What was the inspiration for that at Wrong Side of the River?
I am so glad to hear you enjoy our title for the show. I have been working on these series of paintings for a few years now, which are about the fleeting moments of pure joy and happiness. I create paintings addressing the ephemerality of happiness while using objects like balloons as a metaphor for our short lived contentment.
I really enjoy using saturated vivid colors, and I think everything else is so negative and dark so at least my paintings should be colorful and fun. That’s why I use the colors that makes me happy, and I enjoy including humor in my art. But actually I am not that joyful. Life is not easy and I had my share of traumas. Unfortunately a few years ago I had a major depression and even my psychiatrist was constantly telling me that my art will save me. Painting is my passion, and it is this wonderland where anything can happen, so I choose to make it fun and colorful like a playground.
Passengers, 2018, oil on canvas, by Buket Savci

There is this profound quote from a Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet; he asks to Abidin Dino, who was a famous Turkish artist. “Could you make a painting of happiness?” So all these led me to question what is real happiness, when and how we feel real joy, and how do I express this through painting.

Painting lets me live these fleeting moments in detail and throughly over a course of weeks even months. I want to create a niche of fantasy, where both the figures and I as the painter can be just like a child — innocent and playful, carefree and bold. A visual playground far away from all the darkness enclosing us outside and inside, blossomed through sincerity and trust.

Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet the Wizard Behind Brooklyn Airlines, Ertac Uygun

Perhaps you’ve seen his I Don’t Hate New York tote. Or the hilarious, oddball Brooklyn Airlines tote. No, the borough does not have an airlines, but it does have a prolific creative who started that very company and its addicting, delightful brand. Graphic designer Ertac Uygun keeps busy not just with this company but a host of other clients in the music, event, non-profit, and fashion sectors. Here, Greenpointers catches up with the local artist to discuss his career and favorite spots to nosh.
Greenpointers: Do you live in the neighborhood, and if so for how long?
Ertac Uygun: I’ve lived in South Williamsburg since 2012.  The neighborhood doesn’t have the same energy from seven years ago but I’m still optimistic; Williamsburg is an incredible place to live. Full of creatives and good vibes.
What got you into graphic design?
Vintage magazines. I came across a box of vintage magazines when I was about 13. I recall being amazed and impressed as a kid by their colors, patterns, and illustrations. Also, drawing and doodling were my favorite crafts during my younger years.  After I  graduated from high school I worked as an intern for an outdoor advertising company where I developed my photoshop and illustration skills and learned how to do a design for prints. I worked for the same company until I graduated from college.

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet Paul Kielmanowicz, a Polish Poet and Native Greenpointer

Native Brooklynite Paul Kielmanowicz with his book of poems

It’s high time we celebrate the hometown hero: Paul Kielmanowicz is a Greenpoint poet, born and raised, with the purest and most New York of stories: he writes on the subway and distributes his art communally. His book of poems, A Carefully Curated Chemistry, isn’t quite for sale — but he’ll tell you more about that. His poems simultaneously possess the largeness of mythology with the smallness of our fragile lives on this planet; indeed, his poems often discuss the earth and its natural splendor. Patient and probing, Kielmanowicz — who writes under the name P. E. Warren — captures in his work a delicate spirit rarely found in the competitive grit of New York. Get to know the local artist in our interview below:

Greenpointers: You grew up in Greenpoint, yes? What has it been like to see the neighborhood evolve? 

P. E. Warren: I sure did. Grew up on Russell Street, between Nassau and Norman Avenue, until the age 17. My parents purchased a single-family dwelling in Glendale, Queens, while I was entering my senior year of high school. My mother and father arrived in the New York as immigrants; they’re now citizens. My brother and I were born New Yorkers. I’m of Polish decent — 100% — but I tend to label myself as “Brooklyn,” when asked of my ethnicity. That might be perceived as foolishly amusing to some, but is fully sufficient for me. As a first-generation New Yorker, and Greenpointer, the city and neighborhood’s changed. It’s tough for me to use “evolution” to describe the happenings. Modification. I think modification’s fitting. Well. It has been an adjustment. Money is a dominance. It’ll be until it no longer is. It’s disappointing, to me at least, how intense of a power to influence or direct people’s behaviors it encompasses. But nonetheless, truthfully, the neighborhood’s safer from the days of the 90s, making it all right. Folks seem to be encountering less of the roughness. My motion, whether it be solely derived from a common aspect of adolescence most experience I cannot be sure, however, I find that I’m rarely walking out from our three-story low-rise rowhouse’s entrance vestibule onto the stoop and peering up and down the block before taking that last step down to hit the sidewalk and go about my day. The beauty of the neighborhood: we, the locals, are the living landmarks. I’ll forever put Greenpoint before myself, before my own name.      Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet Director Dina Vovsi

Dina Vovsi

When we discuss the art scene in Greenpoint, we often focus on the Pencil Factory’s many inhabitants or the other visual artists working out of their studios, homes, and even in our neighborhood parks. But North Brooklyn has always been teeming with artists of many different stripes, including versatile theatermakers like director Dina Vovsi. Dina has worked in collegiate and Off-Broadway theaters, crafted plays centering on immigrant experiences, and created immersive experiences in outdoor settings. Below, we get to know the Greenpoint-based director while discussing her career, the importance of affordable housing, and — of course — her dog Bruce.

Greenpointers: How long have you lived in Greenpoint, and what brought you here? 

Dina Vovsi: I’ve lived in Greenpoint for about two and a half years. Before moving here, my partner and I were in Kensington for a year, and before that, I lived in Williamsburg for six years, so I’ve spent a lot of time in North Brooklyn. I am super lucky — my name was drawn in the affordable housing lottery for an apartment in a brand-new, mixed-income building, which has made being an artist significantly more possible over the past couple of years. It’s been a financial game-changer, and I can’t stress enough how everyone needs to be submitting for these buildings on NYC Housing Connect; I know quite a few people who have been selected recently, so it’s really not as impossible as legend says. We live in the quieter, north end of the neighborhood, and I love being near the water and walking our dog, Bruce, to Transmitter Park and Greenpoint Landing. More people know his name than mine, which I’m totally fine with. Continue reading

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Thursday Spotlight: Meet The Artist Behind That Winning G Train Doodle

Nadeesha Godamunne’s all-too-accurate doodle.

We’ve all rushed for the G train, but few have captured its whimsy and hysteria as winningly as local artist Nadeesha Godamunne. (Mokshini, the mononym you may know her by, is actually her first name.) Her post on Instagram, combined with its repost on Greenpointers, received almost 3,000 hits, and in this Thursday Spotlight, Greenpointers got to know Nadeesha, her artistic ethics, and the importance of “putting humor into something that most people get frustrated with.”

Greenpointers: Do you live in the neighborhood, and if so for how long?
Nadeesha Godamunne: No, but I’ve always been a fan of the artisan vibe of Greenpoint, and recently got my art studio right by Transmitter Park — I love it! 

On Instagram, you wittily calls yourself a “professional doodler.” I’m wondering, given how much artists need to work to stay afloat, how much of your doodling is for your own enjoyment, like the G Train piece?
Every artist finds this a challenge. It’s about striking a balance between the money jobs that pay the bills, but perhaps don’t inspire you as much, and the ones that fulfill you and bring joy. I draw for myself every day and maintain a journal of experiences and things I see. I try not to share this journal with people or on social media. This is vital because it reminds me to create first and foremost for me. A lot of these doodles inform the illustrations that you see on Instagram. 

Nadeesha Godamunne at work

Did the impending shutdown in any way help inspire this G train piece?
Absolutely! It’s amusing to me that the G train is so short. I find myself sprinting to catch the train and laughing at the same time because the whole situation is just so ridiculous. Putting humor into something that most people get frustrated with just keeps things fun and relatable.

Your art has a wonderfully textured and vivid style to it; can you discuss how this came to be part of your brand and whether or not you have any influences?
I try not to take myself too seriously, and i think that’s what comes across in my work. My style is constantly evolving; currently, I’m going through a bolder, more playful phase. I’ve noticed a shift since I started freelancing. It’s interesting. My focus when I draw, however, is not so much about the style — it’s about the message. I try to push the ideals of fashion illustration with whimsical yet relatable characters, satirical fashion storytelling, and humor. Some of my favorite artists are Rene Gruau, Toulouse Lautrec, Kenneth Paul Block, and Egon Schiele.

Central Park by Nadeesha Godamunne

Are there any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
Really excited about an upcoming collaboration with Vans, where they showcased my art and personal journey in a video format. We did a time lapse of me drawing and some animation work too. Should turn out great!

Do you have a favorite cafe, restaurant, or locale in Greenpoint?
I love Ovenly for their amazing pastries, the Stuart Cinema and Cafe for their soup, and Alameda and Citroen for their cocktails! There’s too many!

Nadeesha Godamunne
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Thursday Spotlight: Kimia Kline on Leading The Wythe Hotel’s Art Program

Photo of Kimia Kline by Carmen Chan

Since officially kicking off its hotel art program with artist and curator Kimia Kline at the helm, Wythe Hotel has cultivated an impressive permanent collection featuring artists such as Katherine Bradford, Chris Martin, EJ Hauser, Steve DiBenedetto, and Yevgeniya Baras. Along with Rachael Petach, Kimia heads the hotel Residency Program, offering independent artists further opportunities to develop new pieces and share their work with broader audiences. 

The hotel’s permanent collection consists of unique works in each guest room, a tribute to the Brooklyn local creative community and the diversity of talent to be found in the storied neighborhood. The collection primarily focuses on sketchbooks and in-process pieces, emphasizing the alive and fluid creative process. Wythe Hotel’s hope is to foster a connection between its guests and the wider creative community of Brooklyn, and Kimia continues to help foster that. We caught up with the local artist and curator to learn more about her unique work and process.

Greenpointers: Do you live in Brooklyn, and if so where and for how long? 
Kimia Kline: I’ve lived in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for the past six years.
How did you first get connected to this Artist Residency Program, and why did the Wythe feel like a good fit as a venue?
After building the visual art collection in the hotel over the past four years, I was excited to expand our programming to include performance art and new media as well. After lots of conversations regarding how to better serve our creative community and activate the beautiful and unique spaces in the hotel, we came up with the parameters of the residency and put out an open call. We’ve been thrilled with the interest from both artists and audiences and realize what a need there is for this kind of exhibition opportunity in Brooklyn.

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