Josie Stevenson

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I live in Teaneck, New Jersey - my hometown!
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I always need a good playlist and a lot of coffee. In terms of materials, I love any kind of heavyweight paper. I’m still really upset about New York Central closing because they had the best paper department.
New York Central closing felt like the end of an era. Where do you go for your materials now?
These days I go to Blick, mostly because it’s super convenient.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
The most difficult part of making art is trusting my own instincts. I have a lot of perfectionist tendencies that are hard for me to abandon. I question myself a lot, but I feel like I’ve gotten better at embracing the unknown.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
Very! I’m always grappling with possibilities and constraints. I often feel overwhelmed by the idea of infinite solutions and usually try to work within some self-imposed limitation, like a specific size or source of reference. These restrictions leave room for experimentation, but help me feel less stuck.
What’s a limit you’ve been trying out recently?
Recently I’ve been making collages that are no bigger than 10” x 10”. In art school I was groomed to work large-scale, but I’ve always found smaller artworks to be really charming and accessible.
I often feel overwhelmed by the idea of infinite solutions and usually try to work within some self-imposed limitation, like a specific size or source of reference. — Josie Stevenson
Who trained you?
I studied illustration at Parsons. I was lucky to have had a lot of great professors. Jordin Isip, Noël Claro, and Chang Park were especially influential.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any of your peers who are also working now?
My process is pretty solitary, so I really cherish having creative friends to reach out to when I need advice or feel like I’m in a rut. We’re constantly scheming up potential collaborations!
What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?
I’m drawn to ideas relating to lineage. I like the concept that every image has a backstory, no matter how vague or indecipherable.
Why did you choose to work with collage?
When I was in school I spent a lot of time drawing and painting in a figurative manner. By the time I graduated I was feeling really burnt out with that approach and started cutting shapes out of old paintings that I didn’t like and arranging them in different formations. I’ve always found playing with composition and color in an abstract sense to be really meditative and fun.
I like the concept that every image has a backstory, no matter how vague or indecipherable. — Josie Stevenson
Do you see your works as part of a series?
I typically approach each piece I make with the idea that it will eventually be part of a series. I’m always curious to see how my individual works end up informing one another.
Do you find that your location strongly influences the direction of your work?
My sensibilities are the same no matter where I am, but I do spend a lot of time thinking about my surroundings. I’ve spent the last few months in the town I grew up in after having to leave my Brooklyn apartment because of a fire next door. I’m just outside of the city, but the pace here is definitely slower, quieter. My work has always been kind of restrained, but recently it’s become even more subdued.
Your works evoke landscapes, cosmic events, and sometimes even still life. How literally do you think these pieces can be read?
This is hard. I don’t think that my works should be interpreted too literally, although I like the idea of them depicting something representational in a codified way. I try to keep things somewhat open-ended. I’m always afraid of being too heavy-handed with an idea.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
The first artworks that really stood out to me were children’s book illustrations. I loved (and still love) Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold and anything by William Steig.
Is there any artwork on display in your studio?
Most of the artwork I own is from friends like So Jin Lee, Vincy Cheung, and Hannah Drossman. I used to babysit a ton and have a lot of drawings and homemade cards from the kids I took care of. I love kid art.
Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?
Sheila Heti is great. I’ve read How Should a Person Be? twice and still think about certain passages. I should probably read it again soon. I also really admire Patti Smith. I saw her in concert a few years ago. It was her 68th birthday and she played a really long set that ended with her tearing the strings out of her guitar.

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