100 Creatives

97: Kelsey Dake

When we last put the spotlight on 100 creative forces in Phoenix, it was no secret there were more than 100 individuals who were making waves in the local arts community. So as we count down to our annual Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. 

We're talking painters, writers, sculptors, designers, architects -- Phoenicians who are digging into the local scene and adding their own creative elements. Welcome (back) to 100 Creatives. And while you're here, check out 100 Tastemakers on Chow Bella.

Kelsey Dake's a native Phoenician who says she tells people she draws for a living.

"It seems to be the most effective way to avoid people thinking I'm some bum who sits around my house, smokes weed all day, and paints shitty paintings about emotions," she says. "I've found that's the image most people conjure up when you say "I'm an artist" so I just stick to telling people I draw for a living."

The 22-year-old has illustrated stories for Newsweek, Maxim, McSweeney's The Believer, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wired (to name a few), and was one of Print Magazine's 2012 New Visual Artists, or Top 20 Under 30.

I came to Phoenix with . . . A renewed respect! At the tender age of 17 I decided I had had it with this brown wasteland crammed packed with "Tuscan" McMansions and hot weather. So I traded it in for a brown wasteland crammed packed with cars and assholes, read: Los Angeles. And after that I decided I wanted to live in a brown wasteland crammed with expensive restaurants and humid air, read: New York. I never quite felt like I belonged to either LA or NY, Phoenix is a place that I can claim as my own and actually has a lot of strong points other larger cities lacked. I decided I wanted to come back to Phoenix and make everyone realize there's more to Arizona than guns and Sheriff Joe. I think this city deserves more respect than it receives and I wanted to make it my personal mission to see that that happens.

I make art because . . . It's what I've always done. And besides, when I nearly chickened out on applying to art school and wanted to go to NAU to study Hotel Management instead, my high school art teacher got in my face and told me I was an idiot. I hate being called an idiot.

I'm most productive when . . . Hm fuck. It really depends. I'm really super mega ultra productive when I like a piece. But I guess I'm really just run of the mill productive when I choose to be. I kind of hate the internet, so that's not a huge distraction or anything. I just have to tell myself, "OK time to do work now," and I jam stuff out. I'm also a tad superstitious, so I don't like walking away from a piece till it's done. I'm always paralyzed by the thought of dying in a car accident when a piece is sitting at home half finished. I'm beyond crazy, it's cool.

My inspiration wall is full of . . . Scraps of stuff. I totally feel like a squirrel. And it's not so much an inspiration wall at that rate, it's more of a "oooooo this is cool, *smack on wall*" kind of wall. I have one of those aluminum bars that restaurants clip receipts into, and that's where things get shoved or balanced. I have stamps one of my professors designed in there, a Lego Target dog that Invisible Creature designed for Christmas gift cards, my badge from the AIGA pivot conference, a pair of 2" tall ceramic Chinese good luck cats my friend Elliot gave me, a package of Draplin Co. pencils, random notes from ADs, a packaging insert from a Marimekko shower curtain, a shell casing, etcetera, etcetera, I mean it's mostly pack rat kind of shit but I love it all.

I've learned the most from . . . Wow, what an incredibly difficult thing to pin point. I've learned a lot from mentors, I've learned a lot by watching, I've learned a lot by doing, I've learned from other people who are self-made *cough, Gore, cough*, and lastly, I've learned a lot by failing. I'd like to think that all of these things combined are where I've learned the most. And magically enough, each of these sources tends to reinforce each other so that's neat, huh?

Good work should always . . . Make me happy. I'm forever going to be my hardest critic, and I do this for a living because I love it. Like I said before, I jam the hardest when I like a piece. I think if it can hold my attention, I'm going to spend a lot more time making the work sing. I've also been fortunate enough to find that when I love a piece most everyone else will love it too. So yeah, good work needs to make me happy. Just last week I spent four days on a piece and I hated it more and more everyday. I knew deep down that I hated it, I started getting sloppy and lazy, and suddenly realized "man, this piece is going to bleed hatred and laziness" so I tossed it and started over, the new piece I finished within 12 hours and is far better, I love the piss out of it; it shows.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more . . . I've been mulling over that for awhile now. My intention moving back was to help make the Phoenix creative scene a better place.

For crying out loud, Phoenix is what, the fifth largest city in the US? There should be no reason for the art n design scene to not be hopping. Seriously though, Portland and Austin are hopping, as well as Minneapolis, Kansas City, Detroit, and Charleston?! What fucking random cities when you really think about it. So that brings me back to the question, what do those cities have that Phoenix doesn't? (Get ready, cause this is what I think.) Phoenix is so young (really, most of this place was built starting in the mid to late 50s) that there really hasn't ever been a physical place for artists to go. In most of the cities I mentioned earlier, there are defunct parts of town where artists can congregate because they can afford to and no one else wants to.

Artists start gentrification, but how can one start gentrifying an area if there are no defunct or affordable parts of town? I think after the housing market crashed suddenly there were defunct spaces within reach. People wanted to unload shitty pieces of ground that they had clutched to when things were at a premium, but now wanted to be rid of when they faced their personal debts.

Take downtown near Roosevelt, all the sudden that zombie-meth head infested real estate got affordable and now look at all of the neat spots popping up. Same goes for most of the Central Corridor actually. Shit got cheap enough for artists to move in and do stuff. Hell, that's why I came back. I could suddenly afford a house built by my favorite architect (Haver for all of you architecture nerds) for less than I was paying in rent in NYC. I think Phoenix needs it's creatives to keep fighting the good fight because they're finally starting to get the footing they've always wanted. I'm excited about the future of Phoenix's creative scene you guys!

The Creatives so far ...

100:Lara Plecas 99. Isaac Caruso 98. Brandon Gore

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton