Personally customized but also fully public, the exterior faces of buildings are of great interest to Los Angeles-based artist Ana Serrano, who focuses her practice on the dualistic nature of these common architectural forms. The city is a constant source of inspiration and observation for a designer who focuses on the small, individualistic changes people make to their own front facades, putting their best faces forward to the world.
The artist herself is concerned about achieving some type of progress and initiating forward movement each day, but recognizes that some of those tasks may remain unseen. Her studio, full of the vibrant cardboard, paper, and paint used in creating colorful sculptural forms, offers the means to ignite creativity — at times imposing deadlines on herself to call upon an innate skill for working well under pressure. “I’ll set a timer,” Ana offers. “Doesn’t mean that what I come up with in that hour is going to be good or usable, but at least it gets my brain going.” Perhaps some of the idiosyncratic details she spots around town are similarly composed. —Annie
What’s in your toolbox?
Lots of X-ACTO blades and knives, mechanical pencils, a self-healing mat, scissors in just about every size, a straight edge, lots of clear rulers, acrylic paint, a hot glue gun, and cardboard and paper in every color.
Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”
HAPPY :) :)
What is on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
I’m all about art books. Lately I’ve been obsessing over Surreal Things, a book about surrealism and design. There are lots of images of Elsa Schiaparelli’s work in it — she’s my favorite fashion designer. Also, a Louise Bourgeois book and Artists in Love, a book that features famous artist couples throughout time.
How do you keep yourself organized?
I buy a new weekly planner every year, one that I can easily carry everywhere I go. I also always carry a notebook with me to keep notes and make to-do lists. I always have a to-do list that I’m working on. I’m also the type of person who designates a place for everything, so it’s easier to clean up and stay tidy.
If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?
To have endless energy!
What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?
One piece of advice that resonated with me when I was just starting off (and is also advice I would give a young artist) was to not be afraid to draw something ugly. NOTHING is going to happen if you draw something ugly. This was a relief for me to hear. Because I was embarrassed about my skills in the beginning, fear would inhibit me from practicing — but you can only get better through practice.
How do you combat creative blocks?
If I’m not motivated to make art, I work on the boring stuff — the things that don’t require a lot of thinking. I clean my paint palettes, organize the files on my desktop, I do the updates I ignore all the time on my computer, I take inventory of my supplies and make a list of things I need to get from the art store. I may not be working on actual artwork, but these things are still important and I still feel like I’m moving forward. Also, I work well under pressure so I sometimes give myself deadlines so I can move forward, like “you need to come up with something in one hour,” and I’ll set a timer. Doesn’t mean that what I come up with in that hour is going to be good or usable, but at least it gets my brain going.
Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is the urban environment, mostly Los Angeles because it’s where I’ve lived my whole life. I’m always looking — whether I’m walking, driving, or on the Metro.
I also like looking at art books for inspiration. There are so many good art book stores in Los Angeles — my favorites are Skylight Books and Hennessey + Ingalls. To shop, I really love party supply stores, Sanrio, and Daiso. Also, I love going to Downtown LA to browse the fabric district. Michael Levine is my favorite, but I also like going into the bead and crafty stores. Oh, and I’ll always be a sucker for Michael’s — it’s embarrassing how often I go there.
If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?
I would love to peek inside the studio of fashion label Comme des Garçons. Fashion is something I like to look at and truly admire, but don’t know the process. It would be amazing to see how Rei Kawakubo constructs a dress.
What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?
Allah-Las, The Growlers, Goat, Haim