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Angie Stalker’s Contemporary Art Is Rooted in Play

By Bethanie Hestermann

Playful + optimistic + bright. Contemporary artist Angie Stalker of OK by Angie creates delightful objects and artwork rooted in play, curiosity, and experimentation. Angie is also the talented illustrator behind the adorable Oh Joy! board book series. Through her work, Angie strives to highlight the brightness in every day—without glossing over the not-so-good parts. In fact, she says sitting in discomfort in a playful way can activate goodness! (Love!)  

Angie says openness, curiosity, place + space, support, and taking time to recharge are necessities in her creative pursuits. “The world needs bright, inventive, wild thinkers,” she says. “I don’t think it is possible to be that without taking risks and discovering opportunity in mishaps.”

Learn more in today’s Q&A!

Tell us about OK by Angie!

I am Angie, and OK is my creative studio and practice that leans into play and optimism to activate goodness. I want my work to shape daily experiences and spaces that bring out the best in people and a brightness in every day. I also want to acknowledge that each day is a part of a bigger whole and process. There are many challenges every day, and rather than glossing over the problems with optimistic blinders, I hope my work encourages sitting in discomfort in a playful way as a means to activate goodness.  

How would you describe your artwork to others?

My practice is multifaceted and rooted in play, curiosity, and experimentation. I create vibrant, process-based visual constructions that are notations on the everyday, memory, and habit. Sometimes my work is a painting or a drawing; sometimes my work is a lesson or call to wonder; sometimes it’s hand-painted fabric or a sewn garment; and sometimes it’s a surface pattern design, product, or book illustration. 

Could you tell us about your experience illustrating the Oh Joy! books? 

The Oh Joy! story books are so special to me, and they were all such a delight to create. I loved concepting the characters, developing their environments, and collaborating with Joy Cho. I think what surprised me most was the amount of time it took to develop and launch a book from concept to print. We worked on the books for years! 

When did you first feel your art style emerge?

I first felt truly connected with a way of making and listening to my inner artist voice during my early years in college. But I have always been making and playing with materials. I often have a hard time finding my words and working with materials has been a way for me to use my voice.

What piece means the most to you?

I feel so connected to all of my work. I value the lessons they taught me while making them, the memories that bring me back to the times of creating them, and the delight they bring to other people. 

How do you want people to feel when they view your work? 

I hope my work conveys a boldness and strength amid chaos, folded in with a sense of play and delight. 

We love how versatile you are with your art mediums. What’s your favorite medium?

At heart I’m a painter, even when the materials are not directly a paintbrush and paint. What I enjoy the most is bending and blending processes into one another—like folding a 2D painting on paper into a 3D wall sculpture, painting on fabric and transforming it into a garment, or collaging a drawing and turning it into a repeat for a surface pattern. I feel like there is magic when the name for something becomes a little bit complicated. Is it a painting or sculpture? Is it a photograph or drawing? Is it Art or Craft or Design? 

What advice would you give to artists who are struggling with finding purpose and/or inspiration?

I will always say keep making. Even when it feels sticky—especially when it feels sticky. The more you make, the more you will find your voice. And make mistakes often. Accept failure as a learning tool. The world needs bright, inventive, wild thinkers, and I don’t think it is possible to be that without taking risks and discovering opportunity in mishaps. 

How do you find inspiration for your work?

I find that inspiration needs a specific soil to be the most fruitful. A mixture of openness and curiosity, place, space and environment, support, and taking time to rest and recharge are my specific necessities. When those come together, I’m most often able to slide into a creative flow where I can get curious about materials and play. 

I love learning and adapting new processes into my practice, which in turn shapes how I work in different ways. I also like to have a lot of different projects going on at once. It’s interesting to see how they all cross-pollinate. 

What’s your favorite music to listen to while you create?

Sometimes just a quiet studio where I can hear the materials in action—the scissors cutting paper, the brush across a canvas surface, the mechanical rhythm of the sewing machine. Sometimes I enjoy a mix of Rich Aucoin, Betty Who, Jamie Drake, Hello Goodbye, The Publicists, The Drowning Men, The Killers, Foo Fighters, Tegan and Sara. Sometimes a Tiffany Han or Artist/Mother podcast episode.  

What’s your favorite part of the creation process?

Trying things and failing—and then finding an amazing discovery from the rubble. The discovery is magic. 

What is your all-time biggest dream job as an artist?

I have a dream to design creative studio spaces that would be open for community play. They would be maker spaces and labs where the community would have access to all sorts of materials, tools, and equipment to play and experiment. It would also be interesting to see this as mobile maker spaces.

I would love to build an awesome interactive outdoor sculptural park and playground in the spirit of Piedmont Park Playscape by Isamu Noguchi, La Laguna Park by Benjamin Dominguez, and City Museum by Bob Cassilly. 

Collaborating on clothing lines and textiles is also on my dream list. I would love to create everyday apparel for adults and kids, maybe costumes or cycling, swim gear, and athletic wear. Something in the realm of daily art for practical wear and play. 

And more books. I would love to create and illustrate more books tied to my quest for sparking wonder. 

Find Angie at www.everydayisok.com and @ok.by.angie on Instagram!

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