BUST sat down with artist and founder of cool swag mecca, Witchsy, to talk about what it takes to be a working artist, entrepreneur, and card carrying vagina owner in the digital age. Check it out:
Janeth Ann Gonda: Okay, so first off, your art is dope AF! Tell me a bit about your subject matter and how it represents you and your mind? Did you always create racy, sexy content, or is this something that developed over time?
Penelope Gazin: Aw, thank you! I used to draw sexy pictures when I was little and then rip them up in shame so no one could find them. Now I don't have to rip them up anymore! I mostly paint women, and the women are all essentially me, even though I never directly paint myself. I never really know why I want to paint a particular thing until after it's done and I reflect on it and be like, "Ooh, this makes sense." I usually sit down and think, "What would be fun for me to draw right now?"
JAG: Where do you pull your inspiration from? I love your use of color and pop!
PG: Sometimes If I am stuck, I troll Tumblr and Pinterest for vintage pinup and bondage photos as a jumping off point. My main color inspiration is that I am cheap. I use cheap student grade acrylics and only have about 8 paints, which is why I use the same colors over and over. I usually use the colors right out of the tube and rarely mix them.
JAG: So you created Witchsy - tell me a bit about this? Did get censored from Etsy often, leading Witchsy to happen in the first place?
PG: Mypartner Kate Dwyer and I were inspired because I am usually kicked off for a week once a year (it's happened about 5 times now). And it's very disruptive since it was my main source of income, so it was like, "oh great, I don't have an income this week because someone felt a t-shirt glorified violence or something." The nail in the coffin was when they shut my shop down because of this painting of a woman with robot legs, and the issue was the representation of pubic hair.
JAG: So tell me about Keith - can you explain?
We created Keith out of necessity since we had to project manage building a really ambitious website from scratch essentially. We were having some issues with developers talking down to us so we created this character named "Keith" to be our "boss." We noticed he commanded more respect. One person we worked with would address Keith by name every time there was an email exchange and never questioned his decisions, whereas when that same developer spoke with us he never addressed us by name and there was a different tone. It just made everything go a little bit smoother, because the people we worked with paid us more respect. Follow Keith on Twitter @keithmannjr
JAG: How did it affect you knowing that "Keith" was providing you with better results? It is a painful and super real thing for a woman to have to accept, or rather endure we should never accept it?
PG: It wasn't something I had noticed so obviously before, but I think maybe the tech world is a little bit more out of touch and confused by working for women. It was annoying but we started knowing we were at a disadvantage in a multitude of ways.
JAG: What kind of advice to you have for young girls pursuing their art in such crazy times which seem to be against anyone who is not a straight white male?
PG: Social media is everything. It's essentially the art gallery for the people.
I try to never focus on reasons why I can't do something. There have been times where things have been harder because I am a woman but there have also been times where it has also really benefited me and my art. I always look for the silver lining in everything I do and work the fuck out of that lining. Sometimes being a woman is a novelty to people so I sort of run with that. I think I was noticed more for my "gross style animation" (I don't think it's that gross, but I guess I am I that genre) because I was a woman and I don't know how much my band would've gotten booked when we first started out if we hadn't been a girl band because we were not great. Maybe that sounds bad but I've seen too many talented people make excuses for why they can't do something.
JAG: Tell me a bit about your music.
PG: I was making it for a few years before I had the confidence to share it with anyone. I'm not technically skilled and don't even have that great of a voice, so I was kind of embarrassed by it. I guess what my music does have is the ability for me to infuse the same unique way of expressing my feelings and humor as my art. I still am very surprised when people like it though and I assume it's not most peoples idea of "good music." It's just another therapeutic outlet for me to use.
JAG: So I know you play the drums; would you say creating art and music provide the same kind of release for you? Or do you get different things out of each?
PG: It's similar in that I am very happy when doing both. Drums is definitely just something I do for fun, but art is almost a mental survival tactic for me.
JAG: I attended your last show at Superchief NY featuring you and Nick Gazin. Would you say you and your brother pull similar inspirations in your work considering you grew up together?
PG: Yeah, definitely. We do think similarly and grew up exposed to a lot of vintage pop culture and general weirdness. Our mom taught us how to draw and I feel like her mark making style is right in between mine and Nick's so we are both branches off of her in a sense. But I also took a lot of inspiration from him. In a way, I gave myself permission to make "erotic" art because I saw him doing it.
JAG: So where can people find all of your dope creations!? Love the underwear set, by the way!
JAG: One more thing, tell me about this lil' dance I see you doing on social media?
Another one of my hobbies I only recently become comfortable sharing with people! I grew up training to be a professional ballerina but stopped when I was 14 and didn't dance very much for 10 years. Most people didn't really know I could dance. I used to be so self-conscious dancing, but something just kinda clicked in me around age 23/24 where I just started doing everything I wanted to do and doing it my way. I dance on my own, but also with @lacitymunicipaldancesquad
which is a dance squad founded by actress Angela Trimbur and is kind of like a high school dance team except, with a bit of comedic flair, and we only dance for women's sports games (we do the occasional comedy show too). We mostly dance for women's basketball games (including the WNBA playoffs at Staples Center) but we also do halftime shows for the L.A Derby Dolls. We've definitely danced for audiences who were very confused why we were there, but we have fun and it just gave me a lot of confidence in that department. I would say a recurring theme in my life is sharing forms of expression with people who weren't really into it and that making me a stronger more resilient person. I encourage everyone to embarrass themselves more.
Janeth Ann Gonda is a singer, dancer, writer, and event planner living in Brooklyn, NY. She is currently the lead singer in the Gypsy Witch Rock Band Espejismo. After working in the Brooklyn music industry for several years she created her own event space Barranquilla Studios. Janeth has hosted hundreds of bands and fans alike and is an active member in the NYC music community.