FAYE ORLOVE ILLUSTRATES SUBCULTURE HEROES, POP CULTURE ICONS. An interview!
BY ELISE GRANATA
All illustrations below by Faye Orlove — www.fayeorlove.com
FAYE ORLOVE illustrates culture. Subculture. Pop culture. Smiling group shots of rap collective Barf Troop and sparkling GIFs of Kim Kardashian. Fuzzy music videos for Colleen Green and mini-portraits of Beyonce sharing the sage advice to “Stay in school.”
Her work takes many forms. You’ll see it bi-weekly in alt webpaper THE MEDIA which she co-founded with Liz Pelly, music videos from your most beloved bands, books of illustrations released by Don Giovanni, on FOX Animation Domination High-Def. They manifest as GIFs, portraits, music videos, and merch. Also sometimes prayer candles.
Let’s pause on prayer candles for a sec. These speak to one of my favorite parts of the interview below: Faye idolizes her subjects. Some for only for a moment. Others are long-term obsessions with icons. That includes Mitski and Miley. At the most it’s worship; at the very least, she devotes a respect to people that cuts through the noise, that pushes her portrayal of a subculture to the point where you see it around and know it’s Faye.
Check the interview below. It happened through e-mail in early April. It’s equal parts insight into her process and jokes about Mac ‘n Cheese. That actually ends up being the same thing. Just read on, you’ll see what I mean okay?
Hi Faye. You are incredible. You do so much. You illustrate, you make video, you design websites, GIFS, zines, buttons, prayer candles…how did you learn to do all this stuff? Self-taught? Others-taught?
Woah, thanks, Elise! Well, I guess for the most part I’m self-taught but that seems like a really insular way of talking about the creative process. I’ve taught myself skills like Photoshop and film-making and using a button-maker, but I’ve been consistently inspired by all my friends and coworkers and teenagers on Tumblr and Taylor Swift lyrics.
When did you start creating art for bands and alt press? You know, the punx? Have you always seen your work as embedded in the subculture?
I think I started creating artwork simultaneous to becoming involved in PUNXDOM. I’ve always been drawn to alternative culture but felt disconnected because I’m not musically inclined. Even in high school my two best friends were both drummers and I’d just be doodling Brand New lyrics in my notebook. Making artwork in alignment with my punk ethos and for my punk friends came naturally out of a desire to be part of a community in a capacity I felt I could contribute to.
Can you tell me about your role in the start of THE MEDIA?
I’ve always been the “creative” half of The Media whereas Liz is the “editorial” half but obviously there’s tons of overlap because first and foremost we are a team. The Media started after the fold of the Boston Phoenix where I worked as a designer and Liz worked as a journalist. Our inclination to create a publication continuing in those specialities was really natural. I design the layouts, our merchandise, print materials, and illustrations. But it’s never been an singular process. Liz always helps and makes suggestions and I do the same for her in terms of content.
Was art always a part of THE MEDIA? Did other alt press influence you about this at all?
Art was always an important part of The Media. In our original “mission statement” I made sure to include the ways in which mainstream media attempt to manipulate people through design and the ways in which we would be different. From our “about” page: “We want our content to resonate on its own merit, free of frivolity and flash, and grounded by a homepage that’s striking in its radical simplicity.” Am I allowed to quote myself? That feels weird.
How has creating work for THE MEDIA affected your artistic growth?
Through working on The Media I have met so many incredible people. These collaborations and emails have turned into relationships and friendships and partnerships! I met my hero Victoria Ruiz through The Media and now I’m working on a Downtown Boys music video. I met Joe Steinhardt through the Media and he published my first book of illustrations. I think there’s no end to the opportunities that present themselves if you just do good and personal work and don’t ask anything in return.
A bunch of your work is deep in pop culture: sultry Kim Kardashian GIFs, hyper-realistic portraits of Miley Cyrus. You speak about this a bunch in your interview with The Le Sigh; can you elaborate about how this plays off of your work in punk?
I’ve been obsessed with idolatry and pop culture since as far back as I can remember. My bedrooms walls are always shifting with quotes and photos of whoever is my savior that month. But no matter the content of my drawings, my artwork will always be refracted through my personal lens of core values. I’m a feminist, socialist, radical thinker. I am curious and critical. I’m smart and creative. These things about me don’t change when I draw Kim Kardashian or go to a Miley Cyrus concert. I don’t agree with people who associate pop culture with stupidity or shame. People don’t feel shame when they’re watching dudes tackle each other in football but for some reason the new Nicki Minaj album has no merit? Idolatry is not just about who is dating who and where they eat brunch on the weekends. It’s a reflection of society as a whole and values of a specific time. It’s as important as anything else.
As I listed up top, you work in a ton of different media. What is your process for deciding the best format for your work when you create art for someone?
Oh man, that’s always really hard actually. When someone approaches me with a project I kind of have to feel it out. Like, if someone asks me to make a music video I listen to the song a million times, I feel out their audience, what the song means to me, what the song means to them. I try to figure out a visual way to enhance and connect to the music (usually the lyrics because I’m not a very auditory person). Sometimes it’s animation, sometimes it’s live action, sometimes it’s silly. Sometimes it’s not. I don’t know. Every project is different. It’s like trying to figure out what you want to eat for dinner. You just have to listen to your body and go with your gut. Or just remember you can’t go wrong with Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese. Wait, that’s not relevant.
Recently you created incredible music videos for Mitski, Colleen Green, and Slutever. Artwork for Allison Crutchfield and Impose. You’ve also done work for MTV and fox animation domination high-def; what is it like working with these two different groups of “clients”? (It’s funny, I feel totally comfortable using client [no quotes] for MTV, but feel obligated to use them for the artists mentioned above because it doesn’t feel right. Which is why this question is getting asked. FULL CIRCLE!)
Haha I totally know what you mean! Generally when I’m approached by any “CLIENTS” it’s because they like my voice/previous work. Like my MTV work was to celebrate a really rad plus-size and body-posi model. And when I am working with Mitski or Colleen or Slutever (etc) it’s similar! They know what I like, what I’m good at, what I feel comfortable doing. I think people forget that when you’re being vetted for a project, you’re sort of vetting the client too. Like I always ask myself “will affiliating with this person be good for my voice? For feminism as a whole? Am I bettering the world and the things I stand for?” I never say yes to a project that I’m uncomfortable with. FULL CIRCLE BABY!
I’m not sure if it’s my parents in my head, or teachers, or the president, but I’ve grown up with the idea that you can’t make money from what you love. That’s kindof a big core shtick in DIY in general; we work other jobs to support the stuff we like doing. But you’re toeing the line all the time in your work: creating album art for punk bands and GIFs for ADHD. How do you prioritize work that resounds with you less than projects that pay less, or have less exposure?
I am VERY lucky in that I have been able to afford my VERY lavish lifestyle through creating artwork. Over the past decade, and before moving to Los Angeles I NEVER said no to a project and I never got paid for them. I made things because I wanted to practice and challenge myself and never sit still. It was and still is how to I chose to spend my free time. To this day the best compliment I’ve ever received was from my roommate who told me I was the “most productive person she’s ever met.” That to me was like the peak of my existence. I don’t care if my artwork is “good.” I just care that it exists. That I’m doing something. I never prioritize based on PAY. Generally I’m good enough at scheduling that I can spend 1 day on several things. It’s always really busy. I’m lucky though because I can usually watch TV while I draw and catch up on the latest season of Dance Moms while I finish the new issue of The Media.
Can you draw a pie chart that shows how you divide your time?
Anything else you wanna add?
MILEY IF YOU ARE READING THIS, CAN WE PLEASSSSEEE HANG OUT!?????
THANK YOU FAYE!!