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A Stencil for A Stellar Stain: An Interview with Ed Roth

Ed Roth has been Sharpie’s partner in crime for a LONG time and we LOVE him for it–not to mention the exclusive stencils he made JUST for us a few years ago–and couldn’t believe we hadn’t already interviewed this Sharpie stenciling genius!

Ed recently got his hands on some of our new Stained by Sharpie fabric markers for the launch of his NEWEST book; Stencil 201 and he even made us a little video …( keep on scrolling to check it out!)

So without further ado, allow me the immense pleasure of introducing you to Mr. Ed Roth, the man behind Stencil1 and the unofficial Stained By Sharpie commercial :)

Who DOESN'T love a stencil self-portrait? Ed Roth, ladies and gentleman.

Tell me about yourself! Where are you from? Interests? Likes? Dislikes? Pet Peeves? 

My name is Ed Roth. I grew up in Northern New Jersey, 20 minutes from NYC. I had crafty parents, you know, in that suburban way. Mom did ceramics, Dad painted murals on the garage walls with left over house paint, etc…With their influence and being a bored suburban teen, I would raid thrift stores and buy old furniture and refinish it- paints, stains, faux finishes, you name it as well as up-cycling clothes. I was the kid that wrote his favorite band names on his Converse with, yep, a black Sharpie!

Personally, I live for design and art and have a need to be creative. After working for decades for tv networks and ad agencies as an art director and animator, I then started my own design company, Stencil1, in 2004 in Brooklyn, NY.

A stencil isn't enough for THIS face. .

Likes? Well, I like design with soul. Clever street art. Customized belongings. Things with meaning.

Dislikes?  Generic cookie cutter spaces.  Overpriced clothes. 

Pet peeves? Overly designed items or spaces. Good design doesn’t have to be over the top.

What inspires you and your work? I usually find inspiration in my design work from things outside my field such as music, a trip to the museum,  being in nature, traveling , vintage shopping, being in Brooklyn. For example, a trip to the Museum of  Natural History will inspire the need to make an octopus stencil!

How would you describe your style?  Eclectic. I’m all over the place but have always liked nostalgia, nature, pattern, urban imagery, graffiti and pop art. Hence the range of stencil designs on the site!

Stencil and send!


You have done it all, including working as a graphic artist, animator and gallerist; as well as what we love you for, your stencils- what is it about stencils that really jazz you up?

How flattering. Thank you. I love perpetuating the art of stenciling. I love their history – their use for political outcry, their highly decorative use in castles of kings. It’s a tool without clear definition. It’s also so utilitarian, it allows someone who may not feel comfortable drawing to make art and be creative, it provides satisfaction. I love seeing how everyone who uses one of my stencils will have a different end result. Love it.

How did you get started?  In late 2004, I was needing a break from ad agencies . I had run a successful art gallery in Williamsburg with friends and wanted to continue doing something art related. I wanted to design a book. I did just that. I made a prototype book of 50 stencils. I shopped it around to publishers who liked it but weren’t sure how to produce it. I decided to just sell the stencils individually so I built a website (my other background is web design). I got press right away on, then the NYTimes, then Blick Art Materials called and wanted to carry Stencil1. I have figured it out along the way, slowly growing the company, adding designs, adding art supplies. Then I started making books with Chronicle Books. We released Stencil 101 in 2008. Since then, we released Stencil 101 Décor, Stencil Stationery, Stencil 101 Journal, and now Stencil 201. Next year you will see Stencil 101 Style. I continue to release new designs on

Your stencils are super trendy and, not only hit the basics when you think of a “stencil,” they also have a cool edginess to them; how do you come up with new ideas? 

I think sometimes it’s simply what I like but also I have always been a trend watcher.

Do you have a personal soft spot for one of your designs in particular?

I have a few favs. I love my 7 foot grizzly bear! I recreated him in a small size for Stencil 201, this way he can fit right on your shirt!  My Stencil Graffiti Mini Sets are also some of my favorites since they were some of the first designs I put out and I think define Stencil1. People seem to like these since they are smaller and super easy to use.

Get grizzly with it... can you imagine? 7 FEET!

How do you use Sharpie markers in your work?

Well, With the release of Stained fabric markers, I am like a pig in the mud, haha. I do a lot of t-shirt design work, many of my stencils are really designed with apparel in mind. Sharpie has made customizing t-shirts way easier with these new fabric markers. While painting is great, everyone can use a marker with perfect results. The tips of these markers are more brush like with a point so you can stencil into fine details or fill in larger areas easily. I used the markers at by events for people to stencil with, amazing results. Make sure you watch the video!

Favorite Sharpie?  Why?

I guess now it would be a black Stained fabric marker because it’s basic, multi-surface and allows me to customize t-shirts, canvas sneakers, anything really.

Best part of your “day job” and if you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?

Well, the best part of being the Stencil1 owner is  getting to create creative tools that people use to make things with. I love seeing what people make, it feels like you provided someone some fun.

If not this, I would still have to be creative. Textile designer? Landscape architect?

If you could have one super power what would it be and why? 

Fun question! Maybe to spray paint out of my wrist like Spiderman throws webs!


What trends do you see making it big in 2012/ what are you pumped about in 2012 ( in the art world, in design, whatever)?

Trends for 2012 – I think customizing your wares and space is a big movement. The quest for authenticity.  I am very excited about 2012 as I am reaching out to do a lot of collaborative work. I will not only be introducing more stencils, art tools and supplies but also working with companies to create apparel, décor, and home items. 

Tell me about the video and background on the event !!


The video here was shot the day of the official book launch for my new book Stencil 201. I always have a DIY event during my book signing so people can be creative. I partnered with Etsy to have  their craft nite coincide with the signing at Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO. I tested the project at my studio. I cut up canvas into patches and provided Stained by Sharpie markers with stencils from Stencil 201 as well as some other Stencil1 designs. Some even brought their own canvas bags and t-shirts to customize. As you will see, the crowd really enjoyed it!


For more BOMB dot com (this phrase is making a comeback! trust me…) stencils and to check out his books, be sure to stop by his website and check him out on Twitter and Facebook.

EXCLUSIVE Sharpie perk alert! Be sure to LIKE Stencil1 on Facebook to receive the special discount code exclusively for Sharpie lovers… AND for 20% off be sure to join his mailing list (scroll down and its on the left!)!!


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The World Through Trent Schmick’s Eyes

If the eyes are the windows to the soul then Trent Schmick is putting his on display! Through his expressive and abstract Sharpie art he “sees” the world through his art and it shows; his unique style of “humanizing” the characters in his art act like reflecting pools of Trent’s expressive and caring personality.  
As an art teacher from Evansville, Wisconsin and a life-long creator, Trent is making his mark and we are thrilled to have the chance to hang out with budding Sharpie rockstar!

Trent Schmick, artist and teacher extraordinare

Tell me about yourself! Where are you from? Interests? Likes?

I was born in Oshkosh, Wisconsin but I moved a lot while I was growing up, so sometimes I consider the Midwest my home.  I did however move back to Wisconsin to a city just outside of Madison and following high school graduation, I chose to study graphic design and earned an Associates Degree in Commercial Art.  With my parents again on the move, this time to Utah, I was really at a crossroads about what I was going to do with my life.  I had a piece of paper and some newly learned skills, but sadly, I realized advertising wasn’t my passion.  As my parents moved West, I stayed in Madison to figure out what I was going to do with my life.  I spent the next year working various jobs, trying to get my rock band out of the garage and basically having fun.  Then one day I knew, college was the answer.   I gave up everything and put all my energy and resources into putting myself through college and proudly walked away with a BA in Art Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and walked straight into a school art room and have enjoyed every second of that decision!  I passionately believe in the arts and it’s really an honor to spend time working with young artists as they discover the joy of creativity.

My other great passion is music.  As a songwriter, combining words and music allows me the opportunity to express myself differently and though it’s now just a hobby, I do spend quite a bit of time writing and recording my songs.  Sometimes when my love of music diverts my attention from my art, I think of Vincent Van Gogh’s short, but productive art life that lasted just over 10 years. He amazingly created something like 2,100 pieces of artworks, 860 were oil paintings and the rest were watercolors, drawings, sketches and prints, which is pretty prolific. I whole-heartedly blame music for the reason why I probably won’t reach half of Van Gogh’s creative output in my lifetime… but I’m ok with that. :)


A few of Trent's masterpieces on display!

Did you always know you were going to be an artist?

Yes, without a doubt.  Although I have at different stages in my life pondered other career possibilities… fireman, zookeeper, comedian, football player, guitar player, full-time college student…just to name a few.  But the truth is being an artist and a teacher was always my true calling.   Even though I gave other careers some thought, deep down I’ve always known that art was going to play a role in my daily life. I vividly remember in second grade when my classroom teacher announced, matter-of-factly, we would not be able to have our normally scheduled art day and that art class was cancelled.  After giving this quite a bit of thought, I knew what to do.  I opened up the 1st – floor window, climbed out, and headed for home.  Now this was going to be a bit of a problem since I took the bus to school!  I didn’t get very far before I was escorted back to the school building.  I knew then how powerful art was to me and the real reason I went to school. 

 What inspires you as an artist? 

Some one said, “Creativity and love come from the same source, and both have no boundaries.  It all depends on how we use them.”  Whether I’m writing a song, a poem or creating a piece of art, my art is just an extension of my heart and soul.  The goal always is to honestly express and convey that particular thought or feeling that is within me.  Fine art gives me the opportunity to express my thoughts and feelings when there are no words available to do otherwise.

“Creativity and love come from the same source, and both have no boundaries.  It all depends on how we use them.” 

My inspiration is really shaped by the way I see the world.  I can get easily lost in the details of objects, like the veins of a leaf or the texture of an old barn.  In my Sharpie permanent marker drawings I’ve been specifically inspired by people and more specifically the face.  I’m drawn to the eyes and have been for most of my creative life.  You can gain a lot of insight into a person by reading their eyes.  It’s the eyes that reveal truth, joy, love, fear, sadness, and heartache.  Because of my limited vision, I’ve always had a special appreciation for sight and the single eye has been a recurring motif that appears in all my Sharpie permanent marker drawings.  It’s the eye shape in each work that gives my art its emotional focus.

How would you describe your style? 

My art moves between Abstraction and Non-Objective.  Although I have the ability to create realistic works of art and have done so on and off my whole life, there is something about abstraction that sparks my creative energy. 

Bowl of Notes

I find beauty in line, shape, texture and color.   Each of these elements is like separate instruments.  But, when you put them together in a pleasing way you create beautiful music.  I love spiral shapes and twisting, overlapping shapes and lines and use them a lot to create rhythm and to suggest movement and to express emotion. If you look at a work like Bowl of Notes (above), you can see the kinetic energy that’s created by overlapping lines, shapes and colors.

I also really strive to create an illusion of space in my work.  This is achieved by the way I draw and color the shapes. Making the shapes appear to be 3-dimensional is a very central part to my style.  In Guardian (below), you can see a culmination of all these components.



How did you get started working as an artist? How do you get the creative juices flowing?

I look back and I can’t ever remember a day when I wasn’t creating.  It seems I was born with a crayon in my hand. (You mean a Sharpie right. wink wink :) )  It sounds simple, but to be creative you have to give yourself the opportunity to create.  You have to exercise that part of your brain.  When I’m not creating, I’m still thinking and observing the world around me.  My creative energy flows back and forth from one creative discipline to another like water with no beginning or end. I’ve always felt a song is still better than silence, a poem is still better than a blank piece of paper, and a painting is still better than a blank canvas. The expression of creativity starts with a note, a letter or a dot, so start. I did! I’m really grateful I am able to actively express myself in variety of art forms.


How do you use Sharpie markers in your work?  Can you explain the process you use to create your artwork?

My work is created entirely with Sharpie Permanent Markers.   I free hand all the shapes either with a pencil or a black Sharpie marker.  I choose not to use rulers or any other drawing tools to create the shapes.  I really like the challenge this creates as I draw each shape.  I usually start with the “eye forms.”   Once I’m satisfied with them I’ll outline the shapes in black Sharpie and then add any additional details.   Next I’ll pick a color scheme and begin coloring. Often times, I’ll be layering different colors to create new colors.   Now that Sharpie has expanded their color range, it’s much easier to produce the colors I desire for each artwork, but I still like the challenge of creating new colors.  I usually work on several pieces at the same time, so I’m continually rearranging and adding additional shapes together to create the finished design.  Once the design is finalized and all the shapes are outlined and colored, I cut them out.  The parts are then assembled together with some of the pieces literally raised up from the flat picture surface creating areas of relief, although these raised parts are hard to see in the photos.



Your art seems to resemble a human form, does each piece have a “persona” for you or are they strictly expressions of art?  

Yes, my work is based on the human form and more specifically on the face with an emphasis on the eyes.  Each portrait is created intuitively, so the persona often doesn’t reveal itself until the piece is finished.  Sometimes I get more clarity by talking to people at my art exhibits.   They see the work with fresh eyes and they can be quite insightful.

In the end, each work has two layers. The 1st layer is what you physically see and this is the design (line, shape, color, texture and value) and their arrangement. I call this the beauty layer. The second layer is the psychological/emotional layer. This layer gives the work its emotional depth. As in all works of art, the viewer gets to decide how deep they want to understand the idea.  As the artist I just give you the opportunity to decide.


How do you decide what to name your pieces?

Since my work is spontaneous, I don’t always know exactly what form the piece will take once I begin. As I work through the process, the picture’s does reveal its true essence to me subconsciously towards the time I begin assembling the pieces.  Many times it’s been several weeks before I can fully understand the finished work and title it.  Other times the idea reveals itself quickly and the title is quite easy, which happened with Social Anxiety.  To most people walking somewhere is pretty easy, but to someone with social anxiety, it literally feels like walking through a thick jungle. The simplest tasks can be overwhelming and I believe the piece’s dense overlapping shapes and the wide-eyed, sad facial expression really captures that anxious feeling.


Social Anxiety

Favorite Sharpie?  Why? 

My favorite color is orange and I use it quite a lot in my work, but my favorite sharpie is Marigold because it’s very useful for mixing other colors.

"Orange you glad you met me, Marigold?"

As a teacher you must have some great advice for young artists…

I tell students that you’ll know you’re an artist when you can pick up a rock and you see everything but a rock.  Making others feel what you see and see what you feel is a powerful yet wonderful and vital gift to give to the world.  So Dream big.  Spend time wondering what could be. Then take a risk. Many of the risks I’ve taken have led to some pretty amazing opportunities.  When I first started exploring the creative potential of Sharpie markers, I was really just trying to make pleasing artwork to hang on my walls.  Little did I know that six years later these works would be exhibited throughout Wisconsin or that I’d have my work in both corporate and private collections, or won a few awards or even gotten to share my work with so many people. I would have never experienced this journey without believing in my self-worth and not settling for less.  So I say to my students, believe in yourself and the work you create.  Celebrate the joy of creativity and embrace a lifelong appreciation for the arts and if you choose not to make art then remember—the world needs art buyers too! :)

“Believe in yourself and the work you create”


If you could have one super power what would it be and why?

My super power would be “wish granter.”  I’d like the ability to turn sadness, disappointment and heartache into joy, success and love by making other people’s wishes come true.  I would do it anonymously… No wish is too big!  I’d just leave my calling card in the shape of a hand that read, “A little helping hand.”

 Keep up with Trent’s work and make sure to check out his website and on Facebook!

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He’s BAAACCCKKKK: Catch up with Matthew Langille

Guest blogger, Stephanie, has been catching up with one of our favorite Sharpie stars, designer Matthew Langille! Matthew has been featured here before and we thought it was about time to catch up with this amazing designer and take the opportunity to congratulate him on his new addition, baby boy, William!

Stephanie, take it away!

Welcome back, Matthew! It has been a while since we last spoke with you. We figured now would be a great time to play catch up. It has been quite a year for you, especially with your new addition to your family, baby William, entering your life. Congratulations!

How is your family life?
My family life is awesome. I am the proud parent of my 9 week old son William who is just a pleasure! He is a well behaved baby who eats and sleeps well. My lovely wife Karen is the best. She is incredible, a designer in her own right and a natural mother. She makes it look so easy and I’m thankful for that because without her, I’d be lost.

That is great to hear. In fact, I would like to make this interview a little more about you and your life style. So sit back, relax and get ready to answer some personal questions.

I do interviews real loose, I’m ready for you.

Towels by Matthew for One Kings Lane

Since Sharpie’s last interview, have you altered your style in anyway?
Not really. I work organically, creating characters and prints on a regular basis. It’s kind of like I have no choice and that somehow I just keep designing. I am still working with Sharpies and ripping through computer paper stacks working to find the images that grab me.


What are some recent projects that you have worked on that you feel proud about?
There are so many. I have recently designed prints for a cloth diaper company which is really fabulous called Charlie Banana. You can buy and see them here. I am also working with an awesome Swedish company now called FabGoose. Stay tuned to my blogs to see what we’re doing.


Charlie Banana for the little ladies!


Charlie Banana for one and all!

Are there any particular companies or artists you would like to work with?
Of course. I’d love to work with Betsey Johnson, Prada (of course), Agatha Ruiz De La Prada (an awesome kids collection), and Jeremy Scott is also totally fun.

Your art seems to be all over the place, from clothes, to toys all the way to giftwrapping paper. Do you have a favorite item you prefer overall?
To this day, nothing can trump the work I did with Swatch. They were a blast to work with and the artistic freedom they gave me along with the way they embrace artists is truly inspiring to see in the corporate world.

Swatch out!

How has your career affected your lifestyle?
My career has mostly changed my lifestyle in that I work very unconventional hours. I work until 4am most nights. This is because I work with lots of companies in the Asia-Pacific. I prefer this to a nine-five schedule. I get to make my own hours in most cases with that changing only a bit now with an infant in my life.

Do you have any major frustrations in your life?

The paper is a gift all on it's own!

A major frustration for me in my work life is really when a client hires me to create work for them and then they really over art direct. They affect the final outcome to the extent that they should have hired themselves. My most successful projects have been those where clients hire me and trust me and use my prints as I created them and how they were originally meant to be used.

What else would you be if you were not a designer?
I’ve always wanted to be a deep sea treasure hunter…haha. Or an archeologist etc. I’m reading Darwin’s Natural Selection and all of this stuff just excites me, just like space exploration.

Bundle of Sharpie joy! (Onsie by Baby Raleur)

Can you tell me who has been a big influence in your life?
My wife. She has taught me to like things I never liked before knowing her. She has made me realize that there is so much to live for in life. I can’t imagine having to live in this world without being able to share it all with someone. I always figured what was the point to living; if no one was there to experience it with you.



What about an important lesion you have learned within your career?
Never commit to anyone until they sign a contract!! There is a great lecture for all creative to watch, check it out here.

How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as a fun and witty guy, an entertainer, someone passionate about being creative. I just like to make people happy and smile.

T-t-t-t-t-tEASIN' Me!

What was the last movie, television show or book that made you cry or tear up?
Haha..I’m a sensitive dude. Oprah used to make me cry all the time. And yes, I did watch Oprah and I watch The View. Love me some Joy Behar. I work from home and draw so watching stuff while I do it is great. I cry/tear up a lot…sorry….hard to remember the exact last time. This question is making me cry. KIDDING! Haha…

What was the last experience that made you stronger?
My son’s birth.

Speaking of your son, has he had any influence on your current designs?
Not yet. He is too young. I look forward to him being able to talk or at least kind of talk so I can use his non-sense for ideas.

Ummm.. how cute are THESE!? (shoes available through Neon Eaters)

Matt it has been a pleasure taking the time out to speak with you once again and get to learn a little more about who you are. Thank you for your time and we look forward to seeing all your up and coming projects come to life.

To keep updated with his work and projects check out his blog, Matthew Langille, follow him on Twitter @matthewlangille, find him on Facebook  and check out his website.

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Sharpie in Motion

Keith Skogstrom is a man in motion and his work is no different.

This Chicago artist is doing it big, 6 feet by 38 feet to be exact, in his latest project for The Violet Hour, a super swanky prohibition-themed speakeasy that Keith has re-decorated by creating an installation across the ENTIRE external facade of the building with Sharpie shrine-worthy work.

It’ll be up for another two weeks so if you’re in the Windy City you can swing by and check out Keith’s mechanical masterpiece.

Keith has graciously agreed to enlighten us about what it takes to create such an installation, what inspires him and his passion for Sharpie, of course!

Tell me about yourself! I was born and raised in Ohio. I received a BFA from Ohio University in 2007. In 2008, I moved to Chicago after a show titled Neoporkopolis. The show was in Cincinnati and one of the artist was from Chicago and suggested the city. I signed a lease and moved downtown a week later into the Ukrainian Village. Don’t move to Chicago in January. (We could have told you that! Although, funnily enough I made the same mistake!) The artist that encouraged my move was Andrew CopperSmith and together we had a show at a gallery as the “Binford Experience”. Andrew got into the graduate program at the Chicago Art Institute and there was little more production of artwork until the following February. I participated in a group show for Toyota at the Creative Lounge located at North Ave and Damen. Since then I have been operating out of a studio in Wicker Park as Geodesic Designs. I hope to continue making murals and furniture and soon to be doing so professionally. Someday I would like to have a furniture store/studio in which I sell furniture and artwork as well as a working space.  

What is inspires you as an artist?  I am inspired by mechanical motion.  

How would you describe your style? I would describe myself as a kinetic artist. My sculptures are both active and interactive. As a sculptor, I create a “machine” that consistently replicates an experience from a collective childhood unconsciousness. I would stylistically describe my flat work as “Implied Kinetics”. I create the illusion of “movement” by using shapes and patterns that resemble mechanical components such as cogs, pulleys, bearings, and timing belts. To increase the illusion, I use a combination of contour line drawing and cross hatching to add volume to the individual components.   

How did you get started working as an artist? How do you get the creative juices flowing?  My artistic career started in high school when a teacher, Mr. Mike Simpson, encouraged my artistic talents. I went to Ohio University and graduated Cum Laude in 2007 with a BFA in painting. My current work, which I categorize as the Brockton Operation series, is based on a commission I completed in October of 2010. The Brockton Operation became a complex in Mass. where Thomas Edison ran experiments for developing a central power grid. The finished product is a shaped wooden panel with varying intensities of Sharpie marker.   

For inspiration I’ll take things apart or watch Youtube videos about differential gears, engines, or any complex machine’s workings.  

How do you use Sharpie markers in your work?  I use Sharpie markers to make the lines and fill in blocks of color. I use rubber bands to attach the Sharpie markers to compasses to make perfect small circles. For larger circles, I have created a trammel point-like apparatus that holds a Sharpie marker on one independent clamp, and a sharp point on a second independent clamp. The two clamps attach to scrap lumber allowing for circles to be created at any diameter.    

Favorite Sharpie? Why? My favorite Sharpie markers are the fine tip and the chisel tip. I use the fine tip for intricate elements and fine circle circumferences. I use the chisel tips to fill in large blocks or add a specific texture.  

Chiseled to perfection...

Describe the process for creating such a large installation piece.  As an artist, I use plywood because the wood grain contrasts the mechanical images. As a draftsman, I am interested in the plywood because I can create high contrast lines that can and are sanded to varying levels on the value scale. The style for this current installation is inspired by the “Brockton Operation” series, but the arrangement for the eleven main circles is based on an artifact found in a Greek wreckage call the Antikythera mechanism.

The process for translating the image from paper to mural was as follows: create template, translate template to individual panels, thicken panels, create registration, mount panels on registration, draw first layer, sand first layer, draw second layer, remove panels from registration, coat panels with protective finish, and finally mount panels to façade.

To create the template, I covered the façade in a six foot tall level cardboard sheets. I drew my shapes using a spacer and level based on the drawing I created and used to propose the installation. I cut out the cardboard shapes and took them to a large home improvement store. I traced the shapes onto matching plywood maple panels, making sure the grain ran in the same direction. I squared the shapes by backing them with and inch thick border then routing the edge plum. Next, I built a six foot tall by 38 foot long faux wall that was the exact length of the Violet Hour façade but broke down into 8 four foot structures and 1 six foot structure. I mounted the faux wall directly to the actual façade approx. one foot down from a support beam. I then mounted the 53 shaped panels to the faux wall and removed the entire structure from the wall leaving the pieces attached. I created the first layer of the finished image in my studio 20 feet at a time. I built a slide for different panels to be added and removed as completed. Once the first layer of drawing was done, I took the faux wall back to the Violet Hour and confirm a consistent distribution of detail throughout the 38 feet as I had only seen it 20 feet at a time up to this point. At this point, I sanded the first layer with a 120 grit orbital sander until I got a blue/gray “faded” image. The faux wall then gets placed  back on the slide to be finished with a second “layer” of detail. Once the image was completed, I sent them to a finisher that I commissioned. I primed and painted the façade of the violet hour over a five day period. Once returned, the panels were arranged and mounted to the façade with thick blocks behind to create depth between the back of the panel and the wall.  

How did your installation project get started?    The installation got started because I was a regular at the Violet Hour. The Violet Hour is a prohibition themed speakeasy where the mural now hangs for another two weeks. The owners provide a wall for artists in the area to create murals upon and to do so on a four to six week rotation. I initiated contact with the owners via a wonderful hostess, now friend of mine, named Lara. She arranged a meeting for the owners and myself where I pitched the mural with a drawing and an example of the artwork from the “Brockton Operation” series. They agreed that I could use the wall in September, but due to a delay on my part the unveiling was pushed back to October.    

 Advice for other young artists?   Make things. You can’t have shows or design your website without something to document. I am constantly getting questions from artists about how to setup their website or market themselves when they have few artifacts and even fewer competent images or documentation of the work. Most importantly, artists need to create objects or conceptualize thoughts in order to develop an identity. The process of creating unique artwork starts with the action. Critique and refinement can only be applied to fully realize artistic investigations. Without attempts at making art, artwork can not be fully developed.

For more on Keith and his work, visit his website and find more photos of his work on Facebook!

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Media Connections

Connection connoisseur, James Schaffer

Fellow Sharpie employee and guest blogger, Stephanie Markadonatos, is back to chat with Sharpie artist, James Schaffer. James keeps it all connected through his art and we are excited to continue the link and share him with all of you.

As we all know, Social Media is the new driving force to keep us connected and up to date with our friends, family, and interests. With Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all the many other social networks and blogs (even this one) floating around in cyberspace, we communicate to millions in seconds. The exposure of our thoughts, feelings, and ideas are put out there for all to see with a simple “Click”. The influence of internet media and how we connect has become a new chapter in the communication world.  What if the internet and the social media phenomenon weren’t around? Would we still be able to feel connected to people at the level we are able to now?

Today’s featured artist, James A. Schaffer, feels that we are all connected and the internet is one major media influence that can never fully be deleted. Get ready to learn how James uses both print and digital art to express our connectedness….


Can you give us a little background about yourself? I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, where I currently reside and work. I am a recent graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, with a bachelor in Fine Arts with a concentration in painting. I have been interested in art since I was around 5 years old. When I was young I often got sick, so I always had a sketchbook nearby to keep me busy. My mother always took me to art classes as I grew up which kept me interested in the Arts.

What attracts to the fine arts? Other than being exposed early in life, I suppose I like the idea of creating something, and then allowing viewers to experience that thing. Instead of expressing myself in front of a live audience, I do enjoy being “behind the scenes” in a sense.

Can you tell me your thoughts on being an Artist?
I am an artist in every aspect of my life. To me, there is no separation. Therefore, this is the life that I was determined to live. I paint in order to live. It provides a relief and gives a fulfillment that nothing else can.

Where does your inspiration to create come from? A lot of my inspiration comes from abstract expressionist artists such as: Rauschenberg, De Kooning, Kline, Pollock, Motherwell, and Basquiat. My ultimate go to are two documentaries on Jean Michel Basquiat: “The Radiant Child” and “Basquiat”. Any time I see Jeans work ethic and the way he paints, it always forces me up and creating. I also like to travel and visit art museums.

How long does it take you to create your art?           
The time it takes to create a painting varies from piece to piece. I generally work on mine for over a span of several weeks, dedicating a few hours each day until I am complete. It typically takes an average of about 25 hours to fully complete a piece of art.

Tell me about your favorite museums you visited and why they stood out from others? Two that I truly enjoy are The Warhol Museum, which is in my hometown and the Whitney Museum in New York. I always had a liking for Andy Warhol and it always has interesting contemporary artists. Whitney Museum is not overwhelming like many of the other institutions in New York. I do hope to make it back to New York soon to visit the Museum of Modern Art for the De Kooning show. 

What attracted you to use Sharpie products in your works of art? There are several reasons why Sharpie markers are a favorite tool of mine. Most importantly, I feel quite comfortable and familiar with markers. Secondly, the ink and color of the ink drew me in. The colors are so bold and vivid, making it an easy choice for me as an artist.

What is your top Sharpie product?
I would say my favorite Sharpie product is the traditional blue Sharpie.

Feels good to be number 1

Can you explain how you feel everything is connected? I feel that nowadays, people’s interests and lives are multi faceted. As well as with the mega presence of things like the internet, we are more aware of what is going on with other people’s lives and other topics which before we may have not been exposed to.

What are your thoughts on communication, Internet and art – how are they linked?
We are all culturally closer than we have ever been before. Social interactions have been expanded in a way that would be impossible without the technology that we have at our fingertips. The goal of the internet is communication just like art. The two aren’t so far apart as people might think.  Both are used as tools to communicate a message.

How do you portray the media and connectedness in your art? By creating chaotic scenes. Media and our lives are all intertwined creating chaos.  Once my art is complete, I will review and decide if any marks need to be deleted or pushed back into the background. I make these decisions based on my reaction to the visual and various aesthetic qualities. The internet comes into effect again on the idea “things are always present even if you try to cover them up”. If a person posts a message, photo, or post, there’s no telling on who will see it and where it will end up. Even if we try to delete something, search engines and other tools still can dig up old information. We are connected through the media in ways in which sometimes we are not even made aware of.

Any advice you would like to pass along? I believe as it was taught to me, that each painting (or whatever art you choose) should be better than the previous one. This supports the idea of growth as an artist.

 Thank you to James A. Schaffer. For more on James and samples of his art visit his website at or follow him on Twitter at:

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Classic Marker; New Media

Our intern, Caitlin ( @inktern), has continued to earn her Sharpie stripes, and after doing a great job on her first interview, she is taking another crack at the blog! Read on for Caitlin’s interview with Sharpie artist Nicole Bishopp.

It used to be difficult to get your art work out for the world to see.  Art galleries, art shows or maybe the occasional print article was an artist’s best chance at gaining a following. The digital world and social media has changed all that. Today’s featured Sharpie artist shows us how.

Nicole Bishopp is a mom, an illustrator, a social media enthusiast and most importantly (at least in terms of this blog) a Sharpie Marker artist. She maintains a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a blog and a Tumblr all dedicated to her artwork. Nicole embraces the far reaching potential of social media outlets to showcase her art to the world. Constantly updating her Facebook page with new work for fans to comment on,  her social outlets allow Nicole the opportunity to sell her artwork and create custom pieces for those interested.


Expressing her feelings through the intricate details of her work, she never sets out to draw something specific, it is common for her work to become mesmerizing and for different creatures to appear as her drawings advance. The thick, bold, expressive lines of her art are amazingly done with simply the classic black Sharpie Marker. The Sharpie family may have dozens of colors to choose from, but Nicole makes her statement with the original black Sharpie Fine Marker. Her work helps show what you can start with even the most basic Sharpie Marker.

Here is some more of what Nicole had to say: 

How did you get started using Sharpie Markers: I have always loved drawing with Sharpie markers. I have tried every marker out there and Sharpie is the best because it has the crispest line and one marker will last me an entire drawing.

Where do your ideas for your pieces come from: Most of my ideas just happened. I draw and things appear in the drawings. I draw to express my feelings. I would have to say the tone of my work is mesmerizing, mind melting, a puzzle for the eyes, psychedelic maybe, in your face (bold), makes a statement.

How long does it take to do a piece: Surprisingly it only takes a good 4-5 hours to complete one drawing. Sometimes I will start a drawing and stop half way and then finish it the next day. I never start over I just draw over something if I don’t like the way it looks.

How the heck do you keep up with all your digital sites: Actually, I spent a lot of time learning about online marketing and it actually all links together. Plus the key is having a smart phone. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the posts and such on Facebook if I didn’t have my DRIODX.

What’s Your Motivation: I started drawing again after the birth of my son. There were many sleepless nights so drawing was my way to stay sane during that period. Then it turned into “my time” to get away from the daily routine. Now it’s just to relax and to unravel from the day’s events.

Favorite Sharpie: Hands down the Original Fine Point Black! The point on this pen can do super tiny detail to big areas all in one drawing.    


Your work was just featured in a few galleries. How cool was that?: I just started putting my stuff out there is March of this year and it’s amazing how quickly it was received by the Facebook art community. It was so cool to see people request my work to be featured! Every time I get a feature it just makes me want to do better and create something even more amazing.


Where is your career heading: Well currently I am working on a lot of commission requests and getting my work ready to show in Fort Collins, Colorado and Wenatchee, Wash. I am also planning on launching some new products with my designs in the fall/winter.

If there was one place your art could take you, where would it be: I think it would be really fun to own my own product line with my designs that businesses could use on their products (for example surf, skate, snow shops) as well as on like t-shirts, skateboards, shoes, really anything you could put a design on.

Want to learn more about Nicole? You can find her on Twitter and Facebook or contact her via e-mail at

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Monster Mash

Monsters! MONSTERS, EVERYWHERE!!  Wait! Before you run and hide under your bed,  you might want to stop and  get to know these classically feared beasts. What if,  just like our irrational fear of robot world domination, these frightening lookin’ fellas wanted nothing more than to make your day?   

Today’s Sharpie artist, Allie Kelley, is breaking the monster mold and proving there is more behind these fiendish looks than gnashing teeth. Prepare yourself for one frighteningly great interview, we are so glad you’re here…      

Featured Sharpie Artist: Allie Kelley

Tell me about yourself!  Is this the part where I try to sound brilliant and interesting?  Well, I’m not great at that. The truth is I am a 20-something, self-taught artist who loves to laugh and wants to create quirky things that make other people smile and think. I am currently a Massage Therapist, which I love, but I dream of one day having a career where I get paid to create.   

Ms. Allie Kelly, Monster momma

How did you get started as an artist? I think I’ve been creative since I could hold a crayon. When I was little my mother and I moved into a house where my bedroom had been painted yellow and my Mom hated it. She gave me some crayons and told me to draw all over the walls, when they were full- she was painting the room another color.    

How would you describe your personal style?  Uh… clothing wise? I like vintage, I like scarves, and I like t-shirts. 

Artistically? I’m still trying to figure that out, to be honest.   I try to make interesting, whimsical pieces that I’m going to want to look at 5 years from now… it’s like if Dr. Seuss and Tim Burton somehow had a child and that child was obsessed with vivid colors.   


Where do you draw inspiration from? A handy method is to stay up crazy late, chug a Red bull or two and sketch till I can’t keep my eyes open. I will take inspiration anyway I can get it. Spring trees in bloom, Discovery channel, city museums, and my trusted friends saying: “DRAW THIS!” are all ways that I’ve found a subject or a theme for my work. (Specific to this interview: my friend Amanda said: “you should draw monsters” and so I did.)   

How do you use Sharpie markers in your work? I use Sharpie markers at many levels. If I’m working on a painting, I use Sharpie markers for the pre-draw or I use Sharpie to doodle and try to gain inspiration. Other times (and more often lately) I just like to sit down with some great paper and a 24 pack of the Ultra Fine Point Sharpie markers and create from there. I love how the color combinations really mesh on the page and how the small tip allows for a lot of tiny wonderful details.   

Favorite Sharpie?  Why? I love using the Ultra Fine Point in pastel and light colors.  People don’t expect those tiny details in pink lemonade.  I think the one I gravitate to the most is the Blue Ice in the Ultra Fine Point.  I love the way it pops off my paper.   



What is it about monsters that you love so much? I love that monsters surprise you. People usually place anything very unfamiliar in their “monster” category.  Unfortunately it’s a natural response to feel that if it’s different, it’s scary. Once you get past your discomfort you can often be surprised that your “monster” is interesting, or funny, or kind.   My monsters look the part, but they say nice things to you. They remind you that you are loved and that you make others happy.   They tell you things your friends and neighbors should say to you every day.   

If you came face to face with one of your monster doodles in real life what would you say to him/her? Well, I would hope the Doodle monster would be my size and not teeny-tiny. I would also hope they would be down for going to have tea and a chat!!! Oh, I would have so many questions!! What do you eat? Do you have pets?  How old are you?! Do doodle monsters have jobs to work at? I guess I should be exploring all this with my art- and I will probably touch on some of it- but I would LOVE to just ask them!   

What is the strangest monster you’ve ever created? Prettiest? Ugliest? Funniest? This is the hardest question for me. I don’t think of my monsters in those terms.  So, I listed a few and told you what I think they would be like if one was behind you in a coffee shop:  

"To me, this is the supportive mom of the Doodle monster family"

"This guy might be the class clown"

"And this guy, He’s my favorite. If I look at him with the paper one way I see a proud water Buffalo thing, and if I flip the paper the other way I see a tiny terrier puppy with tentacles."

"I think of this one as my compassionate little sister of the monster doodle family"


Monster names?  How do I come up with them?  I only have one doodle named: BLOAT MONSTER.  I think it’s a name so easy to relate to and sympathize. He is the exception. 

Bloat Monster!

I think the neatest thing about my monsters is that different people see them as different things.  I think if I named them, it would influence what people saw- so I try to stay away from giving them names.   

Current work?  I am always trying to create and explore.  I doodle, sketch and collage a lot- but mostly I consider myself a painter.  Recently I have been obsessed with painting Dinos and Doodle Monsters and 2-headed creatures.   I’ve also started carrying around the largest sketch pad I can, trying to fill it with Sharpie drawings, paint, and hodgepodge, occasionally all 3 on one page! 

Advice for other young artists?  The best “arty” advice I ever received was:

 “Create every day.” 

 My attempt to follow that advice has made all the difference in my work and my artistic style.

What am I going to do with my monster doodles?  I’m going to start with creating more.  To me, each is unique and has a different feeling to them. Later this year, I have a few shows in Virginia coming up to feature them in.  Eventually though, I would like to create a children’s book with and for them. To teach kids about judging at first glance and why that’s not the best way to go through the world.  Maybe what seems like a weird blobby monster is a friend you’ve been looking for.

Thank you so much to Allie for uncapping her Monster gang with us! For more on Allie and her posse check her out on her blog, Facebook page, or, if you want a Monster friend all your own, on Etsy!

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Inktern Interview with Jessica Hill

We are lucky to have Caitlin Ursini join our team as our summer “inktern.” Looking to gain first-hand knowledge on what it takes to build and run a brand, we’re putting Caitlin to work across several projects to give her the chance to experience several parts of our brands. Caitlin is currently a junior at Indiana University, studying to earn her degree in journalism with a minor in history and marketing. She loves Chicago sports, country music and I quote, “I enjoy telling my co-workers about my weird habits.” Caitlin’s favorite Sharpie is a custom Blackhawks Stanley Cup marker and in case you were wondering, the best thing she’s ever done was attending Wimbledon last summer.

One of Caitlin’s projects is to conduct interviews with various Sharpie artists to feature on the blog. One of the firsts: Jessica Hill.

Art: Anytime. Anywhere.

For years Jessica Hill kept work under her bed, in her closets, in the family’s shed, but not anymore. Now it’s on her blog, in charity auctions, for sale at galleries and even on TV. Each of her pieces has dozens of different figures and creatures within it. They are her creations, but it is everyone else’s interpretations that make these unique creatures in her drawings what they are.

Today’s featured artist may live a normal life as a graphic designer in Nashville, TN., but there is way more to it than a good cup of coffee and a great husband. Jessica spends her days outside of work creating art and designs on just about anything and everything she can find with her Sharpie Paint Markers.

Jessica has been at this for a long time. Since she was a kid, her parents and teachers encouraged her to creative outlets.  Clearly all the art, music and creative writing classes paid off. Her unconventional art work features characters and figures that take on a life of their own. Each one is individual and each has potential to have its own meaning to the audience. For Jessica though it isn’t always what she draws, but where. Old calendars, chairs, used canvases, you name it Jessica will find a way to use it for her work. Using different materials makes the sky the limit. It helps Jessica get out her urge to create. When you are willing to use anything as your canvas there is nothing to hold you back.

Here are some other things that Jessica had to say:

Personal Style: I think my personal style is just fun and amusing, really. I don’t think about it too much. My work is usually associated with “street art”, which is cool with me. However, the word “obsessed” might describe my personal style, too. I tend to paint things over and over again. I draw all the lines freehand. I have to paint layers and layers of the same color to get a flat, bright image.

Where did these creatures come from: It just sort of evolved over time. Contrary to what some might think, I actually can draw more traditionally, but I always loved street art and skateboard designs. I did silk screening for a while and I loved the bright, flat colors. Also, being a graphic designer, I tend to like minimal things. But I am always thinking about color and layout, too. And again, I just keep myself amused. I think that’s also a large part of it. As for the monsters having one big eye and one little eye… I don’t know why I do that. I just like how it looks.  

What are these guys’ personalities: I have never given any character a specific personality, but other people do. People are always naming them or telling me how they see them. I think that’s part of the fun for me… I just make characters that I personally find amusing. I like that they seem to appeal to a wide range of people from adults to kids.

What did you feel when you got these guys on TV: It was very flattering and slightly embarrassing. I am always proud of my work, but I can feel my cheeks getting red whenever I get a little bit of the spotlight. Honestly, it’s just amazing to me how kind people have been and how much they’ve embraced my work. It’s just amazing and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

Why Sharpie: Well, I found that Sharpie markers let me draw on pretty much any surface. Also, I don’t have to worry about anything dripping, like I would with paint. All my characters have a black outline on them and I found that with Sharpie markers I have a lot more control over those lines. I don’t have to worry about dipping the brush in more paint and I know I can use it on any surface and it won’t chip or flake away when it’s finished. They are just awesome to use and they have such a wide range of sizes, so it just makes the pieces really look polished in the end.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Favorite Sharpie: Right now I am loving the Sharpie Paint Markers. They give me really smooth lines and consistent black ink. It sounds a little silly, but lots of markers don’t always give you a smooth, dark line. They lose ink along the way and that can be frustrating. The Sharpie paint marker has served me well. I also use the extra fine markers for detail work, which is great. I would be lost without them.

Are you an environmentalist or is all this supplies another creative outlet: I would love to say that I am an environmentalist, but it was really kind of accidental. Canvas can be expensive and you don’t always have access to one when you get an idea that you want to work on right away. So I started using things I had around the house and I liked how the different materials gave you different results. They all hold paint or ink differently, and I like that. Plus, sometimes I don’t have a lot of time to work on a project but I want to do some doodles. I will just grab magazines or old calendars and doodle for a while. It’s a really fun outlet for me and I find it really relaxing. 

What’s your favorite recycled piece: It’s so hard for me to say… I really enjoyed filling in my old calendar with doodles. I also did a coffee can label for a local coffee shop here in Nashville and that was actually done on the back of a cereal box. I enjoyed that one!
My husband also brings home scraps pieces of wood for me that he will trim down into little squares and I can’t get enough of them!

Most spontaneous piece you’ve ever created: I think that being able to use what’s around does allow me to get my ideas out quickly. Sometimes I get the urge to draw all over photos that my friends will post on-line or email me. It’s like this urge that I just can’t resist and I have to deface it for some reason! It seems I have a problem with impulse control at times… so lots of the things I make are spontaneous. One day I started drawing my favorites movies on scraps of cardboard. Before I knew it, I had a whole pile of them!

Why do you think it’s important to give back: You know, I just think I am so lucky that people like my work. I don’t have a ton of money and I don’t have a lot of other skills. I am glad I can pitch in this way and help out some good causes. It’s just win-win. My favorite experience with volunteering is just meeting so many great people! I’ve met so many wonderful people through charity events. I also get to team up with other local artists and it’s nice to have a sense of community with all of them. It’s not competitive and I really enjoy that.

What’s on your to-do list right now: Well, I have a show coming up in June that I am working on and some commission work to do after that. There is a festival in August that I have work in and I am booked for another show in December. I try not to get too much on my plate so I don’t get overwhelmed, but I stay busy!

If there was one place your art could take you, think DREAM job, where would it be: I gotta say, I LOVE my current job. It’s challenging and creative and I work with great people. I don’t know what my dream job would be, honestly. I just thank my lucky stars that I can make a living doing what I love. I know that there are lots of people who are not as lucky. I don’t know what else I would do if I wasn’t doing creative work. My mind couldn’t do anything else

If you’re interested in Jessica’s work you can view her blog or tweet at her @jessicahillart

Tweet Caitlin at @Inktern and be sure to check out her Inktern blog.

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Good Bot, Bad Bot

They say one day robots will take over the world… But who are they anyway? And why are they teeing up robots as bad guys? What if they were good? What if robots didn’t necessarily take over the world, but were more of our buddies? What if they brought joy, followed you around giving compliments on say, your pants or a school project? What if robots offered great advice or boosted your confidence? What if…

Thanks to today’s featured artist, that “what if” just turned into “what is.” Addicted to Sharpie Oil-Based Paint markers, Gary Hirsch has assembled an army of androids that love, caffeinate, knit, stop time, even give you permission to be a bit callous now and then.

Hirsch, creator of Joy Bots took time to answer our Sharpie Q&A. Warning, it’s a bit lengthy but a guaranteed good read!

Featured Sharpie Artist: Gary Hirsch

Tell me about yourself!  Where are you from? Interests? Likes? Dislikes? Pet Peeves? My life has been made up of a series of collisions: I am an actor (improviser) and a business consultant/facilitator, and a painter, and a Dad, and a wanna-be marine biologist. I collide all of them in various ways…it’s never a dull moment. I found (really co-founded) a mini-micro-national, creative consultancy called On Your Feet. We use highly experiential methods from the world of improvisation, and elsewhere, to help organizations communicate, create and relate—all while having a ridiculously good time. Before On Your Feet I was an improv performer (still am), painter (still am), and t-shirt artist (nope gave that one up).

I am best know in my adopted hometown of Portland, Oregon (I am an ex- Cleveland Heights, Ohio guy) for a large public art commission that the city asked me to create in 1996; it’s called Upstream Downtown- eighteen giant aluminum fish that hang from the open spaces of one of Portland’s ugliest parking garages, hopefully the fish make it a little more beautiful.

Upstream Downtown

Likes: The Ali G Show, Peach Tazo, Baba Ganoush, Radio Lab, The Moth, A Sunday night show of AsssCat performed a The Upright Citizen’s Brigade in NYC or L.A., my son’s band Meet Your Monster, and I am a sucker for the video series “Where the Hell is Matt”, the guy that dances seemingly in every country on the planet (my daughter rolls her eyes whenever I watch it because I inevitably cry every time and whisper things like “ yes….this gives me hope….”). 

Peeves: Anything passive aggressive. 

How did you get started as an artist?   When I was growing up I had a lot of nightmares. You know, your basic, run of the mill nightmares- giant hands swooping down from the attic, grabbing you out of bed and swallowing you whole, where he would land in a stomach that was really a grave yard populated by zombies, yeah those kind of nightmares…On these nights when I couldn’t sleep I would sit with my father in the kitchen and draw the monsters from his nightmares. We would stay up for hours and my Dad would help me name these creatures (My parents saved all of these doodles, I still think they are some of my best work). Once during a late night doodling session my father leaned over and said, “You know, if you can create them, then you can also erase them.” So I would draw and erase and after a while the nightmares would come a bit less frequently.  I never stopped doodling since. 


How would you describe your personal style? I am a doodler at heart. I must doodle to survive, period. This got me into a lot of trouble in school, because teachers always thought I wasn’t paying attention when I was scribbling in the margins of my notebook. But I was, I really was Mrs. White! Years later I saw an article that found that some people listen better when they are doodling….yes! Vindicated! 

Where do you draw inspiration from?  There is an army of artists that I am in awe of: Goya, Haring, Beckman, Dubuffet, Scharf, Baseman. Last year, I attended Tim Burton’s visual art exhibition at the MOMA and that was enough to keep my inspiration gas tank easily full these past 7 months. The thing that all of these masters of their craft have in common is that their work is all about stories. I am addicted to stories. I dive deeply into the world of story and narrative, mostly through my experiences as an improv theater performer. What keeps interesting me is the idea of incomplete story…of starting something and inviting the audience to finish it, to co-create it with me. Sure, I have something in mind when I paint…..but so do you when you look at the painting. I love that a single piece of stimulus can ignite a flood of ideas and stories. 


How do you use Sharpie markers in your work?  Discovering the Sharpie Oil-Based Paint Marker was a revelation, really (and I am not just saying that because you are Sharpie, that would very brown nosey)! It was kind of like a divine intervention from the art gods. I needed something with vivid color, fast drying that could work on a domino….viola, prayers answered! 

Favorite Sharpie. Why? I’m currently having a love affair with Sharpie Extra-Fine Oil-Based Paint Markers. Beautiful, consistent line, allows me to get small and tight with details, dries amazingly fast, and sticks to everything….cue the music I feel an endorsement coming on! 

What is it about robots that you love so much?  I had this idea about 5 years ago: Imagine that you had an imaginary robot that followed you around all day and gave you outrageous compliments. It was a fun idea to imagine, so I included it in an illustrated journal that we made for our On Your Feet clients and gave them out when we were running innovation and creativity sessions. This image of a robot that follows you around giving you compliments keep haunting me…I mean seriously, how cool would that be? It would be invisible and only you would know it was there and it would say things to you like “ Nice pants” or “That was a smart thing to do” or “You made the right choice.”  So this year, I thought, “Let’s make the robots real” and after playing with several surfaces, we stumbled on the domino. Now instead of an invisible robot you have a small pocket robot.   

Bundle of Bots

What does one do with an army of robots? What do the robots do for me? This tiny robot army is programmed to bring you joy! Each Joy Bot is hand-painted, on-of-a-kind pocket friend. 

To activate simply:

  1. Allow your robot to get to know you by placing him on your desk, kitchen counter or cubicle or wherever you spend the most amount of time.
  2. Wait until he notices something about you (it won’t take long) and then listen while he tells* you how wonderful you are, or how much he loves you, or how brave you have been, etc. (what he says depends on the type of robot you have selected). (see attached image of a sample of the operating instructions that come with every Joy Bot)
  3. Take him with you everywhere you go for the maximum domino effect.

* The robots don’t really talk (’cause they’re painted dominoes) but you can imagine that they do. 

Pop Quiz! What Bot is this?

There are 10 types of Joy Bots:

  • Love Bot: Programmed To Love You
  • Joy Bot: Programmed to Make You Feel Great
  • Brave Bot: Programed To Give Your Confidence a Jolt
  • Listening Bot: Programmed To Listen To You, Unconditionally
  • Yes Bot: Programmed To Say “Yes” To Anything You Say
  • Mean Bot: Programmed to Give You Permission To Be a little petty, mean, or whiny
  • Caffeine Bot: Programmed To Wake You Up
  • Knitting Bot: Programmed To Make You a Knitting Sensation
  • Time Bot: Programmed to Stop Time (so you can re-live great moments or erase bad moments)
  • Advice Bot: Gives you Outrageously Useful Advice

What is your favorite bot? I’m a big fan of The Time Bot. It stops time so you can go back and erase a stupid mistake or relive a wonderful moment. A very useful ability, I would say. 

Time Bots

What is the Caffeine Bot’s favorite kind of caffeine?  No surprise, it’s coffee. I made them to accompany an exhibition of paintings that I was having in my neighborhood at a local coffee shop. I imagined that having a Caffeine Bot would help me reduce my coffee consumption because they are programmed to Wake You Up. (no such luck, still pouring down the coffee.) 

Caffeine Bots

If your Joy Bots had a theme song what would it be?  No brainer….Robot Parade, by They Might Be Giants, one of my kid’s favorite songs! Also love Birdhouse In The Soul by TMBG as well, either work. 

Why is the Mean Bot so mean?! He’s there to give you permission to be a little mean, or petty, or “snivelly”…S ometimes we just have to vent…The Mean Bot  lets you express the darker side, without shame. 

Mean Bots

How do you come up with all of the robots? It’s all about the story they tell the viewer. I want to make Bots that can give you advice, tell you how wonderful you are, or stop. The idea is that they all have to help you have a conversation with yourself. Of course, the Bots don’t actually talk but still people have told me things like, “My Bot just encouraged me to take risk” or “I felt great today because my Bot told me to how nice and helpful I am to my business partner.” I had one woman contact me for a set of Brave Bots for her family to help them who with coping with the recent death of a loved one. Are these people crazy? Of course not, they are just realizing something about themselves. The Bots don’t actually talk, but something about them allows people to imagine that they do, and somehow gives voice to a few, small and hopefully wonderful tid-bits about themselves. 

What’s in the future for Joy Bots?  Not sure, they really do have a life of their own. I don’t have a ton of time to make them right now because I’m so busy with my consulting work, so any painting time is a luxury and a treat. I love making small batches of limited editions when I get spare moments. I have been approached to mass produce them for the gift market, but I can’t see doing that, it is such a joy to strap on my head phones with a podcast from Radio Lab, or The Moth, listen to a wonderful story. Let my mind wander, and slowly paint, not knowing what will emerge until the final stroke of the pen. I will just keep making them, and showing them to whoever is interested and let the rest work itself out. 

Knit Bots Listening Bots

Do you have any advice for other artists? Oy, I hate questions like this because it assumes I know WTF I am doing. I guess I would say what I say to my 16 year old son who is trying to break into the music industry and that is, Make the call. If someone says “you should call me,” DO IT. If something happens don’t ponder if it is “good” or “bad,” ask yourself “What can I do with this?” This is ingrained in me from all of my improv work. Improvisers are masters at using what they have and turning nothing into something. I see opportunity in lots of things; I would encourage other artists to turn down the dial on their own self judgment, notice more around them and use it as an opportunity. 

How can I get a bot? Right now I sell at few galleries across the country and on my art site, You can also go directly to my Etsy site: 

Anything I didn’t ask that you would like to add? Sure, but this interview is way too long as it is. I’m an extravert and have to talk to think, so thanks for letting me blab!

Thanks again to Gary for the EXCELLENT interview! Be sure to check out the Joy Boy website and build your own BOT army!

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Featured Artist: Joseph Carpenter

Joseph Carpenter is a UK based Sharpie artist with a wide array of interests from extreme sports, to music, to art. It is his interest in self-expression and creativity, however that brings him to the Sharpie Blog as our featured artist of the day. Incorporating Sharpie markers allows Carpenter to capture thick lines, smooth lines and pay attention to detail. Mixing traditional with digital tools, this artist creates brilliant images for various U.K. bands, brands and agencies alike. Get to know Joseph and have a look at some of his work below.  

Tell me about yourself:  Well, my name is Joseph Carpenter and my day job is an assistant printer but I spent three years at the University of Bath studying Illustration. These days I spend most of my spare time within illustration creating new pieces or generally doodling ideas for new bits of work. I’m a massive fan of extreme sports and surround myself with people who share similar interests; this passion extends into music which is where the majority of my work has been commissioned from. I don’t really get on with over opinionated people although I’ll always make the effort – the same applies for overly aggressive people! I also dislike money because I never have enough. 


How would you describe your personal style?  Proper tough question…… my style is sort of all over the place, I guess its origins are in my childhood like most artists but in some respects I never really grew up, I have become more experienced in my understandings of how to use light and the difference between thicknesses in line and how much that can bring things to life. If I was going to pin point it, I suppose it’s a cross over between Graphic novel art and 80’s Cartoons. It’s never been a conscious thing just ended up that way! 

You Me At SIX

 Scrolling through your site, it seems you have an affinity for posters. Where does this interest come from? Who do you create them for? Poster art, haha… My “passion” (as its been previously described) for posters, has never been a passion as such I fell into it. While I was at University I started producing posters for the manager of my band at the time for the venue he was promoting for, it was something that me and my house mate spent a lot of time on together under the name ZEDISDEAD, Chris (Rowland) and myself had a really great start in the industry producing posters for band such as ACROSS FIVE APRILS, O.P.M and ZEBRAHEAD. After a while we started getting labels and bands personally interested in one off posters for shows. We then went our own separate ways and its really from then on I started getting more involved. I ended up doing posters for WHEATUS, BLEEDING THROUGH and doing album art work for WE ARE THE OCEAN and more recently T-shirts for YOU ME AT SIX.  

What is your creation & design process like?  This part varies from time to time. As I’ve grown up I’ve started to actually map ideas out before I ink anything and I’ll always pitch mood boards to clients, consisting of work I like and work that I hope they like! From there, the ideas go back and forth until the client is happy. I’ll ink it, do a rough colour, and then get it checked… then I go ahead and finish it off. It’s pretty basic but it works for me .  

Where do Sharpie markers come into your work?  Sharpie markers are an essential part of my inking process. I’ll use them to boarder the image using the marker as a thick edge and then I’ll use the finer point to fill in the detail. It’s the middle point of my work but without it the line work would look shabby and blotchy. I find that Sharpie markers draw a consistent line and don’t fade out as I follow my pencil line, this is essential in creating a smooth line which is a must my mind.  


Favorite Sharpie?  Why?  I suppose I’m a bit basic but I love the classic Fine Point just because it delivers so much from one style of nib, and I can ink most of the sections of my work with one pen instead of a selection. I also mainly use black ink as most of my work is digitally coloured.  

I also reeeaaallllyyy want a Stainless Steel Marker but I haven’t found one yet!  

What’s your favorite drawing/design that you’ve ever created?  My favorite (see below) is a personal piece of work that was sketched up in my first year of University. It was the start of me finding myself as an illustrator… No one else got it but it just combined everything I loved and I used all my favorite processes to create it. I even have it on my business card now!  


If you could only draw one thing for the rest of your life, what would you choose?  This is easy, I’d draw birds! Birds are awesome, actually awesome. They all look different, they come in all shapes, sizes and colours. You can be super intricate or really simple and they still look awesome. Always loved drawing them and they drop in and out of my work, but I literally doodle birds faces all day at work.  

Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten:  “Don’t expect to get rich.” This is a daft comment out of context but it has helped me to not be disillusioned about how the industry works. All I care about is that I can be as expressive as I like and I’m consistently creative - which if I were in an office job, I would be unhappy – on more money, but not happy.  

Motto to live by:  

    Do or do not, there is no try.

- Yoda (Star Wars movie)  

Are you currently working on anything that you can tell us about?  Right now, I’m working on a set of animal drawings for the summer. I asked a bunch of friends to help me out with ideas and I’m putting together a set that will be gifts for everyone but also a personal project that I’ve tried to but together for ages.  

Anything I didn’t ask that you would like to add?Big shout out to my friends Iain Macarthur and Chris Rowland, with out them I wouldn’t be where I am now. Please check their work out too:  


Big thanks to the Carpenter for taking time to Uncap What’s Inside on the Sharpie Blog! You can find more on Joe at Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter!