Everyday Icon: The Public Artists

Clementine Daily sits down with the designing duo of LC Studio Tutto to discuss the beauty of public art and life in general.

Image Credit: Chantel Elder

Public art can breathe life into a community, bring out the art-lover in both the young and the old and create beauty in unexpected places. Public art is powerful stuff, Clementines. That’s why we’ve been so drawn to the work of Hennessy Christophel and Sofia Lacin of LC Studio Tutto (formerly LC Mural and Design). They’ve created masterpieces out of giant water towers, the sides of buildings and later this year—the underbelly of a large section of a freeway running through Sacramento, California. We recently had a chance to discuss a few things with the incredible artists and here’s what they had to say:

Okay, so you two are more than painters. You’re designers, communicators, collaborators—the list goes on! What people have come to love, however, are your murals. Talk to us about creating art in public places. Did you two ever think this would be your job?

Hennessy: Some of these murals are huge and take a lot of time to build. My favorite moment is when we are painting and all of a sudden we recognize the design on the wall—it comes together in front of our eyes. That’s the point where it goes from something beautiful we’ve created in our studio to something that will live outside in the community—it’s kind of like a child leaving home and you wish it well and hope it has a good life out there.

In terms of what our job is now, at this stage in our careers, I would never have imagined THIS—being this large scale and this prominent in our community. The business we’ve created came about so organically, it has grown step by step, I could have never imagined where we’d be now when we first started.

Sofia: I love to remake spaces, sort of reinterpret space publicly. Each new space brings delightfully random and unimaginable interactions with the people who frequent it, making painting in public an absolutely entertaining process. These fresh interactions give us a deep connection to the environment and bond us to our artwork and that place in the world. It becomes like our temporary home.

I feel lucky to experience my artwork in different environments, to watch it change, and evaluate it separate from myself. It feels magical—to me much of the magic comes from the difficulty and physicality of creating large-scale artwork. Many times it surprises me what we are able to achieve and that type of surprise always reinforces the magic or the ‘art faith’ as I call it.

Over the last few years, you two seem to continue to take on larger and larger projects. How do you tackle projects like that? Is there a process you go through (and can we borrow it when we’re feeling overwhelmed with our own projects)?

H: This first part is just being willing to commit to something that you’ve never done before. We never worry if a project seems too challenging. We operate like this: if a project gets us excited, then it’s a good idea. We are very fearless in that regard. We have a collection of very smart people we keep around us in order to ask for advice and different perspectives.

S: Our process tackles the problem in two different ways. At the beginning, you should be really excited about what you’re going to do to pump yourself up for enduring the second part: outlining, planning and practically tackling the piece. This should be done on a daily basis.

As our business grows, it becomes more necessary to tackle each project every day to chip away at the mountain of questions we have. That idea translates well into a more personal perspective: having an enthusiastic attitude and making little decisions every day will accumulate into a satisfying life.

As artists, you essentially create beautiful things for others to enjoy. How does that inform other aspects of your life?

H: I always seek out beauty. Actually there are so many times when I wish Sofia were next to me so I could point out some really amazing color combination or beautiful light that I know she would equally appreciate. I try to spend a lot of time in nature because it gives me the biggest dose of beauty satisfaction and it fuels our designs.

S: I am very interested in beauty. Beauty isn’t superficial. It provides real pleasure to the senses and the mind. Beauty is about finding harmony within the tension. It is about really looking to see and becoming absorbed in the senses. I would even go so far as to say that my life revolves around finding and creating beauty.

Do you ever have days when you simply can’t find the will to paint? If so, how do you move through that non-creative fog and come out on the other side?

H: The painting part of the process is more technical—it’s more of a physical force that we have to just push ourselves through sometimes. Designing is the real challenge to get through if a creative fog moves in.

Typically when we have a creative block, we talk about the challenge we are having—that’s the great thing about having a partner. Designing is a process of going down many paths and exploring them. Sometimes you get dead end after dead end. In that situation, we check back in with each other and verbally come up with new paths to pursue. We swap material to dig a little deeper into each other’s designs, or we work on another design and come back to the struggle. Sometimes we physically move locations in hopes that a change in perspective will help us think a little differently.

S: When we don’t want to paint and lose the will to carry on, luckily a euphoric nonsensical overdrive mode kicks in. The delirium saves us, releases serotonin, and carries us through. We’re pushed to that boundary often. Most of creative work is pushing through boundaries so I think it’s common to lose the will to be an artist at least once every time you try. That’s the only way to grow.

Clementine Daily is a space for women who believe in embracing simple pleasures, setting realistic expectations and bettering their lives to better the lives of those around them. In your eyes, how do you fit in with that mission?

H: Our lives are very full of simple pleasures. Working in the field, we get covered in paint and become one with our sites that are sometimes really grimy and gross. In that state anything feels like a luxury; a cold Diet Coke can feel like the ultimate decadence.

In order to bring the level of professionalism to art that we strive for, we have to be realistic about what we can accomplish and when we can accomplish it. Reliability is a huge pillar of our business. It can be difficult running your own business to be realistic—you sort of have to be grossly optimistic to be an entrepreneur in the art world. But it is so crucial to resist the temptation to absurdly over commit. The quality of our ideas is the most sacred component of LC; there’s a level of care and compassion you need to bring to yourself in order to produce beautiful ideas and images for others.

S: I feel like one of the simplest pleasures is being alert and aware of color. It’s the most intense simple pleasure, like becoming completely engulfed in the sensory experience of music and art. Like walking into a house that’s clean and well lit, sitting on the couch with my mom with my legs over her knees. Walking itself is a huge simple pleasure.

I think if you’re the kind of person that starts your own business, realistic expectations don’t often appear within the top 10 goals of your life. At the same time, a sustainable productive life that doesn’t burn you out is a valid goal. I’m having to learn how to set realistic expectations so I don’t always feel unsatisfied personally. I’m not there yet—I’m the fantastical ideas person in the business, not the realist.

Do you two have a mantra you tend to keep in your back pocket for the stressful times?

H: Recently as a way to wind down and turn over into sleep time, instead of thinking about work, I say to myself: “Thank you for this day….” I reflect on what happened—the good and the bad, and I try to have gratitude for it all.

So let’s say you had a chance to have dinner with five of your all-time favorite artists. Who would you choose?

H: Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co.—everything she makes is so perfect and I want to understand how that is possible. Richard Brautigan—he would be so strange in an interesting way. Carl Sagan—I know he’s not an “artist” in the classic sense of the term, but science has always been such a huge source of artistic inspiration for me. Beatrix Potter—I grew up on her books and I think you can see a thread of her style in my illustrations. Theodor Seuss Geisel—For his double achievement of being an environmentalist and incredible author and illustrator.

S: Joan Didion, Miles Davis, Joan Mitchell, Cleopatra, Rothko, Coco Chanel. Ok, I know I cheated and chose 6, but you can always squeeze in one extra table setting.

p.s. Want to hear more about Hennessy and Sofia? You can find them on season one of the Creating Your Own Path podcast here!