As I've continued to settle into Portland, I've made a point to connect with the inspiring individuals that make up this creative community.
One of these creatives is Maja Dlugolecki. A local artist and graphic designer, working out of one of the most perfect studio spaces I've seen.
A few weeks ago Maja invited me over to her studio to see how she works and I compiled a short interview from that visit... have a look!
First, I'd love to hear a bit about your personal story.
Where did your journey begin?
I grew up in Troutdale, which is 30 minutes east of Portland, OR. Although the name isn’t that sexy, the scenery definitely was. We grew up with the Columbia Gorge in our backyard, which is home to some of the most beautiful hikes in Oregon.
What made you want to call Portland home?
Portland ended up being home to me by accident. I applied to Portland State as a fall back school. Even after I started attending, I still questioned my decision to go there for the first couple years.
I studied a variety of uninspiring disciplines before landing myself in a Intro to Type class on a whim. The rest is history. At Portland State I really had the best teachers, and met a crew of people who still have a big influence on me today in the ‘professional’ world. I say that in quotations because it feels like such a stiff word. We’re all growing and learning daily. I believe that remaining a student of your craft is integral to your continued growth and satisfaction.
How did you become an artist?
You know, its funny because I never took art classes in high school, but I was a serious violinist. I’d played since I was 4 years old, so the disciple and dedication of being an artist was instilled at an early age. I mostly stopped playing music once I got to college, and found myself thrown into another art form [graphic design]. I was thrilled that I had discovered another art form, and that I could be passionate about art once again.
My endeavor into fine art actually began as a coping mechanism after my first heartbreak. It was difficult for me to process, and I needed an outlet outside of work to express everything going through me. I put on some headphones, queued up some sad tunes, and started playing with old paint I had laying around. I did this every day for months. Most of the work was awful, but was cathartic, like writing your thoughts in a journal. And even though I look at my old work and cringe, I’ve kept most of it as a reminder that my process is important.
What inspires your color palettes?
I enjoy going through fashion magazines and old photographs, but sometimes it depends more on my mood. I think my work reflects weather I’ve been inspired by a happy moment or another emotion. My work communicates the wide range of human feelings through colors and brush strokes. I’ve worked with blue quite a bit in the past, but I’ve moved into blushes and burgundies in my newest collection, which is something new for me.
How does your work as a graphic designer influence your fine art?
Well, from the technical standpoint, it is very helpful to have the tools to brand myself well and have a nice website etc. From the creative standpoint, understanding white space and other design elements has been really helpful.
I would say that it has helped in many ways, but fine art itself is still such a process for me because I never learned the basics in a professional setting. It’s been an experiment from the start because I never learned the proper way to use materials; so much of my time has been spent doing trial and error.
How do you push the boundaries of your art?
I’ve always wanted to paint on larger canvases, but I wasn’t able to do that until I moved into a studio that was large enough. Working on larger canvases is definitely a feat in itself. It’s a lot more daunting white space and more time spent over a single piece.
I will say that as my audience has grown this past year. I’ve had to walk the line between making work that is always evolving, while also making art that my audience is drawn to. I'm fortunate to have found financial balance with my design business, which allows me to focus more on the intentionality of my work, and less of when it will sell.
Lastly, what advice would you give to an aspiring artist?
Ask, ask, ask. Ask for help, ask to collaborate, ask to participate, ask for advice. Don’t wait for the opportunity to come to you. Happen to life rather than the other way around. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough: learn the art of asking.
And perseverance, you’ve gotta keep moving forward. Even on the days when you question your purpose, you haven’t received a check in weeks, or you’re barely breaking even. KEEP GOING. You got this.
Thanks so much Maja!
I truly hope you've been enjoying these artist interviews as much as I have!
If you have any suggestions for future interviews send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org!