We had the good fortune of connecting with Lynn Mandziuk and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lynn, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
My motto is “too dumb to quit”. Coined originally from one of my favorite punk bands as an adolescent, The Queers. Another, from Charles Bukowski, is “Find what you love and let it kill you”. Keep that fire burning under your posterior and hold on tight, nails digging in, for the long haul. I’ve found that pure stubborn determination, or sheer stupidity, has been key to my success as an artist.
With my career, the main thing I’ve gathered and pass on to my students is that resiliency is key. Dedication, being tough, being stubborn, and staying motivated are all qualities to embrace on this road. Being really really good at failing continuously until you get it right. Also, being able to reignite that passion and to fall in love over and over again with what you are doing helps work stay fresh. I personally believe that if it’s not worth doing 100% (art, but other things as well) then you should probably just walk away. Do what you love, do it well, stay hungry, stay excited, and let that kill you in the end.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My artwork delves into expression, personality, energy and motion. My inspirations come from themes that help me to dive into these concepts. From eccentric personalities for portraits to the outdoors, from music shows to other action scenes, I find great inspiration from energy. As a doer, a go getter, a person of constant motion, I try to convey the energy of a moment in my work by utilizing expressive paint strokes, color, and repetition. Growing up going to punk rock shows, I spent a lot of time in the perpetual energetic abyss of the mosh pit, and this momentum is something I have carried on to other aspects of my life. Becoming fully immersed in rock climbing after college, I found myself obsessed with meditative and mindful movement up the rock. I associate inertia with complacency, and the value of doing outweighs everything in life and on the canvas.
I work in a variety of mediums, from traditional painting techniques, pen and ink, watercolor, mixed media, printmaking, digital, and sculptural works. I tend to work with whatever I can get my hands on in the moment. As an idea-based person, I get excited about ideas, especially when they are innovative, modern, or unique. This is true for my work, as well as seeing work from others. I try to pump out and manifest as many as I can into reality. Sometimes, the ideas are bunk, and othertimes I create larger series from them. But for me, creating something tangible from my mind is where I find happiness.
The goal of my work is to blur the lines between narrative and abstract, conceptual and literal, expressive and realistic, fine art and illustration. The intersection of all these perpendicular ideologies is where my work lay. By combining technical and traditional illustration and fine art practices with a more conceptual approach, I find I am fully able to express myself in a non- linear way. My main thought process lay in blurring fine art and illustration.
In my personal time, I enjoy developing already used techniques and experimenting with new methods. Refining and streamlining these processes is something that brings me great satisfaction; I have an affinity for efficiency and eliminating waste in time and resources.
My dad put a paintbrush in my hand when I was two years old and the rest is history. I pursued the path of traditional illustration through college, graduating from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. After college, I hit what was to become a life-altering fork in the road: I had the opportunity to tweak my illustration portfolio for a potential agent, but I also had a job offer working minimum wage at concessions in Yosemite National Park. With dreams of rock climbing big walls like El Capitan, I chose the latter, unbeknownst to me it would completely reshape my life and career path.
Throughout my 20’s and early 30’s, I spent my life living out of vehicles, trailers, and vans chasing seasons and perfect rock conditions for climbing. I worked doing freelance illustration and design, as well as odd jobs to support my climbing habit. I’d move back to Denver every summer to work a desk job as a production artist and save for the rest of the season. Eventually, I decided on living a less mobile life and formed roots in Denver. Through my involvement with the climbing community, grassroots environmental organizations, and my penchant for marketing design and illustration, I created a niche for myself in the outdoor industry. I primarily work as a freelance illustrator, as well as an adjunct professor at Rocky Mountain College of Design, and am a climbing ambassador for Mad Rock Climbing, Boulder Denim, and Creagwear.
In my spare time, I try to fit in as many gallery shows, art fairs, and public pieces of art as I can, while still honing my technical abilities in rock climbing. If it were a smooth road, I wouldn’t have chosen it. With my freelance career, the main thing I’ve gathered and pass on to my students is that resiliency is key. Dedication, being tough, being stubborn, and staying motivated are all qualities to embrace on this road. The ability to fail repeatedly and press on. Interestingly enough, these are all qualities represented in the pursuit of rock climbing.
The struggles have not been easy. In the beginning, when I lived out of my car/camper, I would be waiting for freelance checks to come in, greedily hoarding saltines and peanut butter to save money on food until I could cash the check. There were times where I wanted to throw my hands in the air and give up because I forgot to have a client sign off on something, before noticing a typo in the final print and having to eat the cost of printing a piece with an error. Hustling at every opportunity for more work, working extra hours to get my work out and not being paid for those hours. Learning small business laws, writing contracts, basic accounting and finance, paying my own health insurance and retirement, all while still evolving my style. Years and years of trial and error and mistakes have gotten me to the point where now I am fairly comfortable in the discomfort. The discomfort gets a bit more comfortable year by year though I still find myself wearing a lot of different hats. That keeps me psyched and engaged, and never stale and stagnant.
Currently I am pursuing my MFA in Illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design. I have been working on redefining my illustration portfolio and brand, creating personal fine art works (ideas), and fine tuning the craft of teaching.
My future goal is to continue teaching in academia and pushing my processes. To be able to experiment with my technique and style, constantly innovating and progressing my abilities while being able to educate others is the ideal. Working in an academic setting while being able to learn as an artist is the “forever” paragon. As an illustrator I’d like to have and maintain a successful career and as an educator to be able to pass on my knowledge to the next group of illustrators. I’d like to pursue tying the line between expressionism and illustration in my works, graphic and representational, and fine art versus commercial.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Favorite neighborhood: RINO! Because it’s my neighborhood, but also because of the rad public art and bar scene. I remember back in the day when Larimer Lounge was one of the only places I’d go to in that area, and it’s still one of my favorite venues to see smaller shows at.
Favorite restaurant: Spice Room ATM. Awesome veggie and vegan options. Brasserie Brixton is my new pajama restauraunt/bar and favorite. Favorite bar: Back in the days when I was a dirt cheap, dirt bag, punk rocker, I used to love Bar Bar. (under old ownership as well). Lately, I find myself winding up at Ratio and The Block Distillery.
Favorite Karaoke: Ogden street, Armida’s is a close second.
Fun things: Denver Botanical Gardens, Ritual tattoo, Santa Fe First Fridays, Movement Climbing and Fitness
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have to thanks Brizida Magro (Sweet Beyond) and Scott Wakefield at Rocky Mountain College of Art Design for hiring me on as an adjunct professor in the illustration department and helping me to continually grow as an artist through mentoring others, as well as being mentored myself. Mac Gaugh from Creagwear for being a huge advocate of my work. The Thundercling.com (Podcast and Blogzine) for showcasing my work throughout the years.
Instagram: @lynnzos, @lynnilllustration @time_beings
Linkedin: Lynn Mandziuk
Portrait of Lynn by Karen Hook