Daria Tessler invites us into to her world through whimsical and quirky narratives that feel as if they are part of a strange dream. Animals, people and creatures dance through her vibrant illustrations and silk screens. The Oregon based artist lovingly translates her visions into hand-made items including stationary and books (we especially love her Animal sleep stories coloring book!) Her educational background in the realistic world of physics and math uniquely combines with a love for expressing the absurd. The result is an unexpected and delightful bend in reality that viewers can relate to on a personal level.
Your unique imagination is reflected in the quirky characters and dream-like qualities of your work. Why do you think you are drawn to express this magical childrenʼs book illustration type feeling?
In college I intended to major in physics but derailed in my fourth year and switched to art. I'm an analytical person and in another life I could have become a scientist or mathematician. I don't really believe in magic of any sort, but it's fun to dream about what might be possible in a world without the constraints we live in. I find it very satisfying to defy logic and to embrace absurdity. I sometimes dream I've come up with an absurd surreal joke, like a gag for a comic strip, and I wake myself up laughing out loud like it's the funniest thing ever. Then it slowly dawns on me that in waking life the joke makes no sense and isn't funny at all. I try to channel that strange sense of unreasonableness a little bit in my work.
What long-term dreams and goals are you striving towards currently and how do you
keep motivated and inspired each step of the way?
I'd love to find the time to work on more animation projects, and get better at creating my own music for them. I'm also working on a graphic novel, I'm two years and 90 pages into it, and hope to have it out in the world in another two years. As for motivation, I'm always chasing the chimera of success, but what it means to be successful seems to continually change and a sense of satisfying achievement eludes me. It's a carrot at the end of a stick that hangs over my head, and I'm the silly donkey that just keeps running at it.
As for inspiration, I'll knock on wood, but that has never been in short supply for me, the trouble is finding enough time to transform that inspiration into something concrete, shape my endless list of ideas, good and bad, into workable images. Also I live in a great place where I am a part of an amazing community of artists, mostly nontraditional cartoonists, who challenge and inspire me to make the best art I can make, to collaborate, to try new things, to live as creatively as possible in all aspects of my life.
What excites you most about creating art?
I like the internal journey, a dialogue with some panel of inner voices. It's really the only aspect of my life that feels in any way spiritual. The end result is never what I imagine it will be, and for the rare winning moments when I surpass my own expectations, often accidentally, those are the moments that keep me excited and motivated.
The story-like nature of your work invites viewers to develop their own stories and ideas behind your images, I love that this adds almost a collaborative element. Do you ever consider what kind of affect your art will have on others? Have you ever been surprised by any reactions to your work?
I'm a bit sad to say that I think I dwell too much on anticipating how a piece I make will affect others. I wish I could ignore that impulse and work with more commitment to my own personal ideals, but in a sense I censor myself when I guess at what my audience will respond well to. It's a terrible trap to anticipate your audience's response, but I suppose an element of compromise keeps my work approachable and more relatable, otherwise it would veer off into a realm that would be much wilder, more free-form and alien. Ideally I would be able to embrace that, I would really love to, but in the real world I am fettered by the practical concerns of a profession that revolves around making my audience happy.
I'm constantly surprised by reactions to my work, there is such a broad range of interpretations and responses. I create images with narrative ambiguity. That leaves quite a bit of room for people to insert or project their experiences into what they see and this really affects how they interpret an image, whether they find it charming or sinister; whether an unexpected element in a strange environment leaves them with a sense of wonder or a sense of discomfort. It seems so unpredictable and personal, it's a revelation to me every time! Like a chemistry experiment, and I find the collaborative element to be fun and exciting when the results are positive.