In the latest issue of Airbnb Magazine, we wanted to celebrate the creation of tactile objects that embody personal expression and craftsmanship. Tapping paint onto a canvas with a brush, molding clay using controlled touches, assembling beads along a string — these physical movements accumulate to create original art that reflects the materiality of time.
To capture that spirit in our cover, we enlisted comic book artist and illustrator Rebecca Mock. The image she created captures the focus and dedication of makers through the depiction of a printmaker at work in their shop. Airbnb Magazine Creative Director Mallory Roynon applauds the cover’s realism — “most of the time,” she said, “makers have totally messy studios” — and adds that the image is also “about finding a beautiful piece of art amongst chaos.”
We sat down with Brooklyn-based Mock to talk about the idea behind her cover art, the challenges in the process, and the beauty of a messy workspace.
Walk us through the process. What did you first think about the assignment?
The subject I was presented with was really juicy: to ask a maker to do a piece about being a maker. The assignment specifically said to draw from your personal experience.
I made a lot of sketches first: one of a woodworker’s studio, others of some ladies weaving long embroidery in an open flowery space, a shared studio of someone who was carving, someone who was painting, someone who was drawing, and a lot of large rooms with art supplies and sunlight coming in. That’s my thing, just sunlight cascading.
What were some of the challenges working on this piece?
When the project started, I had been dealing with tendinitis in my drawing hand, so it was kind of difficult for me to draw and to get work. But I didn’t want to turn this assignment down because this subject means a lot to me, and as a maker I feel challenged to do the thing that I want to do, which is to draw.
Is the subject a reflection of yourself or someone you know in real life?
The piece was inspired by a friend named Cathy Johnson. The subject doesn’t actually look like Cathy, but the stuff in their piece and the space and tables are theirs. They are a printmaker and educator, and they have a studio that I thought was perfect for this brief, so I asked them to send me as many photos as they could of the space. (I now have a treasure trove of images they sent me!) I based a lot of the details of the piece very specifically on them — the turtle on the back of the jacket is actually their turtle. The subject is creating a piece inspired by their beloved lifelong friend.
I’ve worked in printmaking studios before, and the best thing about them is that they’re covered in junk … messy sinks, cut paper on the floor, all of the left-out paints and supplies, the smell of ink, that’s directly from memory, and that kind of space immediately brings to mind the sense of calm.
What were other sources of inspiration?
My specific inspiration folder for this project — I make a new folder for each project — is full of 1960s classic magazine illustrations like messy acrylic paintings, and illustrations that are full of stuff and sunlight. Impressionist paintings come up a lot. There’s this Japanese illustrator named Tatsuro Kiuchi who is my all-time favorite, and he does the sunlight-on-wall thing very well. A lot of photos of people’s messy studios with paper covering the walls; I was trying to create a piece that’s a nexus of all these things I love.
How would you describe your own artistic style?
My process is digital. It’s a lot easier on my hands. I try to do a naturalistic painting style. To start, I do a very tight sketch, a black-and-white, almost comic-style sketch. That’s my other job, that’s my training, so it’s kind of cartoony, but from there I build it up from shapes rather than lines. I might build up a table or a tea kettle without outlining it first, just directly over the sketch, and then I’ll tighten it up overall. Instead of focusing on one area for a long time, I try to jump around, so it was chaotic. The amount of layers for this piece is the most layers I’ve ever done for any piece that isn’t an animation.
What was your own path toward becoming the maker you are today?
From a very young age I went to art classes. And even today, drawing is something I do for fun; the fact that it’s my job is secondary. I’m constantly trying to push myself and change as an artist. This piece was a really great challenge for me because it was a chance to try out some new painting techniques.
What do you want readers to take away from this?
I was hoping to connect with people who also studied art in a studio space — people who work at a community center, rent out a studio, or who are art students or artists. Everyone who’s spent time in a studio has this same nostalgic memory of it, and there are things that are universal across the board. No matter where you are in the world, an art studio has these things: a table covered in paint, ink splatters on the floor, a circle that someone’s cut out of a paper and left there forever, used paint cups and rollers on the sink; I wanted people who’ve been in that environment to recognize that stuff. I wanted to create a space for everyone that would be enjoyable to step into, where you would love to stand with the subject and look around.
About the author: Christine Lee is a San Francisco-based writer and editorial assistant at Airbnb Magazine. When not writing, she can be found hunting for the best bowl of ramen or her next read in used bookstores.