An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary

An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary

Our latest interview is a remarkable dialogue with Eden Gutstein, a visionary artist continuously defying the boundaries of colorful expression. She is an Israeli illustrator who is currently working in Atlanta, Georgia… molding inspiration from art deco and surrealism into a style that is decadently innovative. We want to know more about what draws you to these specific genres of inspiration? What elements catch your eye? And what is your earliest recollection of feeling inspired to create?  

Hi there! Thank you so much for finding interest in my work and interviewing me. As mentioned in the question, I do mold a lot of my inspiration from Surrealism and Art Deco. With Surrealism, I believe that on some level, creation of any source rises from our subconscious and gets materialized. For me personally, art is a form of escapism. The reality I have been surrounded by hasn’t always been my preference, which awoke a deep desire to create a world of my own.

Specifically a world that resembles a dream-like state. A world that speaks in riddles and is painted with metaphors. There is something magical and mysterious about Surrealism; How it doesn’t give away too much and you can create your own observation based on what you see, yet there are countless other expressions that could be made and brought to life. I have found that this art style helps me understand my introspective nature a bit more, and explain certain moods and emotions that I don’t feel comfortable explaining with words.

As for Art Deco, I have always admired this art movement. In 2017, I worked at the Tel Aviv Art Museum up until I moved to Atlanta, and I was fascinated by the visuals of Art Deco. I admired the bold geometric shapes, the golden color palettes, the exquisite fashion and the strong resemblance of Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 1920’s. Later on in 2021, I studied more in depth about different artistic periods in my art history class, and Art Deco was brought to the forefront of my mind once again. I was also fascinated by the Art Nouveau movement, which in a way, inspired and birthed the Art Deco movement. I started taking certain elements of the movement and incorporating them into my work. One of which is the fonts.

I should probably mention that I have a slight obsession with typography in general, and when you see any of my pieces with a typeface, I have played around with at least 10 different ones before making a final decision. The Art Deco fonts give a nostalgic feel to a piece. In many of the Art Deco pieces, there would be a depiction of the flapper girls, which got me into drawing portraits of their faces and incorporating them into my tattoo designs. One of my favorite pieces that I have created inspired by this style is titled Lady Red, created in 2022 during my time working at the SCAD Fashion museum. As someone who has always romanticized Old Hollywood, and even did acting for a few years, I find a sense of comfort in this style of art.

The same way I feel about Surrealism, running away into a peculiar dream. As far as my earliest
recollection to create, I believe it was around the age of four. Growing up, kids back then didn’t have the advanced technology kids have today. Sure, I enjoyed watching VHS tapes like other kids, but I just found so much joy with a box of crayons and a bristol board. My parents too were fans of art, especially Marc Chagall and had copies of his paintings (not the original ones of course) around the walls of the house. Chagall’s paintings were inspired by many different art movements, but they all had a dreamy quality about them that feels like a reverie.

An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary
An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary

Can you describe to us some of the core subjects or motifs that are paramount to your artistic style? What are some things that you weave into your illustration to make it scream your name?

That’s a very good question. I think anyone who has worked with me, taught me or knows me can say that if it looks “groovy”, “retro” or resembles the “70’s”, it screams Eden in capital letters. I have always been a big fan of eclectic interiors, the vibrancy of the 70’s and a big fan of antique stores in general. I am pretty sure I got it from my grandmother. She has a house filled with decoration and art she kept from the 60’s, 70’s, and I spent a big chunk of my life in that house. Everything always felt nostalgic with her, and in a way I think she is a big reason why I am old school when it comes to certain stuff. From there, the nostalgic forms of artwork started to have more of an impact on me.

I was very drawn to patterns, bright warm color palettes and vintage postcards of places I have never been to before. The “aged” factor gives the artwork a sense of yearning. I believe as time went on, my style grew up and matured with me, however, I always try to keep a sense of nostalgia with everything I create. After all, I am always going to be a sentimental girl. When I started off with that style, I would mostly do acrylic paintings on canvas, usually of retro looking patterns that were inspired by 60’s floor tiles.

From there I went through a phase where most of my artwork was straight up orange, and I am glad my professors in college encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and try out different colors. As time went on, I started gaining inspiration from other sources, like writing and poetry and I didn’t feel the need to be so strict about keeping everything in the same style. I will say that with all of my pieces that are created with digital media, I like to use texture and noise. It helps make the image look more lived in.

An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary

We love that you use poetry as a basis to your artistry. Could you divulge some details into how you construct your imagery around words? How do you approach illustrating abstract or complex ideas from poetry?

First of all, thank you! My process of illustrating around poetry feels very intuitive to me. About 9 or 10 years ago I started getting into writing and poetry. I do believe I was good at it and fairly enjoyed it. However, laying down words on paper for everyone to see made me feel a sense of transparency I wasn’t ready for. Words can be too obvious at times, even when written in a vague manner. So I decided to use drawing as a form of wordless poetry.

Visual art can be open to interpretation in many different ways. So one thing I ask myself before illustrating an idea based on a poem; How does this poem make me feel? And sometimes the feeling might be far removed from the poem’s first impression on the majority of readers. But to make it personal, I have to figure out what it means to me. For instance, I created an illustration based on Robert Frost’s The Road not Taken. In the poem he talks about two roads laid out in front of him. One is well known and well traveled, while the other one is not.

When I started illustrating the piece inspired by this poem, I asked myself what does the poem make me feel and think. And my thought pattern was, what if the person ended up regretting the road they have taken but now they feel like they’re running out of time? After this point, I knew I wanted to incorporate an hourglass into the illustration. After playing around with ideas, I decided to integrate the road as a part of the hourglass, symbolizing time slipping away, the what if’s, and perhaps regret.

An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary
An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary

It is incredibly impressive that you are a tattoo artist as well! Can you tell us a little bit about that journey? In what ways has your practice evolved by expressing in this medium?

Thank you! Yes. I have always had a deep passion and desire to learn the magic of body art. I started getting tattooed when I was 17, and I was fascinated by the work of the artists I have gone to. I started going to different tattoo parlors in Tel Aviv with my drawing portfolio in hopes of finding an apprenticeship. All the studios I have gone to at that point were almost exclusively owned by men. Their responses all sounded the same. They said it is not an industry for women and that I should find something else more feminine to do.

I was upset and discouraged to say the least. One of the last tattoos I got in Israel before moving to Atlanta was in a little shop in the town of Yafo/Jaffa. To my surprise, I was greeted by a young lady who said she was the owner and worked in that studio alone. When I asked for some advice from her on how to get my foot in the industry’s door, she simply suggested I teach myself. She said that she taught herself everything she knows about tattooing. After that appointment, I went ahead and ordered some supplies and started teaching myself.

I started practicing on myself, on family members and on friends. The word started spreading around on a very small local scale and it was just a hobby I would do for those close to me at that time. Shortly after, I moved to Atlanta Georgia for college, specifically art school. I have learned so many fundamentals of art during my time in college that as a result made me have a deeper understanding of drawing.

This helped me tremendously improve my tattooing. Fast forward to this day and age; after graduating college, I was finally able to give tattooing time and space and find joy in it again. I currently really enjoy tattooing anything floral or botanical related, and I am known for using fine lines. I am still on my journey and can’t wait to see how I can improve and grow more in the next coming months and years.

An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary
An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary

With that being said, you have a stellar collection of your tattoo designs published in a book! What can you tell us about this project? Did you face any challenges along the way?

I am glad you asked about the book. I have actually been working on this book since May of 2023, so it has been some time. I guess the idea was based off of my final project for college; We had to create an artist book that would be unique to what we do as artists. My professor for that class suggested that I create a tattoo book. I decided to go with that idea, and even more so, instead of illustrating the book, I was going to tattoo the book. I got a good amount of fake skin that is usually used for practicing tattooing. I punched some holes on the sides, and attached the stack with binder rings. Then I went ahead and tattooed the “skin like” paper with my favorite tattoo designs.

The feedback I was getting from people was surprisingly really good. I started bringing this tattoo book to markets and festivals I worked at, just as a part of the display on the table. I had so many people asking if it was for sale or if I would be willing to sell it. Since that book was handmade, and was one of a kind I decided not to sell it. However, I decided to create an actual tattoo book that I can mass produce and sell in many different places for people to buy. To make the book more interactive, I decided to make it a tattoo coloring book. Not only can people look through all my tattoo designs, they can add their own take on it by coloring the designs to their liking. As with any project or book, I have definitely faced some challenges.

First challenge was figuring out how and where I wanted to publish the book. I have contacted most of the binding shops in my city to get some quotes and the rates cost more than my monthly rent for a quantity of hardly 50 books. After doing some research, I decided to self publish and produce the book through Amazon. After submitting the book, I had to wait for a few days until the book was approved and then I ordered a proof of the book. In the beginning I wasn’t elated, as I felt there could be a few more designs inside the book.

I went ahead and revised the interior and resubmitted the book for another approval. That time I was much happier with the way the book came out. As artists we can be very critical of ourselves in general, so I am sure that the first draft was okay too, I was just being hard on myself. Now the book is available for purchase on Amazon. All you have to do is type in my first
and last name into Amazon and it should show up in the first results.

An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary
An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary

The possibilities seem to be endless for you as we have seen your brilliant line of illustration products! The nostalgic style you express is timeless and pleasing to the eye. Can you describe to us your creative process with translating your artistic style into a commercial product?

Absolutely! In the past year, one of my favorite things to do as an artist is to create products that are actually useful with my art. There are a few bullet points I have to check when doing so. First of all, I have to ask myself, what are some products that people will always use, purchase, need, etc. And after I make a list of that, I ask myself; “How can I make those products cute and in my style?” One of the products that sell more than anything else are greeting cards. I find that people always purchase greeting cards, as people will never run out of birthdays, out of thank you’s and out of congratulating their loved ones.

My greeting card collection is inspired by Mid Century Modern 1950’s designs, which includes a birthday card, a thank you card and a congratulations card. I also have postcards that I make that are inspired by the Victorian flower dictionary. All my postcards are handmade on watercolor toned paper with botanical illustrations. They too give a nostalgic feel. I recently came out with a notebook collection, also available for purchase on Amazon, that is all designed with retro patterns. I find that notebooks are always going to be in use, whether you are in first grade, in college or just need a planner to organize your life. I designed them in a way that would be suitable for any age. So far there are four different designs with patterns I created myself.

An Interview with Eden Gutstein, Illustrator, Tattoo Artist, and Poetic Visionary

What role does storytelling play in your illustrations? How do you incorporate narrative elements into your work?

Good question! Similar to my answer about integrating inspiration from poetry into my art, I try to find the meaning I want the illustration to convey first. Some of my illustrations made with traditional media, like botanical paintings created with watercolors, aren’t going to have a deep meaning or a narrative. I usually create a narrative around my editorial pieces. In Fall of 2023, I collaborated with the Science Gallery in Atlanta to create illustrations for their Justice Exhibition. I did my research on this specific exhibit, the ideas of justice and topics of conversations around the subject. Every illustration was made a little differently, however, I did use different visual metaphors and elements to convey the story. I made sure the elements I used were also interesting to look at and I used bright colors to draw more eyes in.

For the future you, what sort of things are you envisioning? Any plans to experiment with new mediums or conceptual design? Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

20 years seems a bit far to think about at this moment. But I can answer for the next five
years. I would hope to have opened up my own tattoo studio by then and to have experimented with many different styles of tattooing by that point. As for my illustration and art, I am looking forward to working with more influential clients, making work that is impactful and that I am proud of. Traveling to different places, different exhibitions and meeting new artists is also one of my goals. I also want to push myself to try to work with different styles and different forms of media. Something I would love to expand on is to hold my greeting card collection in more stores around the city and expand the line to different states. Questions about time are always a bit tricky, as our desires from life change simultaneously with our internal shifts.

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