October 6, 2017

This week’s artist of the week is Portland-based Ona Greenberg, the painter/comix artist/tattoo apprentice whose dark humour translates into ironic pieces that are witty and eye-catching. We talk to her about how she started dabbling in multiple mediums, her favourite materials and ancient religious art/stories…

Have you always been interested in art?

I have. I was lucky to have artistically encouraging parents.

How would you describe your style?

It varies depending on what medium I’m using but usually the content has some dark humour undertones and irony. I like a lot of colour and contrast.

You’re a comix artist, painter and tattoo apprentice! How do these mediums differ and why are they your favourite ways to work?

They’re all so different… each provides it’s own outlet for me mentally and emotionally. Comics require a bit more focus to make sure I get my story or punchline across so I can’t “zone out” and listen to music, unfortunately. But it is fun making stories and voices for my characters, which is not as easy to do in paintings. I like painting because it is really meditative. I usually play an album on repeat for the duration of a painting until I feel kind of hypnotised. I have been apprenticing at a tattoo shop for a couple months now.​

So far I have just been observing artists tattoo in the shop, asking questions, and making a ton of tattoo flash sheets which are fun, especially imagining the possibility of tattooing them on someone someday. I will start tattooing next spring if everything goes smoothly!

Describe your work in three words

Laughing while crying

What’s your creative process like and how does it differ between the mediums you work in?

I’ve found I work better in the morning (which is not something I ever would have predicted…). Typically my routine will always start by guzzling a ton of caffeine, pacing around my studio, eating a piece of toast, and listening to a record. For comics I sometimes like to go to a coffee shop and sit for a few hours first writing my script, penciling, then inking. For painting I mentioned above I like to repeat albums. I do a sketch of what I want the painting to look like, then sketch it, then paint. I’ve also been realizing how important it is to allow myself lots of breaks, even if it means just laying down or having a cigarette. Staring at a project too long can make me lose sight of what it actually looks like and get too nit picky and obsessive over details, which is no good.


What are your favourite materials to work with and why?

I would say probably oil paints because I like how smooth they are. The best and worst thing about them is a longer drying time. Some colors can take days, which is good when I need to take a break and come back because I don’t have to worry about re-mixing my palette. At the same time it’s harder to layer. Lately I’ve been getting more into gouache for my tattoo flash. I love the way it looks but it’s also harder to control because it’s so water soluble.

What’s the Portland art scene like and how does it inspire you?

There are a lot of artists and art going on in general in Portland. I’m pretty sure everyone I know is an visual artist, musician, writer or some combination of the three. I have different friends I draw comics with, paint with, and play music with and every one has a unique style and approach I can learn from.


What is the best piece of advice you have been given, about art or otherwise?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, don’t pretend you know something when you don’t. Take breaks.

What are your main inspirations?

Ancient religious art/stories. Iconic paintings. I have a really good art book called On Ugliness, and it’s kind of an examination of how the definitions of ugly has changed though the ages and how that’s been influenced by or has impacted art. I like to flip through that for inspiration. The sad/happy dynamic. Honestly, feeling mentally unstable a lot of the time makes me think in interesting ways which can cause a creative spark.

Have you got any projects coming up that you can tell us about?

Right now when I’m mostly occupied with this tattoo apprenticeship, and I’m working toward making tattooing a career. I also do a monthly comic for Polyester magazine, and some clothing commissions as well. I’m also working on a little music project with a good friend of mine, sort of like a nineties female grunge revival. We have great musical compatibility and similar tastes, and like writing music together. We wrote a fun one about male idol-worshiping nihilist bros, which was way too satisfying. It’s great to exercise creative energy in that way to take a break from visual art sometimes. Our band is called Loose Lips.