Stacey Rozich on Finding Voice as a Painter By Exploring the Weird, the Odd & the Taboo

Stacey Rozich on Finding Voice as a Painter By Exploring the Weird, the Odd & the Taboo

Ashley Rindsberg

Stacey Rozich is an artist, illustrator and occasional muralist. She constructs figural vignettes in watercolor that combine elements of folk art and American pop culture. Her storybook world is brought to life through lush patterning, symbolism, and dynamic color palettes. She was born and raised in Seattle and now resides in Los Angeles. Follow her on social media @staceyrozich and for all of her work, please visit

Listen to the episode at your favorite podcast site:

Apple Podcast:


Amazon Music:


Ashley Rindsberg: Stacy Rozich. Thank you so much for joining us on the Barney castle podcast. I'm really excited to talk to you because I absolutely love your work. And for people out there listening, who don't know, what I'm looking at is some of the most intense. Interesting. I drawing illustration that you will see today and you will not mistake it for the work of anybody else.

This is absolutely the work only of CC Rosa. So I wanted to first, you know, before we dive into your work and where it comes from and what it means and all those kinds of things, I want to give people just a better sense of who you are, where you are, how you got there. Um, just the basics.

Stacey Rozich: Thank you for that intro that was extremely flattering. And I wish I could take that with me wherever I go. So I appreciate that. Um, my name is Stacy and I'm an illustrator and painter and sometimes a muralist. I live in Los Angeles currently, but I'm from Seattle, Washington. So I've been painting probably for the last oh gosh. 15 years, which makes me feel so much older than I feel like I really am. But yeah, I've been working as a contemporary folkloric artists probably officially for the past 10 years. No, actually probably last 12 years. Yeah. What does that term mean? Folkloric artist. I work within more of like a contemporary folkloric vernacular. So it's like a little bit outside of the mainstream.

It's definitely rooted in a lot of old world traditions, a lot of, uh, Folkloric motifs, which are rooted in like textiles and masks and storytelling. And just a lot of like a handmade hand hewn, uh, pieces of like, uh, clothing and rugs and all that sort of thing. So I incorporated. With a lot of figural work as well and elements of pop culture.

So that's when I say when I'm a contemporary folkloric artist, it's based in a lot of historical references, but it's also through the lens of like a contemporary.

Ashley Rindsberg: So, you know, it's something that jumps out right away when you look at your work, which is, um, the textiles, even within the paintings. I mean, there's, there's a lot of texture in the painting and also figures that are draped in different kinds of textiles and also masks. Um, what, what is it that draws you to the masks, especially ones that, that are, you know, They seem as if they don't belong where they are, you know, a donkey shedding tears with a figure of a man who looks like he's wearing pajamas or things that just really look unusual and out of place. But, um, in the context of each individual piece, they kind of formed their own weird world. So where does that come from for you?

Stacey Rozich: I think I really enjoy playing with the idea of like challenging our ideas of like what what does identity and like how we present ourselves and like also incorporating that into a world, which does give you a double-take that does make you look a little bit closer at it. Cause you wonder why is he dressed like that? Why is he wearing a mask or why is he wearing like a mascot head? And I think that to me is my way of one, sometimes I don't really want to paint people. And so I, although I am, I must say I'm fairly good at it. I just sometimes don't want to actually have to deal with the trappings of how we present ourselves as humans. And so the idea of like obfuscating our identity with some sort of adornment actually is much more interesting to me because you get to be whoever you want when you're, I guess, a figure in my artistic world. So I think that's just something I find to be very interesting is, is playing with identity and, um, yeah.

Ashley Rindsberg: At the, uh, talent gallery, I've found this really interesting little phrase that deals with your work. Um, and it talks about a series that you did for the gallery, um, focused on contemporary social and, and the contemporary, social and political climate. Be a snapshot versions of our worst viewpoints and impulses. And it's a bit of that last piece the phrase having to do with our worst viewpoints and impulses. Um, how do you, how do you S what do you see those to be and how do you see them translate into your work?

Stacey Rozich: Was that I think that was a show I did in 2017 I think is that I think that one deals with a lot of like flag paraphernalia, perhaps that might be one of them

Ashley Rindsberg: Ya figures draped flags, um, like kind of devilish looking.

Stacey Rozich: Yeah. Yeah. And that, I think if we can rewind back to those wonderful days of 2017, when the political climate was, uh, pretty much a powder keg, as much as it is, I guess today also I was thinking back then, okay. How much people, again, to go back to the idea of identity, wrap themselves in whatever flag of whatever country they live in.

And that's, that's an identity and that's how people present themselves. And so I think that can, when you wear that flag or you wear some sort of garment that recognizes you in some sort of affiliation with a certain party, I think that does enable people to. Not behave very well, or like, not really, you know, be, be good people, honestly, if I'm just going to be simple about it. So I think I was, I was exploring that idea

Ashley Rindsberg: In that way. And maybe that's where your work that's, you know, I I'll put this to you as a question. Cause I would just spoke with, um, on the podcast, Edgar Keret, who's a really, well-known Israeli short story writer and you know, self-described leftist. And for him, the fiction that he writes is about, offering people a means of engaging in a way that's supra political. Like it it's, it's enabling people to engage with the other perspective that gives his work, meaning to him. Um, and almost like a break from the constant politics. Do you feel like that is something that your work does for you or for others, or is there, is there a different reason behind, um, engaging politically with the work that in the way that you've done?

Stacey Rozich: I think at that time, I really was charged up politically and I felt motivated to deal with what was going on in like the, you know, contemporary of the culture. But I think actually since then, I've kind of moved away from it because I'm honestly a little exhausted from it but I think at the time I was really interested and with playing with elements of the flag and, um, um, Different elements of that time period, which I feel like we're very like, yeah, super supercharged is a good way to put it. Um, yeah, that was like, I was just more motivated back then to do it and have that discussion. But I think as of right now, I'm just like, I think like everyone else just really tired from it. And just, I wanted to like go in a little bit of a different direction because so many more people can deal with these issues better than I can. And I think I, when I dipped my toe into it with those pieces, it felt really good and like an exercising those demons. But I think since then, I haven't. I've left those stay in that time period for me. And I've moved away from them.

Ashley Rindsberg: Yeah. Yeah. Which I, you know, I think it's also, um, I think it's something that people share that sentiment where it's like, all right, enough, like Twitter can be Twitter and all that stuff can go on wherever it needs to go on. And you just don't want it in your life. Even if you have. And the beliefs of the convictions, the principles, whatever you've got them. Okay, good. But, um, you know, that, that also brings us to a question which is about art, like where that classic debate between, you know, the loud polar heart, like art for art's sake or, um, art that has to do something or, or bring some sort of political meaning.

Right. Exactly. And how, how do you, like, how do you do, is that something that you try to negotiate with yourself? If it should have a purpose, or this is something that I can just do because it fulfills you or because you create something beautiful or, you know, is there, is there a tension there for you or is it just something that you do naturally in whatever it turns out to be? It is what it is.

Stacey Rozich: Yeah. I think the themes are all very intuitive for me. Like again, About that body of work from 2017, where I was then was very charged up. Um, I was just listening to the news. Constantly podcast is like an IV drip of, of everything that was going on and I think that really motivated those pieces. But I think again, getting overloaded with that, and then moving into a space where I just wanted to create something that was beautiful or it really just was like a function for me to paint texture and just to paint drapery on a figure. And that's something that, that is more art for art's sake because it's just something that gives you.

You will break just to look at the beauty of the way these forms are constructed and that, yeah, there really isn't like a larger motivation behind that. So my work can go in waves and do a little bit of both, because I think if it was one way or the other, it would be a little too one note. But I think that's why my work can be kind of almost a roller coaster sometimes you see these pieces and they're, they're very intense and they're very heavily constructed as another time. So it's just a figure standing amongst plants.

So, you know,

Ashley Rindsberg: back to what I'd said in the introduction. You know, this work is like it's uniquely yours and it's uniquely it, it coheres like there there's a language that is it's of itself. And, um, it's sort of, your vernacular remains that with, through every piece. Is that something, how did you get to that point where you started to paint figures? Like the ones that we see, which like even anatomically they. Um, across pieces and the colors, there's a palette that is also there. How did you get to the point where you, where you had this style that you could start to wrap your arms around in this way?

Stacey Rozich: I've been doing this style for, gosh, I had my first solo show when I was 21. And it was like at a, uh, it was in Seattle, it was on a small vintage shop that showed art of like just the friends of the people who owned the store. So it was 21 when I started painting like a very much more pared down seed of what I'm painting now. Yeah, over 13 years, I, I can just do this in my sleep.

Basically I can draw these figures the way that they all are standing and the way their anatomy is. It's just something I've done so much. And it's almost muscle memory to me and color palettes are something that I just I've always loved deep reds and deep blues and light yellows. And just working in the tonality of watercolor really enriches those colors for me. I think it's just, my practice has just been something that has been very consistent for a long time. And I think that's what I've been dealing with now is feeling I've been doing it for so long. And I think I'm very good at it and I will continue to do it. I just feel like what's next. Like what, where am I going with this thing that I've, I've honed so well to like a really fine tip. And where do I go with that? So that's been something I've been, I've been working through with the last couple of weeks.

Ashley Rindsberg: And how did, what does that process of working through that big question, which feels like staring into this, to the blood, into the blank space, which can, I would imagine, can be intimidating.

Stacey Rozich: Um, very intimidating. I've been giving myself the grace to start pieces and then not finish them. So I have a little bit of a graveyard right now of pieces that never really never really made it. Um, but deadlines help for me, there's a gallery I show with there in San Francisco and LA and New York are called Hashimoto contemporary. And I am in their satellite show for Art Bazel in December. It's called "Context". And so I needed to get this piece done and I started a piece and I loving it and I remember I left the table and I walked by it and I was like, I hate. Yeah, what am I doing? Who are you? Why did you do that? And I really was like, self-flagellating myself for awhile, but I just gave myself the space to stop. Just don't continue because there's just no hope for this. Sometimes you can save pieces and you can pivot and go in a different direction. But this piece and there's just no, no, no more places for it to go. So I started something again and I knocked it out and like the lightning bolt of inspiration hit me just at the right time.

And I finished it and I love it and I sent it off and I'm very proud of it, but that was basically what's been going on with me lately is just starting and stopping and then leaving and just not painting and not drawing and just cleaning the house or going on an errand. And before, you know, it it's.

Ashley Rindsberg: Just out of curiosity. What, what do you do with the, um, the graveyard or the individual tombstones in the graveyard? Do you keep them?

Stacey Rozich: I do keep them and sometimes I come back to them and I kinda, I tightened them up and I can salvage them as much as I can. And then usually once a year, I'll doa sale. . I just sell all these things that I have that are pretty much finished. They're not framed or anything and a select group of people will snatch them up. Those would be people, you know, now they're not people I know. They're just people on my mailing list.

Ashley Rindsberg: Oh, wow. That's very, very interesting kind of unfinished or semi completed works.

Stacey Rozich: Yeah. And if it's, if it's truly bad, then that's going in the it's going in the trash. Right, I'm going to be honest.

Ashley Rindsberg: Um, so, you know, just thinking about today where we are. And, um, you know, a lot of the people that I speak with in any field, the arts media entrepreneurship, a lot of the conversation is about the, about the institutions that have run our lives for so long and that we've engaged with. And that's, I know as a writer, that's very much the case that the institutions of publishing media, um, journalism, what have you. Uh, w the literary institution was sort of it, and today that's no longer the case. And I think there's also a backlash as well. And do you find that your relationship with the art institution is different than what it was? And do you think that's something that's continued to change and, you know, what's it like for you to be, you know, in that world or not in that world or half in half out?

Stacey Rozich: Yeah, that's a, that's a very great question. And it's something I think of often I think I'm actually in a very lucky time to be someone who was somewhat of an early adopter to something like Instagram, which was basically like here's my life. But also here's a portfolio of my work, which is how I got a lot of galleries paying attention and they're great galleries. And I've been showing. In that world for a long time, but they're not huge blue chip galleries, which is fine because the nature of my work is a little bit, one foot in the illustration world editorial, and then one foot in the fine art world.

But, and I think those things are kind of interchangeable now, which is very different. And I think social media has done a lot to do that because now I see a lot of painters doing editorial illustration for the New York times, or I see a lot of illustrators showing in really nice galleries. And I think years ago, those institutions would never have allowed that sort of bleed through. And I know, you know, I have my own opinions about the art world. It's, it's still to me, very, very exclusive. It's very dominated by white people by my, by white men. And that's just, it's, it's changing little by little. But it's something that I, I do feel kind of on the periphery of which is okay.

When I was younger, I think I was really thirsting to be a part of that whole realm. But to me, it's like, it's just a little bit more of a, of a race that I don't really want to want to run in. I like doing my own thing now. I have, I'm very lucky. I have a lot of people that collect my work and people keep contacting me to do jobs and to paint murals. And I feel extremely lucky and fortunate to be able to say that, but I am not necessarily a part of like a larger structure where I only participate in one of those channels. So I kind of, I kind of do all three, but in my own.

Ashley Rindsberg: Yeah. I, you know, I think there for a lot of people in the arts or, or literary world, or maybe in any world there, there's the glamour of the institution, the, the romance of the myth about what it's like when you get there, wherever there is. And I think as you progress through whatever it is you're doing, you start to see that it's. What it appears to be. The facade is nice and you read the magazine articles about that world and it turns out to not be true when you get into it. And a lot of the incentives seem to be wrong in those worlds as well.

Stacey Rozich: So the pressure is for that is just something I, it's not fun, honestly. I mean, again, the prestige is something that is like, we're always lusting after, because that's just. That really shiny example of once you've made it, you do this X, Y, and Z, and you get all these things because of that, but at what cost and how do you keep that up?

How do you sustain that? And that's something that I've experienced in like, in my own small way. Yeah, it's, it's a lot, it's a lot.

Ashley Rindsberg: So on that question of sustainability, of, of working, I think, you know, there's this sustaining of, of the image of a successful, whatever you are. Painter or a writer or a musician. And, you know, in, in the literary world that the truism is that you're only as good as your last book. And that doesn't even mean in terms of how good the book is. It means how well it's sold or how well it was, how was how it was received. But in terms of being a working artist, how do you sustain it? I, you know, I know from my point of view, it can be just demoralizing to feel you're not progressing or you're not connecting with the audience or you're not X or not y and I think a lot of, a lot of people in, in this, these worlds feel alone, they feel isolated, and that's the hardest thing to feel for many people. So like, how do you keep going day after day after day, year after year to get to the point that 13 years later, you're still in it.

Stacey Rozich: When what I think what we do is so inextricable inextricably linked to who we are as people there is really no other option. You know, maybe it would be nice if we could just quit one day and just go work in an office and have a guaranteed paycheck. And that would take off some of the pressure, but that's just never going to happen. Because I think with what we do is we have to do it in some form. And so I think just dealing with those times when you feel completely exhausted and burnt out. I think it's okay to feel those ways, but just know that there, there will be other times where it will come back again. And yeah, that's the only thing I can really say to myself and to other people who, who are going through exactly the same thing I'm going through right now is we can't do anything else.

So just give yourself a moment because that's all you really have time. And I know it sounds like I'm going to live forever, which I'm not. Um, but it's just something I need to tell myself to, to get through the day because I can't do anything else.

Ashley Rindsberg: What does the day look like for you day to day?

Stacey Rozich: Well, if I'm actually in the middle of a show and I'm the all the pistons are firing and the engines going, you know, I wake up and I do some exercise, which I was never a very athletic person growing up in Seattle. I was a total indoor kid, which is how I honed my drawing style is because I just drew every single day, which is what my father always told me.

Cause he was an artist as well. So I just, yeah, wasn't real into our kid. Never was into like, uh, athletics. So funny enough, we've been to Los Angeles. Unrelentingly sunny every single day, you basically have to get out there and do something. So I've really learned to enjoy walking and running and hiking, and it really clears my mind and helps me work through things.

So doing that in the morning is really good. Um, just kind of, you know, going through emails afterwards, doing administrative stuff, and I'd probably settle in around to paint, um, after lunch and then I worked for several hours and yeah, just keep chipping away at whatever I'm working at and then usually, uh, um, like six o'clock I'll have a glass of wine or not. And then, yeah, just watch a movie and go to bed. I've been really enjoying, going to bed at like nine o'clock lately has been feeling really good. Um, but yeah, other than. I just, I find ways to keep myself busy. So I don't just like look into the sucking void and see how I'm not doing what I should be doing right now. I just try and distract myself.

Ashley Rindsberg: Yeah. The, you know, that's how I think a temptation. Um, I think a lot of people feel which is to be constantly assessing what we're not doing at this moment and not just allowing it to be simple. And I think where, where you, you know, I've read about that I forget the guy's name. He wrote a book about the routines of, uh, artists and thinkers yeah. And it, you know, what, what surprises me about about a lot of those routines is how simple they are. It's not like, you know, Darwin worked like 20 hours a day and slept like in increments or something. It's like the guy woke up at seven, had breakfast, went for a walk to in an hour, like reading his mail and then like did some thinking.

And, and that was the day. Yeah, exactly and like, it was enough on aggregate day after day after day, because it was something that he was able to sustain and maintain and live a life that I presume felt good in that way. Um, and not become just hollowed out by an impossible schedule. So especially when we're seeing, the Titans of industry today, Elon Musk is running like nine companies at the same time. They're all worth a hundred million dollars and it's like, oh my God, should I be like that? And I think you have to think, uh, no, that'd be simple. Yeah.

Stacey Rozich: Yeah and I think that's nice to read those books like that and, you know, cause they really do a range throughout history of, of, of different schedules and how the slower the schedule would allow more time for greater works. We're now, you know, we, we're in such a hustle culture that it's like, again, yeah. The eight companies were billions of dollars, you know, so much had to go into that. But it's basically like those people that say, oh, I only sleep four hours a night or, oh, I don't eat. I have to remind myself to eat. And I think that's. Good. That's great for you, but that sounds extremely unhealthy. And I, you know, you may go to an early grave because of that, but I don't, if that, you know, sells your app for, uh, you know, a million dollars and that's great, but I just doesn't send that stuff for me. I need, I need lots of time, I need to enjoy myself. I need to and just so I can really like tap into my subconscious, which really is a big driver of my work. If you couldn't tell it's pretty surrealistic. Um, but yeah, I need that. I need that space and time to just let it all go. I'm not always great at it, but just giving myself that time is really necessary.

Ashley Rindsberg: Do you feel that in gut engaging with other forms of art with, um, whatever it might be, literature, poetry, or film that helps them.

Stacey Rozich: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Definitely watching a lot of movies and reading as much as I can that just like reading to me is just so wonderful. It really sharpens my senses in a way that helps me feel excited for being a creator. I love reading. I've always loved reading and yeah, movies as well. That's always a great one for me. My partner is a director. He's a filmmaker, so cool.

Ashley Rindsberg: Yeah. What do you like to read?

Stacey Rozich: Well, I just finished the newest Sally Rooney book, which was good. Um, it was all right. Uh, before that I read this, um, this book called, uh, why can't I remember it, the come back to me on that one, I'm totally forgetting. It's like I read, oh yeah, "The Commited", which is excellent. It's about this guy who's a he was like basically working for the Viet Cong and the U S during the Vietnam war. And he comes to the United States. And so he was playing both sides and it is one of the funnier, more interesting books I've ever read. Wow. And I loved it. And I also read "The Year Abroad" before that, which is like a young guy who goes abroad and everything goes, sideways thing. Those kinds of things is take me, take me away in terms of films. Oh, well, I've been watching a lot of horror movies last month that were really great. We watched "The Witch"recently, which is the new one. It came out and I think 2017, that's excellent. Just makes me really glad I don't live in the 17th century of new England, because I would definitely be hung for being a witch. That kind of thing. Yeah. I do appreciate that. And old movies, there's a arsenic and old lace, which is a great Cary Grant movie, I love that it's like real slapstick and wacky. It used to be a stage play and then they translated it to a movie and it's got, um, Hmm. I can't remember. I was just so many great actors in it, but that's, that's what I saw recently. I grew up watching old films with my parents. So that was, that was a really, that was a fun one.

Ashley Rindsberg: So, um, as we kind of start to wrap up, you know, people, I think a lot of people who listen to interviews like this sometimes might be younger, or maybe even if they're not younger, that they're wanting to understand how do I do something like this? Because like what you're doing. It seems so hard from the outside, and it seems like such a fantasy as well for people, even if they're not painters, but to say, oh my God, to be a working artist or playwright or anything in the arts or anything. That's you know, a few steps out of the ordinary, um, or even just of what they're doing, even if what they're doing actually might look to you and me to be actually quite extraordinary. But how does, how do you, how do you guide people who are saying all right, well, I would love to do something like this. So what, what are the steps that they can take? Or what are the, um, what is the mental framework that they can adopt?

Stacey Rozich: Motivation is a huge. Part of the pie, in my opinion, the motivation to stick with it, because there are going to be a lot of hard times getting yourself going, getting there again, sustaining it. And a monochrome of self-confidence helps as well, knowing that you are enough, what you are doing is good, but it's not, you know, you don't have to delude yourself and think you're a genius because those people usually. Or not, um, just believing in yourself and to know that you're doing the right thing and to keep moving forward, um, working a lot helps just honing your craft, whatever it is.

That is the best thing you can do. That is just to me, one of the best things I ever learned is just to keep working and just to keep drawing, keep painting, keep writing, keep doing whatever you do to stay active and to stay limber. It's like, it's like yoga for the mind you know, the more flexible you are, like the easier it is for you to stay strong.

Ashley Rindsberg: It reminds me of something, Seth Godin. Who's a great thinker writer. Um, marketing guru says, which is that you need to have a lot of bad ideas before you have a good one. And I think that's also part of, um, you know, you, you try the thing and it fails. You try the next. So what you were talking about before with like letting pieces be unfinished and not needing to not needing this, this notion that whatever I do has to be done completed well, this, in this particular instance, every time that it can, it can be something that didn't go the path that you were expecting it to, but that path might diverge into something else.

Stacey Rozich: Right. And that's, I think that. Somewhat self-confidence and also flexibility to say, I know I'm, I'm good at what I'm doing and I can keep going, but also I need to let this go. You know, not just dwell on something that's not working because you can get stuck in a rut that way hyper-focusing on something. That's just not, that's not working on, it's not panning out. That's why if you have that ability to pivot and go in a different direction, you may find. And even better plot, you know, and even better channel for you to go down.

Ashley Rindsberg: Right. Um, you know, something that you have done in your career is, um, partnerships with brands, magazines, doing some editorial work. Is there anything that really stands out for you among all those?

Stacey Rozich: I really loved working with sub pop when I did the album artwork for FatherJohn Misty. Second album, "I love you, Honey Bear". That was so great to work with album that, I'm sorry, that label, because they're just, they've always worked with artists and they're a Seattle company and I worked with Sasha BARR, the art director there, and he was just such a joy to work with.

He, it really helps when you have an art director that gets your work and gives you as much like leeway as you need to get weird. And then to work with that weirdness and health, like translate it into this beautiful pop-up record. That was really, really fun. And I've done a lot, a lot of great stuff since then working with, um, I just worked with a power bike company, rad power bikes, which this work is not technically like very in line with my fine artwork. This was more like I worked with the brand. I worked with their directors and I translated into something that worked for them, but it was really fun actually. And working with a limited color palette and just doing something that spoke to this brand's identity of like fun and movement and basically getting out there and getting into nature.

Ashley Rindsberg: But also keeping it somewhat urban. That was really fun. Amazing. So, um, we're going to people come find you online, or even in real world, if it's a gallery

Stacey Rozich: They can find me online. Um, my Instagram is a great way to keep up with what I'm doing, uh, moment by moment. Um, my handle is at Stacy Rosa. It's S T a C E Y R O Z I C H. And my website, which is just my And as of right now, I don't, I don't have anything showing in a gallery, but if you're in Miami, in December for the art fairs there, I will be showing at context at the Hashimoto contemporary.

Ashley Rindsberg: Well, I absolutely encourage everyone to go check out that Instagram. And also I think, um, do what I do, which is just Google Stacey's name and check out the images that pop up on Google. Cause you see so much. Um, and they're so cool and they really, you know, I think a lot of us have this tendency to like, Brakes on our computer by doing stuff that really sucks, like looking at Twitter, but this is like a little break for the brain. That's the opposite that it gives you something and stimulates and challenges, and also relaxes at the same time. Cause it's beautiful so I think that's someone, something everyone should do. Two minutes and check out Stacey's work because it's something else in the meantime. Thank you, Stacey, for joining me. And, um, hopefully we'll do a follow up, but, but, um, again, thank you very much.

Stacey Rozich: Thanks so much for having me. This was a lot of fun.

Join the conversation.