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An Interview with Sandi Calistro

In anticipation for this week's release of an absolutely stunning new print alongside four gorgeous original paintings by Denver based artist Sandi Calistro on Thursday, November, 19th we sat down and asked her a few questions about art, culture and her life, read more below!

For our readers unfamiliar with you and your work, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a tattooer and painter in Denver, Colorado. I started painting on a regular basis about 15 years ago. I'd say my paintings have an illustration style to them. I use the female figure almost every time I paint.

Your use of big eyes in your paintings is breathtaking and you do it so well.  Where does the use of such large eyes come from?

I think I first started drawing kids with big eyes when I first saw Precious Moments. I think my mom had a few of the figurines and I had some of the coloring books. There were other influences too. Someone gifted me a book full of manga comics, I loved it. I've always been drawn to eyes in art.

When did you start getting into tattoos and when did you decide to make them part of your work, as well as being a tattoo artist?                                                                                  

I knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort for a living.  Right out of high school, I started painting signs for local businesses.  Shortly after that I accompanied my mom to get her first tattoo.  I was mesmerized by the art of tattooing.  It wasn't long before I started doing tattoos on friends, stick and poke style.  I finally got an apprenticeship when I was 21 and about 3 years in I started painting again.  The two really feed off each other.  My paintings wouldn't be what they are without tattooing and vice versa.  It seemed natural to incorporate elements of tattoos in my paintings.                                        

Are your paintings inspired by mythology and folklore or your own imagined stories?

I think it's been a mixture of both.  I've incorporated symbolism from childhood fairy tales and movies I've seen.  I was a latch key kid and I loved imaginative movies: The Dark Crystal, The Secret of Nihm are just a couple.  These things mixed with the art I was exposed to definitely opened a door to my own little world.

What kind of world do your characters live in?

I try to incorporate the connection to the spiritual world and nature.  I want to express how directly connected they are.  They grow up from the soil surrounded by ghostly spirits.

Could you tell us a bit about the piece The People's Printshop is releasing as a print?

This piece is an good representation of how nature flows through you. I'm not sure how else to explain it.  I don't plan them out, I just start drawing on the wood and try to examine the meaning later.

What about the four originals?

The four originals are a different approach, I used a clothing catalog from the 50's as inspiration.  I'm intrigued by that time period and what it was like for women.  I also love the fashion.

How much does pop culture affect your work?

It's not something I consciously think about but, growing up glued to the TV and the current accessibility of everything happening in the world I'd say I'm very affected.  I think artists these days are affected more than they realize because of how connected everyone is in social media.

How do you feel social media is changing art and has it affected your work?

For me personally social media can go both ways, I've discovered and spoken to some of the most inspirational artists on there and by following or friending them you can see progress of their pieces and techniques they use.  I've found that sometimes I spend a little too much time on social media and I need to find a healthy balance with it.

If art did not exist, what would the world be like?

I feel art saved me.  I discovered it at a young age and it helped me and continues to help me through the hardest times in my life. I know it's done that for so many and not just artists, the people that draw inspiration and emotion from art.