Ana's sweetly subversive works have provided visually rich narratives for multiple editorial, advertising, and publishing projects. She paints with oils, a medium that lends itself to rich and subtle colors. Her work, which often features animals and child-like figures, has a sweet but unsettling quality much like the fairy tales they seem to reference. Her beautifully rendered paintings bring powerful concepts to life, playing with recurring motifs like the myths of adolescence and the hazy boundaries of dreams, fantasies, and memories.
Born in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, Ana and her family moved to the U.S. when she was 6 years old. She has tried to incorporate these experiences in her art as much as possible. "My parents had saved my school books and brought them with us. They were filled with amazing illustrations of Soviet propaganda and I knew I had to use them in some way." Ana dedicated her 2005 solo show Clubhouse Machination at La Luz de Jesus to the communist imagery in those books. Besides drawing from memories of childhood, Ana also seeks inspiration from her vast collection of photographs, which includes "fashion photography, pictures of dolls, animals, landscapes, movie stills and anything I come across on the Internet that strikes my fancy. I take pictures when I'm strolling through flea markets, museums, while traveling, to make sure I don't forget a moment that might have inspired an idea for a painting."
Ana's clients include Diesel, Honda, BMG Records, and Mighty Fine. She has worked with publications like Rolling Stone, GQ, Men's Health, Runner's world, HOW Magazine, Spin, and Boston Magazine, and has illustrated covers for The Stranger and City Pages. Her work has graced posters for arts organizations such as Arena Stage and the Sydney Symphony, and she has worked on ad campaigns for Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Publicis Mojo, Saatchi & Saatchi, and Wieden & Kennedy London. Her witty series for the ADC Young Guns advertising campaign Young and Hungry used vivid images of mother ducks, pigs, and deer being eaten by their young to create a darkly humorous effect. The campaign went on to win an award in American Illustration 26.
Her creative process is loose and inventive. "When I sit down to draw, I rarely have an idea of what I'm going to draw. I start with the face and the narrative grows from there." Ana believes that stepping outside your comfort zone is the most effective way to grow as an artist. "I was used to working very small and when I decided to paint on a larger scale, all the flaws in my drawing were amplified." Ana's critical eye allows her to fine-tune her talents, and her work grows more intricate and polished with each painting she completes.
Her love of painting animals has been noted in the press, in interviews with Juxtapoz magazine, Hi Fructose, Sour Harvest, Arrested Motion, and Ianyan Mag. Ana says, "Animals are universal. Any culture can relate to the animal kingdom, while only a small number of people can relate to the figures I paint. They've been used in fables, stories and painting since the beginning of time to portray human characteristics and behaviors for that reason. Aside from that, I love painting fur, hair, shine, feathers, etc., and these little critters provide me with an abundance of textures for my painting pleasure." Ana's cover for the book Jane and the Raven King is a great example of this - it features a cardigan-wearing cat detective and deftly captures the whimsy of the book's retinue of magical animal characters.
Ana was one of the artists invited to Baby Tattooville, a 3-day event in Riverside, CA that provides a unique opportunity for serious art collectors to spend time with their favorite artists. Artists like Glenn Barr, Dave Cooper, Bob Dob, Brandi Milne, Shag, Amy Sol, and many others create work around-the-clock, allowing collectors to witness the creative process behind the artwork. At the end of each retreat, collectors leave with a grab bag of art created during the sessions, ensuring that no one leaves empty-handed. Ana's work has been shown internationally at the Mondo Bizzarro Gallery and the Dorothy Circus Gallery in Rome, as well as the Fb69 Gallery in Munster, Germany. In the U.S., she regularly exhibits in a number of galleries, including Roq la Rue, Thinkspace, Subtext Gallery, Varnish Fine Art, La Luz de Jesus, and the eponymous Billy Shire Gallery.
A few years ago, Ana started a side project called Lunch Bunch. She and a friend bought an extra meal after her birthday dinner to give away on the way home. The person she gave the meal to made lasting impression, and a few days later they decided to make sandwiches and hand them out to the homeless in Hollywood. "Our first day was so heartbreaking and amazing at the same time, we knew we couldn't stop at just one day," she says. She continues to follow a route through Hollywood that accesses people who don't live near shelters. The Lunch Bunch is now a group that uses art auctions to fund their work. Artists who have donated their work to auctions in the past include Shepard Fairey, Amy Sol, Scott Musgrove, Daniel Lim, Lola, Dan Barry, Joshua Petker, Peter Micocci, Loretta Gonzalez, Edward Robin Colonel, Sara Louise Tucker, and more.
Ana studied illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Her work has been recognized by American Illustration, Communication Arts, 3x3, Society of Illustrators Los Angeles, the Gold Ozzie Awards, and the Eckersleys Awards. In 2008, Ana was profiled as one of 20 rising artists under the age of 30 in Print Magazine's New Visual Artist competition, a rare distinction awarded only to the most exceptional illustrators, designers, and fine artists.
Q&A with Ana Bagayan
What's one tip you have for other creative professionals? Don't ignore your subconscious, it's only trying to guide you in the direction of the best possible outcome for you.
You often use animal imagery in your paintings. Why are animals so alluring to you as a painter? A dog is a dog no matter where you come from. Everyone can relate to animals.
If you were reincarnated as an animal, which animal would you be? A seahorse.
What is your ideal studio like? I like a large, clean space to work. I don't need inspiration or anything fancy around me, it distracts me from my thoughts.
What is your biggest challenge as an artist? Becoming comfortable with my medium so that I'm able to paint exactly what I want to paint.
How has your work changed since your days as an art student? How do you see your work progressing in the future? I think my work has always represented my being, whether I knew it at the time or not. If it looked like I was lost in my work, I was also lost as a person. I can look at my older work and know exactly what I was feeling at the time I created it and I think creatively releasing pain and negative beliefs is a healthy way to get past it. I'm more comfortable with who I am now so my work is all coming from a positive place. Now, creatively I feel free. Technically, there are still things I need to work on which will still be a challenge but that is part of the process and I embrace it.
What's the first thing you do when you're stuck on a project? What are your best sources of inspiration? I think feeling stuck is an indicator that something is awry and you need to stop and honestly re-examine what you're doing. That will automatically open up a new direction.
In an ideal world, you would have an infinite amount of...? Abundance.
Your art seems to regularly turn to the themes of childhood, mortality, and mythology. How would you describe the motifs in your art? What draws you to these themes? I think childhood represents freedom and open-mindedness at its purest. In that world, anything is possible.
A genie grants you three wishes. What do you wish for? 1. The ability to manifest what I need when I need it in the form of drawing. I was going to wish for a door that opens to what I need, but I think I should still have to earn it. 2. For everyone else to choose to follow their passion, there would be a lot less negative people around me. 3. Ability to teleport.
You grew up in Los Angeles, and you are heavily involved in the L.A. art scene. How has the city influenced you and your work? My style has definitely come from the influence of artists in this scene, and for that I am grateful. That I was able to resonate with the energy here and light my flame with it early on. Now, I'm just on an exciting creative journey guided by my subconscious and I'm having fun with it.
What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of painting? Baking, gardening, finding and listening to music, staring at the sky (looking out for ufo's).