Monthly Archives: June 2013

Die Empty Artist Interview: Carla Benzie

Carla Benzie is exhibiting with Die Empty,
June 27th- July 3rd 2013
Opening night Friday June 28th 5-9pm
Bleeding Heart Gallery, Brisbane

Carla may be a well established, ridiculously talented tattoo artist by day, but the artist in her extends far beyond those boundaries.

Your pencil drawings are incredibly detailed and neat. Is this something that you’ve learned to do as a tattoo artist? Or have you always preferred a realistic style?
 I’ve just always liked drawing realism and surrealism.

By Carla Benzie

By Carla Benzie

Are there any subjects or themes that you won’t tattoo? Sometimes tattoo artists refuse to work on religious themes, or southern cross tattoos, etc.
I’d prefer to do my own style. It’s good when a customer comes in with an idea and lets you do what you want with it.

Almost all of your painted pieces are figurative- how do you choose which reference/models to use? Do you look for particular poses or features, or is it a vibe thing? I just look for models that I think would make an interesting painting or drawing nothing too complicated.

By Carla Benzie

By Carla Benzie

Did you always know that you wanted to be a tattoo artist? What were your favourite mediums prior to a gun and ink?
Pretty much. Always used pencils, water colour and acrylic.

You’ve been painting since you were pretty young- how old were you when you started and how did you get started? How do you feel when you haven’t painted/  practiced any art for a while?
I was probably 12 when I started doing actually paintings and drawings I think, If I don’t paint for a while it’s because I’m drawing- if I’m not drawing I’m tattooing- and if I’m not doing that I’ll be making something so there’s never a time I’m not doing something to do with art!

By Carla Benzie

By Carla Benzie

Your ‘Broken Time’ jewellery line contains some unique ‘lost and found’ items- tell us about some the precious materials that go into your creations.
I find bits and pieces at op shops, markets, antique shops, and friends give me old bits they’ve collected, I just spread them all out and play around with things that match up.

Do you have any other projects on the go or in the pipeline?
Lots of awesome things to come…….

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

By Carla Benzie

By Carla Benzie

She may be a woman of few words, but her work says it all!
Visit her website at and you’ll see why Carla has little time to talk.

Design Your Life- Artist Interview with Die Empty organizer Katie Lee Gretch

Hangin’ with Miss Katie Lee Gretch over the past few years, we’ve had countless chats about our love of art and potential projects. Many of them revolved around the possibilities of Die Empty, so when it came to putting plans into action I couldn’t consider getting started without her involvement.
Having been in awe of her artwork as well as her ‘get up and go’ since we met, I knew her input and experience would be priceless to Die Empty. And it sure has been!
Seeing what she’s achieved while ditching the daily grind makes her one of the most inspirational people I know- this was a great opportunity to share some of Katie’s gold with all of you.

Arludick Gallery

Arludick Gallery

1. You have an exhibition coming up at Arludik Gallery in France. Where else have you had your work shown overseas and how did these opportunities come up for you?

I joined an art group based in Hollywood this year called Girls Drawin’ Girls. It is run by a Simpsons animator Melody Severns, who created the group to showcase female talent in the entertainment and media industry. Since joining, I’ve taken part in pop culture conventions in Chicago and San Diego, as well as the exhibition in Paris last month.


Mermaid by Katie Lee Gretch

Mermaid by Katie Lee Gretch

2. Which mediums were you working in prior to graphic art? What attracted you to graphic art?

I used pencils and pens mostly, sometimes watercolour. I was getting into acrylics when I started studying animation, but fell in love with digital art. I was attracted to it because it’s so versatile and quick to use (once I learned how to). I was being trained as a video game artist, so it was important to get ideas out quickly. I’m quite impatient anyway, so I loved this new medium.


Ryan Vella- He Died With A Felafel In His Hand

Ryan Vella- He Died With A Felafel In His Hand

3. Die Empty isn’t the first community art project  you’ve been involved in setting up- Ashcan comic is  also one of your babies. Tell us what drove you to start  Ashcan. What were some of the challenges involved?

I wanted to make a creative space for artists to interact, born out of my own needs to network with other artists. I was reading a lot of comics in college, and I had been a fan of Ryan Vella’s work (He Died With A Felafel In His Hand – Comic Edition) who was taking part in comic collaborations, and I guess these combined things inspired Ashcan.

I had a hard time finding passionate artists and writers to contribute to the comic. I found myself almost begging everyone I knew to generate content for us. I did contact many established comic artists that I didn’t know like Ben Constantine (Plump Oyster Comics), and some of them did contribute thankfully! After about a year and 3 issues, we were well known in the Australian comic community and we didn’t need to work so hard to get great content.

Ashcan issue #1 cover by Katie Lee Grech

Ashcan issue #1 cover

Money was a problem, as it always is for artists. We had just enough between us to print 50 comics and host the first launch party. One of our writers loaned us $300. We couldn’t even give our contributors a free copy of the book, we were so broke. 30 people were involved in the production of that first issue, and we all had something invested in it. So we promoted the crap out of it and it was a huge success. At one point there was a line up of people outside waiting to get in. We sold all the comics and we made enough money to cover the cost of the next issue.

I’ve since left Ashcan because I wanted to focus on my own work. I found that I was spending so much time on the administration of Ashcan, that I didn’t have any time to contribute artwork to it. My comics were always left to the last minute and I was disappointed in their quality. It was a hard decision that took 6 months to make. I miss being in the spotlight with Ashcan, but it’s more important that my art skills are improving and I’m progressing as an artist.

Pin-up Girl at a Cocktail Party by Katie Lee Gretch

Pin-up Girl at a Cocktail Party by Katie Lee Gretch

4. What inspired you to be so involved with Die Empty? What do you hope to gain from starting up and exhibiting with Die Empty?

I think the drawcard of collaborations and group projects for artists is to share the costs and responsibilities. As well as that, each new artist brings at least 50 new audience members so groups are a great way for me to reach new people.

5. What other projects do you have running / in the pipeline at the moment?

I’m working on my new website and have just added a shop feature for selling my wall art prints. After the exhibition, I’m going to start work on another video game with my fiance. I love making games!

Katie making Clear Conscience soap

Katie making Clear Conscience soap

6. A while ago you quit your day job to follow your heart’s desire. How is that going for you and what challenges have you faced along the way?

I quit my day job last year and have been experimenting with various home businesses. I chose four things that I did best and unleashed them into the world: commercial art and design, software development, homemade soap and personal art. It’s very difficult to start a business when you don’t know what you’re doing, even harder to start four! Because I couldn’t decide which I wanted to focus on, I decided to test them all out for a bit and let them organically sort themselves out.

The most challenging thing about it is learning how to change my perspective on failure and how I define success. I struggled with fear and anxiety too, a fear of failure and loss. It was a very painful time, but it wasn’t as painful as being stuck in a job where my work wasn’t being appreciated. Which is why I started my own business in the first place.

Katie's teeny tinies

Katie’s Teeny Tinies

I will always be doing personal artwork and making video games as a hobby, but it’s not always profitable and I can’t rely on that income. The homemade soap business is doing really well and has become my day job which I love because I’m really passionate about protecting the environment and ourselves from toxic additives in our cosmetics. We’ve stopped using synthetic fragrances, and are currently researching how to make our own alkaline naturally out of wood ash.

Smooth Sailing by Katie Lee Gretch

Smooth Sailing by Katie Lee Gretch

7. A lot of your work is very cute and quirky- how did you formulate this style? Do you feel it represents you/ your personality?

I don’t know, do you think I’m cute and quirky? That’s very interesting. I know that my themes change as my outlook on life changes. I used to have a bitter attitude and my work was scary and violent. I feel like I’m more in control of my life now, so I’m happier and my art style is more approachable. I guess it’s quirky because I like to be different, I like to create unique characters.

8. What’s your personal process for producing your artwork? What do you get out of it that makes it such an important part of your life?

I can’t tell you why it’s so important to me … it just is. I’m sure everyone can understand that, everyone has something they love ‘just because’. A perfect evening for me is putting my headphones on and listening to documentaries while I digitally paint.

The Animator's Survival Kit

The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams

9. What advice do you have for budding artists? Are there any resources that you recommend?

If you can afford to go to art school, make sure to find one that suits your direction and specific needs. I’m a practical kind of artist so I got a Bachelor of Interactive Entertainment where I learned how to create art for video games. If you want to teach yourself, study animation techniques because it gives you a better understanding of how things move and work. The best animation book available is still “The Animators Survival Kit” by Richard Williams. Study your favourite artists and copy their work for the purpose of learning how they create a successful piece. I have studied hundreds of artists and merged many different styles into my own work. There is an abundance of tutorials on Youtube, I would only recommend that you like the artist’s work before taking their advice.

Ice Cream Girls by Katie Lee Gretch

Ice Cream Girls by Katie Lee Gretch

10. Where would you like to be with your art in the next 5 years?
As things are right now, I’ll have made a few indie video games and had 5 major exhibitions. I want to be established as a solo artist by then and have my work for sale in at least one Brisbane gallery.




You can see more of Katie’s artwork at rapidly expanding empire also houses the Clear Conscience Soap Company  -and Appelli- interactive advertising and games

How to start an art movement – an interview with Die Empty founder Samantha Yallope

A mutual friend set up a meeting between Sam and I in 2010 as a sort of networking opportunity. We met at Gilhooley’s on Albert Street in a cloud of cigarette smoke, Germans and jugs of beer. I was making comics for Ashcan and she was painting for her next exhibition. I was amazed by her work, and even more amazed that she wanted to be my friend! Over the last three years, I’ve been lucky enough to witness her piece together Die Empty in the back of her mind while she was tending to her canvas creatures. Although we’ve had countless hours of chats, I realised while preparing for this interview, that there are still some really important questions that I have never asked her …


Alecia and Her Guide by Samantha Yallope

Your work is very detailed and rendered, how long did it take you to paint ‘Alecia and Her Guide’?
Thank you. Alecia took 3-4 months, although it’s always hard to say exactly as I’ve always got a few paintings on the go at the same time.

You’re a self taught artist. How did you teach yourself?Mum gave me my first oil paints and canvasses when I was 13. Up until then I’d been content with pencils and occasionally charcoal or watercolours. Oils gave me a whole new world of colour and depth and I practised using them every which way I could. I remember seeing things differently then – every single scene, from my street to my favourite paintings, I’d translate into the Windsor and Newton colour palette in my head.

Can you recommend any resources to help aspiring artists?drawing_on_the_right_side_of_the_brain
Resources I would recommend would be anything that feels right for you. Try everything and see what makes you want to rush home and paint. You are your best resource – your art is YOU – so question yourself constantly. Do you produce all of your art for the same purpose? If not, how does your intent differ with each piece? Does your art represent you? And know that your answers will evolve with your progression.

I read ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’ over and over, and used all my art class homework assignments as a guide to thinking about my own work from different perspectives. I would also read about my favourite artists and how they produced their work, then see if I could mimic their styles. I spend a lot of time agonising over finding my own style. Now I don’t think that’s so much of an issue.

What matters to me is producing a loyal representation of the original idea which means that every painting is executed in a slightly different manner. So I guess I taught myself through trying to understand the root of my inspiration.


Pulse by Samantha Yallope

Do you have any plans to attend art school?
No, although I won’t rule it out altogether. When the time came for leaving school and going to uni I was over how art was taught in the education system. I went to school in England and A Level Art Class was a shambles. I think that myself and my friend Stephie had the whole curriculum re-written during smoke breaks  because the classes had become so uninspiring. Since then I’ve also see a few friends go through art school and have their drive and inspiration for their art die, after seeing them produce amazing pieces. See that change in a person is heartbreaking.

You began materialising the Die Empty movement in 2011. Why has it taken so long to bring to fruition?
The general idea had been knocking about for a fair while, but I was working too much to pay it enough attention. I’d tried 4 or 5 times before to cut down work hours and paint more, yet always ended up going back to work full time with maybe just a few more paintings finished and not much else.


White Rabbit by Samantha Yallope

About a year ago I decided to really pick it all apart and define my direction. I was taking a course at the time which was focusing on a few aspects of ‘life purpose’ and it took a fair while to realise what visual expression meant to me, why I do what I do, what makes me happy, and how this could be of service to others. I don’t believe that any of us are made to be useless – what makes us happy touches others too.

Taking all of this new information and structuring it into a project took a while too. As I started talking to other people about my ideas, I met special people at the right time, had some inspirational conversations, and the possibilities kept growing. The obvious challenge was the change in income. You and I have so far funded this out of our own pockets with a few welcome donations from those involved, so it’s kind of a catch 22 – needing the time and the money.

Of course I had planned on being slightly more well prepared but we all know life rarely goes according to plan. It was definitely a challenge hitting those tough spots where everything seems to be mounting up against you, but since we started this I’ve believed in it too much to back down. I’ve never done anything like this before so most of it is a challenge in some respect. I barely knew how to use a computer last year! I reckon wherever there’s something really worth doing there’ll be a challenge or two.


Just Out Of Reach by Samantha Yallope

What are your future plans for Die Empty?
The evolution of Die Empty in whatever form that takes. We will stay in line with the original intent which is providing a space for artist’s growth and inspiration, as well as exploring additional means of communication and feedback between the artist and audience. Which specific direction this takes will depend on our feedback collected from each event as well as through our website and social media pages.

Will we see more exhibitions in the future?
There will definitely be future exhibitions, and we’re currently taking submissions for the next exhibition through the applications page on the website. Dates and location are yet to be confirmed. We will keep holding events until we find a permanent studio/gallery space, and when that happens I can guarantee that Die Empty will be like no other gallery you’ve ever been to!

— Would anyone like to donate a community gallery space to Die Empty on a casual or permanent basis? Don’t hesitate to contact Sam


The Collectors by Samantha Yallope

Tell us about your trip to the states last year. What is the general vibe in the art community over there and how is it different to Australia?
It was only a quick trip (1 week in Seattle, 1 week in Portland), and it was a trip I’d been wanting to take for 7 or 8 years. I don’t know why I chose there specifically. I knew nothing about Portland, it was a really strong gut feeling that I couldn’t ignore even after almost a decade. Seattle was the same deal aside from some appreciation for the music scene. Realising the west coast art scene came about through trying to pigeonhole my own work. I was trying to find an applicable genre for when I was asked to explain my art, and the closest I could find was pop surrealism. Turns out there’s an awful lot of that around the west coast of America.


Oceanid by Glenn Barr

As much as I love all kinds of art, the most inspirational work I found was in tattoo studios. Not somewhere I was planning on looking, another one of those ‘right people at the right time’ meetings. My two favourite places in Seattle were Roq la Rue gallery and Super Genius Tattoo.

Roq la Rue had the set up of a boutique style gallery, specialising in pop surrealism. It was a treat seeing original Glenn Barr pieces hanging compared to the prints we get here in Oz. Even for those we have to travel to Outre in Melbourne. The staff were super friendly although the feel of the gallery didn’t follow through. There was nowhere to sit, so if you wanted to sit and gaze at your favourite painting you’d have to take a cushion.


Damon at Super Genius Tattoo, Seattle

Super Genius was super friendly, the friend I was with is a tattoo artist so we were lucky to have smiley Damon show us the studio space. It was warm and welcoming and I think we lost a good few hours in there. A good few of the artists were there either tattooing or painting although I didn’t ask many questions at the time, I felt lucky enough to see the studio space.

Portland had a way different feel, it seemed like people breathed creativity as part of their everyday life. We visited an art street market and Grass Hut comics as well as a few random galleries, but creativity was just in the air over there. It’s hard to explain, I guess it’s like comparing Melbourne to Brisbane. I’d like to go back and actually explore the art community instead of making random visits. Next time!


Sam with Bam Margera at their exhibition at Yard Bird

You’ve been exhibiting since 2007, are there any shows that weren’t successful? 
It depends what you define as successful. I’ve had shows with no sales. But always had awesome compliments! Just hanging my work for my first actual opening night was a success for me. Every show gets it seen that little bit more so keep it up as much as possible. My advice would be to try and match up the venue with the pieces you choose to show. Even awesome art can look out of place. I’ve never sold a great many pieces from bars and restaurants but I have picked up commissions.

Many of your paintings are about childhood. Do you hold children in high regard? 
I love how kids see the world. I love how they explain their drawings. A lot of my paintings to date have children in because they relate back to feelings, experiences or thought patterns rooted in my childhood. I can see that changing slowly (through the newer paintings).

Do you offer art tutoring? Are you open to charity guest appearances in Brisbane school art departments?
I hadn’t thought of charity guest appearances! Although I am open to them! I understand certain schools offer gallery space for tuition or curating experience, which could be an option for the next exhibit. In the past I have worked voluntarily with children’s art classes but that’s as close as I’ve got to tutoring (with art). As Die Empty progresses I would like to offer discussion groups and workshops.


The Bees Keep Her by Samantha Yallope, work in progress

It’s obvious that you’re going to be producing artwork for the rest of your life, but what kinds of projects do you have in the pipeline, and do you have plans other than Die Empty?
Die Empty is the main one at the moment! I still run my barista training business ‘The Coffee Whisperer’, so between that, DE and finishing the next round of paintings I’m fairly busy. By next round of paintings I mean the 5ish that are half finished. Then there’s another 5-8 individual paintings and a set of 5 which are yet to be started. Not including commissions which are always welcome. Ideally I’d like to have the time and space to make more of my own frames as well, I always planned for each painting to have it’s own unique frame.

Die Empty has really only just begun. I’m prepared to sit with it for some time yet to see where it leads.

In the spirit of Die Empty and ‘arty sharing and caring’, please give a new artist some advice that you wish you had been told before you started your art career.
Be patient. Create for yourself and those around you, not for what you expect to get out of it. You can make a living doing whatever makes you happy. If the outcome isn’t looking great, change your perspective.

You can see all of Sam’s work at her website as well as journals and sketch diary entries. She is seeking a free space where she can hold exhibitions, workshops and discussions, as well as like-minded artists to contribute to Die Empty. If you want to help, please contact her through her website or Die Empty.