The Blog

Art talk, news and tips.

Artists Talking: Q&A With Takayuki Ryujin

January 2nd, 2014 | By: Ben

tokyo sky

Takayuki Ryujin, Tokyo Sky

Takayuki Ryujin, Thumbtack Press’s newest artist, has work that surprises, pleases, surprises again, pauses, comes back around for yet another surprise, and leaves you energized and sated. Colors are everywhere, magnified with his inventive lighting and composition. People, an octopus, trains, skies, buildings – it all adds up to a sparkling collection of work that we’re honored to offer.

Ryujin took some time to answer our questions about his process, his inspirations, and what it means to be a Japanese illustrator. You can see his entire Thumbtack Press collection – with prints starting at $19.99 – here.


1. Are you working now mostly with digital software or by hand? Or if you use both, what’s your process? When do you switch from hand drawing/coloring/painting to digital brush-ups? 

2D digital is my style. I use Adobe illustrator and Photoshop. In addition, I make texture in watercolors and acrylic paints and put it together.

2. The texture of a lot of your work, the watercolor feelings, make your palette stand out even more. How do you approach your work to incorporate texture? Is it intentional or a byproduct of your materials? 

I incorporate texture after at first drawing the whole of the picture. It is intentional and is the by-product which occurred from paint and a flow of the water.

3. Are all the pieces in your TTP collection from previous illustrations or are any from personal work?

Personal work altogether.

4. Your TTP collection has cities and people as well as more idyllic images without human figures. Are you living in a city now? How does your surrounding affect your work?

I may say that it is an urban area now because I live in Tokyo. However, my hometown is Wakayama. I was brought up to 18 years old in the country among a mountain and the seas. The experience will influence the present work.

5. Who are your major illustration and artistic influences?

I came under an influence of many pictures displayed in the art museum. As a matter of course, the Japanese old art can watch Europe and the American art in Tokyo. All affects me. The favorite painter is Pierre Lesieur in that.

6. There are interesting commonalities and differences between illustrators from certain backgrounds (like when people speak, maybe too generally, of a “South American illustration style”). Do you think your illustration is particularly Japanese? Or, is there anything particularly Japanese about it, from influences to techniques, inspirations, landscapes, etc.?

I come under an influence from Japanese art. Because I study art and live in Japan, [the influence] is certain. Because there are many superficial works, my work thinks that after all it is Japanese-style.


Ryujin’s work on Thumbtack Press is here.

Cyborg Monday Is A Day for E-Commerce Robots

December 2nd, 2013 | By: Ben

cyborg monday

This may or may not be a post generated by Thumbtack Press’s robots to give fans and customers 20% off. Either way, you should try this promotion code cyborgmonday2013 at checkout until December 10th. Just don’t tell the humans.


November 29th, 2013 | By: Ben

thumbtack press, open edition art prints

Welcome back to the annual meat market of e-sales! May we recommend some of the most original on the webternet? Click the various search options on the menu to the right to find the perfect print, framed, on canvas, small, huge – whatever your heart (/family/friends) desires.

And get 20% off until 12/10 with code wackfriday2013 at checkout.



The “We Forgot to do a Labor Day Sale” Sale = 20% Off!

September 4th, 2013 | By: Ben


Go here.

TTPers Showing @ Vertical Gallery this Saturday 8/3!

July 31st, 2013 | By: Ben


Thumbtack Press artists Anthony Freda, Dave Pressler, David Cooper, El Gato Chimney, Hernan Paganini, Raudiel Sañudo, Steve Seeley, and Ruel Pascual are all showing original, limited edition, and open edition work at Vertical Gallery this weekend in Chicago for a show called The Economics of Art 2013. If you’re in Chicago on Saturday, come by and see us!


The Economics of Art 2013 opening reception

Vertical Gallery, 1016 N. Western Ave., Chicago IL

Saturday, August 3, 6-10 pm

Matt Mills: The Best Travel Agent You Never Had

July 31st, 2013 | By: Hannie Jordan

Airfare, food, hotels, souvenirs for friends (crappy souvenirs for crappy friends) – traveling is expensive!

Matt_Mills_Barcelona Matt_Mills_Amsterdam Matt_Mills_Rome

Couldn’t foot the bill this summer? No worries, travel is overrated anyway.  So sit back and let TTP artist Matt Mills whisk you away to his favorite cities in Europe (and for as low as $19.99!).  Appease that wanderlust of yours and visit Matt’s Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Rome (above), all just a click away.

Recent Additions From Some of Our Favorite TTP Artists

July 18th, 2013 | By: Hannie Jordan

Hey TTPers!

We hope everyone’s enjoying this glorious summer and staying cool.

Speaking of cool (too easy) – nothing screams summer cool like new art! We’re happy to share with you that a handful of TTP artists have just added new works to the site, including Bryan Holland, Peter Diamond, UGLYDOLL, Xiau-Fong Wee, Brian McCarty, and El Gato Chimney. Here’s a flavor (below) and you can find all recent additions here.

SaidTheCaterpillar (1) Print Martirium


(Images above from left to right: Said the Caterpillar by Peter Diamond, Babo Running Cookies by UGLYDOLL, and Martirium by El Gato Chimney)

Gina & Matt

June 19th, 2013 | By: Ben

 By: Hannie Jordan


Gina and Matt, Heirloom

*starts salivating*

Gina and Matt, Apple


Gina and Matt, Tomatoes

*leaves computer to eat fruit not nearly as delicious as this art*

Art duo Gina and Matt know how to whet both our artistic and literal appetites. If you’re feeling similar hunger pains (which, as John Mellencamp would say, hurt soooo good) gently place your freshly picked prints in your cart at Thumbtack Press. After all, offering people the fresh fruit of the art world is kind of our thing.

Artists Talking: Q & A with Illustrator Blair Kelly

June 6th, 2013 | By: Ben

 Blair Kelly, thumbtack press, ttp, affordable art prints, art prints, affordable art, art, illustration, illustration art, illustration art prints, artists talking, illuminated ride, april showers, tv talks

Blair Kelly, Tv Talks

Illustrator Blair Kelly is the newest artist here at Thumbtack Press, and we’re thrilled to offer prints of his work. The first thing that stood out to me when I saw his work was the eyeballs of his subjects. Look at them! They’re looking right back at you, involving you in the work and in the message. Illustrators always have to capture both the topic the client wants AND the interest of the people reading or looking on. Blair Kelly does this with great textural depth, witty juxtaposition, and a broad palette to great effect in his work.

Blair took the time to answer some questions about his process, his work, his inspirations, his process, and, of course, his subjects’ eyeballs. You can read the full Q&A below, and also make sure to see his entire initial TTP collection at his artist page here.


A lot of your work has a faded texture, sometimes in the background and sometimes on a piece of clothing or an object in the foreground. It reminds me a bit of some of the faded texture in Tatsuro Kiuchi’s work. Is it intentional or a side effect of your printmaking techniques?

Most texture in my work is a side effect of printmaking since I hand burnish my linocut prints versus using a press. I usually print a few editions and pick my favourite which is usually the one that’s not perfect. That, in combination with the vintage paper I have incorporated recently… So I guess it is intentional! :-)

How much of your work is done by hand and as set prints vs. digitally? Do you lean either way for certain projects, as in, say, more digital for editorial work but more printmaking for personal work?

I would say 50/50 at this point. I started out very traditional in the sense that I wouldn’t ever think of altering a linocut print digitally but over the years it has become a really fun part of the process. There is an element of surprise most times with printmaking, in that you don’t totally know what the print will look like until its actually printed and the digital part also provides a bit of a rush. The result of combining different elements like digital collage can’t be fully anticipated which is exciting.

My personal work can involve both digital and traditional though I am currently experimenting with printing on wood panel. I’ve actually been experimenting with a lot of different things recently like monoprints and patterns and letting it kind of influence me but I don’t want to force anything. I want to produce the best work that I am capable of producing but I don’t want to be static, I want to keep growing and evolving.

Talk influences, heroes, dreams, legends – where do you go or look when you want to be inspired or work through mental blocks?

My influences vary from Japanese woodcuts to Dada to anything old and printed. Inspiration can come from anywhere, it’s very random. As for mental blocks I like to totally immerse myself in sketching and brainstorming and research and if nothing comes to me I try to totally forget what I was trying to think of and sleep on it. Sometimes I will wake up with an idea and sometimes it takes more sketching or wordplay. I am a bit obsessive so it’s hard not to think about ideas all day and night which led to some anxiety when I first started. Thankfully that isn’t the case any more.


Blair Kelly, thumbtack press, ttp, affordable art prints, art prints, affordable art, art, illustration, illustration art, illustration art prints, artists talking, illuminated ride, april showers, tv talks

Blair Kelly, April Showers


How did you get started in illustration? Do you have certain projects you look forward to more than others? Do you approach editorial pieces in a certain way that doesn’t apply to other projects, be they advertising, personal, or something else?

I always knew that I wanted to do something creative, I’d spend endless hours drawing and doodling as a kid even when the other kids were outside playing. After a brief attempt at Graphic Design, I enrolled in Illustration at Sheridan College and landed my first job while I was still in school which was kinda cool. I try to treat all projects with the same level of importance, and try to make the image something that I would already have wanted to create. Some of the business editorial gigs can be a bit more challenging because the subject matter can be a little dry but I like the challenge because it feels like a real accomplishment when I can pull an idea out of the air and it works.

I really like all the subjects’ eyeballs in your work. Why do I keep being drawn back to them? Even in the cows!

Thanks! I have actually heard that before…I try to make the eyeballs big and dark and mysterious with a slight hint of an emotion.

If you could be granted this wish, what sort of work will you be doing in 10 years?

I love this question! I would love to illustrate a children’s book, something really fun and original. I have lots of dream clients, too many to mention, lets just say I want them all ;-)


Blair Kelly, thumbtack press, ttp, affordable art prints, art prints, affordable art, art, illustration, illustration art, illustration art prints, artists talking, illuminated ride, april showers, tv talks

Blair Kelly,  Illuminated Ride


You can see Blair Kelly’s entire initial TTP collection at his TTP artist page here.

TTP Repartee with Newest Thumbtack Press Artist Yuanyuan Yang

May 29th, 2013 | By: Ben

No Thrill, Yuanyuan Yang, ttp repartee, thumbtack press, ttp, affordable art prints, art prints, art, open edition prints, chats, lowbrow art, character art

Yuanyuan Yang, No Thrill

When we first reached out to Yuanyuan Yang about offering her prints on Thumbtack Press, she was in New York. In the meantime, she went back to Beijing (where she’s from), to prepare for a show and to reconnect with family. It’s no small deal for anybody to move between cities like NYC and Beijing, but for as thoughtful an artist as Yuanyuan, you’d be forgiven for thinking the effect could be monumental.

Because, as you can tell from our chat (below), besides being an exceptional artist, Yuanyuan is an exceptional thinker. Her contemplations on balancing humor, innocence, and youth with some of the larger conflicts of contemporary society and existence never get bogged down in the boring traps of intellectualism. They stay compelling. Rainbows shine through. 

We’re absolutely thrilled to offer Yuanyuan’s work here at TTP. Read our chat below and dig her entire initial offering at her Thumbtack Press artist page.


YuanYuan: Hi

TTP: Hey!  How’s it going?

YuanYuan: Good! How are you?

TTP: Great, it’s amazing that spring/summer finally got to Chicago. Feels like I haven’t seen the sun in months.

YuanYuan: Really? Weather in Beijing is good.

TTP: Yeah so what’s up in Beijing? Are you working there?

YuanYuan: I finished my solo show in New York last Dec. It was Chinese New Year in Feb. It kinda lasts more than one month to celebrate. I am just looking for studios in Beijing right now, and communicating with galleries. I’ll be in a group show in fall and hopefully a solo show in Beijing sometime this year.

TTP: Sounds like you’re planning on staying there, no?

YuanYuan: Ummm, not sure yet. I am Chinese and it’s been 5 years away from China.I started to notice I want to dig more of myself culturally.

TTP: You have family there?

YuanYuan: Yes I do. It was fun to spend my time with them for the luna new year earlier. From then, I started to think I should show my art in both China and US.

TTP: Do you have any family in NY?

YuanYuan: Nope. But I’d like to go back to the states next year if possible.

TTP: So I can totally understand you going back to China. The artist returns home! So have you found that being in Beijing affects your work at all?

YuanYuan: The Chinese art market is growing fast and also it’s getting much better than 5 years ago. For me, I think you can see its affect in my concept and the subject matter but not much changed in my style.

TTP: Like how specifically? You’re painting different ideas?

YuanYuan: It’s not absolutly different. I call it developing – my works still focus on human desires.

TTP: It’s interesting, in a way desires are always the same, but they’re also always changing for everyone and forever.

YuanYuan: Yeh! I think I am breaking my concept of the desire right now.

TTP: Breaking?

YuanYuan: Painting how it affects our daily life, trying to explore more specific questions I had about the government, the society, the relationship between man and woman – I am looking for the tension I get under different cultures.

TTP: Yeah. Like you said: developing.


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Yuanyuan Yang, Harmonizing Education


YuanYuan: Painting is like a meditation. It shows your atitude to the world. It grows up with you.

TTP: It’s interesting in your work how the “high” interacts with the “low” – there are lots of children, but also lots of higher ideas like relationships, sex, violence, and so on.

YuanYuan: Yes I think kids in my painting represent the innocent and weak but also the pure. And they’ll be the future of our human society. I kinda like the idea of fairy tales, they look very cute and attractive and always have a perfect ending but what hides inside is the cruel reality of life.

TTP: Yeah, there’s always something more. Like in your piece Paranoid. Or in No Thrill. Something else is there, in the subject’s face.

YuanYuan: Yes. Including self identity doubts and reactions to the stressful environment.

TTP: But I also like how the colors aren’t brooding or depressing. There’s almost an argument happening in your pieces between the innocent, the doubting, the pain, and the funny.

YuanYuan: Yeah, because I am not a totally depressed person. Btw, it is kinda stressful to chat … You know why I paint? Because language is not the most comfortable way for me to express myself. lol

TTP: Heh There’s some song lyric like “If I was better at finding the right words to say, I wouldn’t need to write these motherfucking songs.” (It’s from ”Don’t Ever Fucking Question That” by Atmosphere.)

YuanYuan: Cool I will check it later.

TTP: Cool – so are the TTP pieces all from a certain time frame?

YuanYuan: Yes

TTP: When?

YuanYuan: Most of them, including the rainbow ones, are from between 2010-now.

TTP: All of them have at least a little bit of rainbow.

YuanYuan: Yes. As in my statement, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Colors are the deeds of light. Colors are light’s suffering and joy.” That is to say, color can only be seen because light lost its freedom by being hampered and refracted against the substance of the atmosphere.

TTP: That’s sort of your launching point?

YuanYuan: Yes. I think people are the light and desires are the colors. As people are impeded by the material world, socially they refract several colors, while at the same time they lose their freedom. All the desires are causing people’s joy and suffering.

TTP: Very Schopenhauer.

YuanYuan: Really? Thank you. Also in Chinese, there is a strong relationship between color and desire. “色” (se) is a word with multiple meanings.  It means “color” and at the same time means “lust”.  Even more, in Buddhism, “色界”(se jie) which literally translates into “color world”, is used to describe the material world.

TTP: WHOA that’s awesome!

YuanYuan: That’s the second reason I paint very saturating color to represent the material world.

TTP: Yeah, and “things.”

YuanYuan: There is a famous sentence from the Heart of Prajna Paramita Sutra that says, “色即是空,空即是色 (se ji shi kong,kong ji shi se)” which means, “All things of visible form and substance are empty, emptiness is form and substance.” Just so you know but also I think everything is contradictory – I am very insecure about society. But I like how it is complex.

TTP: The complexity/contradictions are what make society all that it is, don’t you think?

YuanYuan: Yes thats right.

TTP: But I see, again, those contradictions in your work too is what gives it another dimension. Sometimes complexity –> depth

YuanYuan: Thank you.

TTP: Ok I don’t want to take up too much of your time Yuanyuan I think we should wrap this up!

YuanYuan: It’s nice talking with you.

TTP: Same! And thanks. Talk soon.

YuanYuan: Talk soon.


Yuanyuan Yang,  The Truth You Want


You can see all of Yuanyuan’s initial TTP offering at her Thumbtack Press artist page.