Louise Chen (Ouizi), Chalk mural at Astro Coffee in Detroit, MI #chalk #drawing

ARTIST INTERVIEW // Louise Chen aka Ouizi

Louise Chen (artist name: Ouizi) is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to her art. She does it all — from delicate hand lettering to large-scale floral murals to construction/fabrication projects — trading in her brush for power tools. One of my favorite things about Ouizi is that she has this tough, hands-on, hard-working, not-afraid-to-get-dirty side and uses it to create some really gorgeous (you could say feminine) work. Enjoy her interview and a sampling of her past work/projects. Thanks Ouizi!  -eden

Louise Chen (Ouizi)

Where are you based?

California

Have you had a formal art education?

I studied drawing and printmaking at the University of California, Santa Cruz, although my art practice involves mostly skills that I learned outside of school, such as metal fabrication, wood working, sewing, and painting.

Louise Chen (Ouizi), I+J, hand lettering #typography

I+J, hand lettering

Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

I’ve been aware of my need to make things for as long as I know!

What was the first piece of art that you sold? How did the sale come about?

It was a black and white figure drawing of my partner at the time covered in a floral patterned blanket, which I drew while he was sleeping. It sold at one of my first art shows out of college in 2009, at Giant Robot NY.

Louise Chen (Ouizi), Ike #drawing

Tell us about what inspires your work.

I am inspired by the patterns inherent in everything, but I am particularly drawn to flowers and plant matter because I feel that they encompass my life philosophy the most vibrantly. My philosophy, if I could put it into as few words as possible, goes something like: everything is everything and all of life is connected and there are no fundamental rights or wrongs, only that everything is.

When you feel a lack of inspiration, how do you find it again?

Go out on a walk, play music or interact with any of my lovely community members.

Approximately how many pieces of art do you typically create in a year?

I make something out of nothing every day so at least 365, but that depends on what you consider art!

Louise Chen (Ouizi), Whatever Forever #sketchbook

A peek inside Louise Chen’s sketchbook. Brush pen in moleskin.

How do you make money through your art? Please explain what works for you and why. (For example: selling originals or prints online or in galleries, doing commissions, working with major brands, etc.)

I get commissioned to do various small projects such as murals and custom paintings/installations. I also sell work in galleries, but it is not as consistent as the construction jobs.

The financial success you get from making art is very much dependent on how much effort you put into making it a business or how much you care about money! I make ends meet just fine while still being able to fund silly projects, so I am pleased.

Louise Chen (Ouizi), Ouizi Divination Board, Hand painted Ouija board on found table, 2×4 ft. #lettering

Hand painted Ouija board on found table. 2×4 ft.

Do you “make a living” as an artist? If not, how do you primarily support yourself?

I make most of my money through large fabrication projects and commissions.The fabrication projects are usually for festivals and other corporate funded events; which involves construction or some other form of manual labor. I do not consider this to be directly my art practice, but it funds my ability to make art and has helped me acquire skills that I did not learn in art school, the latter being invaluable to me compared to physical money. I also enjoy physical labor and hard work, and if I did not have to work for other people to make rent every month I would just be doing my own crazy construction projects.

What have you found to be the most successful way(s) to market your art? Do you have any tips to share?

Murals that are in heavily trafficked areas are great for exposure. I have found that most of my commissions come from the community of artists that I am a part of. Having friends that support you and put your name out there for you is very helpful!

Louise Chen (Ouizi), Flowers of the East, Eastern Market, Detroit #mural

Flowers of the East mural in Eastern Market, Detroit. Photo by Red Bull House of Art.

How would you describe the “business” of being an artist?

It is like any other business if you treat it as such. You have goods and services to offer the world and you attempt to find your market and meet their demands. All of the other stuff that goes along with the “art business” is just for show!

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

I have an excuse to be dirty, disheveled, and decorated all the time.

Louise Chen (Ouizi), Hand painted wallpaper at the Church of FUN in Los Angeles, CA

Hand painted wallpaper at the Church of FUN in Los Angeles, CA

Who have been your biggest supporters?

My family, Giant Robot Magazine, the Midnight Ridazz, my Detroit family, the Church of FUN, the Casa de Angelopes, the Triforce, and many more!

If you could collaborate with anyone (a person or a company) who would it be?

The Late Bob Cassilly, the man behind Cementland and the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri!

What piece of advice would you give other women who are pursuing careers in art?

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you’re a woman. DO IT ANYWAY!
(use power tools and get your hands dirty!)

Do you have any upcoming shows, news, or things you’d like to let us know about?

I have a solo art show coming up in June in Detroit at the Main Art Theater (Royal Oak). Check my website for updates!

Louise Chen (Ouizi), Universe Mandala

Universe Mandala, acrylic on found tabletop photographed under blue neon light.

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