In our Inspiration Fuel series, we interview writers, artists, entrepreneurs, musicians, and everyday heroes to learn how they manage the ebbs and flows of motivation and inspiration in the pursuit of their life’s callings.Steffi Lynn hopes you have a nice day.
Austin-born but Brooklyn-based painter and illustrator, Steffi Lynn Tsai, has made positivity her trademark. Through massive hand-painted murals, illustrations, billboards, and her own “Have a Nice Day” product line, she takes the side of the eternal optimists, capturing a view of life that shines with color and joy.
At Jot, we love Steffi’s work so much that we recently partnered with her to design the bottle artwork for our newest limited batch: Encore. In honor of that collaboration, we asked Steffi to share some thoughts on where she gets inspiration and how she keeps her creative energies flowing.
*****Your work is amazing. It’s bright and fun, but there’s also a deep spirit of resilience to it, an acknowledgement that life can be challenging and that one must continually commit to kindness and generosity and joy. I really love it. For our readers who may not have come across you or your work yet, how would you introduce yourself and describe the art that you make?
Thank you so much! What a compliment. For starters, my name is Steffi Lynn and I am an illustrator, muralist, and I suppose just an overall creative currently based in Brooklyn, NY, but originally from Austin, TX.
I think you hit the nail on the head in your brief description of my work. I am quite literally obsessed with optimism and hard work. The rat race of New York and the competition of the creative fields in general have taught me, above all else, that you really do get what you give. I firmly believe that the harder you work and the more positivity you send outwards, the greater the results that will come back inwards.
I want every single one of my designs, murals, and collaborations to brighten a viewer’s day. The world is strange and scary right now and I want my art to fight against that!
I love creating art for packaging but I think painting large scale murals will always be my favorite projects. Murals have an ability to enter the public space that not many other forms of art can compete with. They are quite literally dropped in front of you in your daily environment, no gallery, museum, or retail store is needed.
I come from a very creative, supportive, and curious family! Although none of them pursued art as a career they always made sure to enroll me in various art classes since I was young. Everything from dance to ceramics to painting was fair game!
Okay so now that we have that formal answer out of the way, however, I have to be honest...I think I really realized that I wanted to be a designer or an artist when I started making custom Myspace layouts for fun, haha!
For most of us who are not in creative professions, it’s our creative hobbies that help us recover and revive; they’re the “play” that balances the “work.” But with a creative career, how do you balance the two? How do you “play”?
I think my “Have a Nice Day” brand is my version of play. Technically speaking, it is still work and still leads to income, etc, but it is totally and completely in my control. No deadlines, no minimums, no requirements. I can make and create whatever I want and that is really what I love – seeing my art in unexpected ways.
For example, I spent the last few weeks creating Have a Nice Day dog collars and dog leashes because well...I just love dogs. I spend a lot of time creating for clients and going through revisions and approvals so when I get to create for myself, I like to loosen up a bit and see how I can share my art with the world by turning it into as many products as possible.
Some artists describe their best moments of creativity as flow states, while others say even good sessions feel like hard work. For you, what counts as a “good” creative session and what does it feel like?
For me, a good creative session is an iced coffee, a true crime podcast, and a to-do list. I literally love working.
This is a tough question, almost like nature versus nurture. I don’t know if passion can be manufactured entirely. I am a bit romantic about the arts and I’d like to think that certain individuals are born with creativity wired into them.
On the other hand, I have heard stories and even had moments myself where an entirely unexpected moment sends someone off on a creative tangent. The right place at the right time and BOOM you’re more inspired than you were the day before!
One of your pieces is called “Discontent drives creativity.” Your work all seems so joyful; I’d love to hear what that phrase means to you.
Comfort is not always a good thing! I am eternally fearful of the “plateau” as I call it. You hit a sweet spot, get content, and stop growing. That’s really scary to me! I think it’s sort of like treading water versus swimming. Both are lovely and fun, but only one can get you from point A to point B. I want to keep swimming.
There are lots of us who struggle to maintain enthusiasm for the work or projects that we love, even if we feel a calling to pursue them. What advice would you give for dealing with dark days when there’s just no motivation to be found?
My advice would be to accept the dark days because they are temporary and it is normal to have them! I have them all the time! I just remind myself that creative ruts happen and that it is perfectly okay to give myself a little break to recharge.
And, finally, how do you take your coffee?
STRONG and a bit of hazelnut and oat milk (:
We’re always on the lookout for more artists, creatives, entrepreneurs, and everyday heroes to interview for our Inspiration Fuel series. If someone you know is pursuing their life’s calling in a way that inspires you, tell us about them by emailing: email@example.com.