UO Interviews: Cerise Zelenetz


We caught up with NYC artist/illustrator Cerise Zelenetz to talk about her work, creative process, and plans for the summer in anticipation of the Summer Stories Drink & Draw she is hosting at Space Ninety 8 next week.

Tell us a bit about yourself: who you are, where you’re from, and what you do?
I was born and raised in Vermont, moved to Paris to study art and fashion after high school, then came to New York to finish my college degree where I’ve been living ever since. Right now, my main focus is illustration but I also paint and write. I think there are many connections between the three practices, and I tend to combine them in all of my work.

What is your creative process like?
Recently, I’ve started working from photos more for illustration projects but I still create a fair amount from my imagination. I usually start by sketching the image lightly in pencil. Once I’m happy with the initial form, I’ll go over the pencil lines with my favorite .005 Micron pen. For me, line variation is really important in adding life and dimension to 2D work. Once I have the uniform line in pen, I’ll go back and rework the line to create wavering thickness throughout. If I’m working with watercolor, I’ll start with my brush and let the paint’s outline dictate where I place my marks. My entire process is very fluid and instinctive. I like making decisions as I go and working in dialogue with my medium.

Tell us what inspires you. How do you find new inspiration?
Details of daily life (wherever I happen to be living), along with the stories of others I interact with on a daily basis have always inspired me to create. I live and work in my grandparents’ old apartment so my family history also plays a lot into my current inspiration. When I lived in Paris, just wandering the streets and taking in my surroundings led to some of my favorite projects. That’s why I love travel; it’s the easiest way to gain new inspiration and experience without even consciously seeking it. Along with travel, food, drink, and figures are main themes throughout my work, and my projects are always related by a thread of underlying humor.

Who are some other artists who you look up to?
I think in terms of other illustrators out there, Tanya Ling has always been a role model. Her work is quite different than mine, but I admire the way she’s able to bring fashion illustration to a more artistic place and push boundaries of beauty. In the 3D spectrum, Wes Anderson will always be a hero to me. His attention to detail, discerning color palettes, and awkward humor is remarkable and holds a very dear place in my heart. I’ve also always been passionate about cooking as an art form and look up to chefs such as Wylie Dufresne, Paul Liebrandt, and Grant Achatz for their ability to envision such layered, artistic creations with surprise and interaction, using visuals as just one component of the experience.

What are some current projects you are working on? Anything exciting on the horizon? I have a few exciting projects going on at the moment. I’m currently working on an illustration series of French vintners for the menu of a farm to table restaurant opening in Paris this summer. Each character is so unique. I’m really enjoying telling their stories. I’m also excited about a fashion collaboration with a New York-based designer I’ve been working on. I’m creating prints for tees and dresses that will be released next season.

What’s a dream project for you?
Honestly, anything involving food, drink or travel is very exciting to me. My dream would be to fly around the globe and document hotels, restaurants, and people I encounter throughout the world. Ongoing projects that have room to shift and evolve are always most compelling to me.

What can someone expect to experience at the Summer Stories Drink & Draw you are hosting at Space Ninety 8?
For artists and non-artists alike, the event is really to help people express themselves through a versatile medium they may not be used to. I want people to have fun and use this as an outlet to express whatever’s been on their mind in a creative way. I hope it will help attendees set an intent for a great summer of trying new things, connecting with new people, and being open to experience around them. I’ll provide all types of paper, pens, crayons, markers, glue, scissors, and glitter to prompt experimentation. Guests can also expect a signature cocktail and lots of good music.

What are you looking forward to this Summer?
I’m hoping to spend a lot of time traveling and in the sun this summer. I’m planning a trip to Paris for the opening of the restaurant I’m working with, and will hopefully hop around Europe a bit while I’m there. I’m also looking forward to attending some of New York’s great outdoor events this summer. Movies or concerts with picnics in the park are always a fun summer staple.

What are some of your favorite places in your neighborhood?
All of my friends know my immediate answer to this is La Contenta. It’s my favorite little hole-in-the-wall Mexican place on Norfolk Street. I rave about it constantly. The molé is homemade, the mezcal list is extensive, and the Bloody Maria is the best in the city. Across the street is Maryam Nassir Zadeh, which is one of my favorite boutiques to browse. I also like Top Hat for their unique home goods and CW Pencil Enterprise for any kind of pencil or pencil-related product you could ever want or imagine.

Cerise will host Summer Stories: A Drink & Draw at Space Ninety 8 on June 8th from 7-9pm.


Photos: Andrew Supnet