Adrienne Rozzi is the sole owner and operator of Poison Apple Printshop in Pittsburgh, PA. Her detailed illustrations each tell a story, often one steeped in history and magic. This artwork has had us transfixed for quite some time, so we had to find out more about her process and inspiration.
Courtney: What were the subjects of your earliest drawings?
Adrienne: In general, some of my earliest memories involve making artwork. Films provide me with endless inspiration and it was no different when I was a child. Even then I was enthralled with witches and fantasy stories so the drawings that come to mind all involve The Wizard of Oz, my childhood movie obsession. The composition usually consisted of Dorothy on top of a rainbow flanked by Glinda and the Wicked Witch. Apart from The Wizard of Oz, I recall making a number of holiday-based drawings, most of them particularly around Halloween. A lot of haunted houses with cracked windows and ghosts lurking about. But there is one specific memory that really stands out. It was Halloween time and my mother had just read me a children's book in which the illustrator hid the names of his own kids within the artwork. So we went through each page trying to find a different name in each drawing. A few days later I was drawing a graveyard and I had the idea to hide all of my family member's names in the drawing. Of course I thought it was brilliant because there had to be names on the tombstones anyway. So I went about drawing five graves with all of our names on them, thinking I was being very clever and never, in my child brain, realizing what it meant. I proudly hung it up on the refrigerator and when my mother saw it she got very upset and yelled at me! It's pretty funny in retrospect. It was the only drawing of mine that she ever threw away!
C: You have mentioned growing up in a household full of artists. Can you speak to how that influenced your own work? Is there anything you learned from that environment you’d like to share with other artists?
A: Yes, both of my parents were Art majors at Edinboro University in the 1970s and they taught my two brothers and I artistic skills we utilize to make a living today. Throughout my upbringing, Art and art making was continuously present in our everyday lives, whether through museums, books, or crayon doodles, there was always something artistic going on in our house. It is this precedent that has carried over into my adult life and formed the basis of my passion, which is also now my livelihood. The most helpful thing I've learned, through my family experience, is how to improve from constructive criticism. My parents and brothers would always give their honest opinions and it kept me working, always pushing my skills and striving for the next level. Nowadays I'm my own worst critic and it certainly keeps me busy! Another beneficial aspect of my upbringing was learning that the artistic process is different for everyone.
Constantly sharing ideas with other artistic minds gave me a multi-faceted perspective that allowed me to comprehend a much broader range of art and processes.
Inherently, I use that experience to my advantage to thoroughly sharpen my own craftsmanship and challenge myself by incorporating new mediums into my own creative process.
C: How did you discover your interest in the occult?
A: The occult, witchcraft, and magic have always fascinated me. As I mentioned, my favorite movie growing up, The Wizard of Oz, had not just one witch, but two!
The idea of a strong woman with magical powers had always enthralled me because that meant I, too, could be powerful and wield magic. So the interest was always present in my life but it started with more elemental subjects like stereotypical witches and ghosts. As I grew up, those interests got deeper and my path of study naturally led me to more historical accounts of magic which, in turn, introduced me to subjects such as the Occult, Alchemy, and a much more expansive exploration of witchcraft.
C: Your work is heavily influenced by both art history and history in a wider sense. What is your favorite period in art history? What historical period holds the most interest for you?
A: The art history geek in me absolutely loves this question! I'll try not to get too carried away. Two art periods come to mind. Egyptian Art has always mesmerized me because of its rich symbolism and the magic attached to it. And I've always admired the Egyptian's reverence of art as a sacred, magical tool. Art was held on high as a tool that transcended just picture making and connected them with the spiritual world. This perspective is something I strongly connect with and is part of why I am so careful and studious with the use of symbolism and magic in my own artwork.
The other art period in which I always find myself drawn is Art Nouveau. Much like the Egyptians, Art Nouveau marked a period where culture uplifted art and found a new appreciation for design. This set the stage for decorative art and graphic design to show just how influential they could be. Art Nouveau was a movement that touched every area of life, from interiors to furniture to architecture to advertisement. Designers and illustrators were finally acknowledged as the artists they truly are and to me, that is something extremely powerful, liberating, and beautiful. The fluid yet crisp lines and the heavy nature motifs of Art Nouveau reflect this liberation and are the aspects which visually influence my work the most.
I'm particularly fascinated by those instances where Art Nouveau melds with the dark aesthetic of the prevailing Victorian culture of the time. Preceding Art Nouveau but still within the bounds of Victoriana, the art and literature of the Pre-raphaelites is of great influence and inspiration to me. Their bewitching portrayal of mystical subject matters speaks to the dark romantic in me. The Victorian Era remains one of my favorite time periods because of the culture's dark aesthetic and strong mourning customs. Many of the themes that pervade Victorian mourning, Pre-raphaelite art, and Art Nouveau find their way into my artwork quite often.
C: What is your favorite piece of “secret knowledge” hidden in your own work, and what is your favorite in someone else’s work?
: Another great question! I'd have to say my favorite piece from my creations is Mayday's Magic Circle
. It was the first drawing that I studied and planned to such a degree and it remains one of my strongest illustrations to date.
My favorite hidden secret is in the stars that seem to pop up here and there throughout the composition. Whereas the entire drawing is mapped out in concentric circles, the stars overlap the entire piece and make up the constellation of Taurus. Within Pagan cultures, villagers knew when the sun was at 15 degrees Taurus in the sky it meant Beltane was upon them, marking the beginning of the "light" half of the year (a.k.a. Spring and Summer). As for my favorite secret knowledge in someone else's work, that is something I could think about for years. I greatly appreciate Albrecht Dürer's nods to hidden knowledge in his engravings.
His works are drenched with heavy symbolism and even include tools of occult philosophy such as magic squares
. One thing I love about Dürer's work is that historians are still debating his symbolism 500 years later! John William Waterhouse also comes to mind for his mystic themes and heavy magical symbolism. Waterhouse's typical composition consists of a singular enchantress amongst all manner of magical tools, usually in the midst of performing a spell. I find this kind of iconography deeply resonates with me and many of my drawings follow this structure.
Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, John William Waterhouse
Magic Circle, John William Waterhouse
C: What was the biggest unforeseen challenge in running a business by yourself?
A: At first, it was the challenge of putting my work out there for all to see. Although exhilarating, you always have to prepare yourself for the fact that not everyone will like it and some of those haters are going to speak their mind! Luckily, I find magical artwork unique for the very reason that it is not intellectually accessible to everyone, it is much more special to the ones who grasp its deeper meaning. But the biggest unforeseen challenge in my business was definitely learning self-discipline to a high degree. I knew I would be the driving force behind my business but it became very challenging as my business grew. I had to make a very strict schedule for myself and stick to it in order to succeed. There is no boss to yell at me when I don't get to the studio on time and no one giving me tasks to keep me on track. I had to find the energy to continually push myself and make sure I took care of everything from printing to packaging to shipping to promotion to customer service.
It's a lot of work to balance and change gears daily but, when I finally mastered this juggling act, everything ran more smoothly and progress naturally. I am very grateful that Poison Apple Printshop is still a one-woman operation after nearly 6 years! I am now at a point in my career where I am beginning to look for trustworthy, talented assistants, who share my passion and commitment, to take on some of the peripheral responsibilities. This will be the next challenge for me and the printshop but it is one for which I am excited to tackle.
Thank you to Adrienne for this glimpse behind the scenes. Make sure to check out her shop to see all her prints, patches, and apparel. With this kind of beautiful, well thought out imagery, you’re sure to find something to fit your magical needs.