Laura Sallade: “You need discipline.”

There was never any doubt in Laura Sallade’s mind about becoming an artist.

Eight years after moving to Philadelphia, she’s renting additional space for the studio she’s had for the past six years, she has representation at Seraphin Gallery in  Philadelphia and MasseyLyuben Gallery in NYC, and she’s about to show 34 pieces.

Sallade creates two-dimensional sculptures, using a combination of glass, silver, epoxy, and watercolor to build complex patterns and layered works that are wall hung. She utilizes her sculpture, chemistry, and printmaking knowledge to explore and experiment.

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Sallade’s pieces consist of glass, silver, epoxy, and watercolor.

The foundation of each piece always consists of glass, and Sallade uses her other materials to explore the glass and create patterns. “I’m drawn to patterns because I find them everywhere in nature,” Sallade explained. “I enjoy the feeling of discovery and pursue it on a daily basis, and as the work evolves, it can go through a process of appearing like many different natural formations.”

The complexity of each piece can require help from others, since quick movements for large pieces can be needed as glass is lifted, chemicals poured and sealing conducted. While her largest piece to date was a sculpture created for a Nantucket home, the largest artwork she created for her upcoming show required the help of two friends.

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Sallade’s largest piece, hung in Nantucket. Photo courtesy of Laura Sallade.

Originally intended as a door for the Comcast Center, the piece is one of the 34 works in Sallade’s show at Massey Lyuben in Chelsea, opening on November 16. “I really wanted to make something this size where I didn’t have anyone else telling me what they wanted,” Sallade explained. “I’m really glad I trusted my gut with this piece.”

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Sallade with her upcoming show’s largest piece.

The holes for a doorknob and hinges are still visible through the transformation that Sallade provided. “I love that it was meant to have this other life and it got miscast,” she said.

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Originally meant as a door, the holes meant for hinges and a doorknob are still visible.

Now, it is what Sallade refers to as a vessel of contemplation. “The purpose of these objects is to make a place for contemplation and people can put their thoughts in,” explained Sallade. “For one person, it might be the joy of becoming a parent, while someone else is grieving the loss of someone dear. Art is this space to contain all of these thoughts. I’m glad I got a door. I was able to take something that otherwise would have been thrown out and give it life.”

Even with the beauty that comes with giving discarded pieces new life, there’s challenge in creating. “The difficulty isn’t in the physical putting together of elements,” Sallade explained. “It’s facing your fear of manifesting an expression of yourself. Doing that takes courage. Putting yourself out there to be criticized is the hard part. I think our battles are more invisible than we realize.”

Sallade has fought her own share of battles, working hard over the years. “I like when people are cautious to own the title of ‘artist’ because it shows they revere it,” Sallade said. “Everyone has creativity and I always strive to encourage that in everyone, but to be a fully committed artist you need discipline. To say everyone is an artist is not letting artists have their own space and category and a lot of artists fight to be in that space. I have definitely sacrificed a lot to be here and that serves as motivation because the stakes are higher due to the sacrifices I’ve made.”

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Sallade’s studio space, with elements that will become part of a sculpture.

Sallade’s own journey started in childhood, growing up in the suburbs of Reading, PA. “I didn’t really ever consider anything else as a career,” she explained. “When it was time to go to school, it was, ‘Okay, this is what I’m going to do.’”

Her parents were supportive, and Sallade found that she really enjoyed building things and working with material. She uses colors, lines, and composition as part of her process, but not the goal. “I make things that look like paintings,” Sallade said. “Everything I make has sculptural content to it. I like the challenge of 2D because it’s figuring out how well I can investigate on a two-dimensional surface. There’s so much much more that goes into my process than applying paint to a surface, so describing these works simply as paintings doesn’t feel quite accurate.”

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She went to Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Center City, earning a Certification in Sculpture, and stayed in Philadelphia when her career began even before graduation. Needing a second studio for a large commission, she found her current space with an affordable rent, and recently expanded to a larger studio in the same building. Conveniently near New York City, where most of her sales occur, Sallade has found herself in a good location while building her career and even traveling for inspiration.

She was able to travel throughout Europe for two months on a travel grant and spent time in the south of France earlier this year. “The change that happens is internal and indirect,” Sallade explained. “You go and travel and realize what things fall away and what things remain when out of the context of your normal life.”

While in France, she spent time exploring nature, examining the light. “It’s a really wild spacial experience,” Sallade said. “The mountains are right up against the ocean and it’s really beautiful.”

She decided to paint in nature, bringing her watercolor supplies, where were easy to bring along. When she lost her large brush, she only had a small one to recreate the patterns she found, and she discovered new inspiration in the process. “You walk a couple of meters and everything changes,” Sallade shared. “Five watercolors came out of that experience of what it felt like to be on the mountain.”

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Sallade incorporates patterns into her work, using nature as inspiration.

These days, as her commissions became more consistent, Sallade moved from bartending to driving for supplemental income. She drives for Lyft a few hours in the morning before working a full day at the studio. She usually creates more than 40 hours a week, and having the ability to pick up hours when she needs gives her the freedom to work on her pieces without interruptions. “It’s a little bit of stability and if I need to drop it, no one is harassing me,” she shared.

She’s also able to focus on experimenting more and has found that imagery becomes more beautiful when she gives up control. The pieces that look the most organic are the ones where Sallade allows the work to flow. She can engineer the process to get a certain look, using gestures to build complementary patterns. “If there’s too much control, it’ll look contrived,” Sallade added. “I’ll always try to tweak it a bit. I pay attention. You have to be willing to sacrifice your own plans. You have to make plans. Then you have to let go of them.”

Sallade often shows behind-the-scenes video of her work in the studio on her Instagram, and her website holds more information about her process and representation.

Danny Allain: “I’m not the next big guy or anything. It’s just me. I make stuff.”

Danny Allain learned to read using his brothers’ comic books years before he started writing and drawing his own. The youngest of six, with two brothers and three sisters, Allain mainly stayed at home, drawing and playing in the woods of DeQuincy, LA. Comics made it easy to follow the story, even without knowing how to read. “You can know what’s going on,” Allain said. “The green guy is always mad.”

Art talent and interest ran in the family–Allain’s father, Gerald, creates portraits, and Allain’s brothers both draw as well. Allain started drawing all the time, but didn’t attend an art class until he moved away for college. He became a drawing major, and met his wife, Morgan. “She knew a character I was drawing, a dark elf character,” shared Allain. “She was like, ‘Hey, is that Drizzt?’ I was like, ‘F yeah that’s Drizzt.’ I was pretty oblivious to everything in the world. That’s how we met. Or at least that’s how I noticed.”

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They got married and moved next to his parents, who live on 10 acres of land. After college, Allain taught elementary art for seven years, until ultimately deciding that teaching wasn’t for him. “It was a very controlling, micromanaging situation I was in,” Allain explained. “I got out of that and decided I wanted to do art. It was super stressful. I was on blood pressure and anxiety medication. I didn’t have any plans after quitting teaching. I had a mural, then got another one.”

Three years later, Allain is still painting murals, taking commissions, writing and drawing his own comics, making fences with his father and building houses with his brother. “Pretty much whatever I can do, to sustain art, is what I do,” Allain said. “Luckily, I married Morgan, who feels the exact way that I do. We’re hustling to do what we can to do this. I’m not saying I’m making baller money, but I’m making more now than when I was teaching. Teachers don’t make anything. It’s sad. You’ve got to sustain yourself.”

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An artist herself, Morgan has painted several series and manages the Etsy for her own work and for Allain’s. Their four-year-old daughter, Ruby, also recently made over $50 selling her own watercolor bookmarks.

Their family creates together in other ways. Two years ago, Allain started a comic for Ruby. There are two volumes with 90 pages each, and Allain has planned out the third and final volume, which will have a big fight scene. Allain involved Ruby by asking what she wanted in it.

Allain’s father, Gerald, is a troll that was cursed with cuteness and manners. “He’s bright pink and flowers grow off of him and he wears a tutu,” Allain explained.

Allain’s mother appears a witch, the source of Gerald’s curse, and sports a wort on her nose. “She loves it,” Allain said. “She actually has a wort on her nose and I always make fun of her for it.” Morgan is a mermaid. Other family and friends also make appearances. As Allain was planning the last volume, he told Ruby that he was almost done and asked if she had any final requests, and she did: werewolves. Morgan suggested making them weresheep instead.

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The pair has found other creative ways to share their art as well. Allain helped found Southwest Louisiana Art (SWLArt) with friends, and they organize an art market twice a month called LUNArt Sunday Art Market. “Every LUNArt, I do live art and make some weird thing or portrait,” said Allain. “One time I did the bones of a rabbit, and people liked it and bought it.”

Allain created an entire series based on his bones concept, and held his first solo show in May displaying his work. “Actual animal bones are fun to do, because you don’t see what’s in American bison,” shared Allain. “The big hump is their back bone. I thought it was muscle. Some of that is neat to find out. I like doing dragons, griffons, hydra. I did a breakfast set of a chicken, pig and cow.”

Allain plans to continue the series. “I want to do some more predatory scenes,” Allain said. “I have a fox and a mouse, pouncing. I want to do a sabertooth jumping on a mammoth or something. I have a bunch of ideas. I just have to get to the table. The hardest part is just getting to the table. Get to the table, with pencil and paper and the table is clean. After the first line, I’m hooked, and I’ll be there until I’m done. It seems like a chore to draw when I’m not drawing, but when I start, I remember it’s awesome.”

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Allain considers himself a storyteller first, even as he continues to draw and paint. “I love writing little stories–not even writing them out, just thinking them,” admitted Allain. “Comics are an easy way to do all of it. I can draw it, and write it and do all the lettering and inking myself. It’s just one solid metal hoop and that’s just me.”

A few years ago, Allain came up with an original idea about a western bounty hunter, and he had created three issues and was selling them at cons. The comic revolved around an alien crashing in the wild west and strapping an alien band to a cowboy’s arm, which allowed him to communicate with an AI system. Then Allain saw the trailer for Cowboys and Aliens at the movie theater, which was almost identical. Discouraged, he quit his sci-fi western and decided to write a standard fantasy novel and make it his own. “It was not an original idea by any stretch of the imagination,” said Allain. “It’s fun.”

When Allain’s nephew asked him to run a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, Allain decided to use the novel, Shadow Wars, as the story line. “There are five of them, 17-19,” Allain described his nephew’s friends. “They’re super preppy and stuff, from nice families. They pull up in their vehicles to my trailer house and we go into the shed and play. They are all about it. They rearrange their work schedules so they can play.”

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Allain also started making figurines and props for the campaign, and now sells D&D starter kits on Etsy. He found that creating the props was a stress reliever, and the guys that participate in the campaign love his work. “They’re the tiniest little hot glue things that they freak out over,” said Allain, who uses hot glue, matchsticks, popsicle sticks and polymer clay. “That’s about it. It’s just how you put it together. It’s a lot of fun.”

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Allain focuses on continuing to create, no matter the medium. “Ninety percent of the stuff I’m making is just art and stuff,” shared Allain. “I’ll make it. If someone buys it, cool. If it’s not a commission, I’m just making it for me. It’s lowbrow. I’m not the next big guy or anything. It’s just me. I make stuff.”



If you’re in Louisiana, catch Danny and Morgan at their next event on June 18, LUNArt Sunday Art Market Luna Live, 11 am – 4 pm.

Danny shares his work on Instagram and sells prints through Morgan’s Etsy store.

This is the seventh in a series of articles I’m writing, called “Sustaining Craft”, which focuses on people who make money creating. Hey! My first newsletter is hitting the web this Wednesday! Click here to sign up and get an awesome newsletter with other profiles, including a brand-new feature not yet posted, and more art and quotes from Danny, and other fun tidbits.