Musicians don’t always stick to music; often, musicians are “multipotentialites,” as in, people with multiple creative pursuits. To learn more about the different passion projects our favorite musicians find comfort in and promote their work, we created our ongoing series Labors of Love.
Recently, we got to chat with Estella, a transdisciplinary creator based in New York and the lead vocalist of dream pop quartet Mr Twin Sister. Just ahead of the release of the band’s fourth LP, Al Mundo Azul, Estella shared with us more about their work in sculpture, illustration, and how they grew into the esoteric creator they’ve come to embody. Check out our conversation below and look through Estella’s work, best consumed while listening to the fresh and funky Al Mundo Azul.
Slumber: What moved you to venture into the visual/physical arts in general?
Estella: It happened when I was a child. My tío (uncle) was an artist and in his 20s living in the city. Everytime he would visit us on Long Island he would arrive in flashy clothes, some that he had made himself. We would do projects together and when he was away I would work with what I had, play dough and MS Paint on my dad’s clunky computer in 1990. One year my tío gifted me a little snakeskin briefcase that was filled with a variety of beautiful glitter. I remember thinking how much better the colors were than typical children’s glitter. I cherished that gift.
My parents were also in their 20s, so I was exposed to their friends, MTV, and all the cartoons of that time. MTV would just play music videos back then and I made this connection that musicians could also be visual artists. I used to think they were all as involved with their visuals as they were with their music. I know now that is only sometimes true. It’s also sad to me that I missed the moment where music videos were more important because they were a stronger promotional tool. It isn’t quite the same today, breaks my heart but I still try. As for cartoons (Muppets too), I didn’t only enjoy them as a child watching their program. I thought of them as pretty works of art and I made a promise to myself back then that I would always love them even if I become an adult. So it started then, I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life even if I wasn’t the most gifted artist.
“MTV would just play music videos and I made this connection that musicians could also be visual artists. I used to think they were all as involved with their visuals as they were with their music. I know now that is only sometimes true [...] I missed the moment where music videos were more important because they were a stronger promotional tool. It isn’t quite the same today, breaks my heart but I still try.”
Slumber: What’s been your favorite media to work with lately?
Estella: I’ll be gently getting back into my favorite medium which has always been watercolors. The pandemic filled me with darkness and I learned that I personally don’t love painting my sadness. I like to sing about it. I’ve been feeling much better these days so I imported some paints from Japan and I’m also going to be trying needle punch. I’ve also been playing with the apple pencil but I haven’t really found myself there yet. Kind of reminds me of my MS Paint days. I’ve never been much of a digital artist.
I have been costume building for Mr Twin Sister as well. Most of the Beezle materials were upcycled from second hand shops. The silicone chest I made blue by painting it with silicone. Very scary at times, but I ended up just having fun with it all. I have never thought of which medium is my actual favorite really. I enjoy it all!
Slumber: Are there any particular visual artists or artistic movements that inspired you to create the way you do?
Estella: Misaki Kawai, Nicolas Gogan, Jonny Negron, Nhozagri, Hideyasu Moto, Maryam Keyhani, Joan Miro, Kate Klingbeil, Jim Henson, Tove Jansson, Jacques Pepin, and my absolute favorite is Toyin Ojih Odutola. There are so many fantastic artists out there. Tove Jansson and Jacques Pepin made me feel the most at ease because they don’t only paint. Tove writes novels, makes comics, made the Moomin family, and is a fantastic painter. Jacques is best known for his cooking as a celebrity chef but he’s also a fabulous painter and a gardener. I love that they are talented in more ways than one, but those talents can also be looked at as connected.
Slumber: Do you have a favorite piece/piece you’re proudest of among the ones you’ve sent along? How did it come about?
Estella: I always liked Laundry Girl. I was commuting to my day job from Flushing, Queens to Soho. It was a very long and kind of a miserable little journey but one morning on the bus we passed a small box truck that was swung wide open. A young person who was already hard at work was standing inside the vehicle that was filled with those big boxy, plaid, plastic laundry bags. They were chucking them out the back and they were wearing some busy patterns. I thought it looked nice so I scribbled it down. There were a few special moments from those long, repetitive commutes that I tried to turn into something but Laundry Girl was the only one who made it.
“Music or my visuals are either going to be true and from life, or I’m trying to share a fantasy. This is something I’ve recently observed. I guess I don’t like to paint my sadness but prefer to sing about it. That could change now that I’ve exposed it to myself. So far it hasn’t felt as comfortable to me.”
Slumber: You’re prolific as a musician and a visual artist! How do you relate to each of these artistic practices? Where do you see them overlapping/diverging for you?
Estella: The creative process feels pretty similar to me. Music or my visuals are either going to be true and from life, or I’m trying to share a fantasy. This is something I’ve recently observed. I guess I don’t like to paint my sadness but prefer to sing about it. That could change now that I’ve exposed it to myself. So far it hasn’t felt as comfortable to me.
Slumber: What’s something that the visual arts allow you to do that music can’t, and vice versa?
Estella: Depending on what I’m working on, sometimes visual work can satisfy me a little faster than music. Because it can be completed in a couple of days. Whereas music is a much, much longer process until I can say the work is finished. Music allows me to collaborate with my friends since I’ve chosen not to explore that medium on my own. The music also gives me a purpose to build costumes or I probably would have never bothered. It all fits together in the end and I don’t normally think of them as separate.
Slumber: What kind of media/artistic endeavor have you always wanted to try but just haven’t gotten to yet?
Estella: Oil paints & ceramics! I’m scared and want someone to walk me through it first.
Slumber: What are some habits/rituals you have to help you get into a creative headspace when practicing your arts?
Estella: If I’m painting I like to have television on loop. I wipe my space off because I hate seeing dust mixed in my paint. I fill a giant goblet or maybe it’s a glass fruit bowl? I look for them in thrift stores but I fill them to the brim with water. I used to drink a fernet with soda but I started to become too dependent and it started having a lazy effect. I’m not very productive when I feel too tired.
Slumber: How do your practices as a visual and musical artist intersect?
Estella: I include a lot of my visuals with the music’s artwork, music videos, live performance and merchandise.
Slumber: Al Mundo Azul is absolutely one of my favorite albums this season – what about it stands out the most to you as a creator?
Estella: Thank you, I’m glad to hear you are enjoying it! What stands out to me the most is how with each record we’ve become more comfortable in completing each other’s ideas. I hear a group of old friends messing around and trying things they’ve always wanted to try mixed with new styles we’ve learned along the way.
Slumber: Do you have any parting words of advice for anyone seeking to balance their diverse creative passions?
Estella: You should do it all. Try not to worry about any of it being good enough or successful in the eye of whoever has been dubbed as the all-knowing expert. Keep going if it is making you feel good and it isn’t harmful. Try to have fun with everything that you do.
Dig into Mr Twin Sister’s fourth LP, Al Mundo Azul, below: