We had the good fortune of connecting with Colin Russell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Colin, how do you define success?
Success to me is waking up happy. In the US, I feel like so much success is tied to your job and not as much to your life as a whole. Being able to wake up and be excited for your work, your hobbies, the city that you live in, and the company that you keep are all aspects of success to me. As someone who was working full time in the coffee industry for just shy of a decade (I even got a degree in coffee making. Yes, it’s a real thing), I certainly am not attracted to jobs just because of their paycheck.
Art has been a hobby of mine for my whole life. From drawing, to photography, to ceramics, I have always been attracted to the creative world and the rewarding & healing nature that it holds. To be able to do that for a job? Now that is something that I never would have expected to say was a reality for me, and I am very vert grateful to my friends, family, and all of the strangers out there that want to support me and to see me succeed.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Over the last few years, I have spent time developing a style based off of early 1900’s black and white cartoons blended with a more modern twist of both imagery and events. Using clean lines and vibrant emotion, the pieces themselves are rather straightforward with their interpretations being delivered to the viewers more plainly. Not all art needs an intense and multi-layered meaning. My artwork functions as a space to just make folks feel relaxed and happy.
As far as my journey to getting here, it has been a strange blend of easy at times and very difficult in others. This job started as an accident with some friends reaching out for commissions here and there, which just kind of spiraled (in a good way) into more and more work. And when my time in the coffee world was coming to a close, it just made sense to give this a shot. From there, I have tackled many challenges that I never imagined I would have to work against, but I have come out on the other side of each of them more and more ready for the next steps.
My “brand” to me is something that I don’t want to only be mine. I want to be able to share this with as many people as I can. From mural work, and having people from all walks of life being able to enjoy the work for what it is, to being able to work alongside community organizations to be able to give the resources to groups of people to work together to create art. I want to be able to share the stories and experiences I have had to be able to empower others to embrace their own creativity and the positive aspects that I have found within art.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I think Atlanta is a very unique city for a new person to visit. You could just drive around and never truly run out of things to see. This city is covered in art and architecture so it would be as simple as driving around to me (and the traffic really makes you stop and look at what’s around you sometimes…for better or for worse). But after all of that, coffee at Chrome Yellow, snagging some dinner/drinks at 8Arm, watching a movie at The Plaza, or even just walking around one of the many parks/trails that exist around Atlanta. The best/worst thing about Atlanta is that you basically have to come back again to really experience/see all of the things that you really want to.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First off, to all of the amazing friends I made in Michigan before my move down south: Without them I don’t think I ever would have decided to dive into freelance work. Grand Rapids, MI is where I got my start as a muralist because of some amazing opportunities from Broad Leaf Beer, Lions and Rabbits, and Madcap Coffee as well as lots of fine folks that I met along the way. Second, I have to thank my parents. For trusting me when I told them I wanted to drop out of college to pursue a career in coffee, to deciding to start my own business right at the beginning of COVID (I have a thing for good timing, apparently), to jut being there for our weekly check ins now that I have moved across the country. And on the note of moving, I have to thank my lovely partner Sara. She is my biggest fan and nonstop cheerleader…and also the reason I now live in Atlanta haha. She has been a phenomenal ear when I need to try to decide what the next steps of this freelance journey are going to look like, and I don’t think I would be at it still if it weren’t for her.