Happy Hustler Caitlin Tschanz



I am a Philly native whose studio and writing practices are inspired by exploring the city and meeting diverse people through chance encounters. When not uploading my adventures to social media, I can be found painting, writing poetry and traveling the globe.

My practice now seeks to blur the line between life and art— with my most recent work exploring this binary through the study and documentation of the world and city that I live in. I pose questions to the viewer, and use the work as a vehicle to meditate on the possible answers: How do I capture the intangible and experiential sensation of living in such a vibrant city? What of my experience and interaction with other people is perception, and what of it is real?

    Through words and pictures, I trace the histories of the environments that I find myself in and tell stories using the language of paint to convey the density of these experiences to the viewer.

Tell us a little bit about your hustle and your happiness journey.

Hmm, where to begin? I've had a very interesting life, so for me, my happiness really does stem from accepting the fact that as a young artist my life is constantly evolving and changing, which has carried over into my art practice and vice versa. Once I realized this, my work changed immensely because I was no longer afraid to take risks.

You know, I had a chip on my shoulder for a long time about not being that experienced in the art world (in terms of discourse/practice, etc.) so getting into art school  and graduating with a  degree in Fine Arts last year was a huge deal. I think in a big way it proved to my younger self that having a career and professional art practice is a totally valid and tangible life path to have. It just took a lot of tears and work in the studio to get here!

What do you do to de-stress after or during a long, stressful day?graymatter

I'm not big into watching tv, but if I'm super stressed I like to have a cup of tea and troll Netflix-- there are some interesting documentaries and shows to watch, but some personal favorites are Arrested Development and The Inbetweeners. Anything to get my mind off what's bothering me and to have a few laughs.

I also like to look through my sketchbook and write ideas down for a book I'm writing about my life thus far. Sometimes it's just a few lines that sound interesting, and other times a whole chapter of poetry spills out. I love getting into that meditative headspace where the work comes through me; it's very exciting to look back on days or weeks later to see where my mind was.

Where do you go for inspiration?

Literally everywhere. I walk around the city a lot in my free time, and I love to document the visual non-sequiturs that catch my eye. In fact, I'd say that about 95% of my Instagram posts are me documenting the things that I'm attracted to: a sound, a color, a pattern, different textures, the way light reflects off a wall.

I just got back from two weeks in Europe, and honestly, my favorite moments were when I could exist in each unique environment and realize that they are glaringly different and completely the same. It was quite a beautiful process to see happen-- decay exists everywhere and so does life.

What are you currently reading or listening to (podcasts, books, blogs, etc.)?

I listen to so much that it's impossible to categorize, but recent favorites are CRO and pretty much anything on the radio. In the studio my tastes change depending on my mood, so sometimes it's RHCP and other days it's Ottmar Liebert. Whatever boosts creativity will do!

graymatteriiiWhat is one piece of advice you'd give to someone just starting their happy hustle journey?

Trust yourself, trust yourself, trust yourself. It's important to have a strong circle of supporters around you who can give you valuable feedback about your work, but at the end of the day you have to be able to know yourself and your process enough to know when a work is complete or captures your ideas in the best way possible.

No one but you holds that answer.

What are some of your favorite quotes or words to live by?

The two that I think about a lot in the studio are from some of my old professors from my time at Moore College of Art & Design. I had one of my favorites of all time, Moe Brooker, tell me flat out to my face sophomore year that I had a lot of work to do in order to really become an abstract painter. It stung, but I was ready to learn.

His works, much like Kandinsky, deal a lot with the transmutation of music into painting, and one day he mentioned the difference between impulse and improvisation. I didn't quite understand it at first, but once I got it, it stayed with me. Impulse is pulling any color off the palette and applying it arbitrarily on the canvas, but improvisation is knowing the direction the work is going and allowing the freedom of play to come into the work; it's making an informed decisions for the betterment of the piece. It blew my mind.

Another of my profs, Robert Goodman told me in a critique once that there is a big difference between Inspiration and content. As with Moe, it took me awhile to understand what he meant, but once I got it my studio practice totally evolved. It forced me to really consider the work from all angles and to take a more analytical approach to the way that I speak about and view my art.

In one word, sum up your life as a Happy Hustler.


What are the three core values of your hustle and how do those values relate to your happiness?tschanz_primaries

Reflection, patience, and risk-taking.

I think most of my best ideas and successful paintings have come from quiet reflection on a bus or train or listening to music. It took me a really long time to trust my inner voice and to work with my inner critic instead of against it, so anytime that I have a moment to quietly think about how I can better my work I write it down.

Taking risks is a bit more difficult because I work crazy hours that don't give me the best time frame for making work, so every time that I do make a new piece, I try really hard to push myself out of my comfort zone and to keep growing. Some of my favorite pieces have been a one-off painting that were completely spontaneous!

If I really think about it, I think all three values are what have allowed me to merge my art and life practice, and I don't see them as being inherently different anymore. Taking my time to understand both who I am as a person, and as an painter has made my life so much richer. I think I've always seen my life and encounters with people as strange or different, but through all of my creative outlets I've learned to live my life so much more freely. Art, honestly, is why I exist.

Connect with Caitlin

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