By NICOLE HENNESSY, Westlife
ROCKY RIVER – A vampire lovingly hugging a stunned teddy bear; happy little witches flying on broomsticks; a jack-o-lantern car on pink-frosted donut wheels howling down the road, navigated by a pile of cute but menacing bats, eyes glowing yellow.
Angela Oster’s delicate and expressive creepy characters are perfect for Halloween. Or all year long.
When she’s not painting and drawing, the Rocky River artist and Parma native works part-time at Ohio Citizen Action, which organizes and mobilizes people to advocate for social justice and public interest campaigns. Her unique artwork has become a recognizable throughout Northeast Ohio and nationally. She sends little monsters and prints out all over through her etsy.com shop: anjelajoyoster.
Making use of a rare space that isn’t political or tense, Oster said she hopes her artwork brings joy. At art festivals throughout the region, she’s watched, amused, as customers flipped through her prints, seeing parts of themselves in her monsters and ghouls, or just smiling as they browse through her endless catalogue.
“I want to delight,” Oster said. “I want people to laugh, and be delighted, and be entertained, in a way. Maybe a little appalled sometimes,” she laughed.
Her website bio on angelaoster.com says she haunts Rocky River. Along with her husband, who’s also an artist, and their daughter. Oster studied at the Cleveland Institute of art. Her spooky bats and ladies are hard not to fall in love with.
Q: What has it been like growing as an artist in Northeast Ohio?
A: I feel like it has been nothing but supportive. Starting with BAYarts, finding a space there, to just being accepted. Now I teach there, so that is a dream come true. There are a lot of artists out there making work and supporting each other. There are people that turn out for you, who are out there supporting the arts community.
Q: The West Side suburbs haven’t always been known as having a thriving arts community, do you feel like that perception has changed?
A: I do. I don’t mean to go on about BAYarts, but I think they have a lot to do with that. They have made such a beautiful space there, adding the bigger galleries, which has allowed them to have bigger shows. It’s always such good work, and it’s people that I didn’t know before, and that I’m so glad to know. And I think that 78th Street Studios having that hub there is really vital, too. And there have been a lot of galleries that have, unfortunately, come and gone, but have brought a lot of artist together; like the Breakneck Gallery in Lakewood…Goodgoat Gallery.
Q: Your style is so recognizable. What do you attribute that to?
A: I attribute it to being a fan. I love…there are certain artists that I just love so much, and I wanna’ be them! So I end up kind of mishmashing their own styles into my own work. If you saw somebody like Graham Annabelle, who’s a comic artist, and he also directed The Boxtrolls. He does so much work. He’s an animator and an illustrator, and I fell in love with his animations first, and then I found his regular work. He consistently, on a daily basis, cracks me up. He can do so much with just a little gesture; a little expression. That’s somebody that I emulate. Of course I grew up with Dr. Seuss and The Muppets. Those kind of make an appearance in my work. Who else do I love? Oh, Edward Gorey, of course. Tim Burton. So I feel like it’s this mishmash of people I love, and I spit them out onto the paper in my own way.
Q: What advice would you give to young artists who have some talent but aren’t sure?
A: They’re not sure about their own work? Well, you spend a lot of time not being sure, I mean, I’m still not sure, but I just feel like you gotta keep making work, and be supportive of other people. Get our work out there in front of people as much as you can. I put stuff up on Instagram almost every day. I really like to look at other people’s stuff, and if I like something, I say I do. I don’t just like it; I cheer them on. I feel like you have to go out there, see other people’s stuff, see other people’s shows. Just get yourself out there, and do it anyways, even if you’re scared.