Guistina Hayes, founder of GalaxyGusArt from Long Island, NY has been a part of the local art scene for nearly ten years. She practices in several mediums ranging from canvas to body painting, and she regularly hosts live art events, never limiting herself to one form of expression.
Guistina has been busy gearing up for the holiday season, participating in craft fairs in the Hamptons and on the East End, with tons of orders coming in for these unique creations! She has loved connecting with people she normally wouldn’t during the in-person market events in the Hamptons this season. She mentioned that her work being exposed to a variety of people is important for her so that she can implement different feedback and hear other interpretations, especially at events on the East End.
Guistina spoke more about what her artist brand is all about, her process, and what she wants Long Island locals to know about her as a creative.
What is the GalaxyGusArt brand all about?
G: Actually, in 2020 I started to really think about this a lot. So much so that I’m now in a process of rebranding and moving away from GalaxyGusArt and embracing my real name. GalaxyGus allowed me to operate under a sort of stage name, or as I see it now, a mask to hide behind. Artists often feel vulnerable in their process and even with finished work, so it was like a comfort blanket while finding my footing and putting myself out there for people to see. I also sort of felt like I had to allow my artist self to be separate from the rest of me, which I no longer believe to be the case. So, I’d say, that if I’m speaking on what my brand is all about, it’s raw authenticity and finding beauty in your own weirdness. I really just love to paint what I feel, and to see people smile at it.
What are some of the quintessential creations that make up the brand? What are your favorites to create?
G: “MamaMushie” and “Mona” are two pieces that people who have been following my work are often familiar with. Mushrooms and skulls are some things I would doodle a lot and so they appear in a lot of my work. “MamaMushie” was a really special piece and helped me break a huge creative block. I didn’t expect people to fall in love with her the way they did but she sort of became a staple piece that they would recognize. “Mona” (someone said the piece was my Mona Lisa and it stuck) was an improv piece born from the ideas of others. I’m actually working on another one of these because it was such an incredible stretch point for my work. Essentially, I had people send me words (colors, things, objects, animals) and I was going to turn them all into a painting. It became a piece where things like a ‘cat’ on a ‘refrigerator’ were floating around in space with ‘Cthulhu playing guitar’ and an ‘avocado’ ‘planet.’ Super silly but also pretty cool the way it all came together, and I turned it into my favorite bookmarks for sale!
A lot of what I include in my work tends to be things that are special to me in some way, or things that I resonate with and I’ll usually pair things that don’t always make sense. My work is often very dream-like, sometimes with a touch of nightmare quality and surrealism. I try not to categorize too much because I don’t like to limit what I do either, I often stretch outside my norm and mess with other styles and new mediums.
How did you get started with your art business and when did you decide to start it?
G: A lot of my motivation and inspiration has stemmed from loss—it’s a bittersweet thing. When a friend of mine passed away unexpectedly in 2013, I took a hard look at my life and realized I wanted to be creating and I wanted to share that with people. I remember making the weirdest scribble painting, sort of testing out some new brushes and paints, and it kind of looked like an owl so I brought it to a show, and someone actually bought it. I have never forgotten that feeling or the realization that it’s all possible if I just go for it. So, I always say I became a working artist in 2013, even if they were pretty humble beginnings.
What were your early influences in becoming an artist?
G: First, my mom. She saw the spark of creativity and she always fanned the flame. She loved that I was creative and encouraged it all the time. She was also creative, and we would paint on clothes and make all kinds of things together.
The second influence was a man, whose name I don’t know, from the laundromat when I was probably about 7 years old. He saw me drawing and sat with me for who knows how long. My mom and I were often at the laundromat for long stints, and I was usually entertaining myself, but he saw me drawing and he decided to sit and teach me more. He drew a picture of the vending machine (that I still have) and I was blown away by his skill. Then he asked me to draw a glass of water and went on to teach me proper shading of a 3-D image and how to make glass look like glass. Long before the age I would learn techniques like shading, value scales and light sources, he taught me all of them. Over the years people have mentioned in compliments about my work, that it’s my shading they’re so enamored by. I always think of him and how grateful I am for that day. It’s kind of crazy that one of the most influential people in my work was a complete stranger who I never got to properly thank.
My next influences would be Bob Ross and Pappy. Pappy was almost a child’s version of Bob Ross, but I loved them both. I would watch them whenever I could, though it seemed like they never got enough airtime for my satisfaction. They both had these gentle and encouraging spirits that made me really believe in myself when I was little. I also just loved seeing artists on TV because it made me feel like I could do something with my skill one day.
What are the biggest differences in the body painting you do versus canvas? Which medium is your favorite?
G: It’s so hard to choose because they’re so unique and special to me. Body painting is a different sort of connection. With kids, there’s nothing like the feeling of watching them light up when they’ve been turned into their favorite character or animal. But it’s also therapeutic. I’ve had parents tell me their children have never sat still or relaxed the way they did while I painted them. I’ve always had plans of developing some sort of art therapy sessions because of the calming effects that it can have on anyone. It’s also something that helps people feel beautiful in a different way. I can’t really explain it honestly. Maternity belly paintings are even more of an experience. I can actually feel the baby through my paintbrush, and it creates this insane connection for the three of us. Those are very special to me.
Canvas, though, is something else, something for just me and my paint to go wild on. I also do live painting at events, and I love connecting with live music while I work on a piece. But whether it’s in studio or out at an event, I can just let it out. I think the key difference is that with body painting it needs to make sense for the client, with my canvas it only needs to make sense for me. I love them both so much I honestly can’t choose.
Does the East End of Long Island ever play a role in what you create, or do you create with a specific location in mind?
G: When I paint with a specific location in mind, it’s usually an abstract or faraway place, but I do have a lot of love for the East End. When I was first really diving into my body painting, there were a lot of organizations that hired me and referred me around to each other. I was able to help with fundraisers in Amagansett for the church and fire department, Quogue Wildlife Refuge for their Halloween happenings, I’ve done lots of kids’ parties and festivals in the Hamptons, Riverhead, Manorville, Greenport, and more. I always love it there.
What else do you want people to know about GalaxyGusArt? Do you have any advice or wisdom to share for other creatives who might be thinking about starting a small business?
G: When I first started pursuing my art as a business, I focused on what I thought other people wanted to see in my work and that was a quick trip to feeling unfulfilled. The moment I stripped myself of any expectations whether they be self-imposed, make believe, or otherwise, I became more real with my work and let my truest art flow from me. This actually led to more sales and new followers. Also, when it comes to any kind of business, talk to someone who has fruit on the tree. Learn whatever you can from people who have the type of success you’re looking for. I love when I can share what’s worked for me and what hasn’t with people who are on a journey too. Experience is a great teacher, especially when it’s someone else’s.
Whenever possible I hope my work creates smiles, provokes thought, sparks conversation, and empowers others to explore their own insides and dream bigger.
To learn more about Guistina Hayes, you can visit https://www.galaxygus.com.