In Studio with Troi Warren

Troi Warren creates the art that she likes – no feels attached. She began drawing at a young age and almost naturally evolved to painting, photography, and now sculpting. We sat down with the ever-expanding artist in her Bronzeville home studio to chat about her progression as an artist, IRL vs internet support, and the importance of therapy.


On her creative journey and it’s timeline.

I started out with drawing. I have been drawing since I was a child and I don’t think I was that good. But people that can’t draw think that you’re good at that age, I guess. I was drawing and the only art I would do was in school, really. I’d usually get in trouble for doodling on homework and sh*t. But then I took an art class in high school and I think it was required. And we finally did a painting. They didn’t even teach me how to paint. They just gave us paint to use and then that’s when I kind of realized Oh! I can paint. I didn’t know.

I was painting on and off. I wasn’t very consistent with my art. I’m still not as consistent as I would like to be. After I graduated I tried to do a painting and I didn’t like the way it turned out. I was like, “I’m never painting again because I just hate being bad at stuff.” Then one day I took an Adderall and I finished the painting and I did a really f*cking good job! “Oh my God. I can actually do this without any prior true knowledge of how to do it.” I was painting up until 2013. I was doing photography throughout that whole time too. Not studio photography the way that I do it now. Just “so-what” kind of photography, like random street photography or I’d take some pictures of my friends. I didn’t even consider myself a photographer because I didn’t feel comfortable. 

I was painting or whatever and then I went to [college] because my mom forced me. I was at Tribeca Flash Point Academy for film for a year but dropped out because my teacher was racist, I realized that I’m not passionate about film, and I hate school. After that,  I went to college at Triton, just taking a few classes, and I took a studio photography class. And I ended up doing that over there. [Troi points to prints of milk photos on the wall.] That was the beginning of me working with liquids [in my photography]. 

From that point, I saw [photography] as what I’m most comfortable doing. And it’s great content for if I want to paint something. I can paint my own photography or I could draw my own photography. That was really cool because it all kind of meshed together. 

“My ultimate goal is to be able to do anything.”

After that, I started sculpting. I don’t know what the f*ck happened. I don’t know why I started it. I think I was working on a Halloween costume or something and I needed some clay and then had extra clay leftover  I said: “let me do something with this.” But I really f*cking enjoyed it and it was easy because I had my paint and drawing knowledge. Doing photography really helped a lot in figuring that sh*t out. I didn’t really have any trouble except with how to f*cking bake that sh*t.

My main mediums as of now are photography and sculpting but I’m trying to get back into painting. 

On her favorite medium.

I love photography but sculpting is my favorite to tell people that I do. I say “yeah I do photography and I SCULPT!” But when I tell people they always imagine me doing big f*cking naked white men sculpting.

On creating consistently.

Although I’m not consistent, art is the most consistent with me internally. I may have trouble being inspired or working on stuff but there’s always something artistic happening in my head. It’s definitely a very therapeutic thing for me and I’ve never really been one of those people who expresses their feelings or their emotions through their art. I’m more a “This is very pleasing to my eyes and I like the way it looks” type of artist. But when I am working on these things I’m thinking about a whole lot of sh*t and just releasing it. You wouldn’t know that looking at the painting but that’s definitely something I want to get into – learning how to express myself through my art in a more obvious way. 

On Therapy: Overrated or Underrated? 

Underrated. I had a very interesting beginning of the year. I was in the psych ward for a couple of days. It was not fun. But they recommended me to this treatment center. It’s mainly an eating disorder recovery clinic. I don’t have an eating disorder, but I imagine if I did that place would help me a lot. I was in treatment from about February to the end of May. I was going for four days a week for three hours. It was literally the most amazing time. I felt full. 

It helped me stop being short sighted. It made me get back into my art. I ended up doing these really awesome self-portraits. Just looking at the pictures you can tell that I was in a good place and I just felt better about myself in general. 

I just learned all these great coping skills. It was f*cking awesome. I would recommend it to everybody. I want my mom to go do it too. 

Advice to artists that struggle with expressing all of their feelings through their art?

My advice is, don’t beat yourself up for not being inspired or for not feeling like making art. When you force it, it’s very obvious. The best art comes naturally. All my favorite [pieces] have come naturally. I just try to allow myself room to heal internally, take care of myself, and just hope that something comes to me. And when it does it’s amazing. Don’t be too hard on yourself. [People] are not going to stop f*cking with you just because you’re not consistently putting out work. Another thing I know about artists is that when they put out something really cool they get kind of depressed or down because they think “how am I going to top this?” That’s something I go through a lot. I just have to remember I’ve topped all these other things, and no matter what nobody’s going to expect you to top that sh*t every single time. Just as long as you’re still putting out your own art and you’re consistent with yourself [people] are going to f*ck with you regardless. 

On support and Chicago’s art scene.

First of all, in the city, there is [no support]. And when you do have genuine support in the city, they are going to stick by you. If you want to wait three years to drop some sh*t, [people] are still probably going to be there for you. People don’t really forget. If you’re raw and you stick and you stand out, people will never forget about you. I’ve been doing this sh*t since I was 17, 18 [years old]. I’m only 24 and I still haven’t got my flowers. I’m realizing once I stop trying to impress or please people here in the city, then I’ll be able to venture out.

A lot of people say I should move out of Chicago. I get why they say that. I hate to use this term but it’s always the “nobodies” that are the ones who are willing to support you and come out and share your work with their friends. The clouted ass people are not going to help you unless you’re already clouted. When they do flock to you, you have to remember that sh*t and keep your distance. If they feel like you might surpass them, then they grab on and make sure they’re within your orbit.

On her personal support system.

I definitely think I have support. That’s why the internet is important because I think a lot of my supporters are outside of Chicago. Plus maybe some suburban people kids are cool. Those are the ones that support you the most. Everybody here in the city is trying to be somebody and [people] don’t think that there’s room for everybody to win. But for some reason the people in the suburbs, they’re just set on being like nurses and sh*t. They want to see other people get on and they just want to be in the background. 

There are too many people in Chicago that would much rather step on other people’s feet than to lift each other up. 

Thoughts on needs and wants in Chicago for change to happen.

First and foremost it’s an internal change that everyone needs to make within themselves. Literally just realize there’s room for everybody. There’s much room. Look at how many f*cking celebrities there are. There are a lot of famous people all over the world that make money. And understanding that you lifting up somebody else is not going to take away from you. That’s still the same message. If anything, that can help you a lot. It’s really simple. When you see something cool, say you like it. Don’t keep that sh*t to yourself and then try to steal it for later. People need to learn how to pay homage to each other. As often as people complain about big brands stealing from them, they peep the little people, take little pieces from them, and implement that into their [work]. When you do pay homage to these people, you seem more way more genuine and honest and truthful. And you’re still creative because you took something that already existed and turned it into some other sh*t (unless you completely stole it and that’s just plagiarism.) 

It just does more for everybody to be honest and open about how they feel about [each others’ work]. Nobody wants to do that because everybody wants to be cool, which is stupid. 

On creating consistently and making commercial art.

I saw that somebody got an agency job type of thing. I was thinking how do I get one of those? Then somebody told me “it’s f*cking easy” but I’m still wondering what I need to do. I know that if I were to consistently put out content, not only would my following grow a lot but a lot more opportunities would fall into my lap. I don’t want to be one of those people that just waits for good things to come to me. I definitely was that type of person before because rejection hurts a whole lot. 

My next exhibit I hope will help me with that. I plan on inviting specific people that could help me. I’m using my mother’s resources. Every time I think about it, I feel dumb because I could have been doing that all along, but now I know I can’t beat myself up about it. 

On her ultimate career goal.

My ultimate goal is to be able to do anything. Like how Rihanna decided she wanted to make some makeup and that was successful. Then she said “I want to make some clothes.” She did that and was successful. I just want to be able to have the resources and the money to just make or produce interactive art– things for people to enjoy visually– that’s all I want. And I want to get paid to do it.

Think of Joe Freshgoods. He does these collabs with all these big brands and they give him the money to do these installations and things like that. I want to be able to do that but on a larger scale.

On her inspirations.

There’s a lot. The first that comes to mind is Julia Noni. She’s a great photographer. There’s this girl named Kailah (@kkanvas) who does set design and creative direction. She happens to be the sister of Haley (@haales), who’s modeled for some of my photography and paintings. Kailah’s great. She posts a lot of stuff that inspires her and I feel like we’re here. We see each other! [Troi points to her eyes.] She’s got it. She knows what she’s doing.

Another person is this dollmaker. She’s a sculptor. She has this very distinct face and it’s crazy because all of her dolls kind of look like her. [Troi shows @pashasetrova instagram]

Then, there’s the sculptor Colin Christian (@colinchristian) who made some of the work for [Kanye’s 2008] Glow in the Dark Tour and some of the props for Miley Cyrus’ [2016 Bangerz] tour. This is something he made for her. [Troi shows an instagram post of a silicone vagina and unicorn horn dildo/strap-on (porn-icorn) with glowing testicles.] He does this really creepy sh*t and these huge intricate sculptures. He and Pasha are my inspirations for sculpting when I feel stuck on a technique.

As far as coming up with an idea, nobody can help me or inspire me. I have to let it come to me. 

On future endeavors.

I’m going to focus more on my sculpting for this upcoming exhibit. This next exhibit is going to be all about me. I’ve spent much time photographing other people and things and I just recently did my first self-portrait drawing. I never ever do that. I’m going to take pictures of myself, paint myself, and show how I perceive myself through my art. I know it’s going to be really fun and feel really good to do it and to show it. Not only will it help me build my brand but it’s all going to be some raw ass art. My fear is me having too many ideas because it’s me and I love myself. The centerpiece of my last show was this fountain that I built and I’m going to build another one for this exhibit too. I built the entire fountain and it was a handful but I learned from my mistakes and I know this next one is going to be super bussin.’ I wrote on my to-do list for this week that I’m going to have to draw the layout, so I don’t procrastinate. That’s my main focus right now. I’m trying to do more stuff for my mom’s yacht club and trying to figure out if I’m able to build a brand. It’s been really fun. I may do some graphic design for that too. 

If this conversation was peoples’ introduction to you and your work what would you need them to know about you? 

[Troi pauses] I want to say that my art is not that deep. It annoys me when people ask what it means or implies that it should have a deep meaning to it other than looking nice. Sometimes I do wish I could come up with meaning but that’s not genuine. My art is not that deep but I am. [Trap barks] Right, Trap? [Troi laughs]


Photos by Tyronita Bell | Words by Don W