Name: Stacey Combs
Business Name: stace of spades
Creative/Artistic Categories: Illustration, Painting
Support the Work: Shop, Patreon
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As a self-taught artist, Stacey Combs of stace of spades focuses mainly on portraiture in her work, but infuses pieces with elements of environmental and social justice. She aims to draw attention to the unfairness of outdated social norms.
Experimenting with different subjects in her work, Combs shifts between series, including themes such as body positivity, portraiture, nature, and iconic beer branding. Stacey’s colorful paintings often use watercolor and gouache as the main mediums.
Her body positive portraits are notable because they depict paintings of real women, femme-identifying, trans, non-binary, and genderqueer people. Combs created this series to play a part in working towards normalizing the beauty of all body types.
In addition to creating works for her various art series, she also has been taking on more illustration and design work, including storybook illustrations, home and pet portraits.
She also uses her talents to give back to the local community. Recently, she contributed artwork for Coloring Books for a Cause, a charity coloring book featuring illustrations of different local musicians created by local artists. Sales from the coloring book benefit First Avenue’s Twin Cities Music Community Trust to help local musicians stay afloat during COVID-19 shutdowns.
Additionally, in light of recent events, Combs created an illustration of George Floyd that she is using to raise funds for his family’s memorial fund as well as Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB).
Take a moment and scroll through the media below to view a few more samples of stace of spade‘s work.
Five Questions with stace of spades:
What is your favorite art venue?
What are your favorite art/creation resources?
What local restaurants/take out spots help keep you fed during your creative sessions?
We’ve done a total 180 at my house during COVID. We’ve been quarantining pretty seriously since mid-March. I used to work trivia in restaurants 3x/week and we’d go out to eat a lot, too. Now we cook most meals and get take-out maybe once a week. I really miss going to Kyatchi, me and my husband’s favorite restaurant. I miss doing markets/pop-ups at spots like Bauhaus and Caydence Records & Coffee, too.
Is there a specific local non-profit organization you’d like listeners to learn about?
Coloring Books for a Cause! I had the pleasure of working with some friends at the beginning of the pandemic to create two First-Avenue-themed coloring books to raise money for the Twin Cities Music Community Trust. As of May 1, the first book alone had raised over $25k. They’ve put out additional books to benefit other causes, and I plan to take the reins on one of my own in the future.
Please give a shout out to three other local artists/creators you respect and admire:
Podcast Transcription with stace of spades:
The TCDS podcast transcription is sponsored by
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (00:16):
Hello and welcome. My name is Jennie Eukel, and this is Twin Cities Design Scene, a podcast featuring conversations with Minnesota artists and creators about their work, career and inspiration. Today on our show, is Stacey Combs of stace of spades. Stacey is a fine artist and illustrator whose colorful works highlight pop art, local musicians, body positivity, and social justice. Welcome to the show, Stacey.
Stacey Combs (00:43):
Thanks for having me, Jennie.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (00:45):
Tell me, in your own words, a little bit about what you do at stace of spades.
Stacey Combs (00:51):
In short, I am a fine artist and illustrator. The long way of putting that is that I do just about anything that I can get my hands on that’s art-related and I can’t sit still. I work on a few different painting series. One of them is called Roadies. It is watercolor paintings of beer from places that I have traveled to. Another one is a body positive series of real people who send me nudes basically to paint, and-
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (01:28):
Tell me a little bit more about that one.
Stacey Combs (01:31):
Yeah. Do you want to just know the whole origin story?
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (01:36):
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s like you have different topics that you feature, but I’m sure that one has a little bit more of a story behind it.
Stacey Combs (01:44):
Yeah. My whole art career pretty much kicked off at the end of 2016, which was right around the time that Donald Trump was elected president. I found myself making a lot of really just mean and negative and sad and political art. I really wanted to pivot to using my art to shine a light on that darkness. I didn’t really know how to proceed, until one day I was getting out of the shower, I looked in the mirror and was open enough with myself to address why I felt so bad about my body. Realized like, “Hey, everyone has a body and everybody has a weird body, so maybe you should just paint your body and it might make you feel better.” I did that.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (02:44):
Did it make you feel better?
Stacey Combs (02:46):
It did make me feel a little bit better. It didn’t make everything go away but I think that I got a good response from that and after putting it out on the internet and people were actually asking me to paint them. Yeah. I wrangled a few friends together and painted them and just random people started sending me their butts. Yeah. It just evolved into a formal project and I have a PDF packet that I send people who are interested in participating. Yeah. I just finished my 25th in the series and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (03:29):
There’s lots of beautiful bodies in this world.
Stacey Combs (03:32):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (03:33):
I think that was something that was striking to me about your artwork too, is just, it’s so wonderful to see the different representation throughout the whole series. You play a little bit on color too within it. It’s not like a literal photographic look within that artwork. You end up choosing different colors that are a little bit more bright to represent the bodies too.
Stacey Combs (04:02):
Yeah. I don’t want to be like, “I don’t see color.” I also don’t want somebody to look at a painting that they would have otherwise felt represented by and not feel included.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (04:14):
Yeah. They’re beautiful.
Stacey Combs (04:18):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (04:18):
Yeah. You do Roadies too and so you do what else? What other types of artwork do you cover? Because you have a range of different categories.
Stacey Combs (04:29):
Yeah. I do watercolor portraits of people and pets, but I do portraits and then I do landscape paintings. Little wash sketches almost that are more impressionistic and ephemeral. Those are more just for fun. I’m working on a book right now that I’m almost finished with, a children’s book that I’ve been illustrating this year.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (04:59):
Is that where I saw some of those pictures of the whales?
Stacey Combs (05:03):
Yeah. That’s where they came from. Yeah. I just got the official title today. It’s called Let it Rip: The Art of The Fart.
View this post on Instagram
Welp. I’m illustrating a children’s book. About farts! ? I’m in the sketching/storyboard phase, so don’t have much c o n t e n t. Here’s a farting whale. . . . #whale #childrensbooks #childrensbookillustration #sketch #watercolorandink #inkandwatercolor #kidsbooks #kidart #fart #cuteart #children_illustration #minneapolisartist
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (05:12):
Is it going to be-
Stacey Combs (05:12):
It’s a book about farts.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (05:16):
Is it going to be animals other than whales farting?
Stacey Combs (05:20):
It’s animals and people. It’s all kids. Some of them have strap-on beards, dressed up like adults. Yeah. It’s just about everything about farts. I know it’s wild.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (05:37):
Knowing the kids in my life, it’s going to be a big hit.
Stacey Combs (05:42):
Yeah. I’ll make sure I hook you up.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (05:43):
Awesome. I also noticed that you were doing Coloring Books For a Cause recently.
Stacey Combs (05:49):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (05:51):
Tell me a little bit more about that too.
Stacey Combs (05:55):
Well, my husband and a bunch of our friends are musicians and as a result, we’re all pretty involved in the Twin Cities music community. He plays with a group called Har Mar Superstar, Sean “Har Mar” came up with the idea, with his fiancée, Laura Hauser, to raise funds for the Twin Cities Music Community Trust created by the employees of First Avenue, quite a mouthful, to do coloring books to raise funds for that. The funds go directly to people who are involved in the music community who work at bars, restaurant venues, on the production end, et cetera.
Stacey Combs (06:50):
I don’t know what we’re up to at the moment, but as of, I think it was May 1st, it was over $25,000 that we had raised for-
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (07:00):
Which is amazing.
Stacey Combs (07:01):
Yeah. It was incredible. It was just like-
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (07:01):
That’s a lot of coloring.
Stacey Combs (07:05):
Yeah. Yeah. I have-
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (07:05):
A lot of people coloring.
Stacey Combs (07:06):
Yeah. It’s amazing. Yeah. The first book, I was going back through the timeline and it just seems so wild to me. I worked at a hair salon and salons shut down for coronavirus on, I think it was Saint Patrick’s Day. I mean, we had the first book out like within a week of that. We-
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (07:27):
Stacey Combs (07:28):
Yeah. It was so wild. I illustrated, I think it was seven or eight pages for it. Just drew bands and did all in probably four days.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (07:41):
Who are some of the bands? If people get this … or when people get the coloring book. When people get the coloring book, which bands should they look for?
Stacey Combs (07:53):
Well, some of my favorites from the first one, we put out two First Avenue coloring books. The first one Lizzo and Sophia Eris and Trampled by Turtles and The Cactus Blossoms are probably my favorite illustrations that I did. Then the second one, the Go-Go’s maybe and the AAS. We went more national acts with that one.
View this post on Instagram
HBD Lizzo! ? ? This is my @lizzobeeating & @sophiaeris illustration from the Big Coloring Book of First Avenue c/o @coloringbooksforacause! It might be my favorite page I made for the book. . . . #lizzo #sophiaeris #minneapolis #minnesota #coloring #coloringbook #flute #bodypositive #bopo #juice #lineart #illustration #coloringtherapy #adultcoloringbook #firstavenue #drawing #micron
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (08:20):
Talk me through a little bit about what events in your career journey led you to where you are today as an artist. How did you get involved in art or get a passion for it?
Stacey Combs (08:32):
Oh, I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one or two things that were big and happened. It was more just a bunch of little stuff that added up to me not working full-time at a job that I wasn’t into. Then just picking up art and just saying through it, “I’m going to start an art business.” I think that a lot of that had to do with just being fed up with a career that I wasn’t into. My dad died in 2013 and I think that had a lot to do with it too.
Stacey Combs (09:19):
I started using art again to work through that and process that whole thing. Yeah. I think that it was just all of that and then just accumulated, like I said earlier, with the 2016 election and just I had no way of getting anything out that I was feeling and I just painted it out.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (09:49):
I love seeing the results of how you’ve morphed in your styles, and as I said, I think the common line with a lot of your style, just as an observer, are some of the colors that you choose to infuse. I was talking about that with the body positivity art piece, but I think that it’s so lovely. It’s so refreshing to see. You take some literal colors, but at the same time, you superimpose other ones as well that you wouldn’t necessarily think of. Talk me through your favorite part of the artistic creation process, because there are so many. There are.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (10:31):
I guess it could be different for different series. Because with some of those you do do collaborations with client work and then some of them, you go to the drawing board with your own ideas.
Stacey Combs (10:44):
Yeah. Yeah. You’re totally right. It is very different for each, I guess, thing that I work on. I mean, usually, if it’s not work for someone else or as part of the body positive project, I refer to one of my 8,000 lists that I have going at any time of just ideas and stuff and just pick whatever feels good. That’s probably my … No, it’s not my favorite part. That’s a part that I like. My favorite part across-
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (11:19):
You can have multiple favorite parts too.
Stacey Combs (11:21):
Favorite part across the board is right after that moment where I’m like, “This sucks, I’m done, I’m burning this painting. I am starting over.” After I cry and have a shot of whiskey, I move past that and then you’re like, “Oh wait, that’s … Okay. Okay. I can do this.” Yeah. It turns out, I think I am pretty good at this. Then it all just comes together.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (11:46):
There’s always that part of the artistic process where it’s like, “Do I stop? Do I keep going?” Yeah.
Stacey Combs (11:52):
You have to.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (11:52):
I hated it. I love it. I hear that so often with people.
Stacey Combs (11:57):
It’s a roller coaster.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (12:00):
It really is. As far as with the materials that you work with, you mentioned gouache.
Stacey Combs (12:06):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (12:06):
What are some of the other materials and methods that you use?
Stacey Combs (12:11):
Watercolor. Usually gouache and watercolor. I mix them together a lot. I don’t care about rules. I just do whatever. I use the ink and blot too. One of the things I bought myself when I was starting work on the second First Avenue coloring book with Coloring Books For a Cause was a drawing tablet. A nice one. I’ve been moving a little bit more into digital. Just tinkering around with digital design in these COVID days.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (12:44):
I saw something recently too, and I don’t know what type of tablet you have, where you can essentially put a piece of paper on top of a screen and you can draw and it will take that and basically digitize it as you go. I don’t know if that’s exactly what you have, but it was just something that you would geek out on.
Stacey Combs (13:09):
Those are so cool. They make these drawing tablets that are basically like computers that you put on your desk and they’re like TV size and you just draw right on there. That’s like one day I would love that. I just have one of the ones where you put … It’s just like a black tablet. You put it in front of yourself and then you draw on your program on your computer.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (13:30):
Then it just goes into the digital realm and-
Stacey Combs (13:33):
Yeah. There’s still a little bit of hand-eye disconnect, but yeah.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (13:38):
It’s like anything. It’s like learning the new medium with some of those programs.
Stacey Combs (13:42):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (13:44):
As you’ve been running your business, are there any pieces of advice that you’ve received that have made an impact on how you run your business or something that you take to heart?
Stacey Combs (13:56):
Yeah. I think that the biggest thing right now that I keep coming back to in my head is, do what you love because it shows. I don’t remember where or when I heard that and I’m not going to do projects that I don’t love or I’m passionate about at least a little bit. Just sometimes it’s just so obvious. If I am just messing around and come up with something that I had a lot of fun doing, people will just be like, “I want a print of that.” Yeah. That’s I guess the main one that I can think of right now.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (14:39):
It’s a good one.
Stacey Combs (14:40):
Don’t undervalue your work.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (14:44):
Yes. I saw you post about that last week too. I think that’s a whole topic that I feel like so many artists could talk about is that sort of … And it doesn’t even apply to artists, but even as contractors and whatnot of how to value yourself and your own work.
Stacey Combs (15:06):
Yeah. That’s a whole conversation.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (15:09):
Yeah. As I said, that’d be a good seminar topic.
Stacey Combs (15:16):
Just because Target sells it for $20 or because some amateur kid does doesn’t mean that that’s an industry standard.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (15:27):
People do beautiful things and they deserve to be paid for it.
Stacey Combs (15:31):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (15:33):
I think that’s a really important thing, is to build up that valuation of yourself. I think a lot of us might have imposter syndrome or what have you. It’s tough, but I think that it was a really important post and I appreciated you putting that up on your Instagram this past week.
Stacey Combs (15:58):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (16:02):
Yeah. Just to piggyback off of that a little bit, I mean, is there any advice that you would give to folks who are looking to make a career out of their creativity? It might be similar, but-
Stacey Combs (16:14):
It’s similar. It’s hard work and you deserve to take breaks. You deserve rest and it’s a good idea to just really listen to yourself and even if it means that you’re taking a break for a week or three, you probably need it and you’re going to come back stronger from it. I know in the middle of coronavirus, when I officially decided not to go back to doing hair, because I didn’t feel safe doing it, I bought a Nintendo Switch and checked out and played Animal Crossing for a whole month.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (16:54):
I am so behind on the Animal Crossing trend because my Twitter feed was just full of Animal Crossing and I’m like, “What is this?” Is it everything that everyone would hope that it would be? I see Animal Crossing birthday parties that people are hosting. I don’t know too much about it.
Stacey Combs (17:21):
Without getting too video game nerdy, I hadn’t played Animal Crossing before. It’s Nintendo series and I’ve always been a PlayStation gal. It-
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (17:31):
Not too nerdy or anything.
Stacey Combs (17:32):
No. No. I won’t get too nerdy. I just love video games so much.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (17:36):
Stacey Combs (17:38):
It was so perfect for coronavirus and when you’re stuck inside and you can’t see your friends, you can connect with them on the internet. You can go to their islands and you can water their stupid flowers and you can send them stupid gifts. It makes capitalism fun, which it certainly isn’t. You can buy stuff. You have friends, you just live on this deserted island and it’s like, people come. These cute animals come, and then they’ll be your neighbors and they’ll give you gifts. It’s just really nice.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (18:15):
It sounds really magical and lovely, and really-
Stacey Combs (18:18):
It is really.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (18:19):
I mean, when coronavirus start … I shouldn’t say start, but at least when we were a little bit more aware of it, it was around March and it was still cold out. Yeah. What a good way to escape though, right?
Stacey Combs (18:32):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (18:33):
Come winter time I may have to check that out because I’m trying to look ahead myself in terms of what to do in the cold months, because I would love to get out and everything, but I think it’ll be a little bit of embracing nature, a little bit of art stuff. Then exploring video games. You have video games that you like doing in your free time. My last question is just, what else in your extra time, aside from artwork, what do you like doing?
Stacey Combs (19:04):
I like hiking a lot. I joined the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club last fall. I kind of realized-
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (19:15):
What is that?
Stacey Combs (19:16):
You can buy a Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club guide, basically, at any state park office, which is hard to do now because a lot of them are closed, but every state park has its own hiking club trail, or almost all of them do. They’re between one and a half and six miles long. It tells you where to go to get on the trail, blah, blah, blah. Then halfway through the trail there’s a password. You write it down in your little book and then you write down how many miles it was.
Stacey Combs (19:51):
Every 25 miles you get a patch and then after like, I think it’s like 50 or a hundred and you get a free night of camping.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:00):
It’s kind of like gamification of hiking.
Stacey Combs (20:04):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:04):
Oh, that’s so fun.
Stacey Combs (20:05):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:05):
Do you remember geocaching at all?
Stacey Combs (20:08):
I have never done it, but they still do it in the parks.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:11):
Stacey Combs (20:11):
I always see signs for it.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:13):
I don’t see as many geocachers. I see people with metal detectors and finding stuff that way, but I remember doing geocaching a little bit, like decade ago actually. It’s really fun. It’s just like, again, a little bit of gamification, but getting out and … Were you a Pokémon GO person too?
Stacey Combs (20:36):
For like a minute.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:37):
Okay. Because that was-
Stacey Combs (20:39):
I’m a little … I don’t know. I don’t want to say I’m too old for Pokémon, but, again, it was a Nintendo and I didn’t have the Nintendo stuff. Also, I’m like 34? I think I’m 34.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:52):
When’s my birthday?
Stacey Combs (20:53):
Yeah. I don’t remember.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (20:57):
Yeah. I just remember. I’m like, “These are all sorts of fun things to get out and do.” Pokémon GO was a huge one I remember for a split second there. Anyhow, that sounds really fun.
Stacey Combs (21:08):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:08):
That sounds like a great way to get out and explore and see the different parks. Are these just all sorts of … Are they local parks or are they state parks too?
Stacey Combs (21:18):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:19):
State parks. Okay.
Stacey Combs (21:20):
Yeah. Actually, I planned a camping trip at the beginning of July. It was based around like, “Okay. If I stay here, then I can pop over to these parks, which are also right there and then I won’t have to make that drive into that part of the state again anytime soon.” There are some that are way off in the upper corner of Minnesota where I’ll probably take like a week to go camping and then hike at all those parks too. Yeah. Basically, I’m going to end up exploring every part of the state in every single state park.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:53):
That is a really excellent way to spend time.
Stacey Combs (21:56):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (21:57):
Yeah. Totally. All right. Well, thank you so much for your time today. I just wanted to ask you too, are there any plugs or anything that you want to put out there about your work?
Stacey Combs (22:10):
Check out Coloring Books For a Cause, for sure. Get some coloring time in. Just follow me on Instagram.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (22:21):
What’s your Instagram handle again?
Stacey Combs (22:24):
@stace_of_spades, with underscores in between the words.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (22:27):
All right. Excellent.
Stacey Combs (22:29):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (22:29):
Thank you so much. It was such a pleasure to talk with you today.
Stacey Combs (22:32):
Thank you. Same.
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (22:34):
All right. Take care.
Stacey Combs (22:35):
Jennie Eukel (TCDS) (22:36):
You can visit staceofspades.com to view more of Stacey’s work. Thanks for listening to today’s podcast. The podcast music is Your Future is My Future by Gigamesh. Don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review of the podcast. For the latest updates, you can follow along on Instagram and Facebook at Twin Cities Design Scene.