Artist looking to change the look of the small-town art scene

Published 1:30 pm Friday, March 1, 2019

The image of Christina Casperson is not what most people would conjure up in their minds when they think “small town artist.”

With a worn leather jacket obscuring a skull-laden band tee underneath, the 31-year-old brunette’s style is less “small town charm” than “big city edge,” and she has her studio of work to prove it.

Among the self-completed artworks littering the walls of her garage apartment/studio, visitors will not see a single landscape of Lake Michigan. Instead, they will see a mix of styles and mediums, from several metal-style album covers to a colorful, screaming self-portrait to a clown creepy enough to put Pennywise from “It” on edge.

“I can’t really describe my style,” Casperson said on a Friday afternoon inside her Niles apartment. “I like when I see that people stare for a really long time. Sometimes, people are lost for words. I think it brings out an emotion people can’t describe.”

Born in California and raised in Niles, Casperson has been invested in art for her entire career. She studied art at the Laguna Beach School of Art and Design and Western Michigan University before moving to Chicago for six years to practice her craft. Known to always be up for a new challenge, Casperson said her most recent task has been to integrate her big-city style into the small-town art scene and encourage other young artists to pursue their craft.

“I’m hoping that I’m inspiring people with my art,” she said. “I want to connect with people through my art. That is my goal.”

Casperson cannot recall a time when she didn’t love art. For as long as she can remember, she has been experimenting with different styles and mediums, always becoming inspired as soon as the sun goes down to create for hours on end.

“I’ve always been creative with myself,” she said. “What I make is so hard to explain. It’s all about my mood and what I’m thinking about that day. … But I’m almost always working on something.”

While working in Chicago, Casperson created many album covers for underground and metal bands and formed her style in her personal art before she moved back to the Michiana area to be close to family. Though she said she learned a lot from her time in the city, she feels Niles is the right place to grow her art business.

“Maybe I was getting too old for Chicago or something,” Casperson said. “I wanted to settle down a bit. I feel like in Niles, and I’ve always told people, it is what you make it. I felt like there was a good opportunity for me here because it is not as fast as it is out there. I felt like I could do a little bit better out here.”

Since returning to Niles, Casperson said she has been integrating herself into the community, working as a forensic artist for the Niles Police Department and building up enough clients that she was recently able to take the jump into becoming a full-time freelance artist. Now, she is looking to become a member of the Downtown Development Authority and to become more involved with other local artists. Though she initially feared that her art style would not be accepted, she said she has been surprised and inspired by the community.

“It’s kind of nice to do things here because you are helping your community,” Casperson said. “In Chicago, you aren’t helping your community in the same way as if you are in a small town. It makes me want to be more involved in the community. It makes me more driven to help people, with things like signs and designs.”

One example of this is when Casperson designed a beer logo for Baroda-based Round Barn Brewery in 2018. The logo, created for a barrel-aged Russian Stout beer called Catharsis, features a solid white figure with a wispy beard floating in a haze of bright blue and purple. Now, Casperson said she is looking for more opportunities to use her art for the community. Most recently, she said she plans to do some artwork inside of Niles’ Brass Eye.

The challenges Casperson sets for herself extend beyond becoming a more involved community member. She is also working to expand her art into avenues outside of her comfort zone.

In 2018, she began offering pet portraits, which she said was a departure from her typical, outlandish style. The series, which has garnered a lot of attention and several commissions, was inspired by Casperson’s rescue Pomeranian, Boogie, a pitch-black ball of fluff that follows her everywhere. 

“My whole thing with dog portraits is capturing the personality of the dog,” she said. “That’s what is really important to me. I feel like photos don’t do pets justice. No matter what the color of the dog is, a picture can’t capture that. … I really liked the idea, and I’m glad that other people want it too.”

Her next project involves working with other artists to start a toy company that will create character pieces for tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Though the project is still in the planning stages, Casperson has big ideas for the company and is hoping to design different lines of figurines —  including a punk girl line.

“I’m definitely excited about this business,” she said. “It’s still really new, but I think it has the potential to be something really cool.”

No matter where her career takes her — whether it is creating pet portraits, album covers or tabletop figurines — Casperson said she will always pursue art and hopes to influence and better the community through her art.

“My goal is to inspire people around town not to be afraid to express themselves,” she said. “I know growing up, I was always kind of afraid to put that out there. I hope kids are more comfortable with being themselves, rather than playing things down to make other people more comfortable. I would really want to inspire people to be the artist they want to be rather than the artist that they think is going to be accepted.”


Photography by Emily Sobecki