Just when Threadless needed a high-charged dose of super stellar style, street artist duo Hot Dose! showed up to play. Made up of artists Corey Hagberg, aka Crush Entity, and Sarah Danielle Stewart, aka She Was A Monster, the collaborative twosome created a boar-riding figment of unparalleled imagination that has certainly been turning heads. The two have been exceedingly busy making street art across Chicago as well as exploring their own personal art endeavors, but they were kind enough to take a bit of time and answer our questions. Learn more about Hot Dose! below, and if you’re in the mood to be mesmerized, shop by Threadless HQ to see their work in person!

The super impressive work of Hot Dose! on the Threadless garage door

Where are you both from and how has that affected your artistic ambitions?

Crush Entity: I was born in Evanston, IL, and grew up back and forth at my grandparents between the North Side of Chicago and the Chicago area suburbs. We moved to Contra Costa County, CA, just outside the bay area when I was about 6, and we were there until the early ‘90s. This is where I was first introduced to skateboarding and board graphics, which greatly influenced my life; they eventually became a lifestyle, introducing me to graffiti and ultimately leading to making art in the public realm. I currently reside in Rockford, IL.

She Was A Monster: I’m actually from Rockford, IL, which is a little big city, being the second biggest city in the state and ranked the ninth most dangerous city in the nation per capita (it sounds a lot more exciting than it is). There is an art community in Rockford that has the ambition to make things happen, but is forever combated by the conservative and unsupportive nature of this city. It’s a force that either makes you work harder to branch out and become more, or it suffocates you. Luckily, I’m a stubborn girl who takes discouragement as a challenge rather than defeat, so in a strange way, it has been motivating to be essentially from “nowhere” in the eyes of the art world. You have that much more to prove.

How did the two of you begin making art together?

Crush Entity: We began creating art together in 2013. We had mutual friends, but didn’t really know each other too well; Rockford has a very insular community of progressive artists, everyone knows each other or of each other. I had first noticed Sarah’s work in 2008 and was blown away. In 2012, we did Fountain Art Fair in Miami during Art Basel. I kept thinking about how amazing her imagery was, how striking it would be on a large scale, and allowing the public to be able to experience it outside the gallery. Collaborating can be tricky to adjust to for some, so I suggested she come and paint for a very chill little indoor skate spot/community center I was helping to organize. It turned out great; she was a natural. I invited her to do a show I had been offered at the Freeport Art Museum along with a friend Ben Smith (@roguefoto), a photographer who had photographed some of our paint sessions in the wild. From there, we continued to collaborate and came up with name Hot Dose!.

She Was A Monster: Corey and I have been showing in group shows together for awhile, but it wasn’t until he needed help painting an indoor skate park that we really got to know each other on a more personal basis and actually worked together. We share a very similar motivation to create and I think things unfolded naturally from there.

Hot Dose artist Corey Hagburg, otherwise known as Crush Entity

What was the learning curve like in terms of getting used to each others’ style?

Crush Entity: Sarah has a very painterly approach with her use of cans. Mine is more rooted in simple fills/outlines, because initially I had only used spray paint to screw around with letters when I was in high school. I used cans before brushes, so that approach has stuck with me in my studio art as well. I paint very graphically, just like I draw, without much blending. I feel like our individual styles create a certain harmony or balance between the graphic and the more rendered imagery.

She Was A Monster: I can’t really say there has been much of a learning curve; we both paint the way we paint and it somehow works together. Although our styles are pretty different, they somehow complement each other in a balance. Sometimes we plan out what we’re creating and sometimes it is much more intuitive; we make both conscious and subconscious decisions. Creating a collaborative work is kind of like a dance or a game of chess, where one person’s move depends on the other person’s move, and so on. We share very similar sensibilities as far as our aesthetic preferences are concerned, which helps the process move fluidly.

Hot Dose artist Sarah Danielle Stewart, otherwise known as She Was A Monster

Both of your styles include seemingly arbitrary objects. Is there any rhyme or reason to your artwork?

Crush Entity: I prefer to work more intuitively, but each piece has a specific theme or ties to a broader theme, such as identity or how/why we identify with certain emotions, groups, religions etc, collective failures and breaking those down, or imagery that is emblematic of triumph or loss. Sometimes, it’s a looser narrative, like the re-occurrence of an expressionless face in an animal suit; it hints at the infinite disconnect between us as humans and our survival instincts. Those animal instincts become just another costume that has been rendered vestigial against a backdrop of going through the motions. Eat drink, shit, spazz out, pop pills, sleep, Repeat process.

She Was A Monster: My artwork always serves as a collection of sorts. I would best describe myself as a magpie in the sense that I like sparkly, gaudy, and somewhat jarring things. Most of the time I like using objects, patterns, and space in unconventional ways, redefining their terms, purpose, and functions. In a way, it makes me feel better about the things in my life I cannot control. Being able to paint a blue boar in outer space, or a pile of objects that collectively make a monster, somehow helps me cope with the mundane, habitual, and predictable lives we live as human beings.

“Deadbeat Solstice” by Hot Dose!

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in a collaboration versus working alone?

Crush Entity: The disadvantages of collaborating hit home through the weight it has on our lives outside of creating work. We live together, we’re together as a couple, and we produce work together. The lines get blurred or aren’t even there sometimes. Outside of that, we each have individual artistic careers we are pursuing. She tattoos full time, and I teach art and create commissioned work in between screwing around on the internet and daydreaming. I think separating all that and making time to decompress has served to be the challenge. Balancing our individual work versus our collaborations can be another challenge. Those challenging challenges can be a real challenge.

She Was A Monster: Working with someone means compromise, which has been an interesting feat that I think neither of us has ever experienced before. A lot of the time, I notice people think Hot Dose! is Corey by himself, which at times can be a little frustrating for me, but it is an experience that I can’t really compare to anything else. It’s having a partner in crime rather than being a lone ranger. It’s having someone to share decisions and excitement.

How do you balance your work with Hot Dose! with your own individual art lives?

Crush Entity: For me, I keep a body of personal work moving forward. I work in my sketchbook. I collaborate with other people; my AIR crew homies and other artists in Chicago or Rockford. Hot Dose! might be hibernating for a while come winter in order to better promote that balance and get back in touch with our lives outside of art.

She Was A Monster: It can get a little frustrating to prioritize sometimes… there is not enough time in the day for everything I’d like to do. It means being smart with your time so you CAN do both, otherwise both would never happen. It’s kind of a sway between the two; like playing on a teeter-totter by yourself. Sometimes everything else in your life goes awry; the house gets messy, the fridge has nothing in it but stale and expired food, and you’re wondering if you’ll get to run those errands or take that shower, and you think you’ve gone a little insane. Then you finish a project, step back, and feel this sense of accomplishment that nothing else in life makes you feel, and you remember how insane you really would be if you didn’t have this sense of importance you find in artwork, and in your life. Then all is right with the world. The balance, I guess, is forgetting the line between the two and just looking at all of it as your artwork, and to never stop trudging along.

Hot Dose! working together on a piece in Gary, Indiana

What is the creative process like between two very creative minds?

Crush Entity: The creative process can be very exhilarating, energetic, and amazing, but also very trying. You take two people who know each other through and through, are both very capable and passionate with insightful ideas, and sometimes there will be friction. Most times, things will flow and we will build effortlessly off each other’s input. We figure out when to say, “My idea is good, but yours is better.”, or how to offer criticism in the heat of the moment that doesn’t come out like, “Hey, moron, that’s a pretty stupid idea, put that back on the shelf.” That hasn’t happened yet, really. Not while making art at least.

She Was A Monster: It usually starts with a simple idea and evolves to take on a life of its own through discussion, intuitive decisions, critiques, excitement, arguing, a little blood, a pinch of fairy dust, wart of toad, and a thumb war.  

Why did you land on the piece that you did for Threadless?

Crush Entity: For Threadless, if I remember right, it was pretty gut level. We discussed imagery that would tie into a gallery show/installation we are creating for the J.R. Kortman gallery in Rockford which is called Velvet Realms and opens the first weekend in October. Sarah started by producing the boar image, and I added to it on the car ride out to Chicago. Some additional details were originally going to be added, but once the sun came up while I was finishing, I had to tell myself, “It’s just a roller door, let it ride.”

Close-up of the Hot Dose! mural created at Threadless HQ

Why do you think your particular style works with Threadless so well?

Crush Entity: I’ve been intrigued with the development of Threadless since I first read about the company and its humble beginnings in a magazine article in 2006. Something about starting with minimal cash and printing the designs of artists from the general public. I don’t think crowdsourcing was even a thing at that point, and I thought that was unique because it gave anyone who was inclined to create a design the chance to be part of something larger. I don’t remember the specific images from the article, but do remember thinking, ” Man this shit is funky and weird. Right up my alley.” I was more bohemian and cavemanish at that point and the internet was still some strange alternate universe in my mind. I hadn’t even owned a computer at that point.

She Was A Monster: After seeing the facility, it’s pretty safe to say that the folks at Threadless share the love for fun that we do. We love silly, we love feel-good. We love make-you-smile and feel-kind-of-awkward and giggly all at the same time. There is a definite mutual appreciation for the same culture and message, and what could be more beautiful?

What was the process like of painting Threadless’s garage door?

Crush Entity: I’m pumped on the image, so the process was fun. I typically don’t like doing anything too detailed on a roller door. It starts to look like shit in your mind’s eye unless you step back or remind yourself that it looks fine from the street, so stop being so hyper critical man, and relax. It wasn’t your typical storefront roll down, either, so that wasn’t so much of an issue.

“Tainted Love” by Hot Dose!

Crush Entity, I saw some of the work that you did at Sunset Junction in LA. How was the experience of going across the country to leave your mark?

Crush Entity: The Silver Lake wall was great. The new Lone Ranger movie was being released that week and I felt compelled to create an image related to that, hence the braids of the Native soul choking tears of blood from the Lone Ranger. It’s about overcoming the forces that serve to subjugate or marginalize people for whatever reason, which is why there is an assortment of freaks and monsters surrounding that central image. It was facilitated by LA Freewalls, a group who lines up walls for artists that I admire like Mear One, Dabs and Myla, Risk, Megs, and many others, so it was kind of surreal. It was also in conjunction with a group show at Project Gallery in LA and Cartwheel Arts, so I was excited to meet some of the other artists who were part of that and go out and paint. I hadn’t been to LA since I was a young kid, and it was a very nostalgic experience for me.

Shewasamonster, you list your day-job on Facebook as a tattoo artist. How does creating art on other peoples’ bodies help you grow as an artist?

She Was A Monster: Being a tattoo artist is challenging in the sense that people are very understandably picky about what they want. So you face the challenge of creating something cool out of sometimes cloudy ideas. Also, tattoos are nothing like a painting or drawing; the body is dimensional and curved, resulting in a need to create an image specific to that shape of the body part so it looks good compositionally. This has caused me to think of the surfaces I paint on in a different way. Drawing on a daily basis aside from tattooing keeps your skills tight and honed; there’s no room for error in a tattoo. It’s a one shot deal. This has caused me to become much more deliberate in my decision-making with artwork, which has resulted in higher efficiency.

As a collaboration, does Hot Dose! dabble in any mediums other than paint?

Crush Entity: As a collaboration, sometimes Hot Dose! puts Nutella on sugar cookies and artichokes on fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. We do release the occasional t-shirt and sticker and have created a series or drawings. This next show, we will finally be breathing life into an idea for installation and die cut pieces we’ve talked about for awhile, along with some other 3-D elements.

She Was A Monster: Not as of yet, but there are talks of 3-D projects in the works.

A glimpse inside the Hot Dose! studio 

What’s unique about the Chicago street art scene that you don’t find elsewhere?

Crush Entity: The Chicago street art scene is unique because it still has a very localized and somewhat blue-collar feel to it. Some of us grind out 9-5 jobs, while some of us are lucky enough to get by off what we create, but there isn’t a huge spotlight on it yet like you see in other cities. That can be a double-edged sword, but it seems to be beneficial because there is less of a saturation, so less is missed. The Chicago scene still has that youthful stoner kid’s basement feel to it. It’s inviting and dimly lit at the same time, so it might take minute to find what you’re looking for. It’s nice to see opportunities pop up in the form of galleries and other businesses like Gallery F, Maxwell Colette, Vertical, Chicago Truborn, Gallery Bar, and others who provide an arena for street and grafitif artists to showcase their studio work and other creative endeavors.

She Was A Monster: There’s a definite style difference in Chicago. You’ve got East coast style, West coast style… Chicago is making a name for itself. I can certainly appreciate that. The scene is pretty friendly and encouraging too, from my experience.

A Hot Dose! mural in Gary, Indiana