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Behind-the-Scenes

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Meet the staff: Senior writer Amanda Waltz gets spooky (and sexy) on Ghoul on Ghoul podcast

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 11:53 AM

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Several months after Amanda Waltz came on board as our senior A&E writer at Pittsburgh City Paper, and just a few days after I was named editor, she came to my desk and confided a secret, whispering the words Generation X bosses overseeing millennial staffs are most fearful of: "I have a podcast."

I soon realized why she hadn't confessed this to our former male editor. It wasn't just any podcast, she explained. It was about ghosts ... and sex. Ghoul on Ghoul, which Amanda records each week with her co-host, Sarah, promotes itself as "a supernatural sex-positive horror comedy podcast featuring first-person encounters with the paranormal."

It wasn't totally a shock. While Amanda is talented at writing both heavily reported news stories or diving head first into a multifaceted art review, she's also become known as the office deviate — the kind of person who will say anything on her mind without thinking twice. I mean that quite affectionately. She's refreshingly honest and also unashamed to have serious conversations about her sexuality. In the realms that an office environment allows, of course, though I'll admit that an alt-weekly newsroom is probably much more lax than others.

My first response when she told me about her podcast was to beg her to let me promote it. We've been aiming to increase diversity at the paper over the past year, introducing sex and social justice columnist Jessie Sage to our pages, and including even more feminist and social justice causes in our news coverage. Showing our readers that our senior writer also is a sex-positive horror junky is good press! But while she's talked openly about it in the office since, Amanda asked me to keep it a secret to the public, wanting to keep her personal life separate from her professional life.

But months later, after immersing herself more and more in the local arts and nightlife scenes as a reporter, she realized it was getting harder not to mention it when asked, so I now officially have permission to out her as a Ghoul.
The podcast itself is more charming than shocking. Yes, it's NSFW unless you're wearing headphones — or working at an alt-weekly, and the women swear. A lot. A fucking lot. But listening to the podcast is largely like eavesdropping on a conversation between two girlfriends sharing a large bottle of wine.

They laugh frequently at themselves and each other, share secrets about their own sex lives, and both have a tendency to break into voices and impressions, from Björk to Bon Jovi. Basically, they're not afraid to sound like giant dorks.

Each podcast is nearly an hour, and guests keep the show interesting. They've had on everyone from CP's own Jessie Sage to Tobin Seastedt of Crickets to Betsy, who brought on mealworms and grasshoppers for the hosts to eat on air before talking about all-natural lube. If transitioning from discussing the crunch of a bug leg in a cookie to an admission that it's harder to get wet as you age sounds weird, just trust me. They make it work.

Ghoul on Ghoul also specializes in ghost stories and local horror folklore; serial killers and cults; true crime and hauntings. And sometimes, it combines both. There's at least one episode where the women discuss sex with ghosts, and on the episode with Sage, they discuss ovipositors, a sex toy that allows women to deposit an egg inside their vaginas so they can experience the joy of giving birth to an alien.

Tonight, Amanda and Sarah celebrate their first anniversary with the Rate / Review / Subscribe / Imbide: A PGH Podcast Party at Spirit in Lawrenceville. The night includes DJ MB from the In Bed by Ten dance party and tarot readings. In addition to Ghoul on Ghoul, the pair have also invited other local podcasts to join the fun. Guests are encouraged to subscribe to any of the podcasts — Give Me Murder or Give Me Death, Neon Brainiacs, THRIFTY Podcast, Start The Beats w/SIKES, and Werewolf Ambulance — for a chance to win prizes.

The event is free and starts at 7 p.m., with the live show recording starting at 9 p.m.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Meet this week's Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist: Ellissa Nicholle Schatz

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 1:06 PM

Ellissa Nicholle Schatz
  • Ellissa Nicholle Schatz

This week's colorful hand-lettered Marijuana Issue cover was created by Pittsburgh artist Ellissa Nicholle Schatz. Pittsburgh City Paper asked her a few questions over email about her artwork after completing the cover illustration.

How did you get into illustrating?

I went to SCAD [The Savannah College of Art and Design] for illustration and printmaking, and now am working to amp up my freelance career alongside my graphic design 9-to-5. I'm just having fun and figuring out what/how I like to draw.


What is your dream job? Dream client?

I'd love to be doing creative direction for an art and fashion publication, something where I could have my eyes and hands in a lot of different projects.

Freelance-wise, I've been dying to work with Bitch Magazine since I first found out about them. Doing a mural is also on my list of goals for the next couple years.


Ellissa Schatz's CP cover illustration
  • Ellissa Schatz's CP cover illustration

Your cover illustration this week includes a lovely moody person, scrolling hand lettering, lots of plants, and an interpretive and vibrant use of color — all of which are seen throughout your larger body of work. Where do you gather inspiration from?

Honestly, Instagram, like everyone else, mostly. I love big Versace-ish fashion prints and bright colors that maybe don't go together and girls that have inches-long bejeweled acrylics. Also other illustrators like Laura Callaghan and Caleb Boyles (I went to school with him and you should really check him out … he's so good).


You work in a lot of different mediums including silkscreen, digital illustration, works on paper, animation, and zines. Do you have a favorite? Do you go to a particular medium for creating different subject matter, mood, or message?

When I feel like I haven't made something in awhile, or having a day where I can't draw, I like to paint or silkscreen (both using very low-tech setups on top of my drafting table). Making something that is probably going to be kind of messy by nature makes me loosen up a lot and gets me in the mood to have more ideas for projects way more organically than staring at an empty Photoshop document would.

Digital is cool for most client work just because you can change things so fast and colors can be so fun to play with, but there also is a pressure to make things extra perfect because you have the ability to do so. I think painting and screen printing are more of an experimental personal project way of working for me, and then drawing and animating in Photoshop is more "professional" I guess. I'd loooooovvveeee to start doing more animations for work just to get better at it.


Do you have any big or exciting projects coming up?

I'll be in a show with a bunch of other artists in the fall, so I'm starting to work on paintings for that. That's going to be super fun. And then I'm also in the works for something with a really cool publication later on in the spring. For more on that you'll have to check my Instagram because it's not entirely ironed out yet.


Where can people buy and see more of your artwork?

I'll have some work for sale in Small Mall this summer! I'm thrilled about that. And then you can check out my Instagram, I sell prints on there sometimes. Or my website. I also have a Redbubble and Society6 that are up to date (for now) if you want different sizes!


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Meet Disco, this week's Spring Guide cover artist

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 6:03 AM


Disco, superstar artist - CP PHOTO: RENEE ROSENSTEEL
  • CP photo: Renee Rosensteel
  • Disco, superstar artist
The painting seen on this week's cover was painted by Disco the penguin from the National Aviary.

Watch the artist creating this week's masterpiece in our behind-the-scenes video by Renee Rosensteel above; then, enter to win the original artwork!

Take a photo of this week's cover and post it on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram; tag Pittsburgh City Paper (@pghcitypaper) and National Aviary (@national_aviary).

One winner will be chosen at random. The prize package will also include two free passes to the North Side's National Aviary, and two City Paper T-shirts.

No purchase necessary to win. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Pittsburgh City Podcast: Discussing CP's Black History Month coverage with contributing writer Tereneh Idia

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 12:35 PM

Pittsburgh City Paper's editor Lisa Cunningham, managing editor Alex Gordon, and contributing writer Tereneh Idia - CP PHOTO: CHRIS SICHI
  • CP photo: Chris Sichi
  • Pittsburgh City Paper's editor Lisa Cunningham, managing editor Alex Gordon, and contributing writer Tereneh Idia
Black History Month can elicit ambivalent responses. It's been criticized for being superficial and fleeting, while its goal should be for something far more substantive and continuous. As a white editor of a mostly white staff, Lisa Cunningham wanted to acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, but was unsure how to go about it, so she reached out for help. CP contributor Tereneh Idia joins Cunningham and CP managing editor Alex Gordon to discuss the paper's coverage this month, as well as Idia's own thoughts on the holiday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A conversation with Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Christina Lee

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Pittsburgh artist Christina Lee
  • Pittsburgh artist Christina Lee
There's a cartoon on Christina Lee's Instagram page that caught my eye immediately when scrolling through her posts. It's a colorful illustration of a super cute girl positioned in a Buddha Squat, her hands held together in a prayer pose. And then, when you click on the cartoon to view it larger, the girl ... farts. A simple, animated "Poot!" It's brilliant.

Further down the page, the top half of a white, drooling cartoon dog with lopsided eyes stands in front of a bright pink and yellow background. Click on the image and scroll left, and the second half of the dog is revealed: a hot dog butt.

Christina Lee's Winter Guide cover illustration
  • Christina Lee's Winter Guide cover illustration
It's these types of whimsical illustrations and animations that sets the 26-year-old artist apart from the crowd. Lee excels at playful pieces of art that constantly leave the viewer doing a double-take. Originally from San Jose, Calif., Lee has studied illustration in London and graphic design in NYC, and now lives in Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood where she works as a designer for American Eagle and a freelance illustrator. She's also a zinemaker, on the board of directors for the Pittsburgh Zine Fair, and on the team at PULLPROOF Studio, a membership-based workspace for screenprinting artists.

We all need cheered up during Pittsburgh's long, cold winter, and Lee was the perfect person to illustrate this year's Winter Guide. Much like how excited we were scrolling through her Instagram feed, I'm predicting our readers won't be able to look at her cover artwork without smiling. CP caught up with the artist over email after she finished this week's illustrations to talk about her move to Pittsburgh, and the work she's most excited about.

What brought you to Pittsburgh?
I came to Pittsburgh for school back in 2010, and I stayed after graduated in 2014.

You’ve studied in London and NYC. What’s Pittsburgh’s art scene like in comparison?
I can't make the most accurate comparison since I was in London and NYC very briefly as a student, and not as a working artist. However, at first glance, the Pittsburgh art scene is small, yet robust. The artists who are a part of it are welcoming and interested in giving back to the city.

Your artwork is always full of surprises. Do you purposely seek out work that borders on the bizarre?
Yes, I've always been interested in the abject. I've always sought out universal human expression, and shock/awe and humor are two emotions I enjoy evoking in people.

What’s the most fun project you’ve been paid to do?
The most fun project I've been paid to do is PublicSource's "Data on Race" article. I was hired by PublicSource to illustrate infographics that demonstrate racial statistics in Pittsburgh. I found the work profoundly impactful, and I learned a lot from the data I worked with.

CP Winter Guide illustrations by Christina Lee
  • CP Winter Guide illustrations by Christina Lee

Dream job?
I have several dream jobs. A few of them include Music Video Director, Independent Book Store Owner, and Animated Show Creator.

What inspires you?
I am discovering that I am obsessed with storytelling, specifically visual storytelling. I loved comic books while I was growing up, and I am rediscovering that side of me again. Currently, I am in the process of reading Sabrina, a graphic novel by Nick Drnaso about conspiracy theories involving the murder of a woman, and how the false narratives affect the victim's friends and family. I was particularly interested in it because it was the first graphic novel to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, and its themes of fake news are particularly relevant in our current political climate.

Also, I'm reading
The Diary of a Teenage Girl by Phoebe Gloeckner, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel about a teenager growing up in San Francisco in the '70s. I recently realized I have a strong interest in the coming-of-age story, especially from the female perspective, so I've been reading a lot of female autobiographies as well (in both novel and graphic novel format!) I'm also addicted to watching music videos, and I can't stop watching Vince Staple's video for "Fun" and Rosalia's video for "MALAMENTE".

You curated a feminist art exhibition last year at Future Tenant for the first time. How did curating a show for other artists compare to creating artwork for a solo show of your own?
It was really fun curating a show for other artists. I flexed my consolidation-building muscle, and also wrote a show statement that I was proud of for the first time in my entire life. It is much easier to write about other people's work than your own.

CP Winter Guide illustrations by Christina Lee
  • CP Winter Guide illustrations by Christina Lee

Do you think women artists have a loud enough voice in Pittsburgh?
No, I don't think women across the board have a loud enough voice in Pittsburgh. I think it's getting better, but across the board, the city is still a very male (and white)-dominated environment.

You’re also involved on the board of directors for the Pittsburgh Zine Fair. Are there any new zines in town we should keep an eye out for?
I am actually in the process of curating a Pittsburgh Zine Fair Pop-up at Small Mall, a store in Lawrenceville that focuses on artist-made goods. I curated this section and will include zines by Rachel Ann Brickner, Jason Lee, Aaron Regal, Ceci Ebitz, Madeleine Campbell, and Maggie Negrete. The subjects of their zines include exploring Asian-American identity, women in the music industry, gentrification in Pittsburgh, and the anxieties of being a young adult in this day and age.

You included so many fun things on this week’s Winter Guide cover. What’s your favorite winter activity?
My favorite winter activity is having an excuse to stay in because it's too cold. And drawing!

Where can people buy your artwork?
People can buy my artwork from my online store, Copacetic Comics, or Small Mall.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Behind the scenes of 2018's best Pittsburgh City Paper covers

Posted By on Mon, Dec 31, 2018 at 7:22 PM


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1. Clara Kent, photographed by Huny Young
April 4, 2018

That beautiful cover photograph of Pittsburgh singer Clara Kent looks like it was taken in a gorgeous garden, right? Prepare to have your mind blown. Photographer Huny Young took the "Michaels' Challenge" for this cover photoshoot, putting Clara in a bustier and posing her in front of plastic greenery and lemon branches in the floral aisle at Michaels arts and craft store at North Hills Village. Every photograph Huny turned in was killer and each could have easily been Clara's next album cover. The best part of giving Huny this assignment? Finding out she and Clara became good friends after meeting for this shoot. They even continued to work together on more projects. Here's a behind-the-scenes shot from Clara's Instagram account where you can see more of the backdrop.




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2. Distracted Pierogi, illustrated by Pat Lewis
July 4, 2018

One of the most popular Internet shares over the past few years has been "Distracted Boyfriend," a meme that just won't die. It features a stock photo of a man checking out another woman while holding hands with his disgusted girlfriend. Memes usually place text over each person, giving every image a new meaning.

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What better way to incorporate one of the best memes in recent history with one of the best weeks of the year? One of our favorite things about summer in Pittsburgh is when furries come to town for Anthrocon. The annual convention is beloved by locals who swarm Downtown to take selfies with the costumed animal characters. Brainstorming this cover was one of the best days at work this entire year, maybe ever. Former editor Rob Rossi, senior writer Ryan Deto, and I laughed for over an hour straight until we were all crying, throwing out ideas at each other for this illustration.

We first played around with the idea of placing a Pittsburgh celebrity like Sally Wiggin in the picture with furries, yelling things out to each other like, "That doesn't make any sense!" And then, "But it's funny!" But in the end, we decided that showing a few of Pittsburgh's mascots falling for a furry attending Anthrocon was the best move. Fun fact: In Pat's initial sketch, the role of Sauerkraut Saul was originally filled by Kenny Kangaroo.

We decided to have even more fun with this cover by changing the name of our paper that week from Pittsburgh City Paper to Pittsburgh Furry Paper. We absolutely loved seeing furries get a kick out of it on the streets while they were in town.

CP PHOTO: CONNOR MARSHMAN
  • CP photo: Connor Marshman



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3. Nihilist College Issue, photographed by Maya Puskaric
Aug. 29, 2018

Maya Puskaric brings on the tears. - CP PHOTO: LISA CUNNINGHAM
  • CP photo: Lisa Cunningham
  • Maya Puskaric brings on the tears.
Staff nihilist, I mean staff writer, Hannah Lynn guest edited our College Issue this year, conceptualizing the theme and choosing which articles appeared in the issue. A recent college grad herself, Hannah was by far the best person on staff to take the lead on the issue. When she approached us with the nihilism theme, and suggested putting "Best Places to Cry on Campus" as the cover art, we were sold.

CP graphic designer Maya Puskaric, also a recent college grad, wasn't just the photographer for this cover. She also talked one of her friends into modeling and dressed her in clothes from her own closet. I added on headlines from Hannah's stories, pulling everything together to make it resemble a teen magazine. Read Maya's behind-the-scenes story to find out how she got that fantastic crying-while-dying-on-the-inside look.



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4. Coloring Issue, illustrated by Jim Rugg
Sept. 26, 2018

FILM STILL: IMAGE TEN, INC.
  • Film still: Image Ten, Inc.
I admit it. I'm addicted to zombies. Add a zombie to a movie, and I'll watch it. Add a zombie to a book, and I'll read it. When CP senior writer Amanda Waltz pitched the idea of doing an oral history on the Night of the Living Dead's 50th anniversary, it was an easy decision to make zombies the theme of this year's Coloring Issue. Add a zombie to a Pittsburgh City Paper cover? Boom! It makes my Top Covers of 2018 post.

Night of the Living Dead was filmed in nearby Butler County. Jim Rugg took the iconic movie scene of zombies walking in the field and moved them to one of the best views in Pittsburgh, Downtown as seen when exiting the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Can you imagine coming out of the tunnel to this motley crew?



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5. Election Issue and the Tree of Life synagogue, photographed by Jared Wickerham
Oct. 31, 2018

AAN, the association of alternative newsmedia, recently asked editors from around the country to share their best work of 2018. Our Election Issue was my selection, largely because of this cover image. Jared Wickerham joining our staff earlier this year as our full-time photographer and videographer was one of the highlights of our entire 2018, and he's proven himself time and time again as one of the most talented photographers not just in Pittsburgh, but anywhere.

Several days before going to print on our Election Issue this October, tragedy struck our city: a mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. The cover we initially had planned — an optimistic, hopeful smiling photo of Summer Lee, the first Black female state legislator from our region — suddenly no longer made sense while the city was in mourning. Jared was on the streets day and night covering the tragedy and provided the beautiful last-minute cover photograph of women embracing in front of the memorial outside the synagogue.



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Bonus favorite: Pittsburghers of the Year, photographed by Jared Wickerham and hand-lettered by Abbie Adams
Dec. 19, 2018

A personal note: To say 2018 has been a hell of a year would be an understatement. I started this year as Art Director, was promoted to Managing Editor this spring, and finally, became Editor-in-Chief in October. When I first started working for Pittsburgh City Paper back in 1997, I knew I found my home. So, you could say this ending has been a long time coming. You can read more about my transition in the letter I wrote our readers when I was promoted.

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But it was as Art Director for the past 13 years where I really fell in love with Pittsburgh, as I worked behind-the-scenes with so many amazing artists and photographers who taught me to look at the city through their eyes. After designing almost every cover and editorial story in the paper myself for all these years, it brought me great joy to finally hire an Editorial Designer a few weeks ago to help me with the paper's design. Abbie Adams, not just a great designer but a fantastic illustrator too, created this cover image her first week, hand-lettering the Pittsburghers of the Year title and designing it on top of a beautiful cover photograph Jared took of the city skyline.

The absolute best part of working for City Paper is getting to share Pittsburgh's stories with our readers. The second is getting to work with such an amazing staff. I'm ending this year better than the last and hope the same for all of you.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Pittsburgh City Podcast takes on visual journalism

Posted By on Fri, Dec 7, 2018 at 7:19 PM

CP photographer/videographer Jared Wickerham, Pittsburgh City Podcast host Paul Guggenheimer and CP editor Lisa Cunniningham with students from Connellsville Area High School - PHOTO: SARAH RIDER SKORIC
  • Photo: Sarah Rider Skoric
  • CP photographer/videographer Jared Wickerham, Pittsburgh City Podcast host Paul Guggenheimer and CP editor Lisa Cunniningham with students from Connellsville Area High School
Pittsburgh City Paper photographer/videographer Jared Wickerham and editor-in-chief Lisa Cunningham talked about the importance of visual journalism on this week's Pittsburgh City Podcast. Listen to the Dec. 7 edition as they share behind-the-scenes stories from Wickerham's photo assignments and answer questions from a live studio audience of students from Connellsville Area High School.

The Pittsburgh City Podcast is a collective effort between Pittsburgh City Paper and Point Park University's Center for Media Innovation, hosted by Paul Guggenheimer.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Pittsburgh City Paper writers discuss this week's Health Issue on Pittsburgh City Podcast

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2018 at 4:59 PM

Pittsburgh City Paper writers Amanda Waltz and Jordan Snowden
  • Pittsburgh City Paper writers Amanda Waltz and Jordan Snowden
Why did we choose seasonal affective disorder as the focus of this year's Health Issue?

Go behind-the-scenes as Pittsburgh City Paper senior writer Amanda Waltz and staff writer Jordan Snowden discuss this week's Health Issue on the Nov. 30 edition of the Pittsburgh City Podcast. The journalists also answer questions from a live studio audience of students from McKeesport High School.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A conversation with Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Xiola Jensen

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 9:00 AM

Pittsburgh artist Xiola Jensen - PHOTO: EMILY HERSCHL FOR CLOTHING DESIGNER JULI SHERRY
  • Photo: Emily Herschl for clothing designer Juli Sherry
  • Pittsburgh artist Xiola Jensen
Xiola Jensen's Instagram account is full of sad girls. Sad girls with cats. Sad girls reading. Sad girls with birds. Sad girls surrounded by nature. Illustrations of sad girl after sad girl in beautiful pastel color palettes, accented with striking line art and patterns. They're dreamy and perfect and depressing all at once. "Is the artist OK?", you can't help but wonder.

Then, in the middle of the artwork, breaking up the illustrated teardrops, a photograph of Xiola smiling and dancing with friends, alive. A talented 22-year-old college senior, with a portfolio that would be impressive even for a seasoned professional.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Increasingly Surreal Work Assignments: College Issue edition

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2018 at 8:15 AM

Behind-the-scenes of this week's College Issue cover: CP graphic designer Maya Puskaric behind the camera - CP PHOTO: LISA CUNNINGHAM
  • CP Photo: Lisa Cunningham
  • Behind-the-scenes of this week's College Issue cover: CP graphic designer Maya Puskaric behind the camera

The Challenge

The following is a paraphrased account of what our Creative Director and Managing Editor, Lisa Cunningham, said to me one sleepy afternoon last week: “We are doing a college nihilism theme. I am looking to really embody the essence of a college student here. I was thinking ... a cover ... like a teen fashion magazine! All bright and peppy but WAY more depressing. We need someone innocent and youthful and then we need to corrupt that. The model needs to look like they are trying their best but is also in a constant state of complete emotional destruction. Also let’s make it cute.”

Okay. I could work with that. After all, stylish yet full of unrelenting existential terror is kind of my daily look.

Continue reading »

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