Each month we’re asking one music-loving artist to create a custom playlist of their favorite songs. This month, Sarah Carolan of Studio Ashleen curated a balanced playlist that is equal parts energizing and chill. Take a listen and check out our chat below!

Introduce yourself and your work!

Hello! My name is Sarah and I’m a Chicago-based artist who shares work under the Instagram account @studio_ashleen. My work is predominantly digital portraiture, characterized by a lot of exaggerated shapes and a vibrant color palette. For me, making art is about capturing a snap-shot of a feeling. The process of drawing/actualizing the idea helps me to understand or decompress from an emotion. It can be very personal, which makes it all the more incredible when someone can identify with a piece.

Could you tell us about the playlist you put together?

While in quarantine, I’ve noticed how much my mood will oscillate. One minute I’m excited to have an idea, and the energy to execute it—the next moment, I’ll be wandering into my living room wondering if I should take a nap or play Animal Crossing. This playlist was created to reflect that energized feeling of productivity, and how that can wane into something more chill-sounding. Then it starts all over again.

What song or artist do you have on repeat recently?

Anika is an artist who has stayed with me. I listened to her a lot during my last year of college—when I was worried about graduation and entering the “real world.” It feels apt for today, with us all stuck at home and wondering what life will be like once we’re all vaccinated. Yeah, the nostalgia hit me hard this year. I’ve also been listening to a lot of bands from the aughts and early 2010s. Or bands that I’d seen in concert before quarantine closed the venues.  My partner is a musician, too, so it’s been fun to listen to him explore new sounds as well.

If your art were a music genre, what would it be?

My work has a lot to do with emotions, so I’m going to have to go with Emo, haha.

How do you describe your musical taste?

It’s truly all over the place. What I listen to is 100% dependent on the activity I’m doing or my mood—whatever feeling I want to lean into at that moment. I do try to listen to new bands though. I love live music, and having a partner also in a band, there’s an appreciation for new sounds, and supporting Chicago’s local music scene.

What part does music play in your creative process?

I’m not a fan of silence, I prefer to have some sort of white noise going on in the background, whether that be a space heater or the dishwasher. Even when I’m zoned into an illustration or painting, there must be some environmental-noises for me to concentrate. Also, with so much out of my control nowadays, music offers the freedom of choice. It helps create an environment conducive for work, or relaxation, or a workout; it’s a way to create the atmosphere and focus for creating art.


by Studio Ashleen


by Studio Ashleen

The Days

by Studio Ashleen

The Ennui

by Studio Ashleen


by Studio Ashleen


by Studio Ashleen

Mountain Repose

by Studio Ashleen

Birthday Blues

by Studio Ashleen

Olivia Linville

Artist Relations & Development Associate