Anna Lustberg

Anna Lustberg | Illustrator | Blog

Anna Lustberg’s blog shares the thoughts of a twenty-something trying to “make it” in NYC. Posts are often sharing memories and motivation for the creation of a drawing, project, or series of works.

Spooky Squad

Here it is, from the beginning.

Marcus called me up a little over a month ago to see about throwing an art party for Halloween.

He’s a friend and mentor, as he’s always supported my art with opportunities to include me in some of his group shows. Marcus Glitteris is an artist, curator, and connector – he’s always putting together art shows with a theme (“90s Kids”, “Metallic Fanatic”, “Neon”, to name just a few) that bring local NYC artists and their networks together. Often dressed in neon head-to-toe with face paint, glitter, or custom-painted clothing, he is truly unforgettable. I met Marcus some 3 years ago when I worked at Buddy Warren Gallery, a great space on Chrystie between Rivington & Delancey, as he would stop by and chat with us and be sure to attend our openings. Buddy definitely exhibited some of his work at some point, too. Later on, I’d run into Marcus at another opening on the Lower East Side and shown him my own artwork; soon, he invited me to have a piece in a 90s-themed group show in June 2017. I met a lot of local NYC artists at the opening and closing parties for that show, which was on view for a month in the East Village; I got to meet some people whose work I’d seen on Instagram face-to-face and be a part of the conversation. It was a good time that certainly motivated me to do more, improve, and just keep making strides.

This was my piece, “90s Kids”, in Marcus’s 90s show. (June 2017)

This was my piece, “90s Kids”, in Marcus’s 90s show. (June 2017)


In fall of 2017, I went to an art opening in Tribeca that Marcus was included in (curated by someone else), where I met Mr. Star City. He’s also someone who’s unforgettable, who I look up to, and call a friend. I went out to a party Mr. Star City hosted toward the end of 2017, shortly before everyone headed to Miami for Art Basel week, and there I met Brooklyn-based artist Keli Lucas. She was super sweet and showed me images of her artwork, Expressionistic portrait paintings, and even offered to paint me as a commission. While I wasn’t quite ready for that, yet, I did keep in touch and have kept up with Keli’s work since. Ironically enough, I started drawing commissions for people in 2018.

One day recently – I believe it was this summer – Keli Lucas posted a picture of herself on Instagram that I (and the rest of her followers) absolutely loved. She’s in all black, walking down the sidewalk in what looks like the East Village, toward the camera, head cocked slightly. Circular black shades hide her eyes, she’s got on a wide-brim hat with two long loose braids, and one hand simultaneously clutches a cell phone while casually holding on to a cigarette. A long black kimono is draped over her outfit of black jean shorts and black boots, while silver keys on her necklaces are a pop of reflective light. Her face doesn’t show expression – in fact, it’s hidden – but it’s her body language and demeanor that speaks. To me, it’s the quintessential portrait of a Brooklyn artist, one who’s unafraid to put herself, as well as her art, out there in whatever way she chooses. She’s on a journey to greatness but also feels good about who she is and what she’s accomplished, with the knowledge that there’s still a long way to go. She’s truly unbothered and looks too cool doin’ it. I love that she went for it, all out in the artsy all-black. Her look is her look, and if you’ve met Keli, you know she’s genuine.

I saw the picture and immediately messaged her, letting her know I was going to draw her. I was inspired! She was so enthusiastic and said she couldn’t wait to see it, but unfortunately, a few months passed before I had the time to do it. I was so focused on completing the illustrations for the children’s book I illustrated for Seymone Kelly all summer and into the fall that I made little to no time for other projects. Finally, though, the right opportunity came – Marcus called me up to do an art party for Halloween, with several artists to be included with each to have one spooky piece in the show.

It took me a little while to think up the right illustration, but I started with drawing Keli Lucas in all black from that picture. She was the first sketch on the center of the paper; then, one by one, I added various tough-looking ladies around her in a group fashion. I was building a squad! They have tattoos or risqué outfits, and attributes that suggest witchy-ness, having powers, and being unafraid. The blonde to our left of Keli wields a ball of supernatural light in her palm, while the woman to her right shows a knife along with an almost pleasant look on her face – one of confidence, if nothing else. Like, you don’t want to mess with me, so don’t make me show you why. Another woman holds a bat in the palm of her hand, truly evoking the Halloween spirit, while a witchy lady in the back sticks her tongue out in defiance or, perhaps, just ‘cause she likes to. The only character who has a spooked look in her eye is on the far left, but in my mind, she’s more afraid of what she’ll do once she finishes gulping that energy drink than what’s in front of her.

Of course, I had to set the scene. They’re in a sketchy alley, where rats run by and yellow slanted eyes glow from dark figures in windows and the street gutter. In the foreground, there’s a severed finger with a ring on it, an open handbag being ravaged by a rat, one sneaker, and a spilled bottle. A bridge is in the background to imply that they’re coming from somewhere to the current scene. It’s no particular bridge, as I wanted to imply that it is part of any city. The magenta clouds in the purple sky suggest something supernatural and truly spooky is amiss. Apocalyptic? Are the spooky ladies there to save the day by fighting or scaring off the the evil at hand? I hope the viewer’s imagination is sparked by viewing this piece.


“Spooky Squad” final illustration: pen drawing scanned with color added digitally in Photoshop. Completed the night before the group show.


The group show took place this past weekend, and it was a truly great night. Marcus hosted the party at a studio apartment with a private backyard in the West Village and it was just beautiful. The salon style show once again brought a great group of artists together, as Marcus usually does, but this time with a more intimate atmosphere that was at once comfortable and sophisticated. It was a cold, rainy night, but a steady stream of folks came out to support the artists and enjoy the live music performance and film screening preview while looking at the strong variety of spooky or Halloween-themed art pieces on the walls. It’s always a pleasure to be included and acknowledged for your artwork in some way, so I’m grateful to Marcus for thinking of me when he puts these together. ‘Freaks Come Out at Night’ was my favorite show yet.

I hope everyone has a safe and spoooooky Halloween!