Lucky life

Tina Reynolds

Photo By Jill Wagner

At Uptown Studios (, a graphic-design and social-marketing firm that doubles as an art gallery, owner Tina Reynolds creates eye-catching designs for clients ranging from the Sacramento International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival to the American Lung Association. In the after-hours, the grandmother and artist rolls up her sleeves to create colorful art about the female form.

Can you explain what social marketing means?

Social marketing is creating behavior changes through conventional and non- conventional marketing: getting people to wear condoms when they have sex, stopping smoking, getting them to wear helmets when they’re riding their bikes—convincing people it’s easy, fun and popular to do certain things. Social marketing attacks from a positive angle: “I know you didn’t wear a condom last time you had sex, but you can do it next time. I know you can.”

What is your approach to social marketing?

At Uptown Studios, we serve all nonprofits. I’ve been in business since 1976, but only the last 10 years has it been all nonprofits. And what I like about that is that everyone I work with has passion about their work. I help people to make a better world, not more money.

You’ve done graphic design since 1976. Can you describe your journey?

I’ve always worked for myself. I started by interning with three printers for a year, and then I opened my own business. They didn’t have very many design schools. I found the perfect way was working for printers, seeing what they needed and how clients wanted their stuff to look, and that’s how I learned.

Uptown Studios also doubles as an art gallery, right?

What happened was I had so much art in my house, I couldn’t spread it out anymore. I asked [Uptown Studios'] landlord if he had any space, and he happened to have the space right next to my graphic-design business, so I moved over there and cleaned it up, and it was basically going to be a studio for me to create art in. But, by the time I cleaned it all up, it was the perfect space to have other artists come and join me. No one really knew I was an artist until a couple years ago. All I did was graphic design, and only my family, my closest family, knew I did art. It was two years ago I started really producing artwork. I needed a creative outlet. Instead of just producing what clients wanted, I wanted to get all this other creativity out. Now, I’m open second Saturdays, and I have art shows and after art-show events: live bands, like Las Pesadillas. … One evening, we kicked all the men out, and all the women read the Vagina Monologues. We just read from a piece of paper, and it was a great success. One after-hours event, we had a woman named Celia Hernandez–Lopez, who is an up-and-coming mezzo-soprano mariachi singer. It was awesome. She made the hair stand up on my neck.

Can you describe your own art?

I work basically with the female form in a mixed-media format. I love doing women that are all shapes and sizes. And I love sculpting, painting and printmaking. And messy! The messier it is, the more I love it. That’s probably because I’ve been so restricted. I’m contained on the screen, the computer.

At one second-Saturday opening, your son Tyler was on turntables, your son Matt prepared the food, and your daughter Kristen was playing bartender. It seems like your family is an important part of your business.

They’re everything. They are the most supportive people around. My family and my coworkers—everybody helps me, eagerly. My coworkers are like my extended family. I talk to [designer] Damian [Sol] like he’s my family, like he’s my coworker, like he’s my partner. When people join me, it’s a relationship, and I’ll work hard at it.

Are there any projects besides art and graphic design that you’re working on?

I am convening a group of women to create a lesbian-health task force in Sacramento, and we have meetings in the gallery, and there are about 12 to 15 women meeting month to month to discuss ways to improve health for women who partner with women. Also, Damian and I and my son Tyler are partnering on a CD project. We’re going to produce acid-jazz music. The one condition I had was that, on the back of the CD, I get “Heavy breathing—Tina Reynolds” ‘cause I can’t sing a lick.

On your Web site, you describe yourself as the luckiest person you know. How so?

I am lucky enough to be bold enough to move forward on ideas I have. That boldness seems to open huge doors, where all kinds of people walk into my life. With the gallery, I have the most creative people walking into my life and all they do is stimulate me. But the basic premise is: lucky family, lucky love, lucky life.