It’s my pleasure to introduce painter Anne Ward! Please enjoy the interview and leave a comment at the end to let us know your thoughts. I encourage you to check out her website and subscribe to her email list.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art?
I’d always dreamed of being a painter. I remember hours spent sitting and looking at Time Life books with paintings by Impressionists. When I was about 11 years old I had a paper route so that I could earn money to buy the items needed for sketching that I read about in books I checked out from the library. I filled the walls of the room I shared with my sister with my endeavors. I was so lucky to have family and friends who championed my work. My Aunt Peg gave me my first set of oil paints when I was 15. I was beside myself with glee. To this day she still has my earliest paintings up in her home. I have 5 brothers and sisters and when we were growing up we didn’t have a lot of spare income, but my father worked at an airline which allowed us all to fly for free. My parents really valued travel and exposure to museums so I was incredibly fortunate to have seen so much of the world at a young age. I studied art in high school and continued on to UCLA where I chose to get a degree in history…but I was always drawing and painting whenever I had spare time.
After college I was so lucky to get a job working for a movie writer/director named Lawrence Kasdan. I was responsible for running his office, reading scripts, being on the set and being a gatekeeper to the busy demands on his creative time. I worked on a few movies in my time there and lived for nearly a year in Santa Fe working on a movie called Wyatt Earp and a year in Paris working on a movie called French Kiss. It was an incredible opportunity to deeply understand what goes into the creative process on a large scale. I taught my boss to learn to use a computer (this was indeed a LONG time ago!) so that he no longer wrote his scripts in longhand form on legal pads. I learned so much about focus and creative dedication and fun from him. All the while I worked there, I was saving money to support my dream of taking time off to finally learn to paint. I was still reading art instruction books and after 6 day work weeks on location, I would spend my Sundays studying art and painting. I sold my very first painting to a film coworker in Santa Fe and I was so thrilled.
After being in Paris for over a year I left my film production job to begin my dream of taking time off to paint. My parents had given me an outdoor easel and my boyfriend at the time urged me to bring it along on a weekend trip. We were in a small village in France. I must have worked easily 15 hours on that tiny attempt to capture light! By the end of the weekend it was pouring raining and a man with one arm held an umbrella for me to finish, people had brought me food and welcomed me into their homes, children had helped me with my clumsy attempts at speaking in French. I was hooked. The way an easel connects you to people and nature and the environment is such a special privilege! I realized that if I could do this I would live the happiest life ever. I quit my job in Paris, I returned to LA and within two weeks I had magically met a group of painters who had dedicated their lives to this ‘plein air’ thing. It was a somewhat unusual pursuit at the time to find people devoted specifically to plein air and I spent hundreds of hours outdoors learning from these generous artists.
So while I’m mostly self taught, I was so lucky to have been exposed to incredible painters who taught me exacting ways of seeing light. I began showing paintings and was fortunate to gain a following of collectors who supported me. I went through a divorce and painting was my anchor. With two children I realized that I had to figure out how to squeeze in painting. One of my mentors and a painter I greatly admire is Dan McCaw. He suggested that I should ‘always paint in my head’ when there wasn’t time to actually paint. Such good advice. I could be mentally prepping for the moment when I actually had time to paint. I read an article by another art hero of mine who eventually became a dear friend, Peggi Kroll Roberts. She described raising her kids and painting and setting up still lifes and painting small between loads of laundry. I began setting up my easel in the kitchen at night after the kids were asleep. While I didn’t have time to chase the light outdoors in true plein air fashion, I could grab whatever was in the fridge and set up ‘problems’…impossible color combinations or green on green, pink on pink etc. It forced me to see/question assumptions about colors and figure out where the actual chroma belonged. I was obsessed with taking the same objects and painting them indoors and then outdoors at various times of day to understand how light can transform even ordinary objects. Doing this allowed me to better understand color.
Now I am happily remarried to painter and author Ian Roberts. We share a studio and I am always inspired by his approach and patient allowing of a painting to progress. He is an amazing painter. Before anything heads out the door we discuss what might be popping out or distracting from the whole of the picture plane. I am dyslexic…so when I see a painting I see an abstract pattern of shape and color…Ian sees the ‘underneath’ of painting in the form of composition so I really am blessed to have that influence.
My children are older but I still set up still life on the back porch so that I can paint from life while also preparing meals. I am SUPER inspired by our beautiful garden and the vegetables and flowers we grow. My second love is pattern. So I have been making patterns to accompany my paintings and experimenting with putting them on bags, totes and fabric to use in my still life paintings. I love the idea of art being useful in the world so that even if someone can’t afford an original painting they could have something beautiful like a coffee mug that makes their day happy. I also have a few images that are reproduced and available online at Pottery Barn. Also, as a means of using my art to be of service in the world, I made an app that pairs my paintings which an intention for the day. It is free and has a simple meditation included to create more calm in a topsy turvy world. Its called i-intend on iTunes and has been downloaded by thousands of people around the world.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m SO inspired by pattern, light and color. I’m obsessed with infusing my work with the the joy and wonder I feel in our garden. I think that beauty is such a stabilizing force and I am always in pursuit of it. I find there is truth, integrity and absolute joy to witness things growing. It is humbling and powerful to feel connected to the growing cycle of things in the yard. A tiny seed becomes a carrot in 120 days. Amazing! A grasshopper that perfectly matches the color of a leaf on a lemon tree. That’s magical! Things that could easily be missed given the ‘important’ distractions of my phone. I’m inspired by bringing that experience of how I feel in nature to the walls of someone’s home. I’m using our daughters and the arrangement of light in our dining room as the backdrop for a painting I’m working on now. I think its important to use the truth of the things I love in my life as elements in paintings. I’m going to be incorporating more of my patterns into my paintings. I’m also inspired by painting on the Ipad and using it as a tool on days that I don’t have time to be in the studio. A daily practice of creating is so critical to my work.
What have been some of your favorite exhibitions that you’ve been featured in and why?
I once had a solo show based on a line in a book by Eckhardt Tolle about ‘spacious stillness’. That really is how painting feels to me. Its a wordless expansive feeling. The show was a series of outdoor still life paintings and some landscapes and moments where I had felt spacious stillness. An elderly neighbor who was no longer able to travel remarked ‘Thank you for taking me on that journey’. I was so moved by that. I’m always honored to show work at Marcia Burtt Gallery in Santa Barbara. Marcia has been one of my art heroes and part of me still can’t believe that I get to show my work alongside hers there! It’s also an honor when I have shown work with the California Art Club at their juried show. So many amazing painters.
What has been your experience with art associations? How can they be helpful for artists and their businesses?
I have been involved with the California Art Club which was founded in 1909. There are wonderful opportunities to go on paint outs and gain exposure to new ways of thinking and approaching work. When I was very new to painting, the club offered so many opportunities for exposure and submitting to shows. I think clubs and art associations are so valuable because making art can be a solitary endeavor. Its so important to find the people who inspire you along the way. I used to keep a binder of paintings I’d seen in magazines as ‘reminders’ of what made me really excited about painting. It helped me to figure out what and how I wanted to paint.
What have been a couple of your favorite projects and commissions over the years?
One of my favorite experiences was getting to help chef and restauranteur Suzanne Goin choose some of my paintings for her house. I love having the opportunity to do that and find images that resonate for people in their homes! I really admire Suzanne and all that she has created so that was a special experience. I also did a commission for my friend Laurie David of some of my kitchen counter/garden paintings. A lemon, an avocado and a radish…it was so fun to paint things I love for her beautiful home. Recently a dear friend and collector bought a large number of paintings of mine and Ian’s for her home. That made me so happy to imagine all those little snapshots of my life together in one environment.
So you’re scrolling through Facebook or Instagram at the beginning of your day, maybe you’re sipping your tea or eating your breakfast, and the first thing you see are just a bunch of posts where artists are showing off their sold commissions or paintings from their shops. Their posts are flawless. Even though they don’t have a ton of followers, for some reason the engagement on their posts are ridiculous. They seem to be so good at what they do, but you start to compare yourself to them and wonder what the big difference is between you and them – why didn’t you sell that piece you wanted to sell, or why haven’t you landed at least one commission this week, this month, or maybe even this year despite all of the hard work you’ve done?! Here are some points to keep you focused on your own business and creative output:
❤That artist is not you. You don’t know them, their business, or what their finances really look like. Their customers are not your customers.
❤Most of the artists that are crushing it in their art businesses have likely been in it for a bit longer than you and probably started in a similar place you did. Perhaps you can connect with that person – send them an email or a DM and ask for advice in the area/s you’re struggling with, or learn from them just by following them closely on social media.
❤Stop worrying so much! It doesn’t matter how much that person is making or that they seem to have a higher level of engagement with their social media posts – your work and journey are your own!
Real Artists’ Thoughts on This Topic
“On the pros and cons of comparing myself to other artists… On the one hand, a lot may be learned from studying the careers of people we admire in our industry. We can read their bios and CVs, see where they went school, their exhibition history, etc. This can give us ideas of what we can do to improve our own careers. On the other hand, there is the potential to compare ourselves to them. Doubt will creep in… How did they get a solo show five months out of school? This person has over a hundred thousand followers and they never smile in their photos, should I stop smiling? This artist is selling out all their shows and every painting has blue in it; should I only paint with blue? As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s crucial to remember to stay in your lane, run your race, have faith, trust the process, and keep moving forward.”
You can buy or commission work from Chloé on her website and follow her on Instagram.
“These days it seems like social media is the key to being a successful artist, and it does help me connect with potential clients and see what other artists are doing out there. But then it becomes far too easy to compare myself to these amazing, established artists! I’m constantly comparing my amount of followers and likes to theirs, and some days it makes me wonder why I do art at all.
But then I have to remember that I did not choose an easy career. All of these artists that I look up to had beginnings just like me, and as long as I’m putting everything I have into my pieces, then I will be successful. Between my painting and embroidery, I get to work on something I love everyday. And honestly, the massive student loan debt is a great reminder to keep going and stay focused—can’t waste that degree!”
“Here are a few things I have learned on those days when I feel overwhelmed, unfocused, and just plain stuck (which for me happen fairly often since I juggle running my small business with working as a part time substitute teacher and being a single mom to my 3 and 5 year old!). I have to constantly remind myself that baby steps really do add up and big things happen because of small steps over time. The second thing is lists, lists, lists! They help me stay focused and crossing stuff off gives me a sense of accomplishment. Lastly, on days when I feel too tired or uninspired I give myself small rewards as I get things done. For example, monthly bookkeeping done, time for my favorite snack, website and store update done, relax and read a chapter of whatever book I’m reading. The main thing to remember is that it happens to all of us and to just keep going!”
You can buy or commission work from Danielle on her website and follow her on Instagram.
I pursue my art in the hours when I’m not at my day job as a marketer/graphic designer, so staying focused and motivated is key! With my background in graphic design, I am used to working with clients and really enjoy it. In a way, clients can be a great motivator. I want to make my client happy so I strive to meet deadlines and communicate clearly. This has really translated well for me when working on custom pieces. However, a lot of the art related to my business is not client focused so I like to imagine myself as a client. I try to set goals and deadlines for myself and constantly keep a list of future painting ideas to help keep myself on task. When I decided to go all in and get my business license, I also wanted to share my work online to hold myself accountable and push myself to keep creating. A huge positive about sharing my work is that I’ve found that people from all over are really supportive and I love getting feedback and messages that keep me motivated every day.
I really enjoy following the work of other artists – it helps me break out of my bubble or leads to me trying new techniques. I really try to adapt anything that inspires me to keep my own stamp on whatever it is. I think everyone suffers from maybe feeling like you’re not moving or advancing fast enough and it appears like everyone else is doing more…for me I mainly struggle with time. Since I do this in my “free time” I have tried to go easy on myself but still make creating a priority a few times a week.
Setting aside small windows to paint at least means I’m moving forward even if it’s little by little. If I really feel unfocused it’s helpful for me to get outside and go for a run or a hike – I almost always come back with new inspiration. I like to take random photos of the sky or anything I find interesting outdoors so a shuffle through my phone’s photo gallery sometimes helps too. I also try to mix up my subject matter and go back and forth from a more formal piece to my sketchbook. Sometimes being uninspired – or even the odd feeling of anxiousness after of not painting for a certain stretch of time – is an invisible hurdle I imagine in my head and usually I can push through the “stuck” feeling once I start putting brush to paper.
Personally I think comparing yourself to other artists can be really daunting but at the same time I love seeing what other artists create and as soon as I start getting upset (the cons) I turn it all around by switching off the “self-judging” me and switching on the “how beautiful this work is!” me and then I want to start creating more.
So, to draw the line: Cons: Doubts about how good you are or how talented you are. Pros: Get inspired and motivated to create more and better! It’s a challenge that makes you work harder, gradually bringing your art to another level. And that’s what we need!
When I feel that I’m not getting anywhere or I just feel low and unfocused I always try to listen to my body and, perhaps, at that moment it just needs something else – so you need to do some other activity, e.g. clean the house, go for a walk, read a book or simply cook and listen to some music.
Sometimes our brain just needs to be unfocused so that it can take a break. It’s sort of a scream-for-mediation act.
In this case I get myself out of the this “I can’t get anything done!” box and stop torturing myself by focusing on other activities. Amazingly, my body and brain get their refreshment and then I sit down and create something in one go!
Sometimes it happens during longer periods, like several days or even a week, then I scream for help – but as my friend put it – just let it go. If you can’t focus on this work, don’t force it. Distract yourself and do whatever you want and then you are going to be back in shape when you just don’t expect it! So – let it go and listen to your body 🙂
Can you tell me about yourself, your journey with weaving, and the story behind your shop? What’s life like in Manitoba, Canada and the balance between being an artist/crafter and a mother?
My name is Rebecca Riel, but most people call me Becca. I have degrees in Political Science and Social Work, but after having my son two years ago, I decided not to go back to work. At the time we were living in a very small town in rural Manitoba and childcare was limited. While on my extended mat leave, I became a little stir crazy and got really into DIY projects. I actually started with woodworking and re-finishing furniture. Until that time (like many other people I’m sure!), I had always said “I’m not the creative type.” I now realize it’s not that I wasn’t creative – it’s that I had never given myself the opportunity to BE creative.
I had always excelled in academia, but never explored my artistic side. As I got further down the DIY rabbit hole, I started signing up for some workshops – one of which was weaving. I have to tell you that I was a disaster at my first workshop! I tangled my warp thread so bad, even the teacher was surprised (haha)! In any event, I fell in love that day – despite the fact that it didn’t come naturally to me at first. So I took my loom home and slowly traded my woodworking projects for fiber projects. I had the idea to try to weave a map in the shape of my home province of Manitoba and suddenly people were asking to buy them. It started with friends and family but sort of organically grew into something else. Last fall, after much encouragement from loved ones, I gathered up the courage to open up an Etsy shop and haven’t looked back. That’s how Riel Finishings was born. It’s pretty much the ideal job for me! I’m someone who has struggled a lot with anxiety in my life, and I find weaving so therapeutic. The fact that I get to do it as my job now is just unreal to me!
How do I balance being a mother and an artist? In short, not very well! I am so grateful for how busy I have been since my shop opened. That said, sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. We have had to seek some childcare for my son, just so I can keep up – and most of the time I still feel way behind. My house is usually messy and I don’t cook as often as I’d like. That said, I wake up every day being so grateful for this opportunity and the growth I’ve experienced!
Can you tell me a little bit about your ‘mapestries’? How did you term that awesome phrase?!
The most popular items I sell at the moment are “mapestries” (map + tapestry). While I began weaving maps of my own province of Manitoba, gradually I started getting requests for other states and provinces. The term “mapestry” came to me one night at 3am when I was up with my son. It literally just popped into my head, in a rare moment of genius!
What kinds of yarn and looms do you use and recommend?
Yarns: I love using a variety of textures in my tapestries. My favourite yarns to work with are hand spun and hand dyed, which I source from other small shops around the world. I’m also passionate about using recycled and reclaimed fiber in my work. You can frequently find denim, mudcloth, and recycled wool in my tapestries. They look unreal, and are also better for the environment. In terms of yarn I would recommend, it really depends on your textural preferences. I would caution against using anything acrylic, because it totally messes with your tension. Some of my favourite yarns to weave with are from: Knit Collage, Fly Yarns, Love Fest Fibers, Divinity Fibers, and Silk Divine.
Looms: I have a LOT of looms! Some of them are handmade, but my favourites are from Lost Pond Looms and Funem Studio. Both companies make excellent looms in a variety of sizes – really perfect if you’re just starting out.
What have been some of your favorite projects and commissions?
I was recently commissioned by a resort in Manitoba to weave some tapestries for their suites. This commission was the first larger-scale order I’ve ever received, which was a huge milestone for my business. The catch is that they wanted me to weave a buffalo. Yes, I said buffalo and I’m not talking about the place, I’m talking about the animal! When I read the request, I instantly panicked! If you have some familiarity with weaving, you know that some shapes are more difficult than others. I figured there was no way I could do this tastefully, but I challenged myself to give it a try. To my complete surprise, it turned out really well and I’m proud I was able to push through that challenge. I’m somebody who has always been a little insecure. I worry about failure and about what others think of me, and the thing about art is that there’s no room for those fears. You have to push through them. I try a lot of different things and they don’t always work out, but that’s okay, because sometimes they do and it’s magic!
Do you have any advice for artists and crafters just getting into weaving?
I don’t have much in the way of advice for new artists, because, well, I myself am still so new! I would have to say that it’s really important to find your own voice as an artist/weaver, which sometimes means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. When I put on my artist hat, I try not to let the rational/analytical side of my brain rule, and instead follow my heart and my gut. Sometimes that is the scariest feeling, it means being totally vulnerable and putting yourself out there, but you will never know what’s possible until you take risks. If you would have told me when I first opened my shop that by April I would have a waiting list of commissions, I would have laughed in your face. So I suppose at the end of the day, it’s really important to believe in yourself and just keep weaving. Oh, and never take yourself too seriously! Weaving is all about exploring different fibers and textures – it’s as much about the journey as it is about the final tapestry.
*Some photos featured in this post were taken by talented photographer Janique Fortier, see her website here.
It is my pleasure to feature artist Signe Gabriel on the blog this month! Signe is a Danish illustrator from Lund, Sweden. You can check out her Etsy shop, follower her on Instagram, and peruse her beautiful artist website to see some of her outstanding collaborations and projects. You can contact Signe for commissions by sending her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you tell me a little bit about your journey with art? What inspires you, and what is life like in Sweden?
Like many other illustrators I was always drawing and painting as a child and just didn’t stop doing it as I grew older. However, no-one in my family are artists or even have their own business, so it took me some time to realize that the thing I wanted to do – which was, basically, drawing and painting all day – could actually be my job. I am from Denmark and started working from Copenhagen, but one year ago I moved across the bridge to Lund in southern Sweden where I live now. I live with my partner and a few friends in a really old house – all of Lund is really old, and I feel very inspired just living in a place like this. My imagination is always going, and I make up stories around the things I see, and this is really where most of my inspiration comes from, as well as old fairy tales and Scandinavian folklore. Before I moved here, I was already painting Swedish-ish nature and houses, so I think I was just meant to move here.
Lately I have started writing a little as well, putting words to all these stories I make up all the time. Really I think the picture book is an amazing medium. First of all, as an illustrator it is fun to have to make a whole bunch of drawings that have to work together to tell a story, and second I think it has so many possibilities and directions to go in. Picture books can be both fun, poetic, or educational. I think this is the direction most of my work will be going in the future.
What have been some of your favorite children’s books and magazine projects?
I have been lucky enough to work with Taproot Magazine a few times, and I always really enjoy illustrating articles for them. They focus on craft, sustainable living and homesteading. I love working with them, I feel like their themes are a natural fit for me and the articles are always interesting.
For some reason, I have been doing quite a lot of food illustration, which is also always a fun challenge. We see pictures of food all the time, so imagining food in new ways is a fun challenge. I like making tiny chefs running around arranging huge plates of food.
For the last few months, me and my partner have been working together on a children’s book about depression. It has been a heavy subject to dive into, but also a really rewarding process, and it just feels so important, which is really motivating to me. We are almost done now, and hopefully we will find a publisher for it.
What have been some of your other favorite projects or commissions?
A really fun commission I had last summer was creating a map for a conference center in Malmö. They own a whole block of historic buildings in the city center, and needed a map for their clients to be able to find their way. All these houses are different, but they are all painted bright yellow, and in the summer there is pink flowers growing everywhere. I got to sit in the sun and drink coffee and sketch and look at people for a few weeks. It is commissions like that that make me feel like I have the most awesome job in the whole world.
After spending time on commissions it is always nice to be able to spend some time with my personal projects. Here I can really pour myself into it and express myself just the way I want. Often, these are the projects that turn into posters for my Etsy shop.
Do you have any advice for artists pursuing their work as a business? Has your artist website and Etsy shop had a positive impact on your business?
My main advice for artists that would like to turn their work into a business is to make a good website. This is your window to the world and your chance to tell your story, so put a lot of work into it. Also, something I force myself to consider every once in a while, is whether or not the content on my website really shows only my best work. As artists we keep developing our skills, so sometimes we have to take down old favourites. It is better to show only a few, really great projects. As soon as you have a website running, send emails to all the people you can imagine working with!
Etsy has definitely had a positive impact on my business. It feels great sending a poster to the other side of the world to someone who for sure would never have heard about my work if they hadn’t found it on Etsy. In Scandinavia, not a lot of people now about it, but I have been able to direct people here to Etsy via my website.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with your art?
Hi, first of all thanks for the interview. I grew up in the state of New York in a city called Oneonta. Currently I live near Seattle. I remember being young and I would draw things occasionally. They were mostly surreal and fantasy pencil sketches, inspired by things I liked: Lord of the Rings and The Simpsons. If you pulled out my old sketchbook you would see a lot of people fighting with swords. These drawings were a lot of fun, but I didn’t consider it a career option really. I went many years without drawing or painting much until halfway through college. After nearly failing Chemistry 102 as a Geology major, I decided to pursue visual art genuinely. I have been making art regularly since then- about seven years.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
There are definitely weeks and months that I don’t want to think about making art. I want to mention how important music can be as an inspiration. The textures, compositions, and melodies in music are a natural companion to art. I like albums as a way of listening to music and if there is a counterpart in visual art it would be a “series”. There are times when I get excited about an idea and I want to make a series of five or twenty. It is nice to explore an idea and then put out a chunk that feels satisfying- something that musicians do really well.
What are your favorite materials and processes that you use in your work?
As much as I like drawing and painting, digital art is an exciting new tool. I usePhotoshop often as well because it allows me to do things I cannot do with traditional media. In the same vein, playing an instrument is another tool that has helped me challenge myself in a new way. But, there are a few different materials that I like especially. Black and white pens on tan or gray paper is a look I like. Starting with a medium tone paper is nice because I can work on highlights more directly.
What have been some of your favorite past or current projects or commissions that you’ve worked on? Do you have any in the making?
One of my own favorite projects is a series of small house drawings. I got carried away and I made about twenty. They were all four by six inch ink drawings of houses. Some were houses that I had seen around town and some that I had made up. It felt nice to commit to an idea and pursue a lot of possibilities. Another example is a few years ago I bought some acrylic paint and canvases and I started painting regularly for the first time in my life. I gained appreciation for abstract art by failing to become a good painter. Trying to find realism in paint was a challenge for me; but, I painted at least twenty canvases.
As far as the future, I think it would be a great to make books, albums, videos. I would like to write stories and music and combine that with artwork in some way. Album covers, posters, typography, and animation are also formats that I hope to continue working on in the future.
It is my pleasure to introduce Kat Lendacka, a printmaker from the UK. Please make sure to give her Etsy shop a visit!
l me a little bit about yourself and your journey with printmaking?
I am a printmaker and my favourite technique is lino cutting. I live in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom, with my family and a whippet called Spot. After studying Graphic Communications (Illustration) and working in the graphic design industry for some years, I gradually moved away from sitting at the computer all day to using my hands (although a bit of computer work still remains)!
I was born and grew up in Litomerice, a rather picturesque small town approximately 40 miles north of Prague in the Czech Republic. My first ever try at lino cutting was when I was about 13 years old with a retired art teacher and an academic painter, to whom I used to go for art lessons with several other youngsters. I wish I liked the man more! I might have done a lot more lino cutting! Next time I had a go was while a first year student of Graphic Communications (Illustration) degree at Northampton University. This time, I fell in love! Linocut images appeared in many of my student graphic projects as well as in the final major project.
It still took some years before it became my every day obsession due to a full time job, lack of space and then babies taking over my time and the house! In the last 3 years, lino cutting has taken over the dining room and conservatory which are essentially my make shift studio. It is also where I run very small workshops.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you use references for your work?
Inspiration for me is everywhere. While walking our dog, exploring the countryside with the children, day trips to old cities (Oxford being my favourite), visiting my old home town Litomerice which is adorned with the most beautiful old houses! Animals in the British countryside and some fabulous gardens (Coton Manor Gardens being my absolutely favourite place on Earth). There are also a few artists that I find mind blowing – Angie Lewin, Emily Sutton being a couple of them.
Your work is so detailed. What does the process look like for one of your multicolored animal prints?
In the last 2 years, I have moved away from only black and white (one layer) images to multi block lionocuts. I prefer this technique to reduction linocuts. Using various materials (Japanese Vinyl, soft lino and old flooring vinyls), I like to cut out shapes and play ‘jigsaw’! Usually, I stick to 2 – 3 colours.
How has business been these days? Are you working on any new and exciting projects?
What next? I am happy doing what I am doing, more images as they pop into my head. Grow my Etsy shop. Pluck up courage and try a couple of art fairs! Experiment with some more products. But most importantly, have fun (as my Uni teacher Ian Newsham used to say ‘if you are not enjoying it, you are doing it wrong!’).
Hello Everyone! It’s my joy to welcome back one of The Art Spectrum’s own, contemporary artist Melissa Mary Jenkins for a giveaway of one of her paintings! Melissa appeared on The Art Spectrum back in June of 2017, you can read the interview here. This month you have a chance to win the painting below! Followers of The Art Spectrum also have access to this exclusive coupon code to use in Melissa’s Etsy shop: ARTSPECTRUMCOUPON for 15% off.
“Beneath the rust and grime which dulls the shine of our weathered hearts, joy patiently waits to be rediscovered.”
John Mark Green
Joy has been resting patiently for years under the weight of chronic illness but I have rediscovered the shininess of joy underneath the rust of fatigue and pain. As I continue to heal, I have been able to snowshoe and cross-country ski around our our farm yards and forests, and I have been struck by the rusty-burgundy colour of the dogwood trees surrounding me.
This painting began with layers of rusty-burgundy-pink with bits of white and grey. Pastels, charcoal, India Ink and pigment liner form the final layers.
*Paper is cold pressed 140 lb watercolor paper
*Painting measures 5×7 inches
*Signed and dated on the back
*This is an original painting, NOT a print
*Frame not included
Here is an update from Melissa:
This past Autumn I began to heal from Chronic Lyme Disease and a co-infection called Bartonella. As I feel the “fog” lifting, I have had a reawakening of sorts. I am completely and utterly inspired by my natural surroundings and have rediscovered the vibrancy of color in the farm fields, forests and pine trees surrounding our old stone farmhouse. I have begun to sketch outside and take daily adventures with our puppy Mylo. I have learned to pinpoint the lines in nature and translate this movement into abstract landscape paintings. I feel as though I have finally “come into my own” as an artist. Instagram still plays a very important role in my art journey, but I feel that it plays a different role in my life. The connections that I have made have taken precedent over looking for inspiration in other people’s artwork. This has been a turning point in fighting off the ever-invasive “imposter syndrome”. I feel as though the perfect way to describe my work is as follows: Inspired by natural surroundings, my paintings reflect the fluidity of the seasons and the movement of my soul in nature.
Some reviews of Melissa’s work:
“The canvas is just stunning and the customer service was impeccable, beyond expectation! Melissa sent me previews and snapshots of her progress which made me appreciate the hard work and care she puts into each custom creation! It was wrapped so nicely and securely, and even included a personalized note and gift tag. Really special! Highly recommended! Thanks Melissa!”
“Melissa was a joy to work with. She began to paint immediately. She answered my questions quickly and cared that the finished product was what I wanted. My beautiful, original painting now hangs above my bed.”
“SO IN LOVE WITH THIS PAINTING! Melissa is a unique artist and is very gracious to returning customers. Thank you again!!”
“I am soooo pleased with the service I received from the boutique owner. This was sincerely above and beyond! The package was soooo nice. A lot of attention to details! And the piece of art is gorgeous! Thank you so much!”
I make a small commission if you purchase something after clicking on links in this post. Thank you for your support!
I remember the day that I started my first Etsy shop to sell my art prints and originals- I had no clue what I was doing! I just jumped right in (which is sometimes the only move many of us make!), and I didn’t know how to run a business or how to keep your books for a small business. Bookkeeping and accounting basics were like a foreign idea to me. Being disorganized, though, can lead to disaster, and it’s so important for small business owners to keep track of the financial goings-on of their business throughout the year. Failing to file your taxes properly is definitely a scary thought, but on top of that not keeping your books can lead to losing your business money and being unable to pay bills or for materials.
Here are a few points to remember when keeping your books for your small business:
Keep receipts for every payment to and from your business. I would recommend starting a physical file folder of your receipts per year, and if you have a lot of electronic receipts, printing them or start a complementary folder of receipts on your computer. Separate business and personal expenses.
Keep a ledger of these receipts to keep track of everything. I keep mine in a Google Docs spreadsheet, but there are accounting platforms out there that you can use as well, such as FreshBookswhich I recommend below. This makes it easy for me to access my records from my phone or any computer. In this ledger you will want to record each transaction that passes to and from your business, so that you can balance it like you would a check book.
Balance your ledger on a consistent basis. You may not want to or have time to do this every time there is a business related transaction, but you can schedule when you’ll be balancing your ledger – whether it be weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc. This will give you a sense of your cashflow and perhaps areas that you can cut back on to save money. It will also give you a sense of when your busiest, most successful times of the year are for your business so that you can know what to expect and set some goals. Balancing your books will help you respond in smart ways to unexpected changes as well.
Understand that it’s ok to pay a professional! Professional accountants or bookkeepers will know about potential deductions that you might be eligible for, or other loopholes, and they’ll make sure everything is up to date and accurate in case you’ve missed something.
Paying taxes for your small business, its revenue and services or products bought from others that support your business, is important.
I recommend Freshbooks because they are very small business friendly! FreshBooks was designed specifically for small business owners and the self-employed to save them time and money. They also have a Free 30 Day Trial currently running – click here to try it out!
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your business?
I have pretty much been making art since the beginning – my mom and I like to joke about how I once wrote the tooth fairy a letter asking for “more practical things than quarters, like crayons!” Although art was always a true love, it was never a big school thing for me. My high school barely had an art program and I hated the idea of being graded on art anyways. After high school, I went to college to study Sociology. After school I was pretty unsure of my future. I ended up being a swim coach for a few years and bought a super fun 100 year old house, I was really trying to be a grown up. But I was stuck and not happy with where I was going. After some pep-talks with my parents and the realization that I could change my direction, I applied to art school, sold my house, and moved back to my college town to study photography.
I fell in love with pinhole photography and still hope to get back to making those images again someday – but that practice is very darkroom reliant and I didn’t have any access after school. It was very important to me that I keep making, in some way, after I graduated and I ended up ordering a loom online just to have something to keep my hands busy. I made one or two projects on the small loom and immediately knew I wanted to try it on a huge scale! Jonny built me a 5 foot wide loom (and now a couple others) and I was hooked. Jonny and I started The Eddy Line Co. together with the dream of me making art and him making furniture. I have the privilege of getting to try and see if we can make a space out in the art/maker world while he keeps his big boy job for now. He is a huge support for me though, making our looms, creating custom boxes for shipping and doing our post office runs. While I make the fiber art pieces, there is no doubt that this business is a team effort for us both.
What drew you to fiber arts?
After school, I went through a period with a lot of anxiety. I needed something that could keep my hands (and mind) busy while I figured out my next steps. I had learned some of the basics of embroidery in a textile class I took in college so I started a few small stitching projects for friends and wedding gifts. That one class “Intro to Textiles” I think it was called, was a huge inspiration for me. I’m definitely that person who just needs a few of the basics and then I’m off figuring out my own direction. Both my embroidery and hand dyeing basics came from that class.
I think I was drawn to weaving because of the color and texture and just experimented with my little loom until I taught myself some basics. I was determined to make things that I wished were out there, while at the same time not making something you could already find.
Where do you draw your inspiration for your woven wall hangings?
Finding inspiration is one of my favorite parts of making! I am a huge collector of images. I can get stuck in the Pinterest world for hours and I love it, but I also take a lot of pictures wherever I go. I look for color combinations in everything, as well as different textures, shapes, and compositions. I can see future projects in architecture, fashion, nature hikes, paint colors, plants, paintings, everything.
What is the creative process like behind making one of your pieces? How long does it take to finish a larger piece?
The process behind a piece can vary as much as the piece itself. Sometimes they start with just a color palette and a size, sometimes I just know I want it to be round and neutral, sometimes it is completely based off a photo – the same colors and composition. The less rules I place on my work process, the more freedom I have to mix it up and make new work.
I recently was commissioned to make a piece that was 5 feet wide and 6 feet long – it took me about 45 hours of actual weaving time to complete.
Do you have any recommendations for those looking to get into fiber arts, weaving, or selling online?
If you are interested in getting into fiber arts, my recommendation is just to go for it! (Same with selling online – I had to just hit start and figure it out from there or else I never would have begun.) If you are someone that works best with rules, find a class or book that can teach you the basics. If you don’t necessarily like coloring inside the lines – I think fiber art lends itself to experimentation and it can be really fun. You don’t have to make a huge financial investment to try it out, and, except for dye projects, you can pretty much pick them up and put them down for any amount of time you have. No pressure, just enjoy it. If you aren’t enjoying it, try something else.