Interview with Artist Taylor Mason from Mason Makers

It is my pleasure to introduce Taylor Mason from the Mason Makers Etsy shop! Taylor and her husband Ryan are both designers living in Portland, Oregon and run their Etsy shop together, please visit their shop and their website to show some love after the interview! You can also follow Taylor on Instagram @taylormasondesign.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art?

I am a graphic designer and painter living in Portland, OR. Art has always been fascinating to me, as a kid I played movies in the background and poured over library books, trying to replicate the sketches I studied. I was in love with the magic of creating, to see a pencil sketch come to life and create an illusion on paper was mesmerizing to me.

Today my passion for drawing and painting has only continued to progress. I love painting in oils and gouache. I primarily create landscapes and animals from my travels. I love plein air painting as well, there is something peaceful and challenging about being in the middle of nature and attempting to capture the light and colors in the moment.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your oil paintings? What draws you to painting in miniature?

My inspiration for my paintings comes primarily through my travels. Locations such as Wyoming, Maui, Canada, California and Montana offer sweeping fields, large open skies, mountains, desert plateau’s, lava fields and rainforests. There is so much variation in nature and I find inspiration everywhere I visit.

I decided to paint in miniature when I ran across interesting wood rounds in a craft store. I like how small they are and how painting or staining the edges can mimic the frames of larger classical paintings. I’ve also found that people enjoy owning smaller, more affordable pieces, in contrast to larger commissions.

How did your series on Maui come into being?

My Maui series came to be through my trip to Hawaii last spring. I’ve visited the island several times, but on this trip because I’ve been more focused on painting landscapes, my eyes were more attuned to noticing details I hadn’t before. One thing I enjoy is the variety of climates in a relatively small area. Visiting volcanoes, rainforests, coastlines and wildlife provided me with an abundance of inspiration, and led to this series.

Can you speak to the creative partnership between you and your husband?

I met my husband Ryan through the graphic design program at our university. His humor and love for drawing really captured my attention. Today we enjoy sharing creative time side-by-side, sitting at our desks in the evenings as he draws comics and I sketch or paint. We also enjoy creative days outdoors where I paint en plein air and he sketches beside me. Ryan challenges and encourages me on a daily basis, helping me with my compositions and not letting me take shortcuts. I’m thankful to have a spouse who values creativity just as much as I do and enjoy pursuing our passions together.

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Interview with Artist Teena Stewart

I am pleased to introduce artist Teena Stewart from Serendipitini Studio! Please show her online website/shop some love!

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art? 

I just participated in Art Appreciation Day along with 20 other artists at Ball Creek Elementary School in Conover, NC and I got to show and talk about my art with several different classes. I encouraged the kids to ask questions and several asked me when I “started” being an artist. My answer to that is that I have always been an artist at heart. It is something I cannot turn off.

I remember as a child going up to our attic with the drop-down ladder and looking through my dad’s old sketch books. He drew when he was in the Navy and was a creative person. I always loved to draw.  One year for Christmas I asked for an art kit. It was like lighting a jet engine. I loved playing with the drawing pencils, paper and paints. However, I wasn’t encouraged to pursue art. My mom later told me it was because she didn’t think I could make a living at it.

I went to college as an adult for graphic design and graduated with a BA. During college I could not get enough of the art courses. I never really worked in graphic design, more desktop publishing, administrative and promo. I even became a published writer. But I continued to create on the side as I raised my family. About six years ago after losing my job I worked as a subcontractor for a silhouette artist friend who had developed a line of pet silhouette ornaments.

I assembled them and they sold very well seasonally. I still sell those ornaments today. It was that experience that showed me what great and in-demand market pets are. I am an animal lover myself and I started experimenting with not only selling those ornaments online but developing my own line of art and artisan gifts. I have a strong animal focus.

About three years ago after running my Etsy shop and my Amazon handmade shop I felt it was time to jump off the cliff and quit my day job, set my writing aside and pursue art full-time. I’ve done a lot of studying to learn how to market what I do and each year I gain a little more knowledge and grow my business a little more which includes teaching classes locally.

Included in that development is working with glass. I’ve always been fond of working with recycled things into my work so I began playing with recycled wine bottles. Eventually it led to getting a dual-media kin which can do glass and ceramics. And though I do some ceramics, they are usually small pieces like jewelry and I tend to gravitate more to glass. Last year I got a grant in order to take a course on making fused glass boxes.

I have also started experimenting with 2-D art and prints and am working on developing products for art licensing – getting my work on products. These are both new ventures so it remains to be seen how well I will do. I love learning new techniques so I’m always trying out new mediums. Most of my work now is animal themed or glass, but every now and then I will work in something else just for the creativity of it.

What does your artistic process look like for a painting? What materials do you like to use? 

I am fond of acrylic paints and mixing medias. Most recently I have experimented with acrylics, alcohol inks and colored markers. Before creating a work, I usually have an idea in mind I want to go with, then I research images, sometimes taking my own pictures or finding them online. I don’t use the images directly but may study them and draw my own based on them.  Then I plan out the design on canvas or paper figuring out where the components will go and how I will get them on there.

Do you listen to music while you create? If so, what do you like to listen to? 

Sometimes I do but not always. It tends to be classic rock: Moody Blues, Elton John, and an eclectic mix on Pandora….

Are there any current or future projects that you’re excited about?  

I am in a new artist co-op gallery in Hickory, NC called Trade Alley Art. I like the challenge of creating a new work or works for the displays so that keeps me on track for creating. Also, coming up for new designs for art licensing is one of my goals for the new year. The Christmas season tends to get really hectic, especially the on-line sales, so once those die down I will have time for more creating and planning.

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Artist Interview with Kathy Crabbe | Spirit Animals

It’s my pleasure to introduce artist Kathy Crabbe! During this interview, Kathy will speak directly about her Spirit Animal series and her artistic process. Make sure to show her some support by visiting her website and following her on Instagram @kathycrabbeart and Facebook.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art?  

I am a self taught painter since knee high to a grasshopper (love that saying!). I was always an artist and decided at a young age that I didn’t want to go to a fine art school because I had a style all my own and I didn’t want anyone messing with that since I tend to be easily influenced. I always wanted to attend both university and college and I’ve done that. I have an Art History degree and a 3 year diploma in Graphic Design. I moved to the States after falling in love with my husband-to-be and he convinced me I could live my passion and be an artist full time so we moved to Laguna Beach and I started doing the Sawdust Art Festival; a 2 month art fair where you build a booth and sell your wares 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. That was amazing! After 7 years we moved to the quiet countryside outside of Temecula Wine Country and I was pretty much a hermit for many years which allowed me to delve into the spiritual side of things which has found its way into my art, of course! I paint magical, shamanic beings, nature and animals because they surround me and I’m one of them.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your Spirit Animal paintings? Does storytelling and narrative play into them?

I live in 2 countries; my home country of Canada (Ontario) and my adopted country, the USA (California) and both homes are on dirt roads surrounded by nature; one is in the forest on a lake and the other is in a desert valley surrounded by ancient oaks, cactus and an elfin forest so I’ve got plenty of nature and wild creatures to inspire me on a daily basis. I’m also a Celtic Faerie Shaman and my spirituality is a huge part of my life. My pets are also an inspiration. All of my Spirit Animal paintings would not be complete without the poem that bubbles forth in one quick stream of consciousness right after I finish the painting. Usually it’s late so I light some candles, take off my glasses and let the words pour forth. Originally I started out trying to describe the painting but that quickly morphed into poetry; my favorite mode of expression. The poems speak of the power and guidance we can draw upon from our animal guides and what their message is for us. The wild creatures are our teachers. They help us remember our wild self and are vitally important for our well being and our healing.

Can you tell me a little bit about your painting process and favorite materials? 

My current series of Spirit Animal paintings were initially inspired after I purchased a small pad of 6×6 inch Montreal made watercolor paper in Kingston, Ontario (where I was born). I sat down with that pad of paper surrounded by the sounds of the forest and the water and immediately painted a cat woman with watercolor. That was in the summer of 2016 and I haven’t stopped since. I start with the face using my non dominant left hand because it’s my emotional, intuitive hand. I draw with a large soft piece of lead and the elfin figure that emerges tells me what kind of spirit animal belongs with her. I paint with watercolor and gouache and occasionally acrylic. I especially love Winsor Newton Series 7 brushes, M. Graham and Schminke gouache and Daniel Smith iridescent watercolors.

What has been your favorite achievement or project thus far? Do you have anything new and exciting on the horizon? 

In regards to the Spirit Animal series, I am very proud that I paint them every single day and that I write a poem for each one. I share this on Instagram @kathycrabbeart. On the horizon I look forward to spending more time in the forest with the wild creatures and traveling and hiking more; there are so many wild places to see in this great North American land of ours. I also hope the Spirit Animals will continue to grace more gallery walls with their healing, magical presence.

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The Whimsical Menagerie of Artist Emma Gray

I’m excited to introduce everyone to artist Emma Gray from Brighton, UK! I hope you love her whimsical work as much as I do, please make sure to show her Redbubble and her Folksy shop some love ♡! You can also follow Emma on Instagram (@em_menagerie) to keep up with her latest inspirations.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art? What inspires you as a human and artist? 

I live by the sea in Brighton in the UK and I sell my original paintings on wood and greetings cards in my Folksy shop, Menagerie. Most of my work is animal themed and I’m especially a fan of dogs. I often draw rescue dogs looking for their forever homes, and I take commissions for animal portraits. I also have a shop on Redbubble that sells prints and goodies like cushion covers, mugs and stickers (I’ve never grown out of my love for stickers!).

I grew up around various animals including a donkey, ducks, dogs and tortoises, all of whom I loved and found fascinating. One of my earliest memories was trying to make a dog out of clay I’d found in the garden, so the animal theme started young. I have a favourite photo of me as a toddler in a smock with more paint on me than there was on the paper and I also used to include unsolicited illustrations to accompany school homework!

I studied art history in Edinburgh whilst going to lifedrawing evening classes and selling paintings and mixed media work through shops and cafes. I’d received a subscription of ‘The Great Artists’ magazine as a young teen and art history was a passion, but, I sometimes felt like I was missing out on the creative journeys my friends studying Fine Art were making.

After university, I did a foundation course in art therapy and enjoyed how freeing it was to play and experiment using basic materials – big sheets of cheap paper we could tape together on the floor and crawl across as we made bold, imperfect marks with thick brushes, crayons and charcoal. It felt reminiscent of the joyful, present engagement with art that I had had as a child.

I continued to make for myself and for friends and family, working in various media including mosaic, printmaking and paper sculpture. But low mood had affected my confidence to sell to people I didn’t know and to remain motivated creatively. For several years I focused more on writing, and became involved with the local spoken-word short story scene.

A bout of depression in my thirties led me to a therapeutic art group, where, on the first day I painted pebbles. I managed to anchor myself more calmly in the moment with the activity and left with a intricately painted matryoshka pebble in my pocket. It seemed like a solid prompt to try to return to regular making no matter how I was feeling.

What began as a therapeutic pastime resulted in a growing collection of little painted animal pebbles. Inspired by Victorian cameos, I attached some to pins and ribbons to make brooches and these became my first listings in Menagerie. Wanting more space for detail, I later moved on to paint on wood. I enjoyed its warmth and texture and how the scalloped lasercut shapes I used provided their own frame.

Some milestones since I set up Menagerie have been some lovely galleries selling my cards and paintings, a piece being featured in Frankie magazine and exhibiting in the Artists Open House festival and Lewes Artists and Makers fair.

What past or current projects have been your favorite and why? 

A favourite painting of mine is ‘Gratitude’. It features a crow with wings outstretched, surrounded by precious objects and was inspired by real life stories of crows who have gifted objects to people. I think we are living in an era that is particularly worrying politically. Bonds across species move me as examples of communication and empathy despite differences. I decided to go vegan two years ago and I think this has intensified my awareness of the sentience, instincts and intelligence of animals.

‘Gratitude’ began with an old mahogony frame that I found on the street. I cut a wooden panel to fit it and the shape leant itself well to the composition of the crow. The painting was also larger than the surfaces I’d been working on – it felt like I was stretching my own wings and taking up space. ‘Gratitude’ was the first image I added to my Redbubble shop – perhaps with hopes for a flying start.

Another of my favourite pieces that’s also available on Redbubble is ‘Swim Dog’. Earlier this year I set myself a daily art project with the theme of ‘strange creatures’. An unexpected outcome was a rediscovered love of drawing. ‘Swim Dog’ was inspired by a beautiful whippet called Yoji on Instagram. In one photo of him, he has his ears back and I imagined him in a bathing hat and old-fashioned swimsuit. The drawing includes three of my favourite things – sea-swimming, dogs and bad weather!

How has your experience been selling on Folksy and Redbubble? Any advice for new artists looking to start their own business?  

I joined Folksy in 2012 and was drawn to it as a British company that’s also not so enormous that I might feel like a tiny fish in a big sea. The Folksy team have been great with championing my work on social media and including pieces in their Folksy Favourites and Gift Guides. I was also delighted to be a Featured Maker last year.

To anyone starting the adventure of their own online shop, I’d encourage you to expect and embrace the learning curve. It’s likely that along the way you will adjust your prices, modify your packaging, better identify your market and allow your creations to evolve. However, your customers shouldn’t be guinea pigs for products that are still in a stage of trial and error.

Unless you already have a big network, it can take time to get noticed and achieve sales, so it’s important not to be discouraged. Folksy has a lively forum where you can chat with other makers and share your work and tips. This can be a good way to feel part of a community and to up your profile. I’m quite introverted and not a natural self-promoter or networker, so selling under the supportive umbrella of Folksy has been helpful.

I would also say that it can help to put your art-selling eggs in a few baskets (I’m planning to start adding works to my neglected Etsy shop soon). I often hear of makers who, for example, have low or no sales at an art fair and lose confidence in their work when there were likely to be many factors unrelated to what they were selling that might have been at play.

Creativity can come with the gift of a greater sensitivity, but this quality can mean that a resilience needs to be developed when stepping into a selling and marketing role. Honestly, I don’t feel I’ve mastered this resilience myself, but I like the words in Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ that describe the lifeskill of being able to ‘meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same.’ Praise and perceived success can be motivating, criticism and perceived failure can be discouraging. Both can be fleeting and subjective. So, it’s important to try to hold on to that deeper sense of what drives you to create, and to sustain that passion and journey with regular practice.

I started selling under Redbubble this year and I feel glad and grateful to have just reached 250 sales there. I appreciate having this space for my more diverse work from portraits of comedy heroes to the unicorn-esque ‘Magic Ladyhorse’. The latter, inspired by a gemstone-loving creature from Philippine folklore, is my bestseller and one of my works that’s been featured on Redbubble’s homepage. The featured works have led to many more sales and this has been a good lesson in the value of exposure.

With Folksy, I get the chance to package up original artwork, include little extras like a greetings card and write a personal thank you to my customer. I miss not having this with Redbubble, but I do value the ease of merchandise being produced and shipped by someone else. When I make a sale on Redbubble, the buyer remains anonymous so the process can feel quite impersonal. However, I still enjoy imagining the ‘Someone in Sweden’ wearing their Lord Magpie T-shirt or who the ‘Someone in the UK’ might be who bought the Party Igor greetings cards (and who, apparently, shares my love of the absurd!).

Can you tell me a little bit about the creative process that goes into your painted animal pieces?

My oval paintings on wood are usually inspired by a photo of an animal. I think we are all hardwired in anthropomorphism to a degree from children’s book characters, and particular photos inspire imaginings of names, personalities and outfits. I’m not a fan of real animals wearing unpractical, restrictive clothing, but I hope my paintings are fanciful enough not to be promoting this!

I use lasercut wood that I buy from a Welsh company called Daisymoon Designs, whose profits help support their own menagerie of rescued animals. I tend to draw designs straight on to tracing paper that I can then transfer to the wood to get the composition right first time. I also sometimes use Derwent Inktense pencils to broadly lay down colour first, especially if I want a painting to have stronger hues. I use acrylic paints, small brushes and a paper palette so I can tear off a fresh new sheet for each piece. Sometimes I’ll add extra detail in pencil and fine pen.

Painting the eyes first helps bring a character to life for me. I’m especially drawn to grumpy looking animals in party hats, but I have a tendency to involuntarily mimic the expressions of who I’m painting. My face needs timeout after particularly morose subjects!

Most of my animal characters have names – they seem to name themselves. Sometimes I imagine larger back stories as I’m working, especially for a piece that has more of a folklore feel. Whilst working on my painting ‘Home’ featuring a white stag holding a nest in his antlers, a short story emerged that then informed details of the image. The story can be found in my Instagram feed.

What are you currently listening to? 

I work in silence or listening to anything that feels like gentle, undemanding company. For me, BBC Radio 4 has this quality, as does Cerys Matthew’s weekly show on BBC Radio 6. I appreciate Cerys’ curious and celebratory delight for people, music and poetry and most of the music she plays (and often introduces me to) would be welcome on my own playlist. I also enjoy podcasts and a favourite is ‘The Mental Illness Happy Hour’ presented by comedian Paul Gilmartin. I’ve found this show full of insight, courageous disclosure and just the right amount of humour. What am I listening to right now? Squawking, squabbling seagulls roosting on the roof opposite. This is the soundtrack for most people in Brighton!

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Artist Interview with Rachel Gregor | Figures and Flowers

It is my pleasure to interview Rachel Gregor, painter and fine artist from Kansas City, Missouri. Make sure to check out her Etsy shop and her artist website as well!

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art?

My name is Rachel Gregor and I’m a fine artist living and working in Kansas City, Missouri.  I grew up about 30 minutes west of Minneapolis, Minnesota where my parents own and operate their own retail greenhouse and nursery.  My mom was a freelance illustrator and graphic designer before getting involved with the greenhouse with my dad and grandfather, so that’s where a lot of my interest in art came from.  I remember as a child while she worked at her seeding bench she would place me at a table nearby with blank pieces of paper and crayons.  I was always drawing at a young age and she rarely bought me coloring books, so I had to invent scenes and stories to draw.  That’s how it always was throughout grade school, I was the kid with the sketchbook drawing Pokemon and trying to sell the drawings for 25 cents.  Eventually that led me to applying to an arts high school in Minnesota called Perpich Center For the Arts Education, I always knew I wanted to be an “artist” but that’s when I started to learn what that meant and then it became real.  I then went on to receive my BFA in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute, gained a lot of great mentorships, and now here I am.

What are you inspired by? What are the stories behind some of your portrait paintings?

A lot of my work is inspired by nostalgia.  When I was in college my grandparents started the process of moving out of their home and into a nursing home, and I started to become really homesick for their old house.  Even if the setting in a portrait is vague, I’m usually thinking back to their house and trying to get the idea or sensation of what it was like there.  I’m a huge fan of mid century patterns and household kitsch so oddly enough just surfing Etsy for weird ceramic knick knacks and table cloths gets me excited for painting.   In my larger compositions I usually try to hide away objects that I remember from my childhood.  I want my portraits to feel very still and mundane, but underneath the cheer and kitsch there is some darkness.   Even if they’re surrounded by flowers and cute prints, my figures are typically alone and isolated.

What does the process look like for creating your portrait paintings? What are some of your favorite paint, paintbrush, and canvas brands?

I like to get pretty nerdy over my material process, but I think to be a painter you have to be very familiar with your medium.  When I’m doing a larger piece I work on stretched linen, typically a finer weave, always raw and never pre-primed.  I stretch and size my linen myself with rabbit skin glue, and once it’s prepped with an oil ground and has had time to cure, I can get to work.  I use rounds and filberts for my brushes, typically hogs hair, from various brands, it doesn’t really matter too much which brand as long as the brushes are the size I want and bristles aren’t shedding.  Rarely do I need fine sable brushes but I sometimes use these when working on really slick surfaces and for details, like with my still lives.  For my figurative work I like to work in a really direct method, wet into wet, and then switch to more indirect methods and using a dry brush.  Lately I’ve been really enjoying doing a grisaille, which is painting with a single pigment like burnt sienna or an umber, and white, letting that dry, and then doing layers of scumbling on top of that, which is essentially glazing but with little to no added oil medium.

When in comes to smaller pieces or studies, I really enjoy painting on toned paper prepared with acrylic gesso and ground pumice stone.   I prepare this myself but ColourFix makes great toning gessos with grit in them and ready to use pre-toned paper.   The nice thing about prepping it yourself is you can tint the paper tone to any color you like and because I’m using acrylic, the paper is sealed so I can use the surface for dry media, wet, or oil.  The pumice stone adds a really nice grip as well, so it has a nice tooth for both pastels and for painting, the brush can grab the surface and it doesn’t feel like you’re just smearing paint.  I also like to keep a roll of Grafix’s Dura-lar acrylic film around for the same reason, if I want to do a quick, small painting or study I simply cut a piece from the roll and no prep work is required.  One side of the film is foggy and has a bit of a grip, it’s not totally smooth, so again your brush has something to grab to and it doesn’t feel like you’re just smearing paint.

As far as specifics go with mediums and brands, I like M. Graham & Co. walnut oil for a painting medium and walnut alkyd if I’m working with dark earth tones.  Walnut oil has a slower dry time than linseed and is clearer and a bit more glossy.  Alkyds will start to form a skin within a few hours so be ready! I only use alkyds in the final layers.  If you want your paint to have that varnished look, sun dry your walnut oil by placing it in a shallow bowl and let it sit out for a few days.  It will become thick like honey and give your paints a beautiful gloss, much like an alkyd but I find it’s a bit more forgiving and workable.  I don’t like relying on varnish to give my paintings that final polish, it can become a crutch.  If a painting is built up with the proper mediums, it shouldn’t need an immediate coat of varnish as soon as it’s dried.

At this moment I probably have around 10 or more different brands of paint tubes, from Old Holland, Michael Harding, Winsor & Newton, to store brands like Utrecht.  I’m not really loyal to any particular brand.  Brands specialize in different products and mediums and I think it can be foolish to swear by one brand for all of your mediums and pigments.  When I’m at the art store shopping for paint, I look at the individual pigment, let’s say burnt sienna.  I like my burnt sienna to be very hot and orange, which goes against what a lot of people say burnt sienna should be-that it should have purple undertones.  So I go through each brand and sample the paint on a piece of paper and look for one that has the right temperature and undertones that I like.  I also look for how much medium they add to the paint, if it’s separated, if it feels dry, ect.  Even if I have a go to brand for one type of pigment, I always check because there can be variances between the batches.  Look for what you want in your pigment, just because Winsor & Newton makes a beautiful hot burnt sienna doesn’t mean that their yellow ochre is any good, it might be too green or too orange for what you want in that specific color.  Also never judge a brand by it’s price tag, more expensive brands at the store like Old Holland might make some beautiful tubed paint, but that doesn’t mean that the formulas or the pigments are right for your specific purpose.  Of all things, I actually like the student grade Winton cadmium red light a lot.  They add a wax filler to the paint to extend it, and if you are aware that it’s there that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I really like the added wax for painting flushed cheeks and ears.

Can you tell me about your Flowers from Home zine?

My zine, ‘Flowers from Home’ came about after my partner and I moved into our new house and I finally had the space to start gardening on my own.  I started thinking a lot about native plants and researching plants native to the midwest.  My studio work was consisting of a lot of still lifes based on Dutch Golden Age masters like Rachel Ruysch, and I started working on my own still life compositions based on dutch paintings but using native flowers.  Once I got a lot of sketches built up I decided to draw them out on a larger scale and reproduce them in a zine.


I decided to focus on native flowers from both Minnesota and Missouri since those are the two places I’ve so far considered ‘home’, so my native areas, and group the flowers based on blooming seasons or growing locations like prairies and woodlands.  It’s supposed to be semi-educational, since I did quite a bit of research going into the project I wanted the viewer to have to do some research as well.  Each drawing is accompanied by a list of all the flora featured, but it’s in alphabetical order by it’s scientific name, so if you want to identify a specific plant you’ll have to look up the names to try to ID it.

I like the idea of appropriating Dutch Still Life and using midwestern native flowers in place of the exotic and cultivated plants the Dutch loved.  Often times art scholars brush aside Dutch Still Life as a genre that’s purely aesthetic, but I find it extremely philosophical.  Many gardeners as well tend to ignore the possibility of using native plants because they aren’t showy enough or they think they can get weedy, without realizing that actually a lot of cultivars you find in nurseries are bred from US native wildflowers, or that there are many possibilities and ways to include native plants in your landscape along with cultivated plant species.  Both seem to be kind of mundane and humble in their own right, and I like the idea of combining them and using them to elevate each other.

Do you listen to music while you create? If so, what are some of your favorite music artists or bands?

While I’m working sometimes music can become too distracting and I find myself wasting time at the computer trying to find something or I realize I’ve been sitting there for several minutes just hitting the “skip” button.  If I’m listening to something, it has to be familiar so I can use it to fill the silence but I can also just ignore it, but I usually don’t mind silence, a lot of the time I prefer it.  If I need some sort of background noise though, I typically open up Pandora and put it on the Mirah station.  I also like Pinback, Death Cab for Cutie, and Wilco for working music.  A lot of the same indie music I’ve listened to since high school.  Very often though, I will listen to Brontë Sister novels via Librivox.  I’ve read them enough where I can tune in and out of listening, and I won’t ever get bored or frustrated and feel the need to skip the track.

 




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Meet Marleen Kleiberg: Painter from The Netherlands

I’m happy to introduce Marleen Kleiberg from the Marleen Art Etsy shop! You can follow her on Etsy, Instagram, and Facebook to stay updated on her work.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your journey with art? 

I live in a village in The Netherlands with my husband and 5 kids.
A long as I can remember I’ve loved doing creative things like cross stitching, sewing, drawing and painting. After high school I started my career as a nurse in the hospital, but I didn’t stop being creative.
When I had more kids I began to work less and started seriously as an artist.

Can you tell me a little bit about where you gain inspiration? 

I have learned a lot from books and by visiting exhibitions.
I have tried to make progress by making small artworks. I had of many of them and when I heard about Etsy I immediately started a shop. That’s perfect for a mum I thought! My larger paintings are for sale on Saatchi Art. I am still surprised that I sell so much there. Every sale makes me happy.

I find inspiration in and around my home. I love to be in my garden and the forest near my house.  I like to paint kids with watercolor or larger in oil on canvas. Inspiration comes also from the internet, like Instagram or Pinterest. There are so many beautiful photos.

In every painting I try to give it a glance. I think that’s in every painting I make. I do that with a dark/light contrast but most with a color contrast. I never ever use pure black or brown in my paintings, I mix them with primary colors.

My studio is in the basement of our house. It’s a nice space to work.

Are you working on any new and exciting projects, or have any outstanding artistic or business goals for the near future? 

I have done small canvases for a long time. But now I make large botanical paintings and I am busy with a beach series. It’s good to change sometimes to improve yourself and to find new techniques to use.


I am also making a website, which is not my favorite thing to do, but my goal is to go online on 1 September.

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Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

It is my pleasure to introduce Etsy artist Jessie Cunningham from Ontario, Canada! Jessie’s shop, Past Your Porch Light, is a charming place where “grizzlies wander and owls take wing.” We both hope you enjoy this artist interview and can give Jessie’s shop a look-see!

Each creature you sculpt seems to come from a dreamland! Where do you get the ideas for your soft sculpted creatures?

That kind of dreamy quality is something I really value, in art and in life, and I’m so pleased that it comes across. For the most part my inspiration comes from where you’d expect, nature and wildlife. I grew up in Canada with access to the woods behind our house and as a child I’d climb trees for hours exploring that world. I had notions of being a professional animal watcher or leaving home to make friends with orcas off the coast of British Columbia, and while I grew out of those somewhat unrealistic ideas (mostly) I’ve never lost my fascination with the animal kingdom. There’s a magical quality to those sort of unconquered areas of life that I can daydream about for hours, personalities or stories I can imagine creatures having, and more and more that’s where my creations find their beginning.

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

That dreamland and the details in our own natural world play the biggest parts – I can obsess over conveying the weight in a grizzly bears footstep, or capturing the posture of a badger pausing to listen to its surroundings before moving on. Other times even a song or scene in a film can spark an idea.

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

Why did you decide to use this soft sculpting medium for these creatures and not another medium? How long does it take you to make one of your soft sculptures?

It’s been a slow process of discovery but the love and obsession was immediate once found. I’ve tried many kinds of art since I was young, I knew I wanted to create but not always what or how.  When I first dabbled with fabric I worked with faux fur- it’s great stuff but messy and can be difficult to maneuver, which is ultimately why I discovered felt as a medium.

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

Wool felt sort of happened to me when I was dealing with some health issues that restricted me from using more labor intensive materials, it was something I could easily pile next to me on the couch on a bad day and sew by hand. During that time I watched a lot of nature documentaries, and one day was struck by the image of a polar bear. Their silhouette and posture is so distinctive, almost otherworldly, and I knew I wanted to somehow capture that, and the feeling it gave me, and make it into something tangible. That iconic shape became the focal point of that first soft sculpture project, and those are things I pay close attention to on every new undertaking. While I still integrate previous mediums into new works, wool felt has really taken root with me. It may change, it will definitely evolve, but for now I’m really enjoying finding those shapes and feelings in felt.

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

How did business on Etsy start and how has your experience been so far?

I found Etsy more out of necessity than because I had a plan. I posted something I’d made on another website and to my shock it became popular very quickly, people would message asking how to purchase and I needed to scramble to figure that out. The business aspect is the area I’ve struggled with the most – I didn’t go into this established as an artist, or even as the person I was going to be, it’s been something I’ve grown alongside of (sometimes clumsily, I changed my brand name a few times.)

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

I think a lot of artists get into this “JUST CREATE” mindset and maybe don’t put the effort they may have to into getting the art seen. For a long, long time that was a huge issue for me, but Etsy has taught me a lot. There’s a really resourceful community there rich with advice and opportunity, but I also think promoting off the website is very important too. Instagram has been my biggest help in that arena.

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

Do you have any future plans for your business and do you plan on adding any new creature designs to the shop?

At any given time I have about 6 new creature designs in a prototype stage, with dozens more on paper and loping around my mind. As for future plans, they range from developing a better understanding of color combinations and design to something as ambitious as having a studio space. I’m still very much in my beginning stages so I’m mostly happy to continue to learn- but I also have some very cool collaborations coming up as well that I’m pretty excited about.

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

Jessie also sells enamel pins in her shop along with her soft sculptures:

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

Past Your Porch Light: The Soft Sculptures of Etsy Artist Jessie Cunningham

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Artist Interview With Nessa Ryan

It is my pleasure to introduce the wonderful Nessa Ryan from Tel Aviv, Israel ~ visit her Etsy shop at nessaryandesign.etsy.com.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself, your shop, and your creative process (materials, thought process, etc)?

“I studied fine art and specifically sculpture in Ireland and also Rotterdam. After graduating I moved to New York and started to paint. I worked as an interior decorator and muralist and had my own art studio. I exhibited and performed with my band in many venues and galleries. I had a child and moved to Tel Aviv, where I started primarily to illustrate. I currently work as a children’s book illustrator and exhibit my illustrations. I work with paper, paint, ink, pen, markers..anything really. If I work on a book it is a collaboration, a dance of sorts, where sometimes the image takes the lead and at other times the text does. When I work on my own illustrations, my inspiration comes from everywhere..movies, poetry, books, memories etc. I love the meditation and process of creating an image , the excitement of colour and mystery of line. It is a wonderful world to be apart of. I joined Etsy to get a larger audience and try my hand at attempting to run a small business, I am afraid I am not a very business minded person, and have little time for marketing and promoting my shop, but every now and then I make contact with someone through the store and I find that valuable enough to keep my shop open.”

Where does your inspiration come from for the content of your work? Can you tell me a little bit about how your content and style work together?

“As I mentioned above, my inspiration comes from everywhere, I collect images in my head from just being awake ( and actually dreams are a pretty good source of inspiration, too). I do not like to take photos , so I suppose I consciously memorize something and know that it will appear if needed when I work. Most things evoke some sort of emotive response, and if not then an intellectual one. It is interesting to play with this and see where the idea decides to land.”

Is there any significance behind the oval shape that you use as a kind of frame for your illustrations?

“I wanted a free floating image, I think it seems less restrictive – it’s like an atom or a cell..it has its own energy/story in an infinite space (the page being the infinite space). The confines of the page size are irrelevant , as the page just becomes part of everything else around it. However, I am not loyal to any format, so things can change.”

Are you currently working on any new art projects?

“I am have almost finished my latest book, I am very excited about it, it was a collaboration between my friend and I. It is a Hebrew alphabet book, each letter is given a poem or a story, the writing is fantastic, it is philosophical, funny and sentimental, both kids and parents will enjoy the read. I found illustrating it to be a joy, as the text was so inspiring and free – children’s books can be so ‘safe’ this days and lack a juicy text, so it is rare to have this much fun illustrating.”

What is life like as an artist in Israel?

“I think it is the same as anywhere else. Life as an artist is intellectually and emotionally stimulating and financially devastating. If you are inferring that because of the occupation and violence here, then it maybe different, and it depends where you live.  I live in Tel Aviv and I am Irish, so I can focus on raising my child and work.  If I were a Palestinian living in Gaza or the West Bank, I would still be trying to raise my child and work, but on top of that I would have to deal with the ongoing brutal occupation. It is, for sure, a very uneven and unfair reality here.”

Nessa Ryan’s Etsy shop: nessaryandesign.etsy.com

 

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Sara Schalliol-Hodge : Designer & Maker of Things

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Welcome back! Our latest feature spotlights artist Sara Schalliol-Hodge from Lakewood, Colorado! Sara is “a designer by day and a printmaker, sawdust producer, and stuff-maker by night.” Read on to get to know Sara a little better, and CLICK HERE to go to her website, and HERE to go to her Etsy shop!

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What about the printmaking process do you love the most, and more specifically, why linocuts? 

I love printmaking because I love the ability to make multiples of my art. With so many forms of fine art, you can spend many, many hours creating the finished product, only to sell it just once and never see it again. And, often art can take so many hours to create that it can be very difficult to be able to charge a decent wage for all of the time you spent on it. All of that being said, buying a computer-printed art print doesn’t really appeal to me because it seems so far from being made by hand. With printmaking, each print is still made by hand and there are subtle variations in each print, so there is definitely evidence of the maker. It is hard work printing a woodcut or linocut all my hand, and I like to think that that energy can be somehow felt when viewing these prints. For me, printmaking seems to fit into a sweet spot of being affordable but still very handmade.

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Many of your designs juxtapose the themes of nature and industry. Where do you get the inspirations for your designs and what about this juxtaposition interests you? 

Nature vs. industry, or nature vs. man are themes I explored even in the art I created very early in my life. There is something so poetic about vines growing up and taking over an old car or building. I studied Industrial Design in college, and Industrial Design tends to involve mass-production, and therefore factories. It can be really strange to think about each thing you own and imagine the factory that produced it. This type of thought process made me think about how natural things are made, which is not quite in a factory…. but what if you think of nature itself as a factory? So this lead me to prints like Factory Whale, Love Factory, Salmon Factories, etc.

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Also many of my prints display animals and “the hand of man” in one way or another. Like, quite literally in my print Spark:

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But I also like to create prints that show animals having to survive in the world that man has modified, like City Lynx:

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How has business been on Etsy and do you have any advice for blooming Etsian printmakers? 

I was a very early Etsy seller and buyer and it has been interesting seeing Etsy become a website that non-artist-type people have actually heard of and shop from. My Etsy shop has changed a lot since the beginning. I used to sell wooden sculptures, jewelry displays, and chunky wooden jewelery, and now I sell only my printmaking. I have had several great opportunities come along because of my Etsy shop. Half of the brick and mortar galleries I sell at approached me from discovering my shop on Etsy, which is awesome! These days, my sales come mostly from brick and mortar galleries, and not Etsy. For me personally, sometimes it can be hard to sift through all of the shops on Etsy to find that special thing I’m looking for, but walking into a well-curated local shop usually lightens my wallet pretty easily.

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From New Zealand to Isreal: An Interview With Artist Emily Penso

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I am honored to introduce the wonderful artist Emily Penso, who has a quite interesting life story! Emily sells her surreal and whimsical artwork in her Etsy shop, Studio Lavaan, and excitedly agreed to be interviewed on the blog!

  • Can you just tell me a little about yourself; where did you grow up, go to school, what are you up to now?

I was lucky enough to grow up in New Zealand, in the South Island city of Dunedin. It was a wonderful place to grow up and although it’s quite a cold part of the world, most of my childhood memories involve sunshine and bare feet.

I am the middle of three children, with two wonderfully loving and supportive parents  who shaped our world with a comfortable home, a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of the arts – I remember many a boring gallery trip! But although at the time I would have preferred to be playing with Barbie or some other weird toy, there was always at least one art work that would completely mesmerize me.  

 During my high school years (sweet 16) my Dad landed a job in Canberra, Australia. So my small world got bigger and we moved across the Tasman. It was a tough move for me, but character building, and definitely helped guide me into pursuing art.  I ended up studying painting at the Canberra School of Art which was just awesome and completely changed my life.  
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Now, curiously, I find myself living in Israel (which is another epic tale, but involves meeting a beautiful Israeli in India and marrying him in Cyprus). We live in a lovely village on a hill with our two completely gorgeous boys, and a white cat and a black dog. We have a small olive grove which we use for making oil, a small studio which I use for making art, and lots of little vegetable gardens. It suits us well. 

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  • Your work is so surreal and whimsical, where did the inspiration for these types of works come from? Is there anything else that inspires you, just in general?

I guess my mind has always been a bit of a peculiar place, and for as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by things that are out of the ordinary. My earliest surrealist influence almost certainly came from Rene Magritte.  My parents had a book on Magritte and throughout my childhood I loved pawing through the pages. It was entertainment that never got old, no matter how old I got, and every time I looked I would discover something new.

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Another big influence would be dreams. I am a serious dreamer – day dreams and night dreams – but I am particularly inspired by night dreams as they are totally wild, complete raw sub-consciousness, and always purely surreal.  

The world around me is also a major source of inspiration; Birds, insects, trees, people, land forms, and the interactions between everything that exists – I am constantly in awe of this world we live in. It never gets boring! It is a mysterious moving masterpiece that I love being a part of. This spiritual connection that I have with life is also a bit of an influence. It is much easier for me to articulate what it is that I feel spiritually through drawing than words.

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  •  A lot of your work looks like it has been sparked by unique ideas. What have been some your favorite ideas to explore with your art?  

  “You know, most of the time my work starts as a visual idea rather than a concept that I want to communicate (consciously anyway) but always through the process of making the work I begin to understand the symbolism of what I am drawing and mostly it’s personal feelings, thoughts, experiences. I approach my work with intuition, but execute it in a very precise way! Some of my favorite visual themes have been playing with scale relationships between figures, mirroring birds, and using clouds as a very deliberate compositional device (with meaning!)

Clouds have been popping up a lot lately and they are beginning to take the centre stage. I love clouds.

  •  Do you have any advice to artists or future artists on how to promote their work or how to approach getting their work out there? Advice in general?
 I think not being afraid of self-promotion is something that many artists need to overcome, and is definitely something that I have struggled with, and still struggle with to a degree. I guess I would advise emerging artists to think about what it is they want out of their art practice and use that goal to guide them in how they promote their work.
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In general, to get your work out there… approach galleries, apply for exhibitions, get help with submitting great proposals if necessary, collaborate with other artists, get involved in open group shows, exhibit as often as you can, enter art competitions, get the social media happening, create a website, open an Etsy store, take all the steps that you think are important for you as an artist. And of course…don’t let knock backs get you down, because they will happen, and great things will also happen!
  • Do you do anything fun/interesting in your free time? Any favorite hobbies or weekend activities?  

Wow, free time is something that is completely foreign to me! My little boys keep me very busy! But, I do manage to squeeze in a little bit of yoga and any chance I get I am in the garden.  In my down time I have been known to play ‘words with friends’ on my phone ( I’m mildly addicted). If I had more free time I would love to make pebble mosaic stepping stones, sew stuff ,and I’d also restore all the shabby vintage furniture that I have collected.

When my boys are all grown up I would like to do my masters, it’s a nice dream, and I’d love to learn more skills, like basket weaving and everything to do with textiles.

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You can also find Emily on her Facebook Fanpage: Emily Penso Fanpage 

And her website: emilypenso.com

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