I’m a painter who primarily works in acrylics but also experiments in multi-media, collage and chalk paints on a variety of surfaces. My visual inspiration is sourced from the interior design and home decorating industries, specifically traditional floral wallpaper and textile patterns from the UK/Europe.
I am constantly drawn back again and again to pattern that evokes nature, specifically plants and flowers. Floral patterns, for example, provide a huge database of visual imagery that come with their own rich historical and culture significance. Within this context, I can explore a wide range of subject matter.
Bringing the beauty of nature inside to decorate our homes and interior spaces is universal and cross-cultural. It's almost like it's own language with symbols and stylized motifs. But it's not nature itself as these patterns represent an idealized version of our perceived beauty of what nature can or should be for us. And it's even more relevant today since globally we are increasingly becoming more separated from nature then we've ever been, so we feel the need to surround ourselves with imagery that inspires us.
Color is also another important aspect of my work, primarily drawing from pre-mixed palette swatches from hardware stores. About half of my color palette are pre-mixed colors from swatches in local hardware stores. Lately I have been experimenting with chalk paint, a unique decorative paint sourced from the UK.
What are you doing in your current work now that’s different then your MFA experience?
In my current work, this co-relation has been more subtle then my graduate work, experimenting with pre-designed rubber rollers that are made to paint your own wallpaper. I use the rollers in place of a paint brush. The effect is imperfect, accidental and messy. In my most recent series, I used pre-bought stencils from craft stores with floral/botanical imagery as another language for mark-making.
I’m interested in blurring the boundaries between the contemporary and decorative art worlds. Not only does my visual inspiration borrow directly from interior decoration but I also experiment with simple do-it-yourself (DIY) techniques, that are typically prevalent within the home decorating market, and re-contextualize them within a modern painting framework.
What artists have influenced your work?
My work has been consistently inspired by the contemporary artists like Robert Kushner, Miriam Shapiro, Joyce Kozloff and Jane Kaufman, among many others, who were all a part of the Pattern & Decoration Movement (1975-1985). Beatriz Milhazes, Mark Bradford, Joni Mitchell and Cy Twombly influence my painting style.
Have you always been a painter?
In the past I have also been a graphic (& web) designer. I feel that my design aesthetic is what drives my attraction to patterns, which are inherently more structured and organized than my painting process. The artist in me wants to deconstruct these patterns, break them apart and use pieces of patterns almost like an effect rather then retaining their integrity. This has been what has driven my work in graduate school where I experimented with painting on found patterned tablecloths instead of blank canvases.
What’s your creative process?
My creative process is very much akin to a musician who improvises, in a jazz context for example. I have ideas or an idea in mind but never plan the final outcome. It is a very intuitive place to create from in that I relish spontaneity and the unknown. I’m looking for the “mistakes” and more often they are not mistakes, they are the essence that provide uniqueness to that painting. Just like a musician might play within a certain key and beat, I will start with color. The painting process is the moment and when finished, it is gone and I move on. It is a daily practice, just like a musician. The only difference is that my mistakes and decisions as a painter are visually recorded as a process, not necessarily concerned with the final outcome.
With over a decade of painting under my belt, I truly see painting as a series of visual decisions. These decisions layer upon each other one after another. Some decisions work better than others but there’s no “bad” or “good” paintings or marks. If I “mess up” I remind myself that I made that decision, I can always go back to it, and in that way, there are no mistakes in painting. Some decisions work better in one painting, while that same decision might not work as a solution for a different painting.
A lot of your writing about your process connects mindfulness with creating. Can you explain further?
In a modern context, painting has become a very meditative experience for me, a process to practice creative mindfulness in a full and busy life as a mother of two small children with a full time job. I see myself as not only a painter, but I have many, many interests. Painting is an essential part of coping with the everyday stress and hectic lifestyle that we all seem to operate on now as we are all “accessible” 24/7 tied to our iphones and devices. Doing something creative with our hands is as important as going out into nature to take a brief walk. It connects us back to ourselves, helps quiet our thoughts, brings a tactile experience and uses our brain in unique ways like visual problem solving. I see a lot of similarities between my process of making art and practicing yoga.
Many artists have rituals or habits to help them get into a space to create work. What do you consider are your rituals?
I think my own art practice in and of itself has become an essential ritual or practice in my daily life. Being a mom of two young boys and working full time, my art practice has become my meditation space. Allowing myself to be creative for even 30 minutes has had a profound effect on my sense of balance and well being.
I used to have a stigma that I could only do art when I had three hours be productive or that's when the "magic happens." But I'm not in graduate school anymore where I could paint for 8 hours a day. Life is happening. Now I am grateful if I get 20 minutes here or 45 minutes there to put another layer on this painting or that painting. And I don't berate myself for that.
Within my artistic practice, I have several "rituals" that are essential for me to work from. The first is the environment and space itself. I have to have an area for my art in my home (right now it's in our finished basement), for me to pull everything out because as I'm working on paintings I have to get messy. I will not paint if I have to clean it up every time but prefer to leave right where I left off the night before.
I need music with no-words to inspired me, mostly classical music. And downstairs I more often put on DVD's of my favorite Masterpiece Classic British TV or movie series like Downton Abbey or Larkrise to Candleford. The shows or movies, though have to be ones I've seen a million times otherwise I'll watch and not work. I use them to listen to the stories.
For producing work, If I'm stuck, I often practice collage first which is a wonderful strategy to get the juices flowing and get some quick work done. They are very much like a sketchbook to try out ideas.
And then I have to work on several pieces at once (usually about 4-7 but sometimes more) as I start to play around with ideas and jump from one painting to the next, all the while eventually finishing them one by one.
And finally, if I'm in the middle of a series and not feeling productive, I will turn to my books. I will go to the bookstore to look at magazines to feel inspired and also go back to my little library of cut-out favorite images in boxes or taped in sketchbooks or flip through my favorite art books. By then, something will have inspired me to start painting again.
However, my process is very much akin to a musician who improvises, in a jazz context for example. I have ideas or an idea in mind but never plan the final outcome. Just like a musician might play within a certain key and beat, I will start with color. The painting process in the moment and when finished, it is gone and I move on. It is a daily practice, just like a musician. The only difference is that my mistakes and decisions as a painter are visually recorded as a process, not necessarily concerned with the final outcome.
If you would like to learn more about me visit some of my most popular blog posts:
“Ritual” - October 17, 2018