“I experience true moments of peace while I'm painting.”
When I was little, whenever my brother and I would complain we were bored, mom used to sit us down with paper and crayons and let us go. This was my start as an artist.
In school art was always where I excelled most and in my youth you would usually find me in the midst of creating something. I have attempted many mediums - drawing, painting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, carving, collage, photography, weaving, rug hooking and macrame (yes, I am a child of the 70s). By age eleven you'd find me checking how-to books out of the library on such subjects as cross stitch or drawing cartoon characters.
When I went to college, I decided to study fine art. I took classes in ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, metalsmithing, fiber art, film making, oil painting, watercolor and drawing. I learned about color, composition, shape and line...techniques, tools and materials...drama, content and meaning. I learned from my teachers, other students, and from studying the masters.
I graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in Painting and Drawing and a minor Art History, but on graduation immediately set down my brushes and began a career in graphic design. While I had learned all about how to make art while in school, there was absolutely no formal training in what to do after you graduate. Plus my mom, ever the realist, quipped "You know another name for a professional artist?... a waitress." An ironic comment coming from someone who is an artist herself.
Now - I have nothing against a career in food service - but even at that young age I knew it was not where I would excel. And I'd just spent the previous few years and lots of money learning to be an artist. Fortunately during that time I'd also been working part-time in a quick print shop in order to pay school bills and support myself, and at that job I'd learned about desktop publishing. So, while I had no idea how to make a living in fine art, I knew I could make a living as a graphic designer.
It's now nearly 20 years later and I am a successful designer. Since 1998 I have been running my own business, Andiamo Creative - a graphic design and web development studio in Chicago. I have worked with hundreds of clients in both the US and Europe and my company is currently undergoing a big growth period.
I created very little art since graduating, and many times friends and family have asked, "What about your painting?" I had a good response for that - I would always say, "I use my creativity all day as part of my job, which leaves me with no juice to do anything creative during my free moments." That makes sense, doesn't it? Well, I can see now that was a major cop-out.
The turning point
What changed everything was the decision to take a watercolor class in June 2010. My mother, my Aunt Milly and I took a class with Karlyn Holman in Washburn, Wisconsin. It was a week-long seminar, during which time Karlyn teaches the class several different techniques that she's honed in her successful career as a watercolor artist.
We had an amazing time! Every day, mom, Milly and I arrived super early and started work immediately. The next moment I would look up and the day was over. I was so into it, I totally lost track of time. By the middle of the week our table earned the nickname "the over-achievers". The week flew by.
Walking through the door
I took stock and realized that the only times this phenomenon has happened to me - losing time like that - has been while I am creating art. I think these lost moments are doorways into your true soul, your passion as a human being, and the point of your existence on this earth. Through that door is boundless energy and creative juice. I have come to the realization that if you find this kind of thing in your life, you must go through that door.
So, since that class in June 2010, I have been a daily painter. I've finished over 120 paintings to date and I am still making more. There are always more ideas, way more than I have time to pursue. Mom, Milly and I took another class with Karlyn in April 2011 and I'm looking into other classes I can take. I have started showing my work at the Chicago Art Gallery, the Andersonville Galleria and have recently joined the Illinois Watercolor Society.
My main joy as an artist is the act of creation itself. I am inspired by everything around me - from garden flowers to spectacular views to the light in children's faces to patterns amongst chaos. I think my overriding style is not so much attached to my subject matter but can be seen in how I use color and line and form. Bold composition and hues are the running theme throughout my work. And if my efforts are appreciated by others, that means joy all around.
The fact that I have a background in fine art gives me an edge in graphic design since I see a project from a fine art standpoint as well as from a graphic design standpoint. Plus I am one of the few designers around who can actually draw (since the advent of the computer we are a waning crowd). This means throughout my career I have been able to offer my clients professional illustration in addition to graphic design. However, it is also true that my years working in graphic design have increased my mastery of composition, color and drawing ten-fold. The lessons I've learned throughout the years in graphic design have made me a much more circumspect artist. Certainly the business lessons cross over as well, and I am working out how to make a living as a full-time artist. But for now both careers co-exist and are moving forward at full speed.
The most important thing I have learned is that the creative juice it takes for me to be a graphic designer is completely different from the juice I have for creating my own art. And happily, the darn jug overflows.