The Formative Years
I am fortunate to have a family that values education in both academics and the arts. I am not the only creative in my family: my parents and brothers have arts-related hobbies, as do aunts, uncles, grandparents, and one of my cousins is also professionally in arts & design. Having a family of creatives in various disciplines to support you makes all the difference in the long term and early years.
I have wanted to be a professional artist since I was in Kindergarten. I always loved being able to create art for the sake of creating. It was a constant surprise that humans could create and spark emotions or thoughts in another through art. As a youngster, I always was striving to capture emotion in my art so others could feel how I felt in that moment, a concept I still strive for today.
My "formal" art education comes from public school, as well as various art camps and workshops. My most memorable art education experience was at Bluewater Elementary School in NW Florida with a Mrs. Baker who went above and beyond in her art classes: every lesson was based on a book, artist, or historical movement, and she masterfully wove painting, drawing, 2D and 3D elements in her curriculum for multiple age groups. In my youth, I was simultaneously involved in theatre and singing groups, often wanting to perform but having extreme opinions about the artistic direction of scenery, costumes, and make-up. My schoolwork was covered in doodles, I had somehow convinced my mom it was alright for me to paint a mural in my closet, and I had drawers full of un-framed works since my walls were already full.
I stopped pursuing performance arts when I was fourteen to focus on visual arts. I started taking oil painting with a professional portraitist at my father's suggestion (both his father and sister oil painted). The idea was that I could begin with oil painting and then transition to watercolor. Though the watercolor never indeed came to fruition, I still use oils today.
The Lost Years
In my senior year of high school I became disillusioned with art and art culture, on top of dealing with traumatic family and life occurrences. I decided not to apply to art school and instead entered a degree program that could give me what I thought would be a realistic, quiet, and stable lifestyle. I wanted to leave behind everything and start fresh, which meant abandoning my first eighteen years to avoid things I didn't want to deal with. Sadly, my art was so entwined with my trauma that I did not create much for two years. I missed a connection for art therapy and to explore who I was because of my life experiences.
I started painting again when my fraternity asked me to help design and create event banners/murals. Painting evolved into a side hustle where I created portraits, coolers, monograms, dorm decor, and big/little gifts for many of my sisters. I also taught some of my sisters to paint with acrylics to enjoy creating on their own. After volunteering with elementary tutoring and art education after-school programs, I started making again for my pleasure in my third year of school.
Finding a Creative Middle Ground
After much thought and consideration, I started an MFA program in New York City in Cinema Arts with a concentration in creative producing. The program was designed to develop independent television and film creative producers that would know both the logistics and creative ends of the business, a type of middle ground peacekeeper. While in this program, I was painting fine art and searching for my creative aesthetic on the side. I began taking oil commissions, sold works to family, friends, and on Craigslist (I honestly wouldn't recommend), eventually started a website, and entered a process of exploration as an adult with different mediums and styles. I was most happy when I was in the flow creating my works though it was only a couple of times a month due to school and work obligations. I intended to have a day job as a full-time creative producer in New York and continue my art as a slow burn on the side. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.
Childhood Dream Becoming a Reality
Since March 2020, I have been displaced from my home, lost all of my entertainment gigs, moved to Massachusetts with family, and started asking myself what a Yogi Mentor calls the Four Soul Questions: Who am I? What do I want? What am I grateful for? What is my purpose in life? This led me to realize that I wanted to go back to my roots and pursue my childhood dream of being an artist. Quarantine and stay-at-home orders allowed me the opportunity to do the work and treat my time in seclusion as an artist residency, creating an abundance of works, studies, exercises, and experiments while developing technical skills that would have otherwise taken me years to flourish in. I re-designed my website (I moved my film stuff onto a separate site), bought a standing easel (I had been using a travel one and kitchen tables for too long), and started building my business in the basement. I am still at the beginning, but I am excited to see where the journey takes me.