Posts tagged Flowers
Chloe Hedden

Chloe was born and raised in Utah's wild red desert, but has had the great fortune to call many amazing places around the world her home. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, she is as comfortable painting large oils as she is illustrating children’s books. In 2007, She won an International Creativity award in the category of commercial illustration for “The Peaceful Warrior.” Her first children’s book, “The Illuminated Desert,” written by Terry Tempest Williams and published by the Canyonlands Natural History Association in 2008, won The Mountains and Plains Bookseller’s Award for Best Children’s Book. She currently resides in Southern Utah and makes art full time.


As an artist, Chloe looks for the unseen patterns and hidden narratives that reveal the magnificence in all things.  Robert Henri said, "Paint the spirit of the bird rather than its feathers."  There is a still point in every moment and to capture this essential luminescence is to acknowledge the ancient wisdom in all things. She makes use of archetypes from the cultural and mystical history that connects all humans and all life forms.  Joseph Campbell said that artists are the shamans of our time.  She believes that we have the ability as well as the obligation to find and share truth and offer direction to the greater community.  It is with this inspiration that She delves into the riches of the collective unconscious and the imagery and symbolism of her dreams to draw out something bigger than herself to share with the world.

A Celebration of the Slow Gaze: Interview with Polly Jones 

Polly Jones grew up in Plainview, Texas surrounded by a vast sky and parents who encouraged her love for art. She earned a BFA in painting at Abilene Christian University, which sparked a love for still life painting that has occupied much of the past thirty years of her life. She is grateful to share this journey with her husband, also an artist, and their creative and lovely daughter. They have spent many years in Tennessee, though the last dozen has been back in Abilene where Kenny teaches art at ACU. A full-time artist, Polly spends time painting in her sunny studio at home. Her award-winning work has been in numerous shows. She is a signature artist at The Center for Contemporary Arts and also has work on display at River Oaks Gallery in Abilene Frame and Arts. Outside of Abilene, her work is shown at Anne Irwin Fine Art in Atlanta, as well as Etsy and Ugallery online. 


My artistic process is to paint from life. It’s a celebration of the slow gaze, work that comes from a deep sense of gratitude and a longing to practice mindfulness. The still life setups are composed of what I find in my daily life—finding beauty, life, energy, and delight in ordinary everyday moments and objects. While painting, I incorporate paper that ranges from map fragments, ledger paper, hymns, poetry and to vintage Golden Encyclopedia pages for children. This is a way to include other voices and viewpoints into the image as well as a sense of nostalgia. Intense color, light, pattern, and texture are a focus that drives me on this creative journey. I often use polka dot grids as a way to refer to atoms, spirit, pixels, and all of the things that are hard to see that seem to pervade the physical world. 

Interview by Sarah Mills

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Your paintings have an extremely whimsical fun feel to them, how did you develop this style of painting?

I’m glad you respond to them in that manner because on a basic level I would love for the paintings to embody an attitude of positivity and gratefulness. There is satisfaction in domestic pleasures and I find that truly looking at small things is worthy of time and energy. This is a major impetus for my painting. Art making has been a journey of serious play and experimentation based on what I see. My painting style is the result of creating a problem and trying to find a resolution. It begins with a still life that I draw on a canvas. This initiates a process where I explore the relationship of colors and pattern by hanging them on the framework of the drawing. Most of my paintings involve constantly changing the colors within this framework. Additionally, I layer paint and collage materials in a process I find exhilarating. I have a visceral response to color that drives me to keep making art. 

The most common comment I have received from people over the years is that my paintings make them happy. I like that. Who doesn’t need a little happiness injected into their day (especially these days)? Ultimately, I think the whimsy comes from my interest in paradoxes. I hope that the work invites a sense of joyfulness and struggle intermingled - that’s what I mean by “serious play”. When looking at my paintings I hope the viewer senses the joy and struggle of the journey to find visual solutions. I consciously connect the work with the genre Vanitas which celebrates life while always aware of the inevitability of change and death. I paint flowers that die quickly, goldfish which were my first experiences as a child with death, and fruit which rot - all that are hidden in an extravagant, palpable skin.


Can you tell us about the use of polka dots in your work?

Polka dots worked their way into the paintings as a way to refer to an order I felt was in the universe. It is how I include a sense of spirituality that is a vital part of my life. It also refers to other things not visible. It makes me think of atoms, pixels, pollen, dust, light photons and molecules. When I draw what I see I anchor myself in the “now”. I have a desire to paint what I see as an exercise in mindfulness but also know that it’s never that simple. The visual is always complicated by memories and thoughts.

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The moments of collage in your work are fantastic. When did you start using collage in your work? How do you feel this element adds to your work?
Thank you! I have been using collage for about 15 years, though at first sporadically. I like the surprise you get when coming in close to the work. I like the complexity that comes from looking at a painting of a pear and finding a fragment of a map of New York City. It has become a way to include or at least allude to voices outside of my limited viewpoint. Often times a subtle narrative evolves from my seemingly random choices of text and images. Below is a lexicon for some of my most used collage materials. 
Polka dots (see question 2)
Golden Book Encyclopedia (nostalgia for quantifiable knowledge and analog vs digital)
Maps (the world is bigger than my table)
Hymns (that gratitude thing)
Poetry (love)
Vintage Biology diagrams (fragility of life)


What are you currently working on? 

I’m planning several large still-life paintings for a group show in the fall. I recently did a bigger one and found the scale a fun challenge. In a fit of ambition, I just finagled the transport of some huge canvases to our home. Feeling a little crazy now because I don’t have a big studio or a great place to store them or a dependable way to transport them. Also, I’m feeling a bit of stage fright… probably always a good thing. I never want to become complacent.  


What is the best piece of advice you have been given over the course of your career? 

Early on, a professor told me not to worry about trends in art but pursue my personal vision. A lot of nonverbal advice sticks with me through memories of other artists’ work. Some of their paintings haunt me as well as drive me to do better. 


What is your favorite part of your creative process?

I love it when a painting takes a different direction from how I began and ends up as a total surprise. Even after all of my years of painting, I can’t predict what the combinations of the visual language will form when they come together. The challenge and fun of being open to the unpredictable is what keeps me painting.


How do you keep yourself motivated at times when you lack motivation?
My husband is a great supporter and encourager of my work. He is also an artist and we help keep each other going. We share a studio and just seeing him at work is energizing. Music helps too.

Also, I’ve developed the certainty that bad work is inevitable and I can’t let it keep me in a funk. The gift of a better painting is just around the corner if I work through it. The hope of better work is always pulling me forward.

And like most artists, deadlines keep me motivated. I do try to keep reasonable goals. Too many deadlines and I’m overwhelmed and less creative.

Studio Sundays: Emily Filler

Emily Filler's paintings walk the line between the real and the imaginary.  There is a sense of the familiar but also the feeling that you are falling into a dream - flowers act as a departure point to a world that dissolves into abstraction.

She weaves together painting, printmaking and photography in her ‘painterly collages’, bringing together panels of color, meticulous patterning and floral elements. Dense mark-making contrasts with airy clouds of transparent color and screen-printed florals reveal themselves from behind cut and torn paper and canvas. As these processes and elements interlace, they create a hybrid between representation and abstraction, the natural and supernatural.

Living in downtown Toronto, Filler is often influenced by her ritual walk to the studio, where she observes the landscape shift from bustling city life to contemplative residential neighborhoods. Exploring this contrast, the works playfully collate the images and textures from both worlds.

Emily Filler lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

b. 1982. Ottawa, Canada.

Studio Sundays: Wendy Matenga

Create. This is something Wendy Matenga has always done. She was brought up in a bus that her father renovated so they could be wherever he needed to dredge for gold. If they dwelt in a paddock for a while her mother always planted flowers. This upbringing instilled in her that you could make anything you imagined, and that nature is boundless.

She is now enjoying success as a self-taught artist living in Nelson New Zealand. There are many things that she loves to craft; painting however is her chosen medium to express life. With the support of her husband she has been able to focus on growing herself artistically and develop the technical skills needed to get her thoughts from mind to canvas.


Painterly realism with contemporary twist.

My current body of work focuses on flowers, their fragile nature and the impact that light has on them. I also have a fascination with the term “bouquet” and it’s meaning “a collection of flowers in a creative arrangement” and playing with how far I can push that idea. The works always start with my love of capturing light on their delicate petals with photography, and then I like to push the boundaries of floristry with my paintbrush.

I draw the truth of what I see, as I love the light, but then I never know exactly where the work is going to go. Because accurate rendering still doesn’t capture that feeling you get when you have flowers in your home, or when you have been gifted them by a loved one. I desire to represent the vibrancy it offers, often with patterns or something purely from the imagination. 

Sometimes I will change the proportions of an object because that’s the thing that drawing me in, that’s what needs to be in focus. Illustration is also a part of my artistic process, with paper capturing a notion before the canvas does.

I am still astonished by the kind of people my work draws to me, there is something really special and kind hearted about nature lovers and gardeners. The positivity around this subject matter spurs me on to put more of it in to the world.

"Plastic Flowers" Exhibition by Kellen Chasuk at Stephanie Chefas Projects

This January, Stephanie Chefas Projects welcomes artist Kellen Chasuk with 'Plastic Flowers', a solo exhibition of floral still life paintings. In her latest work, Chasuk underscores traditional subject matter with themes of death, permanence, and isolation, infusing a distinctly humorous edge. Kitsch and still life find rejuvenation through extravagant textures, aggressive palettes, and conspicuous accumulations that speak of the privacy of one's interior. Chasuk’s canvases playfully layer homages to Manet and Matisse with modern objects like a McDonald's soda cup, nail polish, iPhones, and the occasional rolled joint. Flowers in particular hold significant meaning in the artist's work as they represent an attempt to turn something ephemeral, into something permanent. Applying thick layers of flashe vinyl paint to depict each blossom, Chasuk creates literal plastic flowers. The result is a contemporary aesthetic impulse guided by the moment rather than the monumental.

The opening reception for 'Plastic Flowers' will be held at Stephanie Chefas Projects on Friday, January 5th from 7-10pm. Stephanie Chefas Projects is located in Portland, Oregon at 305 SE 3rd Avenue on the second floor of the Urban Row building. The exhibition will be on view through January 27, 2018 and is free and open to the public.

Kellen Chasuk (b. 1995) is currently based in Oakland, CA while pursuing a BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). Chasuk creates art that aims to untangle her ever-changing view of the world through representation of everyday thoughts, objects, and textures. Humor is essential to understanding the work - as it is rooted in self-awareness and offers essential room for growth. The subject matter is derived mostly from an accumulation of visual and academic knowledge through television, advertising, fabric patterns, art history, as well as gender and personal relationships. Chasuk calls attention to the subjectiveness of the human experience through manipulating traditional painting, sculpture, and media techniques. The output being, hopefully, a moment of reflection, a laugh, a relatable discomfort, or a newfound comfort.


Stephanie Chefas Projects is the labor of love from its owner, Stephanie Chefas, who has been independently curating art exhibits for nearly a decade in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Now calling Portland home, Chefas retains an eye for cutting-edge and often challenging work that demands attention. Highlighting a diverse blend of contemporary artists from around the world, the gallery features monthly exhibitions with an emphasis on cultivating new talent and encouraging risk and evolution among established visionaries. With endeavors like Heatwave and Neon Love , Chefas also maintains her unique ability to coordinate group shows with distinct concepts that allow artists plenty of breathing room to interpret and explore. Stephanie Chefas Projects is the result of both passion and dedication as well as commitment towards sharing the best in contemporary art with enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Jee Won Park

I’m a 25-year-old South Korean girl based in Rome. I’ve never studied digital art nor attended art-related courses, but I’ve always loved editing photos to reproduce the colours, lights and 'moods' I see or imagine while taking photos with my iPhone. 

I started editing photos for my Instagram account in February 2017, and from simple landscape photos I started editing pictures combining flowers and bubbles, which became the 2 main elements of most of my art. Both flowers and bubbles are colourful and their colours are always different. I love playing with colours and lights; sometimes I feel like I'm discovering myself. Now I also create images from blank page, and my art ranges from collage art to animated photos.  

Learn more.

Studio Sundays: Clare Haxby

Born in Yorkshire, England, Clare completed her Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Chesterfield Art College in Derbyshire, then moved to London to study a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking at Kingston upon Thames University. During her degree, she was awarded a Stanley Picker Travel Scholarship to Venezuela and the Amazon Basin in Brazil. This eye-opening trip gave Clare an appetite for travelling and exploring other cultures, and this became a source of inspiration for her artwork.

Clare says, “When I was a child I was always drawing, painting and sewing things at home, and later I made one-off punk clothes for a shop in Sheffield called Hickory Dickory Shock to support myself through my early Art College years in Derbyshire. I have always been at my happiest when I am creating something and I find my inspiration through my environment nature and by travelling to new places'.

Michele Tremblay

My art has a mission: to delight and surprise.

My paper sculptures are informed by my intimate knowledge of flowers gained by working with fresh flowers for over 30 years. 

Their moods and unique energy are the source of my endless fascination and inspiration. The gesture of a petal, a hint of color, the direction of a shadow--the unpredictable way these elements play together make my pieces an adventure to construct and visually intoxicating to view. 

The materials are common--paper, glue, paint, and pins--but I like to think that the way I use them gives a surprising and new way to look at common desk supplies. 

This is where dreams are made; this is my Delightful Mission.

“Space-Landscape” A Solo Exhibition by Pastel

Press Release | “Space-Landscape” is Pastel’s debut solo exhibition in the United States and also his first solo exhibition in years. Being a human in the world means to be surrounded by an environment created by men where all of the elements of modern nature are social actors that constitute the new landscape. The work for “Space-Landscape” is almost a retrospective of the many murals created around the world by Pastel over the years. Experiences and narratives of various communities from as far as Australia to as close as San Leandro come to light, together, for the first time. The exhibition will include a diverse array of sizes, mediums, colors and plants displayed as paintings and sculptures. The opening reception will be held on September 9th at 7pm in Downtown Oakland with Athen B. Gallery. The gallery is located at 1525 Webster St. and is convenient to both 12th and 19th St. Bart stations. To be added to the collectors preview contact

Curator Statement | I first learned of Francisco Diaz (Pastel’s) work through mutual friends. I realized quickly how special and unique Francisco’s work is. There are thousands of artists who work on murals and exhibit works around the world. Through easy exposure on social media and the internet there seems to be hundreds of new artists each month. One thing lacking from a lot of his peers is the social consciousness and awareness that comes with working in a variety of cities across the world, both in their galleries and their communities. Pastel takes the community into consideration, letting it influence his choices.

Pastel is on the short list of artists I’ve come to know who really does his research before putting paint on the wall of a community, reflecting on local politics, history, and geography of each project before arriving to paint. He prefers smaller cities because of the experiences and interactions that come when immersing himself in that place.

In the early 2000’s Francisco was drawn to the liberating freedom that graffiti has brought so many over the years. Letter structure was not the focus of his illegal expression, but creating flowers. The flowers are derivative to the flow of the graffiti we see in our day to day. Shortly thereafter, everything changed as he studied and graduated with a degree in Architecture from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. After a few years, he left his day job as an architect, but he still considers what he now creates as a form of architecture. The murals are similar to architecture, but the result is much more abstracted than designing a building. He refers to his work as Urban Acupuncture. The work acts as small interactions with a city that can help improve the already existing environment. In the artist’s eyes, a lot of cities he has visited lack a strong identity; they are not really designed for the people who live there, regardless of what the city planners may say.

Pastel’s process is fairly simple. First, he starts with research to develop a strong idea or structure of what a piece can potentially become. It isn't until after his arrival that he knows what the exact piece will be. Before painting, he walks the surrounding environment to study colors, architecture, and the people that make up the city. Once that is complete, he is able to stabilize and build off the previously conceived structure, much like an architect would before submitting a final proposal.

The colors chosen in the murals come from a personal and conscious way of interacting with a place. The subject matter of his murals are a way of talking about various complex issues in a language that can be directly appreciated through color palette and shapes of plants native to the area, the surrounding region, or even the weeds that grow on the actual wall being painted. By working with plants as social symbolism, the pieces are a dialogue about the nature of man and his surroundings - the existential, real, pure, and tragically forgotten in modern society. The end result of his murals seeks to honor local communities rather than a tool for gentrification. Although to some the final piece feels only decorative, the structure of painted lines harbors a deeper meaning and message.

In the South of Italy, Pastel painted the facade of a large building with massive plants indigenous to Africa in order to symbolize native roots of people trying to immigrate to Europe. With more and more political conversations over topics such as this, Pastel is calling on action with this piece in particular to support those looking for a brighter future.

Pastel traveled to Perth, Australia where he painted a mural called “Idealism of Aboriginal Ngarluma”. The piece addresses the historical issue of Ngarluma people, the Original inhabitants of the coastal areas around Roebourne (West Pilbara Western Australia). Archaeological surveys claim that these people had been living in the area for more than 30,000 years, having a deep historical and spiritual connection to the land and nature there. According to the artist, the floral image is based on the brutal relationship between native communities and colonialism until 1971 when they finally started to be recognized with civil rights.

In Kiev, Ukraine Pastel created a mural, “Two Peasants” that is based on the history of the Makhnovist movement at the time of the 1917 Russian Revolution. The revolution in Ukraine was a libertarian revolution, and the workers and peasants (Black Army) fought both Tsarist reaction and Bolshevik domination. In February 1917, there was a Popular uprising in the Russian empire. The Tsar abdicated the principal political parties - most of them Socialist, and began to set up a crude parliamentary democracy, led by the Mensheviks. But Russia was a big, bleak, backward old empire that sprawled across five time zones, communication was bad; the uprisings continued. Radicals were released from prison, dissidents returned from exile, and ordinary people became increasingly aware of the possibilities of communal power. Peasants chased out the landowners, workers took over the factories and many organized themselves democratically through local mass meetings.

This year Pastel came to the Bay Area and painted a beautiful mural off the 880 Highway (Marina West Exit) in San Leandro. The mural “Costanoans” is an homage to a group of Native American people that lived on the Northern California Coast. When Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived in the late 18th century, the Ohlone (named Costanoans by the Spanish colony), inhabited the area along the coast from San Francisco Bay through Monterey Bay to the lower Salinas Valley.

Interview with Anne ten Donkelaar


A damaged butterfly, a broken twig, a bumblebee, some strangely grown weeds: I find all of these unique discoveries in my path and then take them home to my studio. Here, I take my time to explore the objects and try to work out how I can show each one to its best advantage. My finds inspire me. While looking at them I can invent my own stories about their existence and their lives. By protecting these precious pieces under glass, I give the objects a second life and hope to inspire people to make up their own stories about them.


Can you tell me a little bit about your background in art? How long have you been an artist? 

I studied 3D product design at art school in Utrecht, the Netherlands. I graduated in 2007 with a collection of jewelry and curtains. After this, I started working on a collection of pillows with embroideries. To start this I created a mood board, but my mood board became more interesting than the pillow designs. It was the beginning of the “Flower constructions.” 

Where do you gather the materials for your pieces?

I have a little garden were I grow my flowers. The pictures are from second hand books. And butterflies I get them from the botanical garden in Utrecht.

You work in various forms of art-making, from printmaking and collage to wearable items. What entices you to use multiple mediums? Do you identify more with any one medium?

I think is because of my background of product design that I like to research and work with different mediums. I love working with collage for the composition and color research the best.

Can you tell me about 1-2 of your favorite pieces? Is there a story behind them? What do you think makes them successful?

I really like Flower construction 82 because of the color and size of the work. The work is 130 cm by 170 cm by 6.5 cm so you can almost get in to the work. And I like the Rainbow warrior, for me it really gives me the feeling of childhood memories. And I like to fantasize that this butterfly has special powers that leaves a trail of happiness, softness and joy - something the world needs.

How do you know when a work is complete?

It is a feeling, I just know when it's good.

What do you hope your audience takes away from your work?

I hope it gives joy and that it inspires.


Are there any exciting exhibitions or projects you are working on this year that you would like to share?  

I have been working for a while on a photo project with water and flowers. And I hope to present this next month. It will be shown at the London Design Week in September 2107 with the Cold Press Gallery. 



Interview: Rebecca Louise Law

Rebecca Louise Law is an Installation Artist based in East London, specialising in artworks made with natural materials, namely flora. The physicality and sensuality of her site-specific work plays with the relationship between man and nature. Law is passionate about natural change and preservation, allowing her work to evolve as nature takes its course and offering an alternative concept of beauty.

Notable commissions include ‘The Flower Garden Display’d’, (The Garden Museum, London), ‘The Grecian Garden’ (Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens), ‘Outside In’ (Times Square, New York) and ‘The Beauty of Decay’ (Chandran Gallery, San Francisco). Law’s work has also been exhibited by Bo. Lee Gallery, Broadway Studio & Gallery, and at sites such as the Royal Academy and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

How did you become involved with your installation work? Did you start out drawing or painting at first? Share a little bit of your story with our readers. 

I started installation work whilst studying fine art at Newcastle University, UK. I began my degree with printmaking and painting, but by my fourth year I was only making installations. I always had a fascination with nature and wanted to create an artwork that could portray the natural world how I saw it. Working 2D felt limiting and I always felt like I wanted to create more of a sensory experience. I swapped my paints for flowers in 2003 and I have been experimenting with flowers as a sculptural material ever since. The natural experience is still at the core of my work, and with each new artwork I challenge myself to push this concept further.

How do you come up with your projects? Tell us about your process and inspiration. 

Every installation is about the human interaction with nature. I look at each space and how it is used, what country or culture I am in, the patron, natural symbolism and the history of the surrounding land. Every new space has a story, and I like to research as much as possible. Ultimately the artwork should be a physical experience, and I either like to compliment or work in contrast to its surroundings. I aim towards creating an artwork that transports the viewer into a space that shows a glimpse of the natural world suspended in time. I like to be reminded of all this earth provides us. 

What do you love to do when you are not working? Do you have favorite places to travel? 

I travel internationally with work and I love seeing the world, but it is always to cities and urban spaces. I live in London, so when I do get free time I love going into the countryside to absorb the natural world. Some of my favourite trips have been in the UK. Last year I went to Cornwall and Scotland. It was great to be reminded of what we have here in the UK. 

What has been the most exciting moment in your art career so far? 

I really loved my last exhibition in Denmark. The museum was so idyllic, my work looked like it belonged there. It was great doing an exhibition that showed all aspects of my art practice. The installation was an entwined canopy of every flower and piece of copper that I have ever saved. The collection had so much handiwork and time entwined within it. To see all I had saved and how far I had come in using flowers as a sculptural material excited me for the future.

What would you say to a younger artist who is searching for their niche? What did you wish you knew when you first started?

The best piece of advice I had was at university. A tutor told me to look into my past and childhood; identify who you are and what you want to communicate with the world. Being an artist is lonely, try to wean yourself off affirmation and people pleasing, never concentrate on money, and stay true to your heart.

Tell us about a few events or shows you have planned for the near future. 

I have installations exhibiting in France and California this summer and an exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery, Kew Gardens, London in October 2017. This show will be an exploration of the flower as a sculptural art material and how it has been used throughout history. 

Carolina Elizabeth

I was born in Honduras, but since I was 8 years-old I have called Oklahoma my home. 
Creating things has been my passion since I can remember. In fact, one of my aunts in Honduras still has a tiny toilet I made out of match boxes and a doll which created out of corn husks both at the age of five. 

A few years later, and I was using my mom's curtains (small surprise to her when she arrived from work) to create Cabbage Patch doll clothes. So, my parents and I always knew I would be an artist. 

I received my BFA from UCO in Edmond, where my focus was sculpture, primarily metalsmith. 
It wasn't until I was 35 years-old that I decided to teach myself classical painting techniques. With a small set of oil paints, a cigar box and some old hardware which I used to fashion my very first pochade box, along with a couple of books and the internet and I was off. I haven't stopped since. 

Since that very tiny matchbox toilet, my work (ceramics, metals, paintings, etc.) seem to be small scale works--some may even consider them miniatures. Maybe it's my 4'11" stature that has dictated the things that attract me. I'm not sure, but I have no desire to create large works in any medium. So, my paintings are up to 11"x11", but most are only 5"x7" or so. 

I'm honored by collectors of my work in several countries around the world, mostly due to the internet. It's been seven years now since I first began to paint in oils and I am still learning and fighting with painting while being inspired by all the small things around me--everything from the fashion books and antiques I collect to the flowers in my yard and the honeycomb in our beehives. 

In college I told a professor that I just wanted to make pretty things. He said "that is the worst way to describe an artwork." I let him know that I believe pretty things have power. A small flower can make a person smile, a tiny ring can mean devotion. On the other hand, pretty things (mostly jewelry and art) have been the cause of lost freedoms for some and war for others. There is a lot of power in pretty things. 

I would love to say my work has some deep meaning of love lost, the purpose of life, or some important political statement, but that's not the case. My obsession with all things pretty and small, keeps me painting.

Frank Gonzales

The paintings of Frank Gonzales take on an environment all their own, as he combines incredible mixtures of bird species, bones, crystals and plant life to create a terrarium-like space on the canvas. Based in Tempe, Arizona, the artist is surrounded by endless seeds of inspiration, as the cacti and succulents native to the Southwest, like prickley pear cactus and nopal cactus, can often be found in his paintings. All kinds of species of birds live amongst the artist’s cactus; from hummingbirds to owls, and even a rooster on occasion. A love of nature no doubt sparks Gonzales’s creative flow, as an attention to the small, organic details present in flora and fauna can be seen in every feather, leaf and flower pedal that makes its way into his work.

Intricate and complex, Gonzales often combines elements and species that would not normally be found growing together and inhabiting the same space, building stunning yet unlikely ecosystems. This mixed together with other artificial elements, such as unnaturally colored backgrounds and vivid streaks of multi-colored drops and lines that cut across the compositions, form unique and fantastic environments that are distinct to the artist’s style. Gonzales has shown his work all over the U.S. in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Prints of his work are available at The People’s Print Shop

Magyn Reed Darmstaedter Merrick 

Magyn Merrick is a painter and collage artist living in Memphis, Tn. She shares space with the love of her life, her dog, Grizzly, as well as her husband (who is alright, too.)

My work, like many artists' work, explores the artifice of images that have become the vernacular of our daily lives. I am consumed by the use of apps like Instagram and Pinterest and have to constantly remind myself that even the floral arrangements presented, though seemingly effortless, took hours of professional styling. They are not real life.

It is hard not to wonder why my home doesn't look a certain way; why I can't put together an outfit and stand with a devil-may-care attitude in some obscure back ally-way for god know's how many photographs; why even the plated food I make is not Instagram-worthy, rather than serving it's actual purpose of providing nourishment. Despite the many positive applications, social media has the potential to address, mostly I am anxious and sometimes angry. Sometimes, too, I laugh, because who hasn't suffered an extreme Pinterest fail? (I'm looking at you, T-Rex cake.)

The images I paint are alluring, but they are certainly not realistic. They serve to highlight the distortions of this non-reality of which we are bombarded, the all too beautiful and mesmerizing advertising of self that we have become accustomed to.

Interview: Anna Valdez

As a visual artist with an academic background in anthropology, and video, I view artists as cultural producers. In my work, I attempt to combine these practices into a specific investigation that cultivates not only personal identity, but also cultural meaning. Currently, I am working on various narratives that explore my own traditions and history through a visual format. This process has led me to rely on photographs, stories, family recipes, horticulture, and the tradition of crafting as something concrete in order to construct my autobiography. I consider this examination to be a rite of passage into a globalized society while simultaneously finding my niche within.

Recently, many of my pieces have been still lifes. These arrangements have been composed from various household items such as my clothes, quilts, scarves, blankets, houseplants, drawings, paintings, books, records, and vessels. These items exist as a part of my domestic environment, and I have put them in my paintings to understand the domestic sphere as emblematic of both personal and collective experience.

Tell us about how you got started in your art career. You mention you have a background in Anthropology. When did you decide to become a painter?

I don’t really recall a specific moment when I decided to become a painter. I think with anything that you feel a need to do you prioritize it, and I kept prioritizing painting. Art, and particularly painting, seemed to open a door for me to explore ideas in an infinite way. I never felt that Art was a huge leap from Anthropology since it combines cultural investigation, the maker’s psychology, and philosophy, and is an invitation into the thoughts of individuals and the collective consciousness. I find a connection through painting because there really is not a right or wrong answer as it is based on experience.  

We absolutely love seeing images of your studio. Tell us about your interest in plants and gardening. Was it always a part of your life?

My father was an arborist and managed the City of Sacramento’s nursery for the majority of my childhood. I remember our weekend project in the spring and summer was to work in the garden, which is a tradition I have carried on. I’m not sure if it’s through nature or nurture that I feel connected to plants, but there is something incredibly therapeutic about watching something come to life right before your eyes. Perhaps I also think of them as a metaphor for how paintings emerge. Through patience and ritual (practice) ideas become a reality.

What have been some experiences that made a positive impact on your art career? 

I think any experience that broadens my community and creates connections with other artists has been incredibly positive for my work and growth as an artist.

How has social media influenced your journey? Did you receive any opportunities because of your online presence? Share a few tips and best practices with us. 

Through social media, I have been able to connect with artists that are not in my immediate network. I think social media provides access for anyone trying to expand their communities, and it’s great for exposure to new artists and exhibitions. I post on my Instagram and Tumblr pretty regularly and think those two applications are great for finding new work and establishing connections.

What are some ways you replenish your creativity? What do you love to do when you are not painting?

Reading, cooking, gardening and fermenting are my favorite pastime activities. They are all practices that amplify my creative process because they also require similar skills, such as patience, techniques, curiosity, and industriousness. I think at some point you just realize your tendencies and go with it.