Posts tagged Process
Atefeh Baradaran, Contemporary Artist Exploring Geometry, Depth and Flat Surfaces

Atefeh Baradaran is an Iranian Canadian artist based in Vancouver, Canada. She holds a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design (2016). Throughout her practice, she has explored various disciplines, including painting, drawing, sculpture, and ceramics and her work remains continually informed by the mall. Atefeh has an inclination towards hard-edged geometric patterns and process-oriented work. Shedraws inspiration from intentional and accidental compositions present in her surroundings. Her abstract work often presents methodically produced designs that are playfully combined with unexpected elements of disruption.

Time and time again, I find myself attracted to exploring the tension in dualities, transitional states, and binary opposites within art. Painting, in particular, becomes fascinating when we acknowledge its conflicting attributes. The use of paint to portray depth on a two dimensional (and traditionally rectangular) surface has been the subject of both praise and criticism throughout history; Techniques practiced by academic painters to create 'realistic' imagery have been abandoned by modernist painters who viewed illusion as dishonest to the flatness of the surface and the materiality of paint. While the discourse itself remains unresolved, incidentally this serves to maintain relevance in informing much of today's art practice.

In my recent body of work, the focus is placed upon the tension created by combining visual depth and the flat surface together. I aim to activate the physical, visual and conceptual spaces that inherently exist within a painting: the space confined by the frame, the surface plane, and the illusionistic space of the image. In doing so, I allow these elements to break out of their conventional roles and find their own unique voice—a liberation. This tectonic play with the structure places the work in an ambivalent state between painting and sculpture.

Stories of Love and Loss: Interview with Nanci Hersh
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The overarching theme of my work is a personal narrative about home and family. Stories of love and loss; both letting go and losing, are interwoven and explored with mixed media. This newest body of work is a return to printmaking as a centering prayer and meditation on process. Lines, fragmented patterns and assorted textures are part of my visual vocabulary to honor the ephemeral and make space for the tangible and intangible to coexist. 

Nanci is a professional mixed media artist, illustrator, educator, arts advocate and administrator as Executive Director of the Delaware Institute for the Arts in Education. 

Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States including “Eons Beyond the Rib,” at Seraphin Gallery in Philadelphia, PA, “Navigation Puzzle,” at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, “Paper Work”, at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie and “The Demoiselles Revisited” at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, NYC, along with solo exhibitions in PA, NJ, DE, and Hawaii. Nanci has received numerous honors including three purchase awards from the State Foundation of Culture and the Arts, Hawaii and three Leeway Foundation Art & Change Grants. Her work is included in the Public Collections of Johnson & Johnson, Herspace Breast Imaging, Leland Portland Cement, and OSI Pharmaceuticals to name a few

With her cousin and author, Ellen McVicker, Nanci illustrated and co-created the children’s book Butterfly Kisses and Wishes on Wings: When someone you love has cancer… a hopeful, helpful book for kids. Having sold over 10,000 copies in English and now with a Spanish edition, Nanci and Ellen were invited in 2015 to participate in 798 ICAF, International Children’s Art Festival in Beijing, China in 2016.

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Initially, my work was influenced by the tropical beauty of the landscape, but I began to find my voice as an artist as the work became more personal.
— Nanci Hersh
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In your artist statement, you reflect on the idea that your work is a personal narrative about home and family. Can you tell us about your experience creating work that is so deeply personal?

From my first pale pink padded diary at age 11, complete with lock and key, to my current expressive mixed media paintings, collages and sculptures, my compulsion has been to chronicle, gain understanding and find the magic and connection in the everyday.

In 1985, I moved to Hawaii, far from family and friends on the East Coast. What was to be a six-week vacation led to a 12-year journey of living the dream; making art, surfing, managing an art gallery, studying, teaching and traveling. Initially, my work was influenced by the tropical beauty of the landscape, but I began to find my voice as an artist as the work became more personal. Through subsequent series that both examined and celebrated relationships at home and in my rural plantation neighborhood on the North Shore of Oahu, I began to feel a deep connection to the people, the place, and my work that felt more authentic. It also became cathartic and healing in many ways.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a new series of monotypes and mixed media prints. This is a return to my undergraduate and graduate work in printmaking. Following the passing this summer of my mother, I am finding comfort in the rituals and process of working with a limited palette, my love of an expressive line and layered textures. Primarily black and white, with limited color, some encaustic and collage, they are a meditation on the transitory nature of life and death and the fine line between the two states of being.


How has your creative process changed throughout your career?

It has evolved more than changed. A new series seems to dictate a particular medium or material that I am either practiced in or need to learn. For example, years ago, I had a dream about butterfly nets. Shortly after, I came upon some children’s butterfly nets at a gift shop at the beach which I purchased and began to manipulate by dipping them in the overly beaten paper pulp that dried like a skin, freezing them in time. This led to creating my own net forms from chicken wire, pulp, encaustic, pantyhose, and collage. Then I began finding and collecting different types of nets and netting which I use as stencils on my paintings and drawings. Often I circle back and incorporate elements of a prior series. The process builds upon itself more than changes.

What is your favorite part about creating mixed media works?

I love discovering found or repurposed objects or materials, seeing beauty in the juxtaposition of the elements and the surprises in how they speak to each other. I have always found peace walking along the beach and appreciate the flotsam and jetsam that wash ashore entangled, each part originating from somewhere else with a different unknown history coming together and shaped by the journey it has taken.

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What do you view as your greatest strength as an artist?

One of my greatest strengths as an artist is my perseverance. I keep making art, through raising my family, teaching, well-being or challenges, sales or not, recognition or not, just keep making it because it is who I am and how I find a deeper connection to nature, to others, to myself and a Higher Power. I also appreciate how I am able to see beauty and possibility in everything- and everyone.

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Along with your two-dimensional mixed media work you create three-dimensional sculptures, how does your studio practice accommodate both mediums?

The work informs each other. It is an ongoing conversation. There are times when what I need to explore is two-dimensional, other times it is three dimensional. This can be determined by a subject, a found object, a dream, a beautiful vine found on my walks with my dogs, or a cast shadow. Most often, there is a piece of one in the other or one is the jumping off point for the other. It is a fluid process that meanders with intention, to see how I can look at something in a new way and see where that takes me.

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What has been the best part of your artistic career thus far?

It has to be now. I am able to look at the scope of the work that I have created and see how the work has been an expression and an extension of my life experiences. I also appreciate how the work has led me to people, to conversations and experiences that deepen our connection and appreciation of the richness of this life.

Art and Story: Podcast Interview with Filmmaker Jesse Brass

Jesse Brass is an artist and storyteller whose two passions have come together in the film series Making Art. The series, launched in 2012 in collaboration with his brother, Matt, has reached an audience of millions and been featured by leading art publications and blogs around the world. His work has also been featured by National GeographicHuffington Post, and American Express. The films have real impact on the careers of the artists they represent and serve as a compelling platform for the artist to express his or her motivations, passions, and influences. In addition to art and story, Jesse has a passion for art advocacy and continues to pursue new stories and opportunities for the artists he showcases.

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Tell us about your background and training. When did you first get interested in filmmaking?

I grew up in a family of artists and was always encouraged in my art. I didn’t pursue it as a career however, because I didn’t like art talk, which seems ironic now. I thought artists should be able to just make their art without explanation. It seemed like, at least at that time, success was less about your work and more about who you knew and how you talked about your work. Recently however, either my perception has changed or the art world has, but I think good work is being noticed and rewarded. It’s an exciting time to be an artist!

As far as film, I never had training. Bought my first video camera to film my kids.

Film still from "Desire" featuring Alonsa Guevara

Film still from "Desire" featuring Alonsa Guevara

How did Making Art come about and what inspired you to start documenting artists and their process?

In 2012, my brother, Matt—who was also filming his kids—suggested we profile my artist mother for a Vimeo weekend competition. We won, and we were hooked. So we started reaching out to local artist friends and friends of friends to profile. It just continued to grow from there.

There is something magical that happens when you just listen. There are so many things that get in the way of us really hearing each other, and I wanted these films to be an opportunity for artists to be heard. In normal conversation, we feel the need to interject, share like experiences to avoid awkward silence. But there’s an opportunity to get more out of a conversation.

When interviewing, often the first answer I hear is buttoned up, thought through. But if I pause afterward, allow the awkward silence, the artist continues. That answer, a lot of times, is in the moment, less perfect, more personal. That’s when the audience gets a feeling for the artist. It’s an unposed moment. That’s the magic, and that's what inspired me to continue.

My favorite line from the series came from Mario A. Robinson: "People don't want an idea of what you think they like, they want you. And there's only one you." For me, that sums up the Making Art series. I’m not trying to share what the artist thinks; I’m trying to share the essence of the artist.

Initially Making Art just featured local artists we knew in Knoxville and Asheville, N.C. (Our film of Melanie Norris got Making Art its first Vimeo Staff Pick) but I wanted to expand it. As an avid blog follower, I came across an artist from Toronto and reached out. She was interested, and in effort to make it worth my time, I also reached out to six more artists and ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund Making Art Toronto.

The Toronto series received another Vimeo Staff Pick. I was hooked, and within a couple of days I was already planning a trip to New York.

Film still featuring Carole Feuerman

Film still featuring Carole Feuerman

What do you love most about your project?

The people.

Like many artists I am shy and reserved. Sitting behind a camera allows me access to diverse and fascinating worlds. In addition, the series has brought me friendships and connections with so many inspirational people. It's been personally enriching.

I also love the permanence of what I'm making. The films follow the artists year after year, to blog posts, shows. They introduce artists to new opportunities, potential buyers, and in two cases, TED Talks. They are continuous representation, allowing a large audience intimate access. Enabling genuine encounters with the artists.

A funny side note is that artists I reach out to are nervous about the project for that reason. A bad film is a stain that doesn't go away quickly. And there are many bad artist profiles out there.

Film still featuring Zaria Foreman

Film still featuring Zaria Foreman

What do you hope to communicate to the viewers of your films?


My films are simple, not flashy. I don’t go into a shoot with any preconceived ideas about them or message. I let the artists speak.

I think good art is clear communication of someone’s point of view. I love realism, but that’s not what I’m talking about. There’s so much to be seen beyond what a camera captures. Mario A. Robinson (can you tell I’m a fan of his?) says, “The power of art is the ability to galvanize and organize all those different pigments and materials and pour a soul into it.” And the soul is more than what you see. Art allows that expression. But artists have to be honest.

I think so much art over the years has been phony, and people know that. And over the years, the majority of people lost interest. But art is changing. Social media (I know this is a big debate) is pushing art that communicates and connects. It’s giving people direct access to the art. This whole new world of media is letting people enjoy art without the lectures and explanations from museum and gallery curators. That's honesty, and I’d like to think Making Art is playing a role in that.

Film still featuring Cayce Zavaglia

Film still featuring Cayce Zavaglia

What are you currently working on or excited about?

Helga, a collaboration with Bo Bartlett and Betsy Eby.

Helga was Andrew Wyeth's (who I'm named after, Jesse Wyeth Brass) muse and most frequent subject. It's my most extensive project yet and involved nine hours of interview. Very exciting!

Also I'm working on new relationships, partnerships, and I have one more Making Art edit to finish up.

The films are my passion; I don’t see that changing. Much more to come!

Cayce Zavaglia detail

Cayce Zavaglia detail

What are you most proud of with Making Art so far?

I’ve explored art in several forms over my life. This project has involved more of me than any other. That is satisfying.

As an artist, I think the goal is to leave yourself behind. What you witnessed, what you thought was valuable, beautiful. I am leaving that behind. Although my voice isn’t heard, it‘s responded to. There’s a reflection of me in these films.

"Artists have a powerful need to be heard; I'm no different. But I found a way to fulfill that need while allowing others to be heard."

How can we learn more and support what you do?

Production is expensive. I need all the support I can get. You can become a Patreon of my work at

Also, watch and share my films and reach out to me for any reason. I welcome any conversation.

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.

Nick Robles

Nick Robles began his art career as a young boy with his first set of Crayola crayons, tempera paints, and Elmer’s Glue. Sticking to his roots set deep in the 80s, Nick’s work retains a childish spirit with plenty of color, funky shapes, and sense of adventure. It wasn’t until after he received a BA at Sonoma State University and moved to Portland, Oregon that he began to focus on using his printmaking knowledge for a textile and photography based body of work. Now a resident of Brooklyn, New York, Nick has established a studio where he works in a variety of mediums that include painting, textiles, and photography.

By infusing personality and energy into inanimate material through portraiture, I explore personal identity and what it is to be a conscious being. I experiment with different processes and unorthodox materials as I search for new applications and results that excite me, all while allowing the images to evolve as I work to better explore this theme. Often working by the seat of my pants, I frequently make new discoveries mid-shoot. As I work within each series, I find my work to be constantly changing and maturing much as we all do as we venture out into the world. The images I create reflect a playful childhood interest in my environment and the unknown.

Studio Sundays: Sean Martorana
“It’s very important for me to have an inspiring place to work. A perfect studio is one where you feel comfortable making anything you want. From drawing to building or sculpting anything can be accomplished.”
— Sean Martorana

Sean Martorana is a 2001 graduate in graphic design from The Art Institute of Philadelphia. Upon his graduation, Sean was immediately hired at a print shop where he helped customer with small design jobs. While doing so, Sean expanded the services of the print shop to include full-fledged brand development and marketing. Following the next logical step, Sean (with financial and business backing from the shop’s owner) branched off and founded the visual design, marketing and communications firm THE_STUDIO.

After over 6 years of successfully running THE_STUDIO, Sean left to begin building his own artistic and designer brand. Aside from his own line of paintings, designs, prints, and clothing/accessories, Sean has been collaborating with other artists and companies to develop designs in interior decor, clothing, jewelry, watches and other accessories. Sean has been featured in large media outlets for his innovation in art and design, including pieces created by sourcing social media for fan input.

“It’s a full collaboration between the designer and the interactivity of the consumer. The consumer brings that final brush stroke to any design by wearing it, living with it and making it a part of their lives.”

His work has been shown in galleries, featured in national publications and commissioned by passionate individuals. Sean thrives on partnering with like-minded artists and designers. He is engaged by the cross-pollination of print media, fashion, architecture, interiors and homes. Building a company at THE_STUDIO, he is constantly exploring and finding new way to expand his versatility and enhance his work. One cannot help but be moved by his aggressive symbolism and iconic imagery.

Studio photos courtesy of Colleen Stepanian.

Studio Sundays: Tahnee Kelland

I'm 34 and living in Dawesville, Mandurah Western Australia. I'm a self-taught artist and failed art in high school. Actually, I think I relieved an "E" on the report card. Is that worst than an F? Who knows. Could have had something to do with me painting/drawing what I wanted, not what I was told. Not much has changed. For the first 10 years After leaving high school, I hardly painted or drew a thing. My confidence was low and I never finished anything I started. At around 27 I picked up my pencils and committed to finishing anything I started. I promised myself to finish anything I started even if I hated it. I'm so glad I did that because it taught me about " the ugly stage". I feel like everyone has that ugly stage in their work where it's not quite looking it's best and all the fear and doubt creeps in over if it will even work. Then you push through and of course it does. I never knew that. I gave up before even trying. Now things are different and I've over come that hurdle.

Then there was the next challenge. Style. It's taken me about 6 or 7 years to find "my style". I was always looking for a short cut and hoping I'd find it over night. But all the advice I received was, unfortunately, correct it takes a lot of work and a lot of time. I also get bored easily so I'm not sure if that helped or hindered.

My most recent work feels like the closest to "my style" I've ever got. I love patterns on patterns, muted, dirty colors and fabric. So they feature heavily in each work. The women in the painting represent myself I guess. I've always been content in my own space with my thoughts, I can go weeks pottering around the house without seeing another human. A lot of people have questioned if this is healthy for my mental health and shone a negative light on having so much alone time. So I wanted to celebrate it. It doesn't have to be a bad thing to want to spend long periods with just yourself. I find that I grow as a person in the stillness.

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'.

Studio Sundays: Christa David
I care deeply about the history of our present day dilemmas of racial, economic and social inequity.
— Christa David

Christa David is mixed media artist, writer and researcher. Fusing the mediums of painting, collage and assemblage, her work examines themes of faith, power, politics and identity. In September 2016, after years of “making art in the cracks” (nights and weekends) along side her demanding work as senior public health researcher at the New York City Department of Health’s Center for Health Equity, Christa David leaped into making art full-time. Christa David is proud two time Columbia University Lion, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in African American Studies with a Pre-medical concentration and a Masters of Public Health degree in the history of medicine, public health and ethics.  Her work is held in personal collections throughout the United States and has been most recently exhibited in a group show titled - Juan Rulfo Turns One Hundred / Juan Rulfo Cumple Cien Curated by Virginia Gris, Blanka Amezkua for the Alexandar Avenue Apt 3A Gallery (AAA3A) in Bronx, New York, and the Hidden Like Gold solo show for the AAA3A gallery in Bronx, New York.

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For the past decade, I have worked as a public health researcher analyzing health data in search of patterns of death and disease and then attempting to put these findings into context, piecing together a story of the lives of individuals and communities, how they live and how they die. In my artwork, context, specifically “story”, is essential. I care deeply about the history of our present day dilemmas of racial, economic and social inequity. What are the roots? What is the cause? Where are the injuries? Who are the injured? Who are the injurers? And most importantly is there a cure? I use the mediums of painting and collage undergirded by rigorous historical and epidemiological research to help me interrogate these questions. In my current work, I am tackling gentrification, specifically from my personal vantage - a women of color and Harlem native, displaced. 

Gentrification fascinates and frightens me. I’m fascinated by the subtly of it all - a new market here, some new trees there, a new luxury condo springing up overnight, lots of new faces. And frightened by the deliberateness of it all - a public-private apparatus building a whole new neighborhood around you, without you and not entirely for you.

Roderick Hidalgo

Roderick Hidalgo is a self-taught resin artist living and working in Wilmington, DE. With a drive and passion for exploration, Hidalgo's work has shifted between painting, sculpting, metal and woodwork. His most current work, created with resin and powdered pigment, encompasses all of the above and has launched his career into a unique niche. Hidalgo's work can be found in private collections in 20 states across the US and Canada and has been exhibited at the Delaware Contemporary and Chris White Gallery. His involvement in the local art community led him to begin his teaching career, teaching art at the Nativity Preparatory School of Wilmington in 2013. He has curated exhibitions in partnership with Moving Parts Collective, ART WRX and CreateinWilm. Hidalgo has worked with the Creative Vision Factory as the lead mural artist at the Chris Sturmfelds Youth Center. Most recently, his works have been displayed at the Delaware Contemporary’s Annual Gala and the Moving Parts Collective at The Mill Space. Hidalgo is currently in the final stages of planning for RH Gallery and Studios in Hockessin, DE which is set to open in the beginning of April, 2017.


“My works are a synthesis of art and science; bringing the two together to recreate specific natural elements of the environments that surround us all on a daily basis. Gaining a deeper understanding of nature and being present to see the little moments that I otherwise might miss is what my work is all about. By combining organic compounds, powdered pigments, beeswax and liquid resin, this unique process has given me the ability to paint and display life of all forms, down to the very cells which create it. The result of marrying these mediums allows me to create my own habitats as if the canvas itself were a living entity.”

Studio Sundays: Ben Willis

Happy Sunday! We were lucky enough to feature the work of Ben Willis in our first issue, but after seeing his latest paintings, we just had to share again. The series titled "Candy Man" is brilliantly photographed against gorgeous landscapes and takes his colorful artwork outside of the expected white studio. 

Check out his instagram for amazing process videos. 

Ben Willis is an artist working in Tempe, Arizona. He was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and moved to Arizona to pursue his Master’s of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Drawing from the Herberger Institute for Design an the Arts, School of Art at Arizona State University.

Since graduating in 2013, Willis has been investigating patterning through the use of geometry, color relationships, layering and texture. His latest body of work is technically significant in that it presents the artists desire to consistently evolve his practice by re-inventing and expanding his visual language.

Interview: Heather and Marissa from Carve Out Time For Art

“Our mission is to empower people to stop dreaming and start doing, especially when it comes to carving out time for art. 

We are passionate about building community, encouraging others (especially women), and connecting people.

We want to cultivate a positive and nurturing community for creatives who want to find time to satisfy this part of their identity. We do this by fostering conversations, connecting creatives with resources, and showing people they are not alone.”

— Marissa + Heather

Marissa Huber

Marissa Huber

We are really inspired by your message to make time for art, no matter what your life looks like. When did you originally come up with the idea to start your community? 

Heather: After the birth of my first child, I floundered a bit in trying to define what a mother artist looked like and was disheartened by the lack of examples. A few years later serendipity put Marissa in my path and once we joined forces and created an Instagram account it just all happened so organically. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that the community itself is a force to be reckoned with in terms of its positivity and creativity. We were lucky enough to take that drive and focus it the best we can. 

Marissa: I think the true answer is that I have a rebellious streak in me and was aggravated that so many people tell women (and also men) how they will never be able to do anything for themselves once they have children. There was an inherent suggestion if you wanted to do something for yourself, you were selfish. I took many of these comments as good natured because that’s what people say. But it bothered me because that is what many people truly believe. How many women don’t have alternative examples? Of course life will shift and yes, the early days of motherhood can be tough, but let’s encourage each other instead!

There was a moment that the message and idea of COTFA formed for me. I was asked by a designer to do watercolor illustrations of her interiors, but they had to be done right after my son was born. I was on maternity leave from my day job, and had my mom in town. I decided to go for it. I had to break up my process into 20 minute blocks, but I got it done. I will never forget the relief of sitting down that first time to paint. I felt like myself. I was not just a person with the slightly scary responsibility of keeping another human alive, but I was still me. And it gave me the thread to my life before motherhood and gave me hope that I could do things my way. I wanted to find others, and share their stories and had a secret goal to write a book on this one day. 

Heather Kirtland

Heather Kirtland

How did you meet each other? 

Heather: We haven't met. Ha! True story. We are virtual friends. I found Marissa when someone I followed on Instagram was featured in her mother interview series. I thought, "Where have you been all my life?" this was just the thing I was hoping would of existed in my first year as a new mom. So I said just that in a comment and from there became an interviewee...the rest is history. I am amazed at what a great relationship we have formed never meeting face to face. 

Marissa: I have to remind myself often that I have never met Heather in real life yet! I have a clear memory of our first phone call. I suggested we talk because we were both interested in writing a book on the same topic. I knew in 10 seconds that we would be a great fit and remember blurting out, “Let’s do it! Let’s figure out how to write a book on this together.” There was instant chemistry, nonstop talking, and such a deep personal interest in helping other artist mothers find their own way. Oddly, we don’t speak often, but when we do it is always epic.

What kind of influence has your website and community have on your own art making? What positive changes have you seen in your own lives because of COTFA?

Heather: The COFTA community has been such a positive place for me. It has made me simultaneously aware of the unrealistic pressure I put on myself and provided confidence to go after big goals. 

Marissa: It holds me accountable to practice what I preach. Our community makes me braver, kinder to myself and more confident with my work. In terms of positive changes, it made me realize that I’m a connector – whether that is ideas, resources or people. Connecting others lights me up, and feels like a fun problem to solve. (For example someone looking to do a meetup in Chicago and I can connect them with others). On a personal note, COTFA emerged during a lonely time in my life when I had moved back to Florida from and was spending much of my time at work or commuting. I missed my friends in Philly, and my family who I wasn’t getting to spend as much time with. Being able to take 5 minutes on a coffee break to “hang” with friends on Instagram was renewing during really tough months.

What is a common obstacle that's keeping artists from creating based on your observation and what are some tips to help overcome these blocks?

Heather: Doubt and fear top that list, followed closely by time. I think having a bit of grace with yourself is important. The "why" you create is something to continue to come back to. It helps to cancel out the noise and refocus on the joy you find in making art. As for time; I think adjusting the way you think about it can help. You don't need hours on end. Make it work for you within your day. I found that sometimes being force to walk away actually helps me not overwork a piece. 

Marissa: The damn comparison trap! Looking at someone else and thinking they have it all figured out without regarding their circumstances and own struggles. Feeling like there is no point to do anything because it has all been done before and nothing is original. Basically the recurring existential crisis that some of my friends and I have. I’m writing this with a smile, but it feels like crap when you’re in that valley. My advice is to just mix paint colors for fun or paint with some ink and make shapes. Don’t think at all, just enjoy the pure bliss of brush to paper. Arrange some leaves. Draw with your kid. Just do anything. We started a hashtag #CreativeCrankiness ( because I get that way if I don’t create something with my hands for too long!

From your experience, is it possible to have a full-time career or raise a family and be an artist? What words of encouragement would you offer someone who is scared they can't do both?

Heather: Hell yes!!! It may be seasonal, and it is a juggle but no one is checking your time clock.  Your work speaks for itself and ultimately people will believe what you do about yourself. Make art, you're an artist. You may wear a lot of other hats too but that doesn't diminish your artistic endeavors. If you are scared that you cannot do both my advice would be visit our community.  You can check out examples of all the different ways artists make it work.  There isn't one way.  Remember to have confidence in your creative self. Artistic sensibility, more times than not comes with an amazing ability to think outside the box. Use that to your advantage and find a way to make it a part of your life. 

Marissa: What I want to tell everyone is this---I think you can have anything you damn well please, but you can’t please everyone, it may not look like you think it will, or what others think it should. (Not the catchiest motto for a t-shirt…) It took me a long time to call myself an artist again, and in many ways motherhood forced me to own it in a good way. When I was facing limited free time, a new baby, a full time job, and the casual side gig, I realized art was what I most wanted AND needed in my life. That must mean I was an artist after all. So I prioritized it in my free time or woke up early. I feel strongly that becoming a mother made me more efficient, decisive, and confident in my art work. I no longer wasted time procrastinating by rearranging my workspace if I was scared to mess up a project. I knew I literally had 20 minutes before Henry woke up and I better make it count. That is the part I want people to know that is not uncommon. This is why Heather and I are going to find a way to make a book for others on this, even if it’s all on our own. 

My advice is to find supportive people who understand your needs for both. I have so many artist mother friends from COTFA who understand that a need to create is in us, and if it doesn’t come out, we’re miserable. I’m also lucky to have a supportive partner in my husband, Mike East ( He’s an artist and former art professor who always encourages me to find time to create, and reminds me why it’s worth it when I’m feeling cranky. 

I will say that it can be hard at times, as all life is. I’m sad that I’m with my coworkers more than my family, or that sometimes I get home from work and my son is asleep. There have been many tears. There is also a longing to have more free time for my own work, but guilt to not cut too much into my time with family or friends. But hell yes. It is possible. There are no rules. Make your own and just let other things take a backseat – preferably vacuuming.
Name a few of your favorite aspects of COTFA. 

Heather: Our followers tops that list. They are incredible and always inspire me.  I am grateful for the connections that I've made.  I also really love our Artist Takovers ( ). It's so cool to see a day in the life of fellow creatives.  

Marissa: It gave me a home base when I was feeling adrift as stated above. And so many amazing people that I consider true friends. As in real friends – that mean something special to me. 

Heather Kirtland

Heather Kirtland

How can our readers get involved and support your organization?

Instagram is where we are the most. We always encourage people to join our newsletter too it's the best place to not miss when we do challenges and events. You can use our hash tag to tell your story and share your work. That is where we find the artist we feature too. We encourage your readers to spread the word and invite others to join us.  

Marissa: I absolutely love the #CreativeConvosCOTFA ( ). Each week or so we ask a question. Some deep, some light hearted, and we get the most vulnerable, wonderful, and thoughtful responses. Conversations are started, ideas spread. Come join in there first, it’s a great way to instantly feel part of the gang (and anyone who is a nice person is instantly part of the gang – that’s how we roll).

Marissa Huber

Marissa Huber

What do you hope to accomplish within the next year? 

Heather: Marissa and I would like to finish our book! We are also going to introduce a Creative Pinkie Swear challenge to help our community accomplish some of their goals with the accountability of the group.  

Personally I would like to expand my wholesale sales and make some room for more commission work as well.

Marissa: I first want to humbly celebrate a personal win for myself this year. My goal for 2017 was to license a pattern and create a fabric collection. Heather told me to enter a competition earlier this year and I won several Editor’s choice awards there and now have 6 patterns in 5-10 colorways each for sale on fabric, lamps, pillows, etc. This has been a new direction for me and I put a lot of work in to learn Adobe Illustrator and the pattern processes (still learning). To balance that out I want to finish our book. We rehashed what we wanted to do and the new version makes me so excited that I can’t wait to get all of my other commitments over with so I can focus on it! We are going to make this happen, somehow!

Heather’s Photos: Head shot credit is: Kirsten Smith Photography.

Marissa’s Photos – Marissa took them..

Studio Sundays: Chris Bigalke

Chris Bigalke is a painter, illustrator, and graphic artist residing in Portland, Oregon for the last 10 years working as a full-time freelance artist. His pop surrealistic approach and subject matter lends itself to include elements of nature, animals, furniture, psychedelic environments, surreal and lush moments. Interests include; ambient and noise music, tacos, the apocalypse, parallel realities, extra-terrestrials, plants, earth, and flannels.

Mural photos courtesy of Julia Skerry @juliaskerryart

Studio Sundays: Jeff Kraus

The work of Michigan based painter, Jeff Kraus, is characterized by loose, aggressive gestures and messy layers of swaths of color and anxious, minimal shapes that often resemble unspecific architectural surfaces and landscapes. Kraus’ paintings are the result of a performative process, a full embrace of chance towards a continually evolving series of experimentations into abstraction and the formalities of painting. Employing objects used to support, protect, contour, and transport artworks, for this new series, Kraus works with plastic paint tarp, manipulating its translucency and malleable properties to build dense illusions of space. The uniform monochrome pallet combined with futuristic silver accents allude to aerial views of cityscapes and eroded concrete spaces void of place and time.

Emma Benitez 

My work is deeply influenced by science, spirituality and the ancient wisdom of sacred geometry. Not knowing what the final piece will look like, each layer is approached with instinct and spontaneity. This work is a meditative process; a meditation to my intention of life, the process being equally important as the finished work.

I explore the concept of the infinite and celebrate the divine dichotomies of life, between the soul and ego, between science and mysticism. I hope to bring my audience a sense of peace, love and a reminder of the interconnectivity throughout all things here on earth and throughout the cosmos.