Get Messy Podcast
013 Art for excitement and yumminess with Connie Solera
Today’s episode is a good one. You’re gonna love it. I know you’re gonna love it because it has Connie Solera in it. And Connie has a heart of gold. She’s a great teacher. She’s an incredible artist and I feel like she was put on this earth just to make everyone else better artists – she’s wonderful. Connie is also the guest artist for the season at Get Messy. And if you’re a Messian, and you’ve watched her workshop, you’ll know what I’m talking about. She’s amazing. She’ll make you amazing. Just listen to this chat that I have with her and I dare you to not run to your art journal.
Connie’s passion thrives inside the art-soul connection. Devoted to a daily creative practice of drawing, painting, and printmaking, Connie’s art embraces the unseen, scratches at life’s mysteries, and explores the deeper, darker spaces of her being. As a teacher with 25+ years of experience under her apron, Connie loves to guide her students to do the same.
THE VIDEO VERSION OF THIS PODCAST IS AVAILABLE INSIDE OF Get Messy’s Season of Affirmation
Grab your supplies and create while you listen to Caylee and Connie discuss turning your truth into art, unedited.
Hello, this is Connie Solera and you are listening to the Get Messy podcast.
Today’s episode is a good one. You’re gonna love it. I know you’re gonna love it because it’s got Connie Solera in it. And Connie has a heart of gold. She’s a great teacher. She’s an incredible artist and I don’t know, I feel like she was put on this earth just to make everyone else better artists – she’s wonderful. Connie’s Solera’s passion thrives inside the art soul connection devoted to daily creative practice of drawing, painting and printmaking. Connie’s art embraces the unseen, scratches at life’s mysteries and explores the deeper, darker spaces of her being. As a teacher with 25 years of experience under her apron, Connie loves to guide her students to do the same. Connie is also the guest artist for the season at Get Messy. And if you’re a Messian, and you’ve watched her workshop, you’ll know what I’m talking about. She’s amazing. She’ll make you amazing. Just listen to this chat that I have with her and I dare you to not run to your art journal.
Hey, Connie, welcome to the podcast.
Yay. I’m happy here.
Yay, I’m really happy you’re here. Big time fan of yours, big time fan of what you create, how you create and how you get other people to create.
Ah, thank you. Me too. I feel the same way about you hot stuff. Yeah.
Can you tell me in – as brief as possible – your creative story?
Oh, well, I guess I could sum it up in that I’ve always, always I’ve been – I feel I’m lucky because I’ve always known that I wanted to do art, that I want to be an artist ever since I was a kid, and I was lucky to be supported in that, you know, like, my parents didn’t quite understand it. They did their best, you know, but they always I had little like, I went to take extracurricular classes and then you know, stuff like that. And then, um, I went to a high school where I got to major in art and then I went to art school and I did all, you know, I went all through thinking like, I like took like – I think I did everything a good little artist should do. But when I got into like art school I started to have like a ‘schism’ is how I look at it, like I started to think I am an artist, I want to do art, I don’t know if this is really the world I want to be in though, because um I really loved learning about art but then like the whole gallery thing and stuff and I was doing that it just felt like bleh right? So right in my 20s I had an apartment, it was like a two bedroom apartment in this part of town that was where lots of artists lived. It was really really cheap. And one room was my studio and then I had this huge kitchen and the kitchen was my favourite. In the kitchen, I had these tables and I would art journal before I was actually knowing I was art journaling, like just painted and altered books you know. And then in the studio is where I had my more serious art, when I was like, making it for the galleries, and I remember like gallery people would come. They would go through the kitchen and they’d be like, what are you working on over there and they would kind of be like, you know, and then they’d go in there and I’d be like, oh, and give them some kind of heady, you know, this is what this is about and all this crap, just to get my stuff in the galleries just to, to do what I thought I was supposed to do. And that was draining. And I love to do what I had in the kitchen, like I would spend all night and I’d have to, like, go do that stuff, because that’s what I felt was supposed to do. And then, um, when I turned 30, my husband and I moved across the country to Arizona and we felt like we had this new opportunity to kind of reinvent myself and I was teaching here and I went back into ceramics. So when I went to school, I was a painting major and a ceramics like, I wouldn’t say minor, but I did a lot of clay stuff. And so I went back into ceramics and started doing that and, and then I started getting a little bit overwhelmed and bored. So I went back to painting. And when I went back to painting again, I was like, you know, I’m not going to go down that road where I’m like, trying to please a market anymore. I’m just going to do an experiment. I’m just going to put all my heart into what I love to do when I was in the kitchen, painting books and paint stuff for my own, just for my own pleasure, my own spiritual yumminess in a way. I at that time, because I left my ceramic studio, I needed some type of community and I was an art teacher, in an elementary middle school, which is like you’re the only art teacher, and it was lonely. So I started a blog called dirty footprints studio, to just talk about my painting and talk about teaching. And I just wanted to find kindreds and this was in 2008, yeah. I had no idea where it was gonna take me and here’s the crazy thing, here I was like, pouring my heart into what I love. And it was like, people really resonated with it and it was just fun and it was exciting and it didn’t feel like the 10 years a decade before that of like, banging my head against the wall making art just to like get into galleries and do all that stuff. And so I was like, hell yeah. And so I’ve been since 2008 just kind of doing what I’ve been doing. I’m just kind of following the thread of what makes me excited and what I get interested in and in sharing it and I really realised that as part of like, who I am as a creative is meant for that like just create work and help others you know, share what I kind of know about the creative process with others and you know, those two kind of feed together so I think that maybe that I think that sums it up best.
That’s a really good story. It’s a beautiful story and you’re the guest artist for this season at Get Messy, and I don’t know you’ve got – there’s been over 100 artists teaching at Get Messy and there’s something so unique about the way you do it. And when I was watching the videos, you know just to check for any like whoopsies you know, like admin watching them. I had to stop like, I had to get away from the computer and I had to go create, it was amazing. I think that your energy and your heart I don’t know, it comes through so beautifully and you’ve just got a very good way of helping others reach their heart in their art.
Ah, well thank you. That means so much to me. Yeah, to me, this is just this is just what I do. This is what I love. And so it makes me happy to help others do it and not see that it has to be so draining, you know, like I went down that road like I think sometimes we think, you know, artists have it all together, whatever, but I still have my own struggles, but it’s like that, that struggle, even being in art school was like, oh, suffocating to me, that I had to realise. Like, you don’t really need to do that, you know, like you can – there’s always a place for us as artists, as long as you’re willing to just kind of be you, I guess. So. When I teach, I just basically – I’m always surprised that people want to join me because I just show up and start talking. People go to my retreats and I just spend the day talking? Like you really paid all this money to hear me just babble?
Yeah, definitely. Man, I love this. Okay, so I’ve got lots that I want to dig into deeper. Firstly, let’s talk about, I think, what is your thread for your artistic story and your teaching and everything in general is just following that thread of excitement and following your heart and what like, makes you happy. Tell me how you do that without getting distracted. And then following the next thing, or do you do that?
Oh, I get distracted a lot. So, let me, we’re also on video so I guess that helps. So like, I work on multiple things. I have multiple threads weaving together is the best way to put it. It’s not like one seamless thread. And so like for instance, I’ve been working on pastels, but I feel here’s the thing, Caylee. I feel I’m having the same big conversation with all the work that I’m doing. What shifts a little bit is my materials and the way I work with the materials. But I’m basically, I’m always having the same conversation and conversations with myself. It’s always like what’s going on inside? What’s going on outside of me as well, but by me processing it. So I get excited by materials, even though I’m not one of those artists that collects a lot of materials. So for example, in January, I was in Oaxaca, Mexico, which is like my love places, and I was there to teach. And I was actually teaching, I have a private student, and she was there. And we both love this artist named Guillermo Jean, his work is so amazing. And so we went to – I took her to this gallery where his work is represented, and I’ll never forget, like I get goosebumps thinking of it. So we went there and that art handler puts on the gloves and takes us to a room and opens out the drawer, you know, pulls out these drawings and shows it to us and there was this one drawing that had this tiny little bit of like red oxide on it and I saw it and it was like my whole body went. And I was like, the whole time I’m like this, I’m like, come on stop. I just want to go into my room and I want to go work with red oxide. My hands – I was like doing this. I was like trying to be all, you know, Art Gallery-esque but I was getting all itchy and then I was like, wow. And he’d look away because I wanted to touch it so bad. So like, I have like, visceral feelings about materials. And that same time when I was in, so funny, I have it right here. I was in Oaxaca with my student, we went into a udes bookstore. And I’m not a ledger kind of gal. And this is like a big ledger, not a ledger gal at all. And I saw this ledger, and I was like, oh my God I must have the ledger. And every, like, I touched it and I started rubbing it and I feel like I have to draw on this. And literally, I was like, you know, that night going into it. And so for me, it becomes this visceral feeling of like, I need to put my hands, I need to work with this. But I do kind of shift a lot. I feel like I’ll work in ink, I’ll work in charcoal, I’ll work in paint, I’ll work in a book, I’ll work on paper. I’ve been doing lots of printmaking, but it’s all the same shit, right? It’s all the same conversation kind of happening in all of them. Even though this kind of the nuances of the style changes a little bit in them. And my old art school training will always be like, there’s always this professor in the back of me, like there should be more consistency and all this crap. And I’m always, always giving them the middle finger and just going forward trying to just follow that thread, you know, follow what makes me get excited about the materials or working with it. So yeah, that’s kind of how it goes.
Tell me more like practically with your projects, if something’s no longer speaking to you do you let it go?
Oh yeah, I totally let it go. I like, so I got into, so on this side of the wall you can see there’s a few I probably did about 12 or 15. And then I well then I got sick and all the Coronavirus stuff hit and then it was like a new world right? I was like, I don’t know if I really want to touch this like I was getting really dark and moody. And then I was like, I don’t know if I want to go dark and moody right now. So I actually went into doing these little chalk type pastels that are kind of just whimsical and sweet. And so like that felt more in alignment where I am now. And so all the time I’ll be doing things and then I just kind of stop. And for me a lot of times it’s getting it out of my system that I need to do more than you know, creating something whole because I’m all about the big body of work. I’m just going to keep making the work and then I kind of figure out the threads later how they all weave together. And it doesn’t matter because I don’t, I’m not going to try to put it in a gallery or have a show. I don’t have to go and try to prove myself to someone and why it all works together. I’m just lucky to be in a position where I can just keep doing it. And it seems to be what’s part of my charm? So –
I think it’s very freeing to think of things that way.
Yeah, and you know I, the funny thing is like, I can kind of step away – so I have this – this is what I showed in affirmations, I believe. Yeah, this is what I painted in an affirmations. Um, this book and I started this in 2015. Right so it’s been five years and I’m still cooking in it. And you can see how my style shifts. So I also want to say I don’t abandon things. I might step away from it, but I don’t abandon things if that makes sense. Like my ledger I that I was all gung ho, then I stepped away and now I’m back to it again. Right? And so I don’t abandon things completely, sometimes they just kind of fade into the background and come back and forth. And so, generally I have like a handful of materials that I really resonate with that work for me. Um, and I kind of dance between them, you know? Yeah. Great question, thank you.
So how do you find which supplies to use? I don’t know. I think it can be difficult to get a grip on all of your supplies, but I feel like everything that you create looks like you. So how do you make sure – do you do it consciously? How do you make sure that it looks like you?
Are you asking me or like in general?
I’m asking you. Yeah, you.
So, I am really intentional about my supplies. So I like certain kind of paint. And I have lots of different kinds of paint but I kind of lean towards paint, these paints called Polytex that I buy in Mexico. I really like the texture of them and stuff. So I don’t, I’m not the type, I don’t keep up on what the newest materials are. I don’t kinda, I’ve always kind of stayed minimalist. I always use oil pastels, I always use graphite, I always use charcoal. So they’re all kind of like traditional materials that I was trained in, in both my training in high school and in college you know. I just use them my way. Even printmaking, super traditional, right? So I don’t I don’t really ever venture outside of that. I don’t try new stuff. And it’s amazing. Like my students will come to me and they have all this cool stuff and I’m like, wow, that’s so cool, but I have no desire to really play too much with it. I’m just kind of, I like what I like. And a lot of what I like has to have some visceral, I noticed, aspect like – I like water soluble graphite, I like charcoal. I like, you know, the paint that I choose is very gritty. And I like how it feels in my hand. I like to carve, you know, because I like to work with my hands. I miss, I can’t wait until all this Corona stuff’s over, I really want to go back into clay and I need a space to go you know, like I just I love visceral hand touchy things. So I think that’s what helps me resonate with stuff. Last year, I was really, I really love this one artist, she goes by swoon. And she took a little sabbatical from her work. She’s a printmaker, and she does drawings. And she took a little sabbatical to teach herself digital art, which seemed like how do you go from there to there and then she started creating this awesome stuff with it. I was so inspired by watching her transition and what she was doing with it that I started to get the itch for digital, I like got my first iPad and did all of these digits. So that’s part of my language now, too. I kind of circle back to that a lot, too. And it’s, that’s been really interesting, because it’s not something so visceral, you can feel, you know, but I really enjoy the immediacy and I can move things around and erase and bring it back. Right? That’s such a nice quality, you know, so. So I feel like that, that digital stuff is the first thing I ever really ventured away. And it took a long time for me to do like, I kept kind of hearing it like, oh, that might be cool, and I see cool stuff. But it wasn’t until I saw this artist that worked so traditionally, use it in ways that spoke to me that I was like, Ah, so for me, that’s kind of how I roll, you know.
Yeah, you were about having supplies that resonate with you and that you use in your own way. What would be your tip for someone who’s trying to keep their supplies to a minimum? How would they use it in their own way?
Well, I think there’s a real beauty in limiting your supplies. And so I think one of the overwhelms that happens is when, well, I think here – I want to rewind a little bit. I think it’s really natural, especially as women that we’re gatherers and we love to gather things, right. We love to gather supplies, it’s part of our inner nature to be that gatherer. And then I think a lot of times with newbies, they gather so many supplies because it’s so sparkly and yummy that it then becomes overwhelming because you have all these supplies and you feel frozen. So I really feel there’s a benefit to limiting your supplies and saying, ah this month is all about you know, this supply, these certain supplies and physically limiting them so like I don’t have access to all my, you know, when I work I put on my oil pastels, my graphite and my paint, you know, like I know those are the things are my go to’s. And so I always limit what I have, I have other kind of random supplies but they’re away they’re in my storage room, like for me to include them would have to be like get up, go find them. And there’s something to be said about out of sight out of mind, you know. And so for me how I keep my space is really important because if I had all of these materials here I can see how that would feel overwhelming. So being very mindful about what your how your space is impacting you and you’re creating and even if you don’t have a studio, if you have some type of a bin, you know your ‘favourite supply’ bin and then the ‘possibly going to learn about these supplies’ bins and then like the ‘sparkly special day’ bin, you know, or something like that. And for me, I find that the best way to understand/get your own mark on those supplies it just keep using them and keep playing with them and keep experimenting, and make lots of art and make tons of bad art, like bad art as an artist best friend, because then you can really like make mistakes and learn like, oh, that didn’t work or you can make a mistake and go boy, that’s super cool. You know, and have a bin – this is something I do – have a bin specifically for bad art because, you know, you don’t like it and people want to throw it away. I put it in a bin because you never know if you’re gonna take that out two months later and go woah, that doesn’t – it’s like time can shift your perspective. Or you might tear it up and use it in something else or you know, so I find that bad art is helpful in so many layers to have. You know.
I like the idea of having art as like a holistic system in your life, where it’s like, always chilling around you. And you just pull whatever you need, and you can use it. And maybe you make something now that doesn’t serve you at the moment. But it could be useful for another time, or it will spark you for another time.
Yeah. When I was a, when I taught in elementary, middle school, I had these huge big like, almost like refrigerator boxes in the back of the room. And that was the compost bin. So if you didn’t like something, you could throw it in there. And anybody was welcome to use whatever was in there. And my favourite thing of the day is when kids are going to be like, someone threw this away, they will no way, you know, and they would take it home with them, you know, they were so impressed. And I always like to tell that to my students, because I’m like, what you think is so bad is probably other people are like, really, you know, and so have you know, give yourself some space in between those things you don’t like, and you might be surprised you’ll come to it from a different perspective later or like you said, you know, use it in different ways. It’s like the old you was helping the new you.
Right? I think that’s like the best part about community like on Instagram, you can post I don’t know, it’s always the things that I really don’t like that I’ll just post anyway that people love. It’s amazing like, maybe it’s not speaking to you, but it’s definitely gonna speak to someone else or it might speak to you in a different time. Different, you.
Exactly, and you’re just gonna, you’re gonna keep making more art. It’s gonna be – people don’t remember anyways. You know, so it’ll all be good.
Yeah, it’s nice like when I go back through my old stuff I have simultaneously, I have the feeling of wow, like, I’ve made some really good stuff like I’m quite good at this. And also the like, oh my gosh, I’ve come so far.
Yeah, that’s the beauty of it. You know, you just keep getting better and better and you keep making weirder and weirder mistakes.
So let’s talk more about art for pleasure. So you mentioned that – how do you ensure that you’re on that track and you’re not listening to what other people are saying?
What do you mean? Exactly? I don’t know what you mean. Exactly.
Yeah. So how do you, how do you be in tune with your own voice? I think for someone like you, you’ve been doing it a long time. So it’s probably easier than someone who’s just starting. How do you kind of, I don’t know, like a horse with blinkers.
I see. Well. I think when you’re starting out as an artist, it’s kind of like every artist starting out. It’s tricky because when an artist is starting out, I think one of the important things they need to do is to just give themselves the opportunity to just play, right? Art journaling is perfect for that – what you’re doing at Get Messy is the most perfect thing for beginner artists. Because they have an opportunity to just play and get to see what they like and how they play with stuff. And then I think normally as a development of an artist, if you’re really being called, you start to have this desire, like, I would like to be able to make the face look like it’s not flat, or how do you make things move in the back or like you start to have this desire? And that’s like when it’s time for you to start learning, right? So you’re gonna learn from artists that you admire or that you trust and respect. And so during that learning, you’re going to have all these other voices in your head and it’s, it’s normal. I think it’s a normal part of being developing as an artist to take in and learn and have those voices and unfortunately I think a lot of – I always like to say there’s this direct line from our hands to our hearts. So it activates a lot of like energetics that we have around our heart. So if you had an unsupportive family or teachers are people in your life that oppressed that part of you, that creative part of you, when you activate that as an adult, it activates those wounds. Right. So sometimes the voices we hear are not like the training voices, but the voices that are still hanging around our heart. And, and so I think that’s where it gets to be slippery. But what I always want to say and what I think is really good is that what you’re doing Caylee is so important because artists need supportive community where they can make mistakes, they can work through this. They get other people get like, oh, I’m not the only one that feels, you know, worried about being perfect all the time or all of these things that might not have come from learning art but came from their upbringing or their life experience. And I personally think that those voices, we have to listen to those voices as well and kind of go in and heal those voices or come in a healthy relationship with those voices. And the best way to do it is through art. And it and for me, I’m not an advocate for like pushing through. I’m for like, oh, I hear you perfectionist. I get it. I understand that perfectionist voice let’s bring you into the story. Come on, you know, let’s – I’ll give you this little corner of my painting where you can be as perfect as you want. Let’s be perfect there. Okay, now we had 10 minutes of perfect. We’re going back to doing this, right? So it’s almost like you have to kind of integrate those voices more than anything if that kind of makes sense. And so I think you start to hear your artists soul, your artists voice more and more, but you also can’t hear it if you’re not dealing with the other voices around it, right? So you got to kind of integrate them and then that artist voice will get stronger and stronger. He’s like the new guy in town, all those other voices have been there for a long time, right? So they’re kind of like the bullies. And then once you start getting stronger, and I really believe, too, that it’s important to have all that play, but learning technique and learning how to do things gives artists confidence, so they can go up to those bullies and be like, yes, you know, you see, look what I can do? You know? I think I’m talking kind of abstractly, but I hope it lands correctly. So for me, when I work with my students, I think just making the art and being kind every time those other voices come up, and that artist spirit, that artist voice that’s guiding you is going to get stronger and stronger. But you can’t ignore those other ones. You got to integrate them. And in that process is how it seems to move. I feel like I took the long road to get there. Sorry, kiddo.
That was amazing. No, it’s incredible. It’s incredible listening to you talk, I’m writing down so many notes. So many things that I want to explore in my own, in my own journal and phew. Amazing. Let’s talk about an art journal and your art as a conversation. So you mentioned that in your workshop for Get Messy and I know it’s such a beautiful way of seeing things.
Yeah, so I look at all of my art as just a part of a big conversation I’ve been having since I was a kid. It feels like you know, it’s funny. A few years ago, I was cleaning out my storage, and I found high school stuff. I was like, I went into an existential crisis, I was like, I’ve been doing the same thing for 20 years! I was like, What is this? I was like going nuts. It just looked like a watered down version of what I was doing. I was freaked out, right? But what’s funny about it is that I think as artists, you are who you are, no matter what kind of training you’re gonna get, you’re always going to have your own mark and your own style. And a lot of artists think when they’re starting out, like they have to somehow earn the style. And I always tell my students like when you – when I used to work with kindergarteners, they were the best because some kindergarteners who’d come in and scribble, like they’re doing it for their country and they’re like real serious, some of them barely, you know, touch it. And then at the end of day, nobody wrote their names on it, but I could say oh, that’s Billy’s that Sandy’s that’s Susie’s that’s Kaylee’s just because I could tell their style. And I’m like if kindergarteners have it, adults have it, right, we all have a style. And so I think that the whole thing is that, you are who you are as an artist and coming to your work becomes this conversation you’re having with your work, if that makes sense. And when you’re first starting out, the conversations are kind of light, you know, you’re just getting to know each other you just you’re like, look at that cutie and it just kind of have a conversation. And then eventually, you know, you start dating more and the conversation gets more juicy. And sometimes you have arguments, you come to your page and have massive arguments I have those a lot, you know. So it’s really like, every time I show up to my journal it’s a conversation, sometimes the conversation is bringing in things from a couple pages ago, you know, sometimes I’m like, let’s go in a whole new direction with this conversation. But it really is. And for me, as you saw in affirmation. I’m always talking to myself through the work anyways, or singing. So like, there is actual conversation going on. And it’s funny, like, when I paint live, like a lot of times, like at my retreats, I’ll just paint and I’ll let them watch and my students watching ask questions and then I’ll be like oh, look at you little line you need a little friend. And they’re like, do you really think like that? I’m like, oh god, I do and I’m like, Oh, my painting will start talking to itself, you know? So, so that’s kind of the insanity of it is that I really – and. Because I keep you know, like the art journal especially is the most like one valuable thing in my life because there’s been times in my life where I’ll come to that art journal as humble as possible and be like, I need help. Like, I don’t know what to do. And that art journal will give me downloads, you know, if the picture might not tell me a damn thing, but through the process of conversing with the paint, and conversing with my line, I’ll get insight, I’ll get guidance, I’ll get clarity through the act of doing it. And that’s why I said yes to Get Messy and why I wanted to be in Get Messy because I think art journaling is an incredible tool for not just artists but for creatives of all types because it gives you that, that opportunity to connect inward, you know, and get a straight highway to where you know, you know what to do, and you don’t have to look outward, you know, you can trust it. And that’s what I find the most important part of that conversation is, you know, what beautiful benefits you can get from just keeping it.
Yeah, I’m so fascinated by the way you see things because I feel like I am the opposite, in that, you know, growing up I never thought that I was an artist. I never thought I was like I thought maybe I was creative because I had nice handwriting you know? But also growing up I’ve been quite pedantic as a person, like I really don’t like tactile things like if some, if one of my senses is very ignited and the rest of me shuts down a bit, and so I’m very restrained. So can you tell me how I mean, obviously art helps, but how would I loosen up? How would I get closer to the way you see things?
So I work with women that would describe themselves very similar to you. I’ve had a student I worked for years, who worked for NASA as a rocket scientist. You know, we come and be like, honey, I’m never gonna, I’m never gonna navigate like you. You know. And like, and lots of women that have had a lifetime in corporate jobs and, you know, are more structured but I don’t want to say that the jobs defined who they were, that they would define themselves as being in like you say more analytical, less sensory, all of the stuff. And what I always say is you’re not here to be like me, you’re not here to do this, that your greatness as an artist is your recipe you already have. And I don’t think the goal is to become more loose. Nor do I think it is and become more tight, but it is to become more comfortable with the way that you see the world, the way that you naturally relate to the creative process. And I believe there are universal aspects of the creative process that apply to no matter if you’re loosey goose or if you’re a tightly wound person, right? That either way, you can have a relationship with the creative process that’s going to celebrate your greatness as a person and an artist. If you go throughout history, so this is funny, so people always get surprised one of my absolute favourite artists that I adore, is Agnes Martin. Love her. She’s like, She’s like a goddess to me. Okay. Agnes Martin does the most minimalist, white, these beautiful large white canvases with these tiny graphite, gorgeous, take your breath away grids on it. Okay, I went to one of his shows once and I stood in the middle and I was like crying like this is the most amazing, spiritual, beautiful thing ever seen. And I was in my 20s when I had that experience, so I tried to create art like Agnes Martin, I would do everything and then and then it would hit a point. I was like ahh, I was messing up, right? Because I can’t not be who I am. And then if you look like I have a painting back here, like here’s a grid, here’s a grid. There’s grids. Every time I put a grid in my painting, it’s like a kiss to Agnus unlike I got it together right? But I’ll never be an Agnes, I can love her all I want. I’ll never – it’s not in my make-up. And so when I work with women that feel and have a different relationship than I do. I try to pinpoint the commonalities of the creative process right? And so like, you know, women will say I’m tight I’m like going in there and be the biggest tight ass you can give me honey, I want to see tight I want to see real neat, I want to see like, precision. And that is intuitive as well because intuitive is not. I don’t you know, messy doesn’t equate intuitive. Intuitive is what insight is telling you to do and some people naturally just have a tighter aesthetic, have a more cleaner aesthetic. And that’s what it is. It’s not, it doesn’t represent that you are more or less of anything that me and you are on different levels. It’s just that we have different aesthetics. And so thank God because where would I be without my Agnes? Right? And so we need artists of all flavours because people, you know, they leave, they come to me, travel across the world to come to me to go oh, I’m just going to go back to being who I am. I’m like yeah, it’s gonna be great. You know, it’s gonna be totally great. I had this, I have my beloved PJ, she’s been with me forever. And one of the first times she came, she was doing these weird paintings with all these lines and all this stuff and I was like, what did you used to do in your work and she was like, I was this tech person. And, but and I was like, Oh my gosh, I totally see it. And she kept trying to fight it. I was like, this is amazing. And once she had the permission to do what made sense to her, she totally took off, you know, like, and now she makes all those paintings. They don’t look like mine, they look like her. And so I think it’s, the goal is not to get more loose, the goal is to get more you. And so it’s like, if you are tight and you know, neat, tight and neat it should be. There’s a wonderful place for that in the world, you know, and there’s a wonderful place for people that paint wild and free and there’s a place for people in between, you know, that’s, that’s the beauty of art. So I love the way you describe yourself, Caylee, and I love that you said you had good penmanship, because the thing I love about Get Messy, that I noticed one of the first things was the fonts. You know, I noticed the way you – everything is designed and how there’s such an attention to the fonts and words and your work has all your words and all of that in there. And I was like, of course, I don’t give a crap about words. And it never is in my work. You know what I mean? And so it’s part of who you are as an artist, which is so amazing to me. And I prefer artists that are, you know, as I can say, like, I love artists that are different than me. And I think that’s what happens with artists, we love the artists that are different from us. They inspire us, but it’s a hard cookie to swallow, but it’s like we’re never going to be them. We have to be ourselves.
But it’s also great because it feels like I don’t know, there’s something really inspiring and awe-some. Not awesome. Like, full of awe to see something that you just like, I could literally never do that no matter how hard I try. I could never do that.
Yeah, you know what’s so funny. I had – when I was younger – at the art museum and I had this job where I had to teach the med students at the case western right, they wanted the med students to take art classes so that they would appreciate art so that one day when they made a lot of money, they would support the arts. So they gave them me, I got them so the first class that I did was I took them to see Jackson Pollock. You know Jackson Pollock – paint all over? And they were like – oh I can do that blah blah. Cause I knew that’s what they would say so I went down and I set it up like Jackson Pollock and I explained all the stuff so they had it, and then I made them take their paintings and then they went to Jackson Pollock and they were like oh – all of a sudden they could see that Jackson Pollock’s painting looked like a real solid, good thing. Like it had intention, it had power to it and theirs looked like just a bunch of scribbles, right. And so I was like oh can you still do that now? That’s right. And that like, leveled the playing game right. And so, exactly, I think that’s the beauty, the total beauty being noticed. And I think it’s what we struggle with like we’re going to always want – like I love that minimalist shit, I don’t know why, you know. And I love stuff like mine too but I’m always like – ah this is the epitomy, I’ll never be the epitomy. I get it, I totally get it Caylee. It’s crazy.
Ah man. Okay, Connie, tell me, what are your three tips for a beginner? For someone who is starting out. What will you tell her or him?
Um, number one. I would say play. I think giving yourself time to just play around and allowing it to be time to just – that’s cool. And not worrying about seeing how to make things, just playing around is really important. Another tip is to really realise that everything that you’ve done in your life up to this point is part of who you are as an artist. I think that’s a really important thing to take in. So, notice what you naturally are drawn to, what you naturally like. So what I mean by that is that I know lots of women who come to art and they’re like, you know it’s late in life and I haven’t done art but then they’ll like show me their house and I’m like holy – you know. Or they’ll like, you know they do something else that really shows that like they might have not been making art but they’re – maybe they make clothes or the way they dress or their artistic expression is thriving in their world in some way or another. And so I always like to point that out because your transition from your life to then moving to be an artist is not as big of a jump as a lot of people think it is. It’s just a next evolution, you’re most likely already – there’s women that are super creative with food, there’s women that are super creative at like organizing people together like – I do retreats but there’s women who do retreats and they have little gift bags and this and swag and perfect flo – and that’s creativity right? That’s your art coming through and so your shift into painting or art journaling or to whatever is calling you is not like all of a sudden craziness. It’s usually there somewhere in your life. And you might have to scratch at the surface a little bit to kinda look at how has it been thriving already, how has it been trying to come through? And so I like to say that to kind of – as a tip to realize that you’re not crazy, you’re just making an evolution. And then I think that the third thing is really what you do so well here, you know. Seek out community where you’re with your peers and that’s really important and having a guide, such as yourself, that might be a bit further in experience to steer the ship you know but that everybody you know – you’re not like, you know – if you’re starting out you don’t want to got join a professional group that has been doing it for 20 years, you might feel really intimidated, you know, so finding a group like Get Messy where you can be with your peers and have support. Being in the trenches together is like the biggest thing I think, it’s so important at every level of being an artist but especially beginning. So, I think it’s the play, the kind of scratching at your life and looking at how your creativity is already expressed, it might even be in writing in a journal, you know, so many different ways. It might be that you have a tendency towards music, who knows, right. And then to find a soft place to land, like Get Messy.
Ah, you’re great. Tell me what you’re working on right now. What’s lighting your heart on fire?
I am, I have been doing these little – they’re little pastel drawings – I’ve been doing them at night since the Coronavirus kind of shut down the US. I’ve been making these little pastel drawings at night because I’ve been super busy working on online projects so I haven’t been in the studio making as much as I want. So, I can’t go to bed without my hands touching some type of material so this has been really – I had this sketchbook, I bought it about a year ago in Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s handmade – it’s all handmade paper and it’s put together by an artist I like. So I was like, this is perfect. I actually started it in bed – I brought my little pastels and did it in bed and then I got obsessed and now I only have two pages left. So I’ve been loving this and then what it’s also inspired is then I started doing some painting, but I don’t have that anywhere. Yeah and I have some other ideas rolling through my head, I’m trying to look – sorry Caylee, I don’t have anything by me but-
No, just talk about it. I’m just interested in hearing what you’re up to.
Yeah so, that’s been kinda – before I moved into this, I was doing these – you can see them on the wall, a few of them – iron oxide drawings where you use iron oxide pigment and charcoal and I was really loving it and working in my ledger and I kind of shifted to this just because of time restraints. I don’t have the time to put into the larger works and this just felt like do-able like this made me feel like okay – my day was complete – I had a tiny bit of art. And I think that’s another tip, if we can throw a tip in again to the beginners, that you don’t have to go big – it can just be little tiny things. I have this amazing student and she’ll know I’m talking about her but she has a government job in Canada and she has a big family and stuff and she told me she goes during her lunch hour and she has little inchies – these cute little inchy papers and she does a little drawing everyday and she has like a million little drawings – it was great. So think of how little that is and that was her saving grace – like being an artist in a government job – that was her saving grace every day. And that’s how this felt like you know I needed one thing to do for myself. So tip four – bonus tip – Don’t make it so hard. Make it easy. Make it small. And if you’re tight and neat make it tight and neat, if you’re wild and free, make it wild and free. And then do this – day’s over, next day. And if it’s shitty, throw it in the shit box. I think we solved it all Caylee, it’s all good.
Everything. And we’ve solved world peace too.
And get rid of the geese, that’s what Caylee wants.
Oh my gosh. Connie has geese, I don’t –
We’re cutting into scooter time Caylee, we’re cutting into scooter time.
Yeah well I’m about to, yeah we need to wrap it up. The geese did not make a noise so that’s good.
Please make a clarification, I don’t have geese, Caylee thought I had geese. I don’t have geese, I have geese that live outside my door, I just want to make that clear.
Well you’re not putting up like, I don’t know, what are anti-geese things? Like you’re not stopping them so.
I haven’t done much to get them away so maybe they are my geese.
Thank you for chatting with me today, Connie and thank you for sharing yourself and who you are and just being so open with your wisdom and so open with the way you see things it’s amazing.
Ah, well thank you for having me and listening, I appreciate it. I love being here, thank you.
Your podcast host, Caylee Grey
I'm Caylee Grey. Creator of Get Messy, official fairy freaking artmother and your pro excuse-squashing ninja.
In the Get Messy podcast I’ll be chatting to a selection of amazing, real-life humans just like you are who are dealing with the very same barriers … but overcoming them to create their art.
Together, we’ll explore what it REALLY means to be an artist. Practically. Warts and all. So that you can be an artist, today, now, even if you work a day job, have a million and one commitments and own a cat that likes sitting on your art.
No more excuses. Okay? Okay.