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Maker Stories

Allison’s “Babe” Takes the Win!

September 17, 2013


Allison and Canine Inspiration

If you follow us closely, most of you know that this summer we proudly launched our Ongoing Art Contest. This means instead of just awarding a winner once a year, we are crowning an independent artist winner and awarding $500 smack-a-roos and a chance to sign a vendor contract to join our UncommonGoods family every single month. The first winner from our Ongoing Art Contest was appointed to Caribbean resident, Allison Gray. We received amazing entries from through out the nation, yet it was Allison’s lovely “Babe” that caught our art judges’ attention. Allison’s eye for detail, use of mixed media, and sweet, creative design of her very own pup landed her into the winning spot.  In her interview, Allison mentions that “it wasn’t until I began expanding my media usage that I started veering away from strict realism and started redefining my limitations.” We’re more than ecstatic that Allison experimented out of her comfort zone, because as a result “Babe” was created and now will be officially a part of our artist gallery!

Meet Allison Gray, a fellow animal lover and our latest Art Contest winner.

Babe submit-a

Tell us an uncommon fact about yourself.

I have very vivid dreams.  They actually inspire a lot of my work.  I may not necessarily dream about a scene and then wake up and paint it, but the images and emotions that are remnants of my dreams can serve as the stepping stones or foundation of my craft.

I don’t know if the vividness of my dreams is a factor in my sleep pattern, but about 75% of the time, I start sleeping by violently waking up.  It’s called a myoclonic jerk  and of course everyone’s familiar with it—that sudden waking burst of panic preceded by a falling sensation.  What’s uncommon in this case is that it’s become routine.  I drift off, spasm awake and think, “Oh good, that’s done.  Now I can really get started on sleeping.”  And, without fail, I have these brilliant dreams, saturated with emotion and light.

(I hope I haven’t confused uncommon with odd.)

What different techniques do you use when creating your art?

I hate to pigeonhole myself when it comes to craft media.  For a long time, I only worked with oil paints and I only recreated realistic images.  With the difficulty of transporting necessary oils and thinners to continue my oil painting in Grenada, I opted to instead try a different medium.  So I began working with watercolors and from there, branched out further.  I began using charcoal, India ink, pen and pencil, and masking techniques.  I use bleach, salt and even coffee grounds for different textures and effects.

It wasn’t until I began expanding my media usage that I started veering away from strict realism and started redefining my limitations.  One of the first paintings I did in Grenada was of a local boy.  The painting was from a photograph I’d taken of him.  I already had the picture, so I knew I wanted something more than the photo could offer me.  So I filled my palette and painted him with every color that was missing from the photo.  When I finished, I knew I’d moved somewhere in my capacity as an artist.  And I’ve been moving in that same direction since.

In summary, I have and will continue to use whatever techniques I can to perpetually evolve my artwork and myself as an artist.

Colorful Boy Painting

Describe your daily life in Grenada.

Without an actual career, that varies from day to day.  I always try to allot myself a few hours a day to devote to a craft (painting, writing, knitting, photography, etc.).  The rest of the time is spread out over responsibilities and recreation.

Of course I’ve got domestic responsibilities.  With a medical student for a husband, all household chores sort of fall on me.  I’m not totally won over by the cleaning part of the duties, but I love to cook almost as much as I love to eat.  It’s hard to complain about having absolute control over the menu.

I run in the mornings.  Sometimes I go to the beach during the day and play Frisbee in the sea.  I might walk a couple miles to our favorite fruit stand and get our produce for the week from “Fireman,” our fruit vendor.  On Saturdays, we go on hashes.  (A hash is an all-terrain [mostly off-road] hike, followed by food and drinks and music, that draws hundreds of participants per week and takes place anywhere on the 132-square-mile island.)  Occasionally I’ll take a local bus into town and pick up fresh fish from the fish market.  I am an executive board member for St. George’s University Photography Club and perform duties as liaison for the organization.  On special occasions, we tour the island, go snorkeling, visit the forts or the cocoa plantation.  I spend a lot of time experimenting with my photography and looking for ways to intertwine it with my painting and other crafts.

Of course, sometimes, I just lounge around with my husband and watch movies with a little popcorn and wine.

Allison and Ivan beachside

It’s probably every artist’s dream to travel and live abroad, but does living in the Caribbean have its downfalls?

Absolutely it does, but most people don’t want to hear about it.  I live in the Caribbean; what business do I have complaining?  Even so, this life comes with its own set of difficulties and to reinforce that argument, I actually posted an essay on my blog about the pros and cons of being a married couple in the Caribbean, living on student loans, and following the twisted path to our goals.

In short, yes, life in the Caribbean has its downfalls, but the benefits—measured in memories and experiences—far outweigh the comparatively insignificant drawbacks.  (I’m writing this from the sandy shore of one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: La Sagesse.)

Grenada is A-OK2

Where exactly do you go to catch inspiration? 

I love running.  I run almost every day.  I’m not remarkably good at it.  The only records I have or ever will break are my own.  But that’s not particularly discouraging to me because it’s the act itself that I enjoy and the reward that I get. Specifically, I like going for longer runs (one hour plus).  And while I’m running, I have no obligations to pay attention to anything other than my own wandering mind (except perhaps not tripping).  That’s a golden time for me to come up with all sorts of ideas for my art.  And the only distractions I have are my mind’s own erratic imaginings.

I could probably have a similar experience if I just sat quietly in my apartment, but then I’m usually surrounded by reminders of all my obligations and responsibilities.  When I’m running, I’m both metaphorically and literally getting away from “it all” and with that sense of freedom comes a euphoric rush of creativity.

Studio Desk w Light

 What’s your all-time favorite quote that keeps you going?

Not including about everything Dr. Seuss ever said (how many genius simple truths did he make catchy with a little rhyme?), I’m quite fond of William Faulkner’s “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.”  Besides its apropos metaphor, Faulkner’s wisdom rings true in light of our ever-changing future.  Without the courage to leave everything behind, we never would have found ourselves living a surreal life in the Caribbean.

Faulkner Quote

When exactly did you discover your talent?

I can’t help but feel at least marginally narcissistic going on and on about my talent and my history leading up to the showcasing of my creations!  For a very long time, people have been commending me for my talent and while I can and have admitted (does that imply guilt?) that I have an artistic ability that not everyone has, it’s still humbling to come right out and say, “Well, hello, my name is Allison and I am a talented artist.”  No matter if I say that out loud or in my head, I always wind up finishing it in a snooty accent.

A popular quote by Pablo Picasso is “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  Children have this perishable fearlessness to create anything and then share it with everyone.  But at some point the fear of judgment and criticism makes an unwelcome and permanent guest of itself and we hide our creativity.

Maybe it was my peculiar creative courage that gave me the boldness to keep on drawing and painting and creating despite the crushing potential of failure.  Or maybe it was because I just didn’t like math class.  The truth is, I find solace in artistic expression and am bemusedly stunned every time someone comments on my apparent talent.  And when someone does, I think the most appropriate response is to give credit where credit is due.  (I never would have submitted my art to this contest if it weren’t for my friend, Cat.  I never would have thought to create a paper collage of my beloved dog if it weren’t for my friend, Patty.  I wouldn’t have had the heart to create this piece if Babe hadn’t had a foster home while we’re abroad, Lisa.

My direct response to this question—when exactly did you discover your talent: every time someone reminds me.

Grenada is A-OK3

Do you have any major projects you are working on now? 

I’m afraid I’m going to seem a little boring here, but no, I really don’t.  We live as minimalists for the most part and are living in a studio apartment.  Working within my means involves smaller projects that are inexpensive and can be tucked away at a moment’s notice.  I dream of someday when I can really plan larger-than-life projects.

Beas Submitx

Are there any particular artists you look up to?  What is it about their work that you like?

At the risk of sounding trite, I’m going to go ahead and say Bob Ross.  I know my work doesn’t exactly radiate the spirit of the amazingly gifted painter, but he did inspire me to pursue painting and to do so with an almost absurd amount of cheerfulness.  He’s part of the reason I began painting with oils and stuck with it for so long. It would be a blatant lie to suggest Bob Ross is the only artist who has inspired me and influenced my work.  Modern art, with its shifting genres and techniques, influences the decisions I make when searching for a new approach to a usual subject.  I don’t have a secret list of artists whose techniques I use as a paradigm when creating my own pieces, but draw from methods I’ve seen and admire.

What’s one thing you use/see every day that you couldn’t live without?

Well, if I’m being materialistic, it’d probably be a draw between the air conditioning or my morning coffee.  Probably the coffee, though. If I’m being crass, it would be sarcasm. If I’m being poetic, it would be love.  If I’m being optimistic, it would be humor. But if I’m being honest, it would be Supporter Extraordinaire and Husband, Ivan.  (Cue collective aw.)  There’s plenty I can go without, but I haven’t been without him for seventeen years and I don’t intend to start anytime soon.

Allison and Ivan climbing Grenada Mt.

What’s one piece of advice you could give to aspiring design challenge contestants, particularly our Art Contest?

Have the confidence in yourself that all of your supporting friends have.  Chances are, they’re right.

Babe the Pig Dog

Maker Stories

Meirav is Crowned the Art Contest Winner

September 12, 2013


Our Art Contests are my favorite design challenges to orchestrate because they attract the biggest range of diverse talent. Art gives each individual artist a chance to not illustrate their personality or thoughts with words, but also with brush strokes, color combinations, and image creation. With Meirav Gebler’s “Human Landscape: A Disappearing People,” it was more than just strokes, color, and image that spoke out to me. I connected with “A Disappearing People” beyond the painting itself, a message that left me in a bittersweet state; it opened up wounds that I didn’t even think existed anymore.  Maybe it’s not exactly what Meirav intended her art to do, but I do believe artists create work based on their personal ideas and emotions, knowing that their audience might capture something a little bit differently.  

Meirav is a young, spiritual artist who is based in Brooklyn and who has recently graduated from art and design school. She’s traveled to India and Israel and quickly fell into inspiration through “the colors and patterns, the smells of the streets, the market places, the people, and the food.” Her creative use of watercolors and gunpowder are the core of her masterpieces. At first glance it’s playful with your eyes, but the  dripping silhouettes stand behind a stronger idea that Meirav not only wanted to explore on her own, but share with you.

Meet Meirav Gebler, our latest Art Contest Winner. 

Q1. travel- india

After you graduated from Art & Design school, you spent half a year traveling. Can you tell us about that experience and how it’s affected you as an artist? 

Traveling was a wonderful adventure. I was in India for five weeks with my best friend and then spent a couple of months in Israel. India is such an amazing place. Everyday was an insane, crazy experience! Everything is so vibrant and stimulating—the colors and patterns,  the smells of the streets, the market places, the people, and the food! I brought travel paints and a sketchbook with me but since we were constantly on the move I found myself snapping more photos than sketching.

After India, I went to Israel for a couple of months to farm and spend time with friends—a huge contrast from the hustle of India. I did a drawing a day, which is a big deal for me since I am awful about keeping a sketchbook. I realized during these months how necessary it was to take the time to breathe, reflect and understand where I wanted my life to go post the college bubble.

 You’re currently setting up a studio in Brooklyn. Can you describe it?

I move into the Brooklyn space next week, so I’m still in the process of packing up my old studio (a makeshift studio in a corner of my parents’ house). I’m super psyched to have my own space for art again. So, as of now, the new space looks like an empty box, but soon enough it will be filled with my paints and everything else I’ve collected along the way for potential projects. I always have to have breathable space. I feel blocked when things start to pile up and become cluttered so I need to maintain a sense of open space. And I always have one of those fancy dark chocolate bars from Trader Joe’s lying around.

Q2b old studio

What inspired your Human Landscape series?

The series started as an exploration into an idea I’ve been grappling with over the past couple of years: how do we as physical beings, existing in a physical world elevate ourselves to a level of spiritual beings. I felt that the idea of a human landscape illustrated both an intimate personal context of the individual’s search yet illustrates the need to connect within the context of a larger universe as well. I find that coming to terms with my spirituality in such a materialistic physical world is an ongoing struggle, so this series is simply the beginning of that exploration.

a dissappearing people 

What materials do you use daily?

Watercolors, gunpowder, and my pens for illustration works.  Depending on the painting, I switch off between painting with paintbrushes or eye-droppers like the Dr. Ph Martin watercolors. Dr. Ph Martin’s are awesome because they’re super saturated, and I love the way they react to the gunpowder.  I mix the gunpowder with water to make it into a liquid-ey substance for painting. When I’m lacking inspiration I’ll burn the gunpowder and fuse it onto paper. It’s like an instant pick-me-up and the results are beautiful. (But really don’t go trying that at home!)

Q3 materials

 What is one of your favorite inspirational quotes?

“You open your hands and satisfy the needs of all living beings.” Psalm 145:16.  This quote grounds me, reminding me that ultimately things always have a way of working out.

Q5 quote

 Which artist gives you that motivational push that you need whenever you look at their work?

Cai Guo-Qiang’s fire drawings make me pretty giddy. To stand in front of them is pretty awe-inspiring (his works are huge!). But it’s not every day you can do that, so I find motivation just by visiting galleries or even artists’ tables at flea markets because it reminds me that artists are out there working it and I want to be one too.

Q3 materials

You say that you “paint to breathe.” Can you go into detail of what that exactly means to you?

There was a point a few years ago that I hit a creativity dead zone; I felt everything I was making was just awful, like I forgot how to draw. It was pretty bad that I felt like I forgot how to breathe. I was blocked because I thought each artwork needed to be a precious masterpiece (which they were far from!) so my art became stiff.  Soon after, I started working with gunpowder and fire, which reminded me that art is messy and unpredictable and that’s what makes it alive. I realized that to make art I needed to just go for it. Make something, anything and learn from my explorations and sometimes you get something worth saving. So I paint to breathe because painting is a constant reminder for why I live. Art inspires me to wake up every morning ready for whatever future explorations await me.

more mountains

Being an artist means living in a constant roller coaster of ups and downs, can you describe a moment when you were on cloud nine and then the next day experiencing the lowest low? (Or vice versa?)

I have a pretty laid-back attitude so I’m generally not one to experience extreme highs and lows, but it’s been a pretty crazy year. I spent half of it across the world living out of a little red suitcase, then spent my summer bopping all over the states and now I’m finally moving to Brooklyn. I’d say last week was pretty close to cloud nine when I found out I won the contest, found an apartment and a studio and a job all in one week—yea that was pretty crazy! But of course I still have the uncertainty that follows in all of these new changes, like making it as an artist.

painting- mountains

 How do you deal with life’s discouragements or negative vibes?

I try and avoid them! But seriously, when discouraging things happen I think it comes down to making the decision if you want to wallow in the negativity or find a way out of it. It’s about surrounding yourself with positive energy and thankfully I have an amazing support system of friends and family who are always there for the extra push.

Are you pursuing any special projects or joining any events?

Right now I’m just focusing on getting back into my large scale paintings and experimenting with new works.

forest fire

What’s one piece of advice you have for artists who would like to have their designs make it through to UncommonGoods’ design challenge semi-finals?

Just go for it. Trust your art, and the support of your friends and family will follow because they want to see you succeed. It also doesn’t hurt to blast every social media outlet available either!

studio_ materials

Why would you say your work differs from all the rest?

Oh gosh, that’s a tough one. My experience making art is still so young and I wouldn’t want to claim some aesthetic skill or perspective that’s totally groundbreaking.   But I think as individuals we all come along with our own unique set of life experiences and context and perspectives.  As an artist, I’m able to channel that perspective into visual experiences that communicate some aspect of who I am and where I come from.  My art is different because each work is an attempt to be honest about some reflection or observation that is ultimately my own.

colorful souls


Pinterest Art Contest: Exhibit It to Win $100

September 10, 2013


Not to toot our own horn, but we know we carry a pretty great collection of art by a pool of talented artists. And we want to keep building our art collections and promote independent artists as much as possible. From watercolors to pencil sketches to oil paintings, we are always in the hunt for new, vibrant, and creative designs.

Help us discover our next artist to join the UncommonGoods family by simply pinning your favorite artwork into our Pinterest Art Contest. You could win $100 to UncommonGoods and be the very reason why our next artist discovery signs a vendor contract with us!

Here are some of our favorite pins so far.

Mango Seed


Christina Rowe | Pinned by Happy Go Licky


Dalton M. Ghetti

Dalton M. Ghetti | Pinned by Nicole Hague 

Julene Wert

Julene Ewert | Pinned by Julene Ewert

su blackwell (2)

Su Blackwell | Pinned by Nicole Hague 



Chalermphol Haranchakkham of Huebuket| Pinned by Pinned by Happy Go Licky

Rebecca Green

Rebecca Green | Pinned by Jess McDonough

Rebecca Seale


Rebekka Seale |  Pinned by Jess McDonough

Click here to start pinning your favorite art and a chance to win a $100 gift card!

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jeff Knight

September 3, 2013

UncommonGoods Artist Jeff Knight

The moment I saw Jeff Knight’s Nimbus Cloud Serving Board in our Woodworking Design Challenge I started rooting for it. I love the combination of sturdy, yet beautiful, hard maple and the whimsical cloud shape of the board–and the little raindrop serving trays are the perfect finishing touch to make this simultaneously playful and functional piece truly uncommon. When I found out that Jeff is from my hometown, I crossed my fingers a little harder, even though I was pretty confident our voting community would make sure the design made it to the final round. In the end, our community and our judges agreed with me that this wooden work of art was perfect for our assortment.

Since I happened to be planning a trip back home to Fargo, North Dakota, I HAD to jump on the opportunity to see where this winning design was born. Upon my arrival Jeff, in true Midwestern fashion, graciously welcomed me into his wood shop, offered up coffee, and gave me a tour of a beautifully sawdusty space called DIY Wood Studio, a shared woodworking environment filled will tools of all sizes, projects in the works, and a lot of inspiration.

Continue Reading…

Maker Stories

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Emilie Shapiro

August 5, 2013

Jewelry designer Emilie Shapiro | UncommonGoods


I would definitely consider it love at first sight. The moment I saw the ragged edges and claw-like setting of the Raw Gemstone Necklaces, I knew I wanted to meet the designer. (And get one for myself.) So I invited myself to her Long Island City office and studio for a meeting.

Whenever I meet one of our incredible artists, I try to find similarities between myself and these seemingly normal people making extraordinary things. Our artists can make us all feel so much from a necklace or a wine glass that it makes me wonder if there is some super-human element they possess. Finding a common ground might indicate some greatness within myself. So I always look for a connection.

With Emilie Shapiro, it’s the love of treasures -digging through her rock and shell collection, hunting for pieces in her grandmother’s jewelry box, rediscovering something others have overlooked and bringing it all back to her worktable to create something new – that keeps her ticking. I too share her love of found objects and breathing new life into them.

Meet Emilie, lover of found objects and handmade jewelry designer.

Emilie's essential tools | UncommonGoods

Continue Reading…

Gift Guides

12 Pieces of Art for Special Ocassions

July 29, 2013

This summer has been FULL of joyous occasions. Weddings, baby showers, birthdays! So much fun and happiness. But the hard part about all these celebrations? The gifts! Finding the right present can be so stressful.

Over the years, I’ve found one foolproof gift: artwork. Artwork is always unique, thoughtful, and memorable no matter what the occasion. I mean, who wouldn’t want an awesome new print for their wall? Plus giving artwork will earn you some major cool points. Promise.

Not sure where to start? Here are some of my favorite works from the Uncommon Artist Gallery organized by occasion…

Art for a baby shower | UncommonGoods01. Storks by Denise Fiedler

02. Building Blocks Personalized Art by Alexander Doll

03. Bubbles by Andrea Doss

Art for wedding gifts | UncommonGoods01. Love Carries All by Zlatka Paneva

02. Custom Cross Stitch Portrait by Elizabeth Dabczynski

03. Personalized Couple Tandem Bike by Patrica Carlin

Birthday art for her | UncommonGoods01. Beach by Yao Cheng

02. Going to See My Baby Blue by Allison Glancey and Craig Seder

03. Do What You Want by Jessica Swift

Art gift ideas for him | UncommonGoods01. All the Mountains in Colorado by James Gulliver Hancock

02. AIGA/NY 30th Anniversary Poster by Maira Kalman

03. Rocky Mountain Daybreak Bison by Dolan Geiman

Check out more gift-worthy artwork in the Uncommon Artist Gallery!

Maker Stories

Love Letters from Your Pet by Karen Jones

July 9, 2013

Usually when it comes to design challenges, we adhere to the rules. (Mostly because I’m a relentless stickler!) But every once and a while a submission comes along that makes you think twice. Our Art Contest is usually call for a digital rendering of a piece of art that we will reproduce and sell framed. However, Karen Jones entered a piece that wouldn’t fit that model. She entered her Love Letter Custom Pet Portraits that are oil paintings on a piece of steel of your beloved canine or feline, with a little note expressing their love to you. Since each piece is made to order, we wouldn’t be able to print and frame the paintings but the call was for art and that is exactly what Karen sent us. She also must have known we have a soft spot for our pets.

What is one uncommon fact about you?
I have a twin brother who is an artist also. On the surface we are not the same, he is a tall red headed cowboy and I am a short, high heeled, glitter loving city dweller. We were born artists and luckily enough had great art teachers when we were growing up in Arizona. We were in a lot of the same art classes in school which was fun because I always had a painting buddy. I still like to paint with other people around me, but that doesn’t happen anymore. I had to learn to love to be alone with my art. Now I look forward to being alone with just me and my art. Well, sort of alone. I paint with my dog, Ruby next to me.

When did you first realize you’re an artist?
Last week. Funny, but I think we as artist have an internal idea of what being an artist is. I was an artist to the outside world since kindergarten. Art was always fairly easy for me. Awards, lots of art classes, going to art school… none of those made me feel like I was an artist. Three years ago, I became a full time, money making artist. That didn’t even make me feel like an artist.

When I started painting from my heart and giving more of myself and accomplishing paintings that I felt were ‘hard to do’ or challenging and I did it… that’s when I realized I was an artist.

Where do you get inspiration for your art?
Everywhere. I try not to walk through life with too much singular focus. I am always looking around, letting things grab my attention. I look at other people art, that can often trigger an idea in myself. I love to travel, ideas often come to me while driving down the road. I look for things to spark my interest and then process them through the mill of my mind, letting the idea develop a little before making it real. I’ve started writing down ideas I have in the middle of the night but that doesn’t work. I wake up wondering what, ‘I’m human in pink chalk’ means.

Describe your artistic process.
On Sunday nights, I get my canvases for the week ready. I paint on steel, so I get my steel ready. I get the image drawn on, make sure I have a photo printed to work from and enough paint.

Then on Monday morning, after coffee, a little time on the internet and a load of laundry, I head to the studio in my house. I put a ’70s tv program like, ‘Hawaii Five-O’ on and start painting. Once I get started, I sort of go in a zone and before I know it, it’s 4pm and time to get on the treadmill and make dinner. To me setting up my environment so I am not distracted and able to go into the zone is key. My focus stays clear and singularly focused. Sometimes when I need more emotion in my painting, I put on loud love music or on Fridays, Disco.

Describe your work space.
Today my studio is my 1968 vintage Airstream. We love going places, so sometimes I’m lucky enough to be able to paint while on the road.

Normally, I paint in my studio at home. My house is very modern and open. My studio is on the second floor with a big oval window with a nice view and good light. My studio isn’t big and is oddly for an artist, very clean. The only things in my studio are my painting easel, my paint table, a table for the computer so I can watch ’70s tv and a big chair and ottoman for me to sit back and ponder over what I need to do the painting. Only the things I need, nothing more. It keeps my mind uncluttered.

And of course, my dog, Ruby. She stairs at me while I paint.

What advice would you give to another artist interested in entering one of our design challenges?
Enter. You never know unless you try. Use your already developed support group of friends, family and customers and ask them every day to vote for you. Use social media and don’t worry about bugging people. They want to support you, let them.

Maker Stories

Yao Cheng’s Watercolors go with the Intuitive Flow

July 8, 2013

Artist and designer Yao Cheng was born in China, but early in her childhood, joined her parents in the United States. She has, she says, “a deep love for anything watercolor,” and is always happy “when it’s just me, my brush and that new piece of watercolor paper in front of me.” Painting for her is “a very quiet and personal place I can go to when I’m feeling down or stressed out…No matter what happens elsewhere in my life, I can always pick up a brush and paint until I feel better.” (Being talented enough to consistently produce beautiful paintings probably helps!)

Yao feels “incredibly lucky” to be doing what she loves for a living, and her love of patterns, textures and rich colors comes through vividly in everything she creates. She shared some of her thoughts and feelings about her artwork with UncommonGoods.

Probably the strongest consistent element in your work is your connection to nature. It’s hard to tell, looking at your watercolors, whether nature itself (for example, the ocean) is expressing things, or whether it merely bring up incredibly powerful associations and emotions in the viewer. Which is it, to you? Is that ambiguity intentional?

Nature is very influential in my work in many different ways. I look to nature when I’m painting florals, landscapes or even to reference color palettes, but more than that, I think there’s a lot of beauty in the way leaves of grass, for example, move. Because of my education background in textiles, I tend to find patterns in nature and that’s what comes through a lot of the time in my work. So in the painting “Field of Grass“, I wanted to capture the wind as if you are standing there, watching as the breeze combs gently through the grass. I think that I approach my paintings from an instinctual place, so it is the immediacy in emotion that I am trying to communicate. For example, with the painting “Ocean Waves“, I had a very visceral reaction to the dramatic ocean waves and I wanted to capture that immediacy and energy in the waves.

You posted on your blog, “My paintings are honest, original and reflect how I feel at the moment. There isn’t anything more meaningful than that.” What do you mean by “honesty” in this context?

I think it is important to always be honest with how I am feeling about a piece of work and communicate that visually. So maybe it’s the calm and warmth of the waves creeping onto shore in the painting “Beach” that I want to capture by using a saturated pink, you know? It’s the immediate reaction to an image or idea that I want to keep at the center of my work.

Art for me is most importantly a way to express my feelings or ideas at a particular moment. As long as I am creating work that comes from a genuine place in my heart, then I know I have accomplished something. And if my art can make someone smile or brighten their day in some way, then that’s all that matters.

Do you feel there’s a progression, path, or journey in your painting, with some sort of direction, whether you know it or not at the time? If so, how would you describe it?

Yes, definitely. The progression happens a lot in the painting process. I tend to jump right into painting most of the time because I like to not completely plan out how I will finish a painting. I try and approach each painting from a fresh and intuitive place.

I find the intuitive way of painting to be freeing, and I have actually learned a lot from the process of not knowing and seeing where it takes me. Sometimes it’s a color that I didn’t mean to use that will take in a different direction while in the middle of creating a painting. Especially in the way watercolor blends, I have to let go of control in a lot of ways and allow the colors to blend how they would like! It is a very loose medium to work with and at first, I became really frustrated with it. But now, it is really what I love about the medium and so I try to embrace that aspect.

You’ve blogged about your love of faded images, the poetry of objects that hover between being visible, and how the empty space in your art is more interesting to you than the objects — and that these are related to the Taoist philosophy you studied in college. Does it describe some of your own feelings about these things? Is this part of Chinese calligraphy as well?

I would say that empty space is a very important of all of my work. I really love how in Taoism the empty space is seen as the breath and source of everything. In this way, I think that what is not visible in my artwork is what I try and emphasize.

For example, when I am painting geometric shapes, I am interested in that transition from what is here and how it disappears slowly across the page. The push and pull between these two realities is fascinating. Through the use of watercolor and the translucency of the pigment, I can really play with that transitional stage between what is here and what is not.

Chinese calligraphy has had a deep influence on the way I now paint. There is true poetry in the way a brush mark can express a feeling or idea, and that’s what I try to capture in my work! I learned Chinese calligraphy when I was studying abroad for a few months under a calligraphy master. I learned a lot about how to make expressive marks that speak to an emotion rather than just being an image, it was a wonderful experience.

Another quote from your blog, “As much as I love creating work, speaking about it doesn’t come as naturally to me. I think it’s because creating visual work is a completely different language to me than verbal communication, so a lot of the times I don’t know how to express in words what I was thinking or trying to say through my work.” Are there any paintings you can think of about which this is especially true? Do you try to paint what can’t be described in words?

This is especially true in my abstract paintings. You asked about the poetry of the objects in my work and I think of it more as a visual poetry when I am painting the abstract works. Trying to describe how I feel when I paint triangles dancing across a page and watching them interacting with the space on paper, that is hard for me to put into words!

Just as feelings are complicated and in multitudes of layers, my paintings sometimes have a lot of layers of different feelings or perspectives that I have a hard time finding the words to describe. For me, I think visual imagery is a more interesting and powerful way to tell a story or communicate a thought.

You posted that your UncommonGoods paintings “took you out of your comfort zone to paint work that’s more involved, and in the end, more beautiful.” Can you tell us a little more about this?

I loved creating this collection of paintings for UncommonGoods! At the time, I was painting a lot of abstract pieces and while they are visually interesting and complex, I had not made many paintings with landscapes. So with this collection, I was exploring landscapes that inspired me for the first time. It was a great way to expand my horizon a little bit and paint a different subject matter!

I would say that the layers of painting and time involved made it more extensive for me. Rather than creating a painting in one sitting, which is the case with most of my other works, I spent much more time to create the layers of images. The leaves painting, for example, took the most amount of time because first resist was laid down to preserve the color of the grass and then different layers of colors are laid down on top to create the colors in the field and the sky. It also took a few tries to capture the movement of the grass!

Do you have any big ideas for future work that you’d like to share? And/or words of inspiration?

My fiancé teases me all the time by telling me there is not enough time in the world to do everything I want! Right now, I am working on expanding my design services to wedding invitations as I have found it is the perfect culmination for my floral paintings, patterns, and graphic design to exist all at once. My fondness for calligraphy is also a great hobby of mine, so I am excited to explore more in that realm!

I am also working on expanding my art prints with some silkscreened pieces to bring in a different texture and size to my work. When I used to feel uninspired or out of ideas, I would just get frustrated and go do something else. But now I have found that inspiration is endless! There are so many ideas and beautiful things and colors in the world, I just have to open my eyes a little wider and pay more attention!

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