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Describe your creative space. Do you work at home, in public spaces, etc.?
A few years ago, we expanded our kitchen to include a sitting area. We added lots of windows to two walls and the ceiling was elevated. I loved the light in that area, and the large free space above me. I decided to use one half of that sitting area for my “art studio.” I don’t use an easel, but work on a large bar-high art table instead. I put that table in the corner, added some storage cabinets, and voila, the perfect place to create! (And I’m very near the fridge and coffee maker – an added bonus!)
What kind of materials do you use? What mediums do you work in?
Recently I’ve started to work on cradled Gesso board and Clay board more than canvas. I love the harder surface, and the way I can better manipulate the paint. Plus, I’m finishing a lot of my work with epoxy resin, and I need the sturdier surface for that. I use acrylic paints, Golden heavy body. I also create mixed media art, using paint, pastels, ink, paper, and various embellishments to create an inspirational scene and message. I love hiding words in my art—leaving little secrets that require careful examination to find. Words like believe, blessing, dream, seek, love, dare, brave, and happiness. Also, I love birds. It’s not unusual for me to add a bird somewhere in the art.
What is your routine for art? Do you always sketch first?
I’m probably the most anti-routine person ever! I follow the muse, and most of the time I work backwards. I know in my head what I want to do and then I figure out how to make that happen. This means I have a lot of mess ups, but every mess up is a great chance to learn something. I’ve been working in the morning lately, immediately after waking, which is a switch for me. I used to work only in the afternoons. In many ways, I’m always thinking about art, and because I also write poetry, I’m always thinking about words. Any interesting color combination, design, texture, landscape, phrase, conversation, etc. is likely to become one of my many post-it-noted inspirational ideas for future use.
How long have you been making art? When did you start making art?
Selling art—about 3 years ago. Making art—forever. I used to draw as a child. When I had kids of my own, I was heavily into creating intricate pages for their scrapbooks. Then I started drawing birds with ink and using watercolor to paint them. Mixed media was my next addiction, and the basis for my first exhibit and art show. I love creating original covers for hard-back journals, and I sell a lot of those in art and craft shows. Lately, I’ve started exploring acrylic pour paintings and abstract landscape paintings. Obviously I find it hard to stick to one thing.
Who is your intended, or ideal, audience? Who do you make art for?
A lot of my mixed media art is geared toward children. The journals are for anyone who writes, draws, or keeps a diary. I make art for anyone who enjoys the creative nature of color and design.
What inspires you to create? If you are blocked, what do you do?
Nature inspires me. Language inspires me. Life inspires me. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the many things I want to create that it makes me anxious to think I won’t have time to do them all. I am a detail-oriented person, and I notice everything, and so many things lead to new ideas. I rarely feel blocked, but if I do, I like to go to Pinterest on my computer and search for interesting color combinations or a new technique for some random thing. Usually 10 minutes is enough to get me going again.
What other things do you do besides art? Do you dance or play golf, etc.?
I write poetry. I’m the author of 3 poetry chapbooks and the founding editor of an online poetry journal called Rockvale Review. I’m a poetry mentor with the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program. I’m also an endurance athlete and an Ironman. I just competed in the World Championship race for the 70.3 Half Ironman distance in Chattanooga, TN after qualifying for the race last year. My new goal is to complete a 50 mile trail race, hopefully in 2018.
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
Probably the idea phase. I love to think up a dozen things I want to create, jot down some notes and color ideas, and plan how I’m going to do them. Even right now, I’m looking at four rough sketches of landscapes complete with color notes that I want to create in the next couple of months. I also really like holding a finished piece of art in my hands, one I’m really proud of. That makes me indescribably happy!
What is your advice to aspiring artists?
Don’t follow the rules. I’ve never done anything the conventional way, and I like it that way. But I realize I might be a stubborn person for thinking like that, so let me say this instead: Don’t follow all the rules. Be free enough to take chances, to dare to color out of the lines. Believe in yourself enough to create the way you are made to create—from your own heart and the unique way you see and experience things. And put your art out in the world. You may be amazed at how many people respond positively to your creativity, and how your gifts might inspire, move, even heal someone else.
Sandy Coomer is a poet, artist, and endurance athlete. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including the forthcoming Rivers Within Us (Unsolicited Press). Her art has been featured in local art shows and exhibits and has been published in literary art journals. She lives in Brentwood, TN.