You are some lucky Artsies this week! Not only were you treated to a peek inside the studio of this month’s Featured Artist, Peri Schwartz, today you get to see inside the studio of one of our City Mouse|Country Mouse artists, Christina Baker! Christina was kind enough to give us a little glimpse inside her home studio, which just happens to be conveniently located in the kitchen– where the coffee is!– and takes the time to chat a bit about her work.
Give a warm Artsy welcome to Christina Baker!
Artsy | Hi, C! Thanks so much for opening up your studio to us and taking a few minutes to chat. I’ll dive right in.. Every artist has such a different way of working. Can you tell us about your painting process?
Christina | Well, for starters I am used to working in an open studio outside of my house. I’ve been working in that environment for almost 10 years now. Last fall I began working at home. Our kitchen is my favorite room in the house. I love to cook and I love to paint so we decided to turn the kitchen into a working studio from 8am till about 4pm each day. It’s actually really worked for me. There is plenty of light and the best part about it is that I am accessible to my family at any time. I’m also self taught and though I feel it has helped me maintain some originality, it has definitely kept me back a lot. I’ve always had a natural eye for color and composition but what I am still to this day learning is technique– trying to get the paint to do what I want it to do! This has by far been my biggest challenge. I paint in acrylics, although at times use both an oil as well as a watercolor format. My grandmother was a watercolor artist, so watercolor was the first medium, aside from Crayola, that I ever tried. I also like to keep my brushes and paint wet. It not only helps me with movement, but slowly builds a transition for additional, thicker paint with less use of water. I tend to use my fingernails in most every painting I do. It is an impulse as well as habit. Some people have called it a signature of sorts.. I’ll scratch free flowing lines or shapes through some of the thicker painted area. It sort of loosens up the area as well as adds depth and texture. The bad side of this is, it doesn’t always work.
[ pup Java likes to “help” ]
AF | You paint some landscapes in addition to your very successful abstract series. How is your process different when painting abstracts versus landscapes?
CB | Oh boy….This question opens a big can of worms! Just ask my husband. Landscapes, florals, as well as most anything with a subject matter, is so much easier for me to paint. I can usually do a landscape in a day or two. Though my heart is mostly in abstract painting, it carries with it a great deal of discipline and focus. The best way I can describe it is like writing a song. The first few sections are actually rather easy, but the more elements added, the harder it is to glue it all together. Sometimes you start off with one idea, you add your next idea, shape color, composition or contrast and it changes the entire dynamic of the piece. The next thing you know, you have something completely different than what you even remotely thought you would end up with! Another way to describe it is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Well, maybe putting together a puzzle is a lot easier. Anyway, the reason I love doing abstracts so much is that when I am in the groove I truly do get lost in the painting. It’s that certain “zone” where you’re not really thinking anymore, you’re just painting, where all the magic happens. If I am singing out loud ( aka annoying the family ), I am in the zone. This is when I do my very best work.
AF | Where do you find your inspiration?
CB | It’s absolutely everywhere! Aside from friends and family, which are always such an inspiration, I would say that color in general is something that has always sparked that feeling of “I can not wait to try this!” sort of thing. I remember back in the 90’s when films were using this sort of orange and green tint and I just loved it. The basic simple composition of every day visuals is also very inspiring to me. It could be something as simple as a bottle cap laying on the sidewalk but just shy of the grass line, a photograph, the way the street lights sort of trickle down our beveled window at night. Sometimes it is a current event which could be personal or universal. Other obvious forms of inspiration for me come from the work of other artists which include, photographers, writers as well as painters.
AF | Do you have a finished composition in mind when you begin or do you just feel your way through?
CB | I wish I were able to plan out my work but I can’t. Usually the only thing I can control is the colors I have chosen to use for a specific piece. Even that can and will change as I go! There are countless times when I am “seeing” the outcome in advance but usually the finished piece never matches that vision.
AF | How has your work changed since moving from Florida to Tennessee?
CB | I haven’t seen much change inspired from my move to another state but what I have seen and felt is change inspired by my life here in Tennessee. I have finally met my soul mate, another long but very beautiful story! He has brought so much joy and happiness to my family and my life that it has definitely shown up in my work.
My husband collects comic books, bear with me as I’m going somewhere with this, and though it may seem unrelated to painting I feel it is relevant to the direction my art has taken. Learning more about the culture behind comics, and it goes so much deeper than Spider-Man, I have learned how wonderful it is to become open minded to so many areas in life some may have never thought to explore. Simon Pegg could not have said it better with this quote:
Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.
How does this fit into me being an artist? It’s becuase I am living my life and expressing myself via my work with the most liberating mindset that I have ever had. I am trying so many new things and have so much yet to discover that there is just not enough time in the day to do it all!
AF | I asked Deann this question, so I just have to ask you, too. If you weren’t an artist, what would your dream job be?
CB | An interior designer! I love interior design and Pinterest has totally been heaven for me in this department. Though my taste leans more contemporary, I have always had great appreciation for antiques. My mom owned an antique shop when I was a child, so for obvious reasons my love for antiques will always stay with me. As I grew older, I realized my eye was more drawn to simple clean lines, the less is more sort of thing, but over all, I honestly just appreciate all interior design. Especially when the two words, old and new are combined. In other words, eclectic.
AF | Thanks so much for chatting, Christina and a special thanks to your hubby, Jeremy Baker for taking such lovely photographs!
CB | Thank you for this really fun interview, Lesley!
All images by Jeremy Baker.