Artist Questions + Answers
I've been interviewed by so many amazing people and I wanted to share those questions and answers with you!
Could you share a little about your creative background?
Growing up, I was a very creative kid. Building, crafting, and decorating my room kept me busy! It wasn’t until high school where I honed in on my love of painting. Then, College of Charleston’s Arts Management program was the perfect segue for me to continue my studio practice, while learning the business side of the arts. But, my most formative moment as an artist came from my season of studying abroad in Florence, Italy. My painting professor, Lorenzo, encouraged me to find my voice as an artist. For the first time, I had a coach, who knew me well enough to make sure you could see my personality and style come out in my artwork. To this day, I reflect a lot on the words he said to me.
How did growing up in Annapolis, Maryland and your lifestyle on the water influence who you are today?
Growing up in Annapolis meant a lot of time on the water. There was nothing more happy to me than a boat ride down the river with my family. But, of course, you don’t realize how special something is until you might not have it? Well, as I was applying to colleges, College of Charleston was the only school near the coast. While visiting, I remember my dad and I mapping the distance from my potential dorm room to the Charleston harbor… 1 mile. Suddenly, it became apparent that all those days on the boat, the walks by the river, the swimming, the sailing, had a huge part in what made me feel at peace. It felt like home. It’s how I knew Charleston could be home too. I always come back to that love of being on the water in my artwork. For me, any day is made better on the water. My husband and I even included it in our marriage vows, a promise to live near the coast always.
Many of your paintings are inspired by marshland settings and the precious nature that inhabits them. In what ways does nature inspire you artistically?
When I am outside, I feel a combination of peace and overwhelming excitement. The fresh air and ability to see far and wide makes me feel like I can take a deep breath. I love how nature is constantly changing, yet feels familiar. I think I will spend my whole life trying to capture the coast in new ways.
You started Blakely Made back in 2014. What did the process of starting your own business look like?
In the beginning, I was working at a floral design company here in Charleston and painting at night and on the weekends. My easel was set up in our living room and my husband would watch movies and while I would paint. Slowly but surely, I began to sell my work and gain a following. After about a year, I felt like I could afford to go part time with it — then full time. It was more of a process, less of a leap of faith. One of the hardest parts was being an extrovert painting alone in our apartment all day. So, a few months in I landed a studio at Redux where some of my closest friends had studios and the painting (and chatting) began!
Many of your pieces take place in particular locations throughout the world. Your summer ‘22 Al Fresco collection was inspired by a trip you took to Greece that we can only imagine was nothing but a dream. How does traveling inspire you?
Though I love Charleston, I can sometimes get a bit restless when I’ve been in the same place awhile. So, how do you experience new things and places, while putting down roots and becoming committed to a community? You travel! There is nothing more inspiring to me than stepping off a plane in a country full of places I’ve never seen, people I’ve never met, and a whole lot of adventure ahead. Especially when somewhere new, I like to be acutely aware of my senses. What am I seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting? And how can I wrap all of those senses into a visual painting or drawing. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the inspiration, but I try to capture as many little pieces as I can in my sketchbook, and then go back to my studio to put all the pieces back together.
Do you have a favorite collection you’ve made?
As long as I feel like the subject matter still means something to me, I like to continue doing it yet, reinvent it every year. The past few years, Al Fresco has been my favorite collection. I love hosting friends and family for meals, so that collection has meant so much to me. However, I think this year I felt very connected to Sun Moon + Sea. I tried to loosen up and work with the flow of the paint rather than completely controlling every stroke. I was tempted to keep two or three of those pieces for my own home!
When you’re not working, what does your day-to-day look like?
I am a bit of an energizer bunny, and love a packed day of activity. We live near a huge park in Charleston, so I love taking my dog Posie for walks, playing tennis or pickleball, and of course the boat. If I had my way, I’d be on the boat everyday, rain or shine. Also, art and home feel very connected to me, so I love a house project, always painting rooms new colors or dreaming up things I could build. Finally, I love being with my friends and family – we host a lot of gatherings at our home, and while not the best cook… I try! Most recently I made beer bread that overflowed in the oven, and smoked up the entire house while all our friends were there. We all ended up on the porch dying laughing while trying to breathe.
What piece of advice would you share with aspiring artists?
Paint your insides. Whatever your heart leaps at, whatever you are drawn to color wise, the place you feel at home, the people you love, paint it all. It’s the honest you! Most likely, your insides will resonate with someone else, and suddenly you’ll have captured a moment that is important to you and others. It’s the most magical part of painting, to make something that feels like home to someone else.
3 tips on how to live life more colorfully
I have a palette of go-to colors, bright blue, grayed aqua, creams and white. But, I always try to have a new color I am noticing and incorporating into my work, home and wardrobe. This summer it was a cool lemon yellow, and for the fall/winter I’ve been exploring a bright cherry red. Even if I don’t like the color to begin with, I try to push myself to find a pair where I might like it. It’s a fun challenge.
I try not to worry too much about matching artwork to a room. I think the best rooms have a feeling, and the colors and artwork come together not because they match, but because the framing choice, patterns of the pillows, wall color all just sort of meld.
Okay… this one might sound a little crazy, but I really do this all the time. With your hand or hands, make a circle or rectangle and look through it. Move your little hand made ‘telescope’ of sorts around the room or space until you find a little mini combination of colors that resonate with you. I like to call these mini plein air paintings. It is a way to notice color combinations out in the world and take away the distractions of everything around you.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Being an artist can definitely be hard. You are taking your inner feelings and thoughts, and through talent and teaching, you use your skills to convey those thoughts… then you share it with the world and people say whether they like it or not. This is daunting sometimes! Plus, people can be rude and mean, as in every job. I think having my sketchbook helps me feel free to flush out ideas so I feel confident in what I am selling. But, as cheesy as it sounds, there are a lot of days where I truly feel my insides saying “I love to paint!!!” The act of mixing colors and putting them together in a specific way is therapeutic to me. I also love that what I am painting can resonate so much with someone else to the point that they would want to keep it and hang it in their home for years. How special is that! So, I would say the road has had bumps along the way, but I’ve always felt like I had a good direction.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
My parents were always encouraging me to try new things and figure out who I was, so I think that helped me have the confidence to jump in. My professor Lorenzo was one of the first artist that saw who I was, and what I made, and said my work was important. My studio-mates, Lulie Wallace, Teil Duncan, and Raven Roxanne, all have encouraged me and pushed me through the years. It can be hard to be an extrovert working in a studio alone all day, so having them by my side has made me want to be in the studio. They make it fun! Also, my husband has always been such a cheerleader- he’s really learned to talk about art in a way that makes me feel loved and seen.
Who are your top 3 inspirations both in your creative and business approaches?
I’m very into UK interior designers right now, so creatively I would say Matilda Goad, Luke Edward Hall and Beata Humane are my favorites right now.
Business-wise, I love listening to the ‘How I Built This’ podcast, it always triggers new ideas for me and practical advice that can translate really well.
Finally, Molly Baz is a big inspiration to me. Her brand is very approachable and easy going, yet well done. Big fan!
What did you do in college that prepared you most for your post-grad career, and what do you wish now that you had done in college?
I spent a lot of time learning the business side of things. I took a class called gallery fundamentals, and then interned at a gallery to see the day to day. I was then able to recreate this 'service' as I was selling my own artwork. I also think it was very important for me to find my own style, and be true to who I am, rather than trying to impress my professors or be as crazy as my classmates.
Were there any common threads in the process of attaining such prestigious collaborations?
Some, I boldly reached out, some they reached out to me. But I think the one thing that is interesting is my collab with Anthro and Studio McGee were both collections that didn't sell the best on my site. I think it was good for me to realize that taking risks is healthy even if pieces don't sell... they can lead to bigger things!
What has been your biggest career setback to date, and how did you recover?
I hit a point in my career where I was painting only to sell and I wasn't making pieces I felt proud of. I looked back on the last six months and didn't want any of the pieces for my own home, plus the sales had slowed down. So... I made a list of all the things I did on the day to day with my work, and then split that list between things someone else could do for me and something I had to do myself. The only thing on the list of things I had to do myself was paint. This made me realize that being creative and painting to the best of my ability was the most important part of my job. I hired someone part time to do all the little things, so that I could focus on painting.
If you were to start your business again from scratch, with a meager budget, where would you devote the majority of your time and funding? Maybe, what are the top 3 aspects that would be your main focus?
- Figure out your style, then pick a subject that means something to you, and paint it 12 times, pick your top favorite 8 of the 12 and paint 6 more. Then you've got a collection.
- Get pieces into the hands of influencers and designers to admire. No harm in reaching out! And bulk up your social media so it really represents you.
- Create a studio space that you naturally want to spend time in. You want to remove all the obstacles between you and getting paint on a canvas.
How in the world can you manage to offer free shipping with framed pieces? Is that not a huge and variable expense?
I worked that into the price - so we work with UPS and they can give you pricing based on the size and weight from your studio to all over the country.. then you add the most expensive amount into the price. If we ship internationally, we do add extra and communicate that to clients.
What would you say is your driving philosophy behind the way you market yourself and your products?
I paint what feels true to me, and that will resonate with others.