Name: Kris G. Brownlee from A Cagey Bee
Website links: Etsy, blog
What do you make?
I'm a painter inspired by people, so I like to create character portraits with a storybook feel. I tend to paint girls and cute companion critters, though some of my paintings have a bit of a darker edge to them. I also really enjoy making tiny art pendants. Not everyone can afford an original painting, of course, so this is a fun alternative to a print. Plus I really love the idea of my characters being taken out and about in the real world.
What or who inspires you?
Oh goodness...so many things! I love to people watch. Vancouver is great city for that. I walk my dogs every day and literally *every* day I see someone who would make a great painting.
I'm also really inspired by my fellow artists. It's amazing to see so many people, especially women, representing themselves via the web and doing what they love. Whether it's painting or sewing or making jewelry, it's fantastic to be part of this shift towards more personal, handmade businesses.
How did you get started?
I've always been creative and enjoyed creating images in one way or another - photography, graphic design etc. But it never occurred to me that becoming a full time artist was even an option until a few years ago. I thought you had to live in a loft in NYC and have a trust fund to have any chance of making a living as an artist; it just wasn't on the menu for a girl like me. It wasn't until I started seeing self-represented artists selling their own work via eBay and Etsy that I allowed myself to consider it. I began taking classes at Emily Carr and never looked back. As cheesy as it sounds, it felt like I had finally stepped into who I was supposed to be. Now I can't imagine myself doing anything else.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I'm very impatient so I like to use acrylic paint. It dries quickly, so I can add lots of layers & go over a piece again & again. With oils, you have to let it dry in between and I just don't have the patience for that! I've been painting on wood a lot lately too which has been fun. When I make prints, I love seeing the texture of the wood show up in the detail.
What is the hardest and most favourite part of crafting?
The hardest part is probably letting go of my favorite paintings. I do tend to hang onto them for a bit before I'll list the original for sale, but you can never tell if it's going to be available for months or be snapped up right away. It helps when I have time to paint a few new ones in between because the newest one is always my favorite. I'm fickle like that. :)
My favorite part of crafting is the community. I've met so many wonderful people both online and in person at local craft shows and markets. There's just something about the community that appreciates handmade, from my fellow crafters to my customers, that is helpful and welcoming and just plain awesome! Seriously. I had someone buy couple of prints from my website and she liked them so much that she sent me a thank you gift in the mail. I'm unbelievably lucky.
List 5 of your favourite links and why you like them
Etsy: This is an obvious one. Between updating my shop, reading the forums & shopping for supplies, I'm on here daily.
This Life: I'll often spend 7 or 8 hours straight working on a painting, so I need lots of podcasts to keep my ADHD-addled brain occupied. This American Life is one of my favorites.
Bad At Sports: Another podcast focused on the art world, specifically in Chicago, that keeps me entertained. The hosts are so casual that it feels like hanging out with your friends rather than stuffy contemporary art critics.
Twitter: I post on Twitter regularly & check in dozens of times a day. I love it because I can stay in touch with people & share things about my day to day life that I wouldn't necessarily write an entire blog post about. I know a lot of people don't get it, but it's been great for me. I follow lots of other artists and local Vancouver folks, so I've been able to find out about all sorts of things that I would have normally missed.
Vancouver is Awesome: Speaking of local Vancouver folks, I love this site. From the best noodle bowl in the city to my new favorite off leash dog park, I have discovered a wealth of local Vancouver awesomeness via this site.
Do you have any advice for those in the biz?
Make what you love. This is not to be confused with doing what you love because I don't think that's always true. Just because you like to bake pies doesn't mean you want to make 100 pies a day and market a pie business and deal with customers and overhead and taxes. Sometimes turning a passion into a business can drive the passion right out of it. This is why I say make what you love to make.
And, of course, promote yourself! It still feels awkward for me, but one of the best things I've done was to join an artist group. We meet every other week to share resources, do goal-setting and practice talking about our own work. It's been really helpful to get feedback in that kind of friendly environment.
Do you consider yourself an artist or a crafter?
I do think they're different, but the crafters have definitely upped their game in recent years. I think traditionally art would be
something that had a statement or point of view whereas craft was more about function. I think that gap is closing as crafters become more interested in expressing themselves and experimenting rather than doing it "right". I consider myself both an artist and a crafter. I love to paint, but I really want my work to be accessible to everyone; I'm thrilled to see my girls on magnets or pendants, and not just hung on the wall.
(photo images courtesy of A Cagey Bee)
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