Framed Perspectives

Four local women artists share the inspiration and creative processes behind their works.
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Photography courtesy of the artists. Background art via Getty images / Katsiaryna Hedroich

 

Rhode Island Monthly’s Nest highlights the local women behind the artist’s palette and how you can bring some of their work into your home.

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Johanna Pabst, Woonsocket

Etsy: jojolarue

Watercolor

Getting started

I was always into arts and crafts as a kid but didn’t take it too seriously until after college. I always wanted to learn watercolor — I loved its light and fluid nature — so I enrolled in an adult education course I would go to after work in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was a great intro to the medium and provided me with the fundamentals. I really started to grow more on my own once I started exploring subjects of particular interest to me, especially food, pop culture and color. So I am largely informally/self-taught!

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What piece(s) are you most proud of?

I love some of my bigger, more ambitious pieces, including my Dozen Donuts, and the Three Milkshakes. I also love the Macarons Menu. It’s funny how the ones I love the most are not the ones that tend to sell the most!

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Creative process

I am inspired by food, pop culture, and color! A lot of my work is inspired by my own sweet tooth, and the color and structure of beautiful pastries, desserts and other foods. I also love vintage imagery, especially mid-century modern, art nouveau, and classic pop art. I always have my eyes open for images that provide inspiration. I feel inspired when I can break away from the standard watercolor motifs of flowers, fruit, and landscapes — though I can enjoy exploring those too!

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What does your creative process look like?

My process has been undergoing a lot of change in recent years and I am still working on re-establishing it. Unfortunately, art is not my full-time job so I am always trying to fit it in at the edges. A recent home purchase and move have also been exciting but unsettling and I am still working on getting a new art space set up. But my process starts with a file full of inspirational images, so when the mood strikes I can always dive in and find somewhere to start. I like to have my studio space set up so that I can always paint and make some progress when the mood strikes. I have also learned to trust the process. The early stages of new work can feel intimidating and there are many points in the process when it doesn’t seem possible that the end result will work out, but usually it does – one way or another. I love the flexibility and fluidity of watercolor — it can lead to a lot of happy little surprises along the way.

Price range

$15 – $30 for prints (based on size)

Originals priced individually

 

 

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Sandra Ristau, Providence/North Providence

Etsy: HumbleeStudio | humbleestudio.com

Digital illustration, vector work

Finding her passion

I grew up loving art and being creative. When choosing a major for college I naturally gravitated towards anything involving art in one way or another. I attended Johnson & Wales University and studied graphic design and digital media. The design program at JWU is where I found my passion for design and never looked back.

Athena Greek Goddess

Athena Greek Goddess

What piece(s) are you most proud of?

“The Land God Made In Anger.” I am attracted to and frequently use a blue and yellow color palette with my designs. The cool blue and the warm yellows compliment the story and overall composition in this piece. The print features a sandy desert parallel to the rough ocean with a shamanic heron bringing a healing mushroom to anyone or thing in need. The setting was inspired by the Skeleton Coast in Namibia. The dichotomy of the environment is what drew me to wanting to create a powerful image.  Dubbed “The Land God Made in Anger” by local Bushmen tribes, its deceptive beauty belies the harsh truths of its desert-meets-ocean climate, which has claimed thousands of lives and is littered with the wrecks of hundreds of ships. The heron is meant to be seen as a “light” in such a harsh environment which, to me, makes it a ‘feel good’ piece and one I am most certainly proud of.

The Land God Made In Anger

The Land God Made In Anger

What inspires you the most in your art?

Nature, folklore and the surreal universe.

Freedom To Be

Freedom To Be

What does your creative process look like?

I enjoy going out and taking photos and imagining the subjects in surreal universes. I combine my photos together to make a new world and then I start sketching. From there I make additional changes to the composition and then I start my vector work on my iPad. I send the files to my computer for finishing touches in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Price range

$32–$148

 

 

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Sakara Perry, West Greenwich, 

Sakara’s Studio | sakarasstudio.etsy.com | sakaraperry.com | @sakaraperry

Watercolor and ink, mixed media

Carving a path

My journey as an artist isn’t something that began at any particular moment. Art is something that has always been a part of me, but somewhere in the midst of my Junior year at Exeter-West Greenwich High School it became evident to me that art would be the path I would pursue and the place I could go whenever I needed a deep breath. I attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design where I got my BFA in Illustration in 2013. I continued making art with acrylic and mixed media after graduation, but in 2016 I started a 100 day sketchbook practice of watercolor and ink sketches. When the 100 days were up, I started making these small “sketches” on watercolor paper and soon developed a portfolio of work that I could sell at art festivals. Up until this point I had been primarily an acrylic and mixed media artist but these paintings became a quick daily meditation I could do when I got home from my full-time job and they didn’t require a lot of planning or overthinking (something I have always struggled with in my art). In 2017, I opened my Etsy shop and I sold my paintings and prints at the Scituate Art Festival for the first time. I have been gradually adding in new shows each year including but not limited to Wickford Art Festival and Old Saybrook Arts and Crafts Festival in Connecticut.

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Cardinal in the Green

Prized pieces

I am most proud of the pieces that give me the most anguish. There’s an infuriating place I reach when I am challenging myself with something that’s out of my comfort zone and it feels like hours and hours of work will have to be scrapped. This is always the place where magic happens. If it’s ruined anyway, why not try something crazy? There’s a watercolor piece I did several years ago called “Wildflowers in Velvet” which is still one of my favorites. I got to this place with it in the wee hours of the morning and the whole piece felt choppy and disconnected. I took my brush and did a wash of blue over the whole field of flowers and like a switch flipping, suddenly it was done. The texture of it reminded me of an old velvet tapestry which is where it got its name. I’ve been proud of many pieces since and every single one is special in its own way to me but this particular one always reminds me that even after hours of work, it’s important to take risks and to trust myself.

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Wildflowers in Velvet

What inspires you the most in your art?

Nature is my greatest source of inspiration—especially the woods of West Greenwich. I have always been fascinated by trees, textures, and the connections we find in nature. Whenever I feel blocked, I know it’s time to get outside for a walk. These excursions can be any length but as soon as I’m moving and breathing fresh air I start to see paintings all around me. I am especially attracted to light in nature and I always bring my phone with me so I can snap moments that catch my eye. When I’m in the studio, I flip through the album and look for the picture that I resonate with most at that moment. If I’m having a tough day or I’m working through something emotionally, I’m usually inspired to paint the moon or something with the night sky. Art is the best therapy I’ve found to date, and the best part is that I always find these paintings resonate most with people and there’s  something inspiring in itself about being able to connect with other people through the images I create.

Glassywaters

Glassy Waters

What does your creative process look like?

The hardest part of my creative process is sitting down at my desk to start. Once I’m there, I put on some music or a book to listen to and the flow begins. If I’m working with watercolor and ink, I tape off the edges of my paper and start with a light wash of whatever base color is needed. From there I usually use smaller brushes to add in some of the less precise details and lastly go in with my dip pen and ink to add in things like branches or texture work. The dip pen adds a cool scratchy texture that really gives the watercolor paper a three dimensional look.

Working with mixed media is a completely different process, but equally meditative. I developed a technique in college that combines collage, carving, and acrylic painting. Starting with gessoed masonite or hardboard (wood works well too), I take torn strips of magazine pages and use clear matte medium to collage them until the whole surface is covered. Once that is dry, I put a coat of acrylic paint over the whole surface making sure to scrape it with a straight edge so that I can see the texture of the magazine pages below. This is when I carve out certain areas and peel up the magazine pages to make the textured image I want and then paint into it to whatever extent I feel necessary. My favorite part about this process is its unpredictability. I never know what texture I might peel up or what colors will emerge and until it’s completely done, I never know exactly what it will look like despite the amount of planning I do ahead of time. Both of these processes are completely different, but they both keep me guessing and every step of the way I have to force myself to push through awkward stages of the art making where it seems like it might never come together. The satisfaction of conquering this feeling always makes me come back for more.

Price range

Originals $125–$525 (watercolor and mixed media)

Prints $25–$50

 

 

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Beth Braganca Bell, Providence

Etsy: BethBragancaBell | bethbragancabell.com

Ink, watercolor, gouache, acrylic (sometimes driftwood, shells, various flotsam)

Born artist

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t draw and make things; it’s been my language since birth. I go a little crazy when I’m not able to work. Formally, I also studied illustration at MassArt, the rest is obsession.

Making others feel seen

My series called “Queen, Love your Curls” is one that makes me proud. It was my attempt at creating a space that is revered for people with “natural hair,” where it is celebrated and part of their splendid ferocity. I wanted people to be able to see themselves in the drawings, or to want to see themselves in them. The piece titled “I am a being of Heaven and Earth, of thunder and lightning, of rain and wind, of the galaxies” was part of the Newport Annual in 2020. I got to see folks taking selfies in front of that piece, as if wearing the hair themselves.

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What inspires you the most in your art?

Nature. The lines and patterns and textures that repeat over wood and bones and horns and hair. The fine details, or the minutiae of the natural world will always set my brain on fire.

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What does your creative process look like?

I always begin with a pencil. My brain best works through projects by sketching, scribbling and erasing on actual paper. Once I’ve come up with an idea and have refined it, I then move either to my tablet or my final piece. I’ve been working with driftwood and shells lately as part of my medium, and that has really made me think a bit differently and to remember to be patient and think things through before leaping.

Price range

$20–$3,000+