I'm honored today to share with you the creative story of Heidi Keyes. I have long been a fan of her work, and am drawn to the energy and life her paintings evoke. Now, after hearing her story, I understand even more why I love her art. Heidi & I both believe that happiness is a real and laudable goal. I admire her creative courage and want to thank her for being so generous with her story. One of my precepts at Ink & Alchemy is that as a community, we should help each other grown and learn. Heidi is a great role-model in this regard. I am thrilled to hear that she will soon be visiting New Mexico and I would have loved to get together for coffee or lunch, but Truth or Consequences isn't exactly close to Albuquerque. I'm still crossing my fingers though.
Q: I asked Heidi to tell us a little about herself and her art.
am, in both my life and in my career, a very free-spirited person. For the past
several years, the primary focus of my work has been travel, embracing life,
finding loveliness in places that aren’t normally considered to have such
appeals. Per my artist statement: “The world unfolds before us and has so much to offer, and the
basis of my work is that to experience this journey, even in the smallest and
most insignificant moments– as an individual, that is what makes one alive. I
use washes to achieve an effect of impermanence, and allow my paint to drip
freely down the canvas, embracing spontaneity in my work, as in my life. My
art– it is about bursting from the bubble that contains us, sucking in a deep,
staggering breath, and experiencing everything that is overwhelmingly colorful
and beautiful and bright, even in things and places that normally aren’t
considered so.” I try to live a very free, simple, adventurous, and joyous
life—and I think that comes through in my work.
Q: When did you first know you were a creative person?
I’ve been very innovative since I was a
child—always building things, developing ideas, creating and re-creating
things. I was very lucky to have parents who always encouraged this in myself
and in my brothers by encouraging us to be the best versions of ourselves, and
to do whatever best suited us in life. I grew up on a farm in a small town in
South-Eastern Wisconsin, so it would have been very easy for my parents to
encourage me to pursue a more practical career—a nurse, a teacher, a dental
hygienist—but they never made me feel like my dreams were unreachable. Their
support and encouragement is still boundless.
Q: Have you always been comfortable with your creativity, or did you have to learn to embrace it?
“In my past life as an
artist, I was caught up in the excruciating details. I insisted on perfection;
I obsessed over the unrealistic notion of how I was convinced things should be.
I found that over time, this caused a loss of creativity. Art became hard. I
have always loved blind contour drawing, and one day, in a fit of frustration,
I began to draw wildly with a paintbrush, with an emphasis on technique rather
than end result. I was pleased and surprised at the level of sophistication
achieved through the use of simplistic lines and connected forms. The figures I
created were uncertain, unsure, and often pensive, but my lines were confident
and bold.” No, I haven’t always been ‘comfortable’ with my creativity… for a
time, in my frustration, it nearly ruined me and I stopped creating at all. It
took a re-evaluation of both my work, and the way I lived and viewed my
existence, to reach the place I currently am in my art. I’m still always
developing, and I think that’s important. I believe that a certain level of
discomfort is a positive, so that my work and my ideas never get stagnant, and
I am always willing to experiment.
Q: Do you
have any tricks or tips for others to find their best creative self?
Surround yourself with people that encourage
you, but I’m telling you that you MUST be your own motivation. Create daily if
you can, even if it’s only for five minutes. Reach out to others for help and
become a part of a creative community. Accept both rejection and praise
gracefully, and funnel them into an energy that helps you grow. Believe in the
work you create, but never believe yourself to be above growth and improvement.
Read, paint, create, sit in the sun, get enough sleep, call your family, ride a
bicycle, climb a mountain, eat your vegetables, but don’t deprive yourself of
delicious things. Do whatever the hell you need to do to make yourself
undeniably and boundlessly happy.
Q: Do you
have trouble balancing the other parts of your life with your creative
Until last summer, creating art was
essentially a “side-business” for me, although I always believed it to be my
true career. For a time, I worked as an international flight attendant (which
was an absolutely amazing opportunity) and then as an Admissions Counselor for
an online university (which was not such a fantastic place, but introduced me
to some of the most hilarious, wonderful, and good-hearted people in my life).
Last year, I began to feel comfortable enough with my business and miserable
enough in my 9-5, 5-6 days-a-week reality that I simply needed to make a
change, so I made a leap. And yes, I gave up financial security, but I gained
so much more when I started being able to work on my art full-time. My creative
pursuits are now intertwined with the rest of my life, and vice versa.
you’re creating, what emotions are you tapping into?
Boredom, anger, mania, satisfaction,
pleasure, happiness, apathy, determination—it doesn’t matter. If I waited to
create until I felt ‘the calling’, I would never begin painting… and neither
would most people. Making art as a job, as
a career, means you have to force yourself into the studio whether you feel
like it or not, just squeeze those paints onto your palette, grab a hold of that
brush, and just begin painting.
Q: Do you
feel change is an important part of being creative? How so?
Entirely. I never want to reach the point
where I’m so comfortable that I stop stretching myself and considering new
ideas. There’s no ultimate perfection in art, no end point on the journey.
There’s only evolution.
how you use social media to promote your creative endeavors.
I reach out to the public around the world
using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and various other social networking
platforms, which allows me not only to make connections around the globe, but
is also a fantastic medium for selling small pieces of original work and my
prints. I post not only tidbits about my creative life, but work-in-progress
updates of my newest pieces, and I encourage discussions about inspiration and
ingenuity from both other artists and art-lovers. It’s just a really great way
to make connections beyond the traditional gallery setting (which is also
extremely important). My website is here. I
also run (and try to update regularly, although I’m often less than competent
at that) an art/travel/food/fun blog that can be found here. Please join me at any of my sites - I would love to connect with you.
Q: Do you
work best alone or in a group?
I typically work best in a setting when I’m
alone with my work, a glass of wine or coffee, and my occasionally bizarre
thoughts, but I’m attending my first artist residency at Starry Night Retreat
in New Mexico this Spring, and all of the artists have the opportunity to
create and collaborate together in a large studio (which is actually a
renovated barn). I’m truly looking forward to being immersed in what is such a
foreign environment for me and collaborating with other artists, writers, and
much do your life experiences affect your creative work?
100%. To me, art is life and life is
art—the two are undeniably intertwined. My work is based on my world
experiences, and the way I exist as a person is based on the life I've created
for myself around my work. My long-time boyfriend, John Statz is a folk musician, and
our schedule is very non-traditional in that we’re constantly creating and in a
state of flux. We gave up “conventional security” to pursue our dreams, what we
simply can’t live without—and I've never been more happy.
there any specific websites or resources related to creativity that you’d like
Absolutely. As I said earlier, I believe
it’s incredibly important to be part of a creative community, and if you live
in a place where this isn't physically viable (the middle of
, perhaps), it’s entirely possible to
become involved with one online. A few sites I recommend: Indiana
Skinny Artist, an artist directory and creative community, run by the ever so innovative Skinny Artist mastermind, Drew. By the way, I was thrilled to be recently included in the Skinny Artist's List of 21 Artists to watch in 2013!
The Facebook page of Scottish artist, Trevor Jones. This fellow is not only mind-blowingly talented artist, he's incredibly funny, open-minded, a social-marketing guru, and honestly, I don't know ho he has the time for ANYTHING ELSE because he's constantly organizing and facilitating charity events and fundraisers. Truly, a really great guy and a wonderful person to be connected with.
The Brazen Bible is a 'live your best life' blog run by one of my dear friends, Jessica Manuszak, who also lives in Denver. As she refers to it, "a gutsy guide to kicking life in the nards".
The Middle Finger Project, also not an “artsy” blog, but a truly inspirational and in-your-face guide to
achieving what you actually want with your life. Why are you still doing that
crap that makes you unhappy, anyway?
Fine Art Tips, a more traditional
but very informative and helpful blog/website with realist painter Lori McNee…
a really great resource for social networking and marketing ideas, even if you
don’t work in the same medium or style. …and of course, Ink& Alchemy. Thank you so much again for the opportunity to talk to you a bit
about my work, Robin… and thanks for all you do for the creative community.
Heidi has handed the microphone back to Robin now. Ahem.
When Heidi mentioned Skinny Artist, I smiled. I just posted the March I&A Newletter yesterday and this was one of my recommended links. This site is awesome. Go there.
It was absolutely my pleasure to have Heidi share her experiences with us and I wish her the best in what I'm sure will be an illustrious artistic career. Kudos to you, Heidi, for changing your life so that you could pursue what makes you happy. This takes real courage and I am in awe of you. Well done.
I love the artistic community and it makes me feel good to be involved in this way. If you have something you'd like to share about your art or your life that you think may help, encourage, or uplift others, drop me a line and let me know. We want to hear from you!
I'm really excited about the links that Heidi shared and I think I know what I'll be doing for the rest of the evening. Kicking life in the nards!