Monday, March 18, 2013

Heidi Keyes, artist and altogether happy person.

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.

I 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 pursuits?

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.

Q: When 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.

Q: Describe 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 musicians.

Q: How 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.

Q:Are there any specific websites or resources related to creativity that you’d like to share?

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 Indiana, perhaps), it’s entirely possible to become involved with one online. A few sites I recommend:

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. Cheers!


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!




  1. Excellent! I have enjoyed Heidi's art on instagram for a while now and loved reading her interview! Thanks again Robin for helping artists in such a wonderful way!

  2. I'm glad you like it, Carin! It was truly my pleasure.

  3. This is I think the best, most inspiring artist interview I've ever read, anywhere! I can't exactly put my finger on it, but the combination of placing joy at the top of the list and reorganizing your life around that, and the bold creative freedom Heidi clearly enjoys, and the way she brings her whole self to the canvas; I'm SO inspired by this! I loved most of all her response to the question about tips and tricks to find your best creative self and have saved it for future reference. :) Thank you so much for featuring Heidi, Robin, and thank you Heidi, for being such a force for good! :)

  4. Tara, I'm happy to hear that the interview was inspiring to you! My job here is done!!! Seriously, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment. I agree - Heidi's is such a powerful story for me. She makes the world a better place!


Thank you for spending your valuable time with my blog. I&A welcomes all feedback and comments.