Acrylics, Mosaics and Coloring Books
I'm starting a new feature - Meet the Local Artist. Every week I plan to highlight a local Upper Valley artist. I'll give them a list of questions and they can choose to answer as many of them however they'd like. I hope you enjoy meeting our local artists! [Information about how you can be featured can be found at the end of this article.]
This week I'd like to introduce you to, well, me - Amy Fortier
Bio and History
I am a self-taught artist work primarily in acrylics on canvas and found objects. I am inspired by henna tattoos, stained glass, Moorish design, Moroccan tiles and natural images. There's nothing inherently deep or meaningful about my work, except what an individual might find for themselves. My eyes are simply drawn to pattern and color and I can't help bringing more of both into the world.
How did you get started with art? Have you had any training?
I’ve been doing “art” since I could hold a crayon. I always had access to art supplies - crayons, markers, glue, paper, etc. my entire life. My mom always had us doing various arts and crafts projects. That being said, I haven’t had a ton of official art training - a class or two in junior high and high school, an afternoon long class at AVA with Elizabeth D’Amico and a weekend workshop with Matt Brown in Lyme, NH. What I have had are years and years of doodling and putting pen to paper and just experimenting with various media.
When did you first define yourself as an artist?
I didn’t consider myself to be an actual artist until I was chosen to paint a giant fiberglass pig for Hanover’s 250th Anniversary celebration in 2011. It was the first time I had had anything displayed publicly. It also opened up a lot of doors for me, or at least made me feel confident enough to knock on those doors, because I could say “Hey, did you see my pig, Rosie, in Hanover? Do you think I could hang some of my stuff in your exhibit space?” People loved Rosie and she helped pave the way to my more public art career.
Rosie the Pig, created for Hanover's 250th Anniversary celebration. She now lives at the River Valley Club.
Do you make art for a living? If so, for how long have you been about to do that? What jobs have you had other than being an artist? If you don't make your living doing art, what do you do in "real life"?
I definitely do not make a living doing art but for the last few years I’ve been at least able to pay for my supplies with the profits from items I’ve sold. In “real life” I’m a personal trainer at the River Valley Club (and author of this blog). I also spend a lot of time volunteering and performing with North Country Community Theatre. You could say I’ve taken my liberal arts education to the extreme - I dabble in everything - science, art, phys ed, theater, writing...
How much time do you spend doing art?
I go in waves depending on what else is going in on my life and if I’m feeling inspired. Some weeks I can spend entire evenings working on a piece, other weeks I just work on something for an hour or two. Even when I’m not creating art I’m often thinking about what I could create. If I’m having trouble sleeping I’ll sometimes paint in my head.
How do you work? Do you have a routine?
I’m sporadic. Sometimes I’ll see certain colors that inspire me or a pattern and get the itch to do something with it. I definitely do not have a routine and I’m not sure I’d want one. I like that when I have the time to do art it feels like a privilege rather than a chore. That being said, I wouldn’t mind having more time to be able to create art.
Where do you work? What is your studio/space like?
Right now I’m in the process of moving so my studio space is in flux. Let’s just say that although I set aside a dedicated space to create, I tend to spread out to fill the space I have - if there is a flat surface, I probably have an art project in process on it.
What are your passions outside of art? What's something non-creative that you do to balance and recharge?
I’ve taken most of my passions/hobbies and made them a solid part of my life, almost to the point where they aren’t hobbies anymore. For instance, a little over 10 years ago I trained for a triathlon and then switched careers to become a personal trainer. [You can learn more about that journey HERE]. I dabbled in musical theater in high school and college and now I’m very active with North Country Community Theatre (NCCT). Most recently I played a dancing fork in Beauty & the Beast. I also spend time as a Teen Advisor for NCCT’s Teen Program. That means I spend January - March with over 60 teens from all over the Upper Valley putting on a full scale musical. Each of these things can be draining at times but because I can switch from one activity to the other, they help balance each other out. Art can be very solitary so taking part in theater or teaching classes at the gym fuels my extroverted side. Then, when I need a break from people, I have my art to escape into.
What medium/media do you use? Why do you like it/them?
I really like acrylic paints. I like that what you see if what you get color-wise and they are quick drying - partly because I often accidentally rest my hand on parts of my paintings and I know that if I worked in oils I’d be a mess all the time. I recently discovered acrylic modeling paste. It’s essentially really thick paint that you can use to "sculpt" a slightly 3D image on a surface. I use it to create fake mosaics, or what I call “fauxzaics”. You can see how I do it in the video below. I also like working with actual mosaic tile but it’s often really messy and hard on your hands so I don’t do that often.
What medium have you tried that you don't like?
Fabric and other textiles. I love what people can do with it (quilts, hats, clothing, sculptures etc..) but it doesn’t feel natural in my hands and I lose patience. I’ve never actually thrown a sewing machine but I’ve certainly wanted to!
If you had only one kind of art supply to use for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A sharpie. I love doodling and making coloring pages and posters. Available for download at my Etsy Store.
My alphabet coloring book is available for download at Etsy.com/shop/amyfortier/
What do you do with pieces you don't like?
They usually sit around in a pile and eventually either I’ll paint over them or I come around to liking them. I often find that the pieces that I like the least, or had the most difficulty with, are the ones people like the most. The reverse is also true, sometimes something I absolutely love gets no attention or is rejected. It’s a strange phenomenon but it’s a good reminder that sometimes as an artist we’re too close to our own work and need to step away. We also need to remember that just because one person loves or hates a piece doesn’t mean someone else isn’t going to feel the exact opposite.
Creation and Inspiration
Where do you get your ideas? How do you get started on a piece? How do you know when you're done?
I get a lot of my ideas from colors or patterns. I have entire Pinterest boards dedicated to color combinations or patterns that I can choose from to get started. For example, my piece Gypsy Wagon was inspired by an image I found on Pinterest. I often know I’m done when I pick up my brush and I can’t figure out where to set it down.
The inspiration - an image of a gypsy wagon found on Pinterest.
My finished piece, "Gypsy Wagon", 24" x 24", Acrylic on canvas
What/who inspires you?
The world around me - There are an infinite number of color combinations and patterns that can be found if you look.
What's the best thing about being an artist? What's the worse?
The best: Being able to create something from nothing, and to be able to retreat to a quiet place where time stands still and your 'To Do' list doesn’t really matter.
The worst: Finding places to show your work. Once you find a place there is an application process that often requires information in a slightly different format than the last place you applied. There’s also often a fee just to apply. It can get pricey.
What makes you unique as an artist?
I came up with these questions and yet I’m not sure how to answer this one. Perhaps my ability to combine pattern and color in a way that people seem to find appealing.
"Dragonfly", 5" x 5", pen and watercolor on canvas paper
How do you get past a creative block?
I just put something to the side and work on something else. At any given moment I have 2-4 projects in process so I bounce around. Sometime I have to force myself to finish something before I start something else.
What is your dream project?
I think it would be fun to create a mural. I’m not sure how to go about doing it exactly, but I think I’d enjoy it.
What are your fears as an artist?
I don’t really have any. I was definitely more anxious about people liking my stuff before my first exhibit (at the Lyme Library) but now I’ve had good feedback, sold some things, and just create things when I want to and how I want to. I’m not relying on it for my livelihood so that probably makes it easier.
What's the best piece of advice (or a quote) you've been given regarding art and creativity?
I went into my Pinterest Quotables board to find a good quote to use here and I realized that most of the ones that resonate for this purpose boil down to this: Just do the thing. You’re not going to get anything done by thinking about it. Just start and see where it goes.
About Art and Artists
What do people not realize about being an artist?
How much it costs and how small the return on investment can be. I happen to work fairly cheaply because I don’t frame my work but if an artist does, that’s a huge initial investment they’ve made while crossing their fingers that they can get that expense back. If an artist is lucky enough to sell a piece (usually splitting the profit with a gallery - sometimes up to 40 or 50%) the new owner of that piece can then sell it for whatever they want and the artist never sees another dollar. It doesn’t belong to the artist anymore. In addition, if an artist donates a piece to a fundraiser they can only claim the amount it cost in supplies on their taxes, not how much it sold for. Luckily, most artists want to create for the sake of creating because if it were for the money no one would be creating anything.
What do you think are the qualities that define an artist?
An artist is anyone who feels the need, or even the compulsion, to create something.
What do you admire in other artists?
The different way they see the world. Or can show me the world.
Is there an artist you particularly admire/emulate/enjoy? Why?
Right now I’m enjoying Elspeth Mclean. I love her use of color and how she creates something simple and complex at the same time. I also admire her ability to use the internet to promote herself and her work. Locally, I really like my friend Sandra Williams Crossley’s insanely realistic pencil drawings. Her art is essentially the opposite of mine (hers: realistic/black and white vs. mine: abstract/crazy colors) and I admire that because I can’t do it.
Sharing Your Art
Do you accept commissions? What is the process for working with you to create a custom piece?
I’ve done a few. Usually I suggest people choose the style (mandalas, fauxzaiccs) and the colors and I go from there.
Do you offer classes/workshops? If so, what kind and where?
I currently teach two different types of classes. For both I come to your home or business to teach. One is a one and a half to two hour “How to Draw Mandalas” class and the second is a “sip and paint” class where I teach the group how to draw a simple mandala image and then everyone spends the rest of the time painting their own creation. I have more information about my classes on my website HERE.
One of my "Sip and Paint" classes creating mandalas.
Where is your favorite place to take a class/workshop (locally or otherwise)?
There are so many opportunities around here it’s a little overwhelming. I’ve taken a printmaking class at AVA with Elizabeth D’Amico and a weekend long workshop at the home of Matt Brown. I would love to take a workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies.
Where can we find you/your work?
- Exhibits: I have an exhibit opening this Friday, August 4th, at the Whipple Gallery (Whipple Hall, 429 Main Street, New London, NH) through the Lake Sunapee Region Center for the Arts. Opening reception 5:30 - 7:00pm. I’ll be giving a brief talk at 6pm. Everyone is welcome! I also have a piece on display at the VA in White River Junction.
- Website: https://amyfortier.com/
- Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/amyfortier
Would you like to be featured in "Meet the Local Artist"? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com
Next Week's Interview - Naomi Hartov, Collage and Mosaic Artist
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