I’m so excited to share this interview with my friend Kym Stromberg of Blissartworks. Without further ado we’ll just launch into it! Enjoy!
Can you share a little bit about how we met at Journalfest.
I met Violette at JournalFest, which is an art retreat that was put on by artist, Teesha Moore and her husband, Tracy. JournalFest, held in Port Townsend, WA, was an offshoot of ArtFest, but with a focus on art journaling. I was standing in the dinner line next to Violette and I was eyeing her very cool Passport journal, which she’d made in a workshop earlier in the day.
I told Violette that I read her blog, introduced myself, and asked if I could get a better look at the Passport journal she’d made. What a treat that was. I can’t wait till my passport expires so I can make one of my own. As a side note, I found out that if you live in the States you can get a passport with extra pages. Highly recommended for those wanting to make art journals out of them.
Violette and I really hit it off and have been email friends ever since. Because we currently live rather close to one another, we’ve gotten together in person quite a few times as well; most recently at her cute Magic Cottage.
You mentioned to me before that you have learned more at art retreats than you ever did in art school (where did you go to school?). Can you elaborate on that and also speak on the community aspect of it (like-minded people and compatibly weird people.)
I went to art school before I switched majors and went to pharmacy school. I attended Columbia College in downtown Chicago, alma matter of Journal Girl, Samie Kira Harding! I, however, went years before she did. I was there in ’79/’80. My focus was on graphic art and photography. We followed a curriculum rather than focusing on our own thing, as one would certainly expect. This was fine for that time in my life. I’m absolutely not complaining, because I learned many things there, including things that I would never have thought to study on my own. I enjoyed it immensely. I wish I had never left.
I’m very grateful for that 2-year time period. However, I would say that I learned more about the kind of art that I want to do *now*, from having attended art retreats. Because at the retreats you pick and choose what is of interest to you (and what artist you want to learn from), rather than taking classes that meet a requirement for a degree. Since the participants at the retreat are all choosing what classes they are interested in, it is easier to find like minded people, who may very well become lifelong friends. I know I’ve met many. And finding these kindred spirits is really life changing. It has been for me anyway.
There is a quote I like by Dr. Seuss.
“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.”
And I think it is not only true for romantic love but also for friendships. At the art retreats it is easy to find some compatibly weird friends.
You are a Pharmacist by day but have the soul of an artist. Can you speak a bit about that?
I’m a pharmacist primarily because I worked in a drugstore in high school. I sort of just fell into it. And I was also urged by my friends and family at the time to choose a career that was more reliable and income generating than the career of an artist. Not everyone agreed. My high school principal urged me to go to art school as did my high school art teacher.
We cannot go back and live our lives over to see what would’ve been the better path. I used my best judgement at the time. Now I try to find pharmacy jobs that are rewarding. You just have to look. No matter what your career field is. Find the best job out there. Keep looking. Be the one who seeks it out.
It is quite possible that I was not ready to be an artist when I was younger. In fact, I don’t think I was. Timing is everything.
Who is instrumental in getting you on the current path you are on?
Teesha Moore is the person who is most responsible for getting my on my current art path. I had all but given art up after I left Columbia College. But I saw her flyer about ArtFest tucked into an order I had placed for some of her rubber stamps.
And I tucked that idea away in my mind. I let a few years go by before I actually signed up for it in 2010. Luckily I currently live in Washington State and it was quite convenient for me to go to her art retreats in Port Townsend, WA. I went to 5 of her retreats over the years, when she was still running them. Plus I took a couple of classes she taught herself, when she had a studio in Seattle.
What are you experimenting with right now? What new techniques are you delving into? (mention your series of mixed media pieces for the pub). What are your favourite tools/supplies?
Right now I’m making a series of mixed-media art for Simon’s Tavern in Chicago. This very fun Swedish tavern is owned by my good friend and former high school pal, Scott Martin. He saw one of my Viking paintings and decided that he’d like a series of them. We decided on a dozen mixed media paintings. They’re parodies of song lyrics, for the most part. The text in the pieces mention the Swedish Christmas drink, glögg. I like to call them comedy pop-art. They will be on display at Simon’s Tavern during the Holiday Season. Scott and I are both from a Swedish heritage. My grandparents lived in the Swedish neighborhood where his bar is located. Scott grew up there.
A vintage stencil machine is used to make some of the words I use in my art. I may use them as a collage element or as a stencil. I found it on Craig’s List and I had no idea how much I would put it to use. I used it to make the header for my blog as well.
I like using oil sticks (mostly Shiva brand) to apply oil paint over the acrylic paint in my pieces. They are solid paint in stick form and they dry in 24 hours. They give an interesting and sheer color. I will be using these more and more in my future work.
I also enjoy using Daniel Smith Luminescent Acrylic paints to add an iridescent shimmer to my work. I’ll be buying more of those. They have lots of great colors.
Something I’ve done in a few of my pieces is to make a stencil out of a manilla file folder and use spray paint with that. It gives my art pieces a bit of a graffiti-street-art-urban feel. But usually with a girly twist like with some glitter thrown in.
What would you say is your super power when it comes to being creative?
Willingness to try new things, including new art supplies. And new online classes. I like to try new foods too, for example. I ate llama in Bolivia! I went sky-diving once. I took a class in silver-smithing. I became a massage therapist. I travelled in Europe alone. I think you have to get out there and be willing to try things that may end up not working out. Because some of the stuff WILL work out. I get out of the studio and see the world.
What do you do when you are experiencing a creative block?
I usually do something different for a while. I will watch a movie or read a book. Write an email. Maybe I’ll make a few phone calls and knit while I chat. Possibly I will look at an art book for inspiration. I will browse the internet, watching some of the videos of my favorite artists, whether in an online class or on YouTube. These things usually leave me feeling inspired. If not, I just start painting a background, even if I do not know what it’s going to be. I don’t get too stressed out about it.
Have you always been creative? What is your earliest creative memory?
I remember being in about 5th grade and doing an art project and the teacher picked my piece to hang up on the bulletin board. I still remember it. It was a painting of a dog. I was proud of that.
My mother once showed me a photo of me painting at a young age. Maybe 6. And my sister was reading a book in the same photo. She would have been 4. It was pretty indicative of what our future interests were going to be. In high school I was an art major and I worked on the year book committee doing a variety of layouts and photography.
I have also taken several classes in creative writing. One was a prerequisite general class for pharmacy school. I enjoyed it.
How do you bring art/creativity into the every day?
Even at work, I try to bring some color. I buy fun post-it notes or brightly colored markers, for example. I wear fun and chunky jewelry, which the customers like as well as my co-workers do.
I buy accessories that are made by artisans. I have an artsy leather purse, for example, which I bought at an artist’s studio, Turtle Ridge, rather than at a mall. My rings are made by the fabulous artist, Leilani Jensen. I have 3 of them and I’m having her make a fourth one for me. Again, bought directly from the artist.
My iPhone case features art by Juliette Crane.
I have a tattoo that was mostly designed by Penny Poorly, of Poorly Drawn Things. While her work can be a little dark, the work she did for my body art is not!
I buy a lot of clothes at the thrift store. I would say I get most of them there. It becomes a treasure hunt. It’s more fun and more cost effective than buying in a mall. Seattle has great thrift stores.
Once I move and I live in my own house, I have plans to paint the walls in fun colors. My friend, Jenny, has a mango-colored bedroom and I am now in love with mango for a wall color! I may paint a custom lampshade!
What is your advice to someone starting out in Art Journaling or Mixed Media art?
I would say, try to set up an area in your apartment or home dedicated to doing art. So you can leave things out. When your art supplies are out, you are apt to make art more often. Do art as often as you can. The more you do it, the more you will notice your skills improving. You don’t need a lot of time. You can create something in even a half an hour each day.
I also recommend online classes. Take a few and find out which instructors suit your own tastes the best. When you find artists that you like, you can sign up for even more of their classes. These artists can become your mentors. I particularly like Mindy Lacefield, Alisa Burke, and Juliette Crane.
If you can go to an art retreat, do it. You will meet fabulous people. Having art friends is a glorious treat. Hang out with them as often as possible.
What does your typical day look like?
Well, since I have a day-job, many of my typical days include going there, to work. On days off, I like to go to a cafe with my boyfriend, where I hang out and converse with him for a while. He is a fun and kooky eccentric. Breakfast is our favorite meal to eat out. We both like to go to a thrift store, so we often do that together. I like to walk for exercise and I usually do that during the day, usually while listening to music. After those things, it is into the studio to work on my current project, whatever that may be. Later on I may go to the UPS store to ship out some art to its new home.
What is next for you? What is your next project?
I have this idea of doing Nautical Goth art. Something like Gargoyles in sailor hats. I told you I like comedy. And combining a nautical theme with goth has a lot of possibilities. Since I will be living in Wisconsin soon, I will be seeking places to show my art in Wisconsin. I will not be abandoning the Viking theme either. I’ve had a lot of fun with those Vikings.
Anything else you’d like to speak about?
I can’t think of anything to add!
Thank you Violette for interviewing me!
You can find Kym on Instagram: Blissartworks or on her blog Blissartworks
Love, Violette xo
P.S. we are going away to Shuswap for holidays – hopefully doing a bit of kayaking. I will be posting erratically here and on facebook! See you soon!