When asked to recall the earliest memory she has of being in awe of the Universe, Lanchen responds that it was when her kindergarten teacher taught her that looking into the night sky is looking back in time. “That completely blew my mind and still does…it’s hard to wrap my head around that fact still,” says Lanchen. For all the hard-working teachers out there, this is splendid proof that kiddos are never too young to learn about, retain and appreciate the magnitude and magic of our night sky. Years later as a teenager, Lanchen can remember painting a watercolor branch and leaf that was so realistic she was surprised it came from her own hands. Apparently, those hands knew what they were destined for – even before the rest of her body did.
Our next fantastic female in the line-up is the celestial ceramics painter Amy Hill, who is out of North Bend, WA. Amy took the time to describe in detail a bit about her creative process, saying that all of her projects start as pre-fired bisque that she gets from a supplier (much like what you would find at a paint your own pottery studio). She admits that actual brushwork is minimal when she paints because it’s more about the use of sea sponge and etching into the glaze that creates the design she desires. It’s fascinating when Amy goes on to explain that a finished piece is dipped into clear glaze, making it food safe, and then loaded into the kiln on a “low-fire setting” – which is still about 1,830-degrees Fahrenheit! Props to this gal for not shying away from the heat.
For Amy, another important component of creating is music. She says her tastes and moods can range from a dramatic Hans Zimmer score to trippy Pink Floyd; and, in her words, “sometimes I need to paint little Oppy wheeling off into the sunset to the sound of Journey’s ‘I’ll be Alright Without You’,” referring to NASA’s Opportunity rover affectionately nicknamed Oppy (here’s a quick article if you’re unfamiliar or curious about the reference). When asked what message she wants people to take away from experiencing her art, Amy replies, “I want people to see the beauty in exploring and contemplating the unknown. And I want them to think about it while having their morning coffee, or relaxing with a glass of wine. I don’t think you need to stand in a gallery to have those kinds of moments.” Amy tenderly adds, “A lot of people feel uncomfortable with the social progress that’s transforming our world right now, and I hope my work is a gentle reminder that new and different worlds shouldn’t be so scary.”
Being an avid (happy) camper myself, I’m especially pleased that Amy mentions childhood camping trips as helping to develop her personal awe of the Universe, and more specifically the stars. Growing up in Washington, she explains that crossing The Cascades into the eastern part of the state really opens up the depth of the night sky. She goes on to say that the kismet connection clicked further when she was in school reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau, which details his experiences over the course of two years, two months, and two days in a cabin he built near Walden Pond on the property of his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. During a camping trip, Thoreau contemplates the sky by stating “no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.” According to Amy, “I didn’t feel so alone when I looked at the stars anymore.” Yeah, I really dig that.
As for early artistic influences and interests, Amy says she used to draw a lot of movie characters when she was a teenager. The first project that she attributes to having a true sense of completion and accomplishment was a portrait of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Amy was so determined to get it as perfect as possible that she declares, “I didn’t stop until I got every wrinkle of the face, every break in the makeup, and every strand of hair just right.” I can appreciate her dedication to this particular creative project, especially since I seriously can’t draw to save my life. True story.
All of Amy’s ceramics are captivating, but she reveals her favorite as being a piece titled The Invasion, which is a 13” bowl depicting an astronaut standing on a moon whose surface is cracking apart with two moons also breaking apart above. Amy shares that “it was created after a tough couple of years with my dad passing away from cancer, and the subject matter was inspired by my favorite game at the time.” These two life ingredients attributed to the medicinal mixing of her mood and the welcome distraction that the game provided during a sad time – resulting in an outcome that is hauntingly beautiful (refer to featured photo). Our hearts and healing vibes go out to you for your loss, Amy, and we commend you for sharing this personal part of your journey with all of us.
With a fine arts background and a love for science, Amy says she finds inspiration in the female scientists she follows on Twitter because she is constantly moved by their accomplishments and how they support each other. A special shout out to Dr. Sarah Hörst, who Amy says provides artistic ideas and has been rooting for her for quite some time now. I’m pleased she also volunteers a lesser known fact about herself, which is that she is a big interactive fiction fan. She shares that several space-related stories have influenced her work, such as And the Sun Went Out, Lifeline, and Photopia. According to Amy, “they all have themes of human connection despite inevitable loss – which is a feeling I’ve tried to carry into my own work at times.” I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that Amy wants to give credit to the studio where she worked and learned about pottery painting, which is called CreativiTea in Bellingham, WA; and more specifically to the owner, Chinook, who showed her how a strong creative business should be run. Amy also gives due love and acknowledgment to her sister Kelly, her mom and Oli.
The third and final female empowerment profile belongs to Chrissy Sparks, a space painter who uses wood slices and laser cut wood animals for some of her fantastical pieces made in Denver, CO. Currently, her favorite materials to create with are high flow acrylics and watercolors. Chrissy is in the process of supersizing her art by working on two large-scale canvas projects, and we can’t wait to see them when they are ready to be unveiled to the world. Three adjectives she uses to describe how it feels to be in the thick of the creative process are “reflective, flowing and immersed”, a truly tantalizing trifecta.
I think it’s incredibly impressive that Chrissy is a mother to a toddler and still finds time to crank out so many fun and funky pieces (please accept my sincerest admiration since I’m a struggling childless trainwreck most days). I also love the description she provides for her work space, and I won’t diminish the sweetness of it by trying to summarize; so, here’s exactly what she discloses, “I have my art desk on one side of my bedroom along with my three year old’s play area. There is always an abundance of toys at my feet, colors all around me, and lots of places to find inspiration for new color combinations. I usually do most of my painting during my toddler’s nap time and enjoy the quietness, but sometimes I do listen to music. My artwork is influenced by my mood and life around me, so I usually listen to music that resonates with me, but most often I just like to sit and paint in silence and let my mind wander.” Ah, silence: that rare, elusive white whale for parents.
In 2011, Chrissy’s husband took a university astronomy class and shared all the neat things he was learning with her while he completed his coursework. She says this influenced her greatly, and she painted her first nebula piece that year based on a NASA image of the Crab Nebula (one of my favorite nebulas, by the way!) Fun fact: it was on exhibit the next year at the Colorado State Fair, which is commendable. Side note after a fun fact: I know this blog is about badass female artists, but props to the guys out there who aren’t intimidated by our commanding auras, and in truth, actually complement and nurture them. We appreciate your solidarity and support.
Continuing with school-based inspiration, Chrissy shares that she can remember when her 6th grade class was learning about Van Gogh and they recreated Starry Night with black paper and oil pastels. She says, “I loved the movement, the stars, the colors, everything about it.” I also have a personal fondness for that painting, so I totally understand the weight of that sentiment. As for a favorite piece that she has created in her adult art adventures, Chrissy chose an oil painting titled and based on a NASA image of the Wizard Nebula (which I will admit I had to look up and wow, it’s purdy).
She explains, “It was my first time using oil paints for a space painting. I spent a lot of time building up layers and watching it come to life. I then had the honor of having it on exhibit at the DPS 15 (Division for Planetary Sciences 2015) Fine Arts Exhibit. It was the first time I had shipped my art to be shown somewhere and was so happy to have found an audience for my artwork.” That, Chrissy, is very cool indeed [insert fist bump]. Interconnectedness is what Chrissy hopes people feel when they experience her art. She started out painting the Cosmos because she felt like it was a way for her to connect with people, and to share this idea of interconnectedness. And, of course, she references the poignant Carl Sagan and his memorable words, “We are made of starstuff.”
I think it’s delightful that Chrissy also mentions women in STE(A)M as people of inspiration, specifically Sarah Hörst again – git it, girl! Other noteworthy females are Emily Rice of STARtorialist (whom we also have on our Lady Admiration List), Tanya Harrison, Amy Hill (like our featured Amy Hill?!), and many other creatives that Chrissy has been introduced to through working with STARtorialist – including Yugen Tribe! Aww shucks, we’re honored. The encouragement she has gotten from family and friends has been very important to her, as well. Science and nature are vital influences for her paintings, especially when it comes to the Cosmos and its relation to us as human beings. Chrissy shares, “most of my work is based on or inspired by photos of space, but can also be inspired by the most recent space discoveries or articles.” Here’s to more amazing discoveries in the future to keep the creative art joints lubed!
I want to wrap this up by dispensing the advice that each of these successful female artists would give to aspiring artists, and also what Yugen pieces are currently their favorite (because inquiring minds and all). For Lanchen, the advice is this: “Create something unique to you. Be inspired but don’t copy.” She loves the pieces we have that show all the phases of the moon and all the planets because “I think it’s incredibly beautiful to see them all side by side like that, and it’s a wonderful reminder of what’s out there.”
Amy’s advice: “It’s okay to make bad art. In fact, it’s necessary to make crappy art to build the skills to make good art. History remembers the masterpieces of Warhol, Rothko, Van Gogh, Da Vinci…but nobody’s first painting is the Mona Lisa. Create work that makes you happy or fulfills you in some way, and even if it’s not perfect yet, you’ll be on the right track.” She personally adores her Pillars of Creation earrings because they are “such a vivid little piece of space to wear around on a daily basis.”
Amy sporting our leverback galaxy earrings with Pillars of Creation!
Last but not least, Chrissy is on the same wavelength as Amy, which really tickles me. She says, “…create every chance you get. The only way to learn your tools and find your style is to create. Don’t be afraid of making ‘bad’ art – in order to find what you like to do and what you’re good at you need to have the freedom to experiment. I usually hang on to pieces that I’ve messed up on just so I can look at them and think about how they make me feel, what I like and don’t like about them, and what I would like to try next.” As for her favorite jewelry pieces, she loves our sterling silver galaxy image and moon rings; flattering us further by proclaiming, “They’re gorgeous!” She also mentions one of our newest moon pieces, the enchanting Mountain Moon Phase necklace.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all three of these stellar (yes, I went there) artists who make us swoon, and make the Universe a better place through their work and existence. Today is YOUR day, loves! Happy World Art Day.
Want to check out more artwork by these gloriously galactic gals?
Of course you do!