I'm a 42 year old, full time mom of an amazing 8 year old boy, Walker Riley. I've had MS for over 13 years which has rendered me blind several times, plagued with severe fatigue, sensory issues and disturbances, nerve pain and numbness in limbs. No longer able to write for a living, the need to be creative was overwhelming and so I turned to painting. But not being able to hold a pen for long, also means I can't hold a paintbrush for long so I began experimenting with making my own fluid acrylics, and ways to create certain shapes, movements and effects. Once I created the method I use - the "madness" completely overtook me and now practically everything I own is stained with paint. My floors, furniture, clothes, TV, books…. But I love
First experience creating:
I began taking dance classes when I was three and I began choreographing for myself and other dancers in Jr. high-school -- I don't remember "creating" for the first time - but I do remember that even with toes bleeding inside of my pointed shoes, and every muscle aching - that when I was dancing and performing - I felt a joy, a peace and a purpose that was incomparable with anything else.
Last year when I really started to become disabled after having MS for 13 years and was no longer able to dance or write I discovered how I could "choreograph" the paint to music - and make the paint dance, spin and flow across the canvas -- and for the first time in a long time, I once again found something which makes time stand still and where I am sublimely content.
How long have you considered yourself an artist?
Well I was a dancer, actor and eventually a working screenwriter for many years so I've been an artist in different formats since I was a child. In terms of being a painter, it's really only been in the past year I've had the confidence to call myself an artist.
What are you trying to convey to viewers through your art?
I paint each piece to one song -- so hopefully, the emotion of the song comes through in the movements and colors on the canvas. Beauty and emotion. That's my motto. And everyone who sees my work sees it completely differently. Four people will see one piece and each will think it should hang in a different direction. One will see a person in an outline of black. While another sees a dragon's face. And I like that.
It always begins with a song. Sometimes it's an oldie like Shriekback's "Nemesis" from the 80's, Pearl Jam or RHCP from the 90's or something I've just heard on the radio from Jack White, Mumford and Son's, Florence and the Machine.
Since I live in Austin, there's a plethora of amazingly talented local bands like Band of Heathens, Bright Lights Social Hour, Nakia, Max Frost - so when I hear a song which reflects the emotions of where I am - something ignites in me. I then "see" a dance, movement, flow, color and I listen to nothing but that one song, over and over for days as I prepare and mix the paints to when I feel the painting is complete. Sometimes, if I’ve been working on a particularly melancholy or "heavy" song - (which is often) - it does take me a while to then shake it off. But that's ok. That makes me feel like what I am doing is authentic.
Since I am unable to feel or hold apaintbrush, I had to come up with my own way of painting and so I sit on the floor and balance the canvas on my legs and toes and start putting paint onto the canvas. I then work from underneath the canvas with my fingers and knuckles to control the flow of the paint and to create some of the otherworldly "effects" you will find in my paintings. Sometimes I complete it in a single 4-7 hour sitting. Sometimes it's days of layering. But no brushes or other instruments are used on any of my paintings.
Looking at art. Listening to music. Watching people dance. I have virtually every episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" recorded and I will often watch it if I'm feeling uninspired.
No official exhibitions yet. I have had pieces hanging in some Dr. offices and banks in town and several pieces hung in one of the 15 homes selected to be in the prestigious Austin Architecture Home tour. The thrill of seeing my work hanging in one of the most beautifully designed homes in town definitely lit a fire in me which solidified my desire to pursue painting full time.
Have you sold any artworks?
I've sold a few to people who saw my work hanging in my physical therapist office. An amazing home builder here in Austin, bought one of my pieces, interior designer Amy Mooney Lutz then commissioned me to do a piece for her home and I have sold several through my FB page. Also, since there's usually paint on my hands, arms legs or stuck in my blonde hair - I've been standing in line at the drugstore and had someone ask if I'm an artist - then I start talking about what I do - and next thing I know I'm driving a piece to the persons home. So I guess I've benefitted from not being able to get totally clean after working a couple of times!
Online Art Promotion
I have a website, www.ShanaSternStudio.com and I have aFacebook page as well. To be honest I know I must start utilizing some of the many marketing strategies I've read about on ArtPromotivate - and I plan to use some of my time when I am stuck in bed recovering from ankle surgery, to start to do that. I wish I could just paint though. I didn't inherit the self-promotion gene which my father has.
My father is an art collector and I grew up surrounded by art from the Modern School of Paris artists and developed an early crush on Chagall and his use of color. My dad took me to Paris when I was 16 and we hit all - and I mean ALL of themuseums and galleries. And then I studied a semester in Italy - which was when I learned how to sketch. I would say that presently I am more influenced by music than anything though. I may be driving home from the grocery store and and hear a song --- colors and movements flood my head and and i suddenly feel the need to run every red light so I can get home and paint!
I live in Austin, Texas and we Austinites are VERY big on supporting fellow Texans so I will tell you about some of my favorite artists here.
Sue Allen does things with color and texture which make me extremely emotional. I want to BE one of her paintings!
Tell us something interesting in your life
I lived in LA for 18 years and worked in the film and music industry. Lots of crazy sex, drugs and rock & roll stories. While assisting various actors, producers and directors, I signed confidentiality agreements which had I not done - I could have made a LOT of money from the tabloids. I was also the first woman in Hollywood to pitch an idea for a movie and sell it before anyone had actually read my writing yet.
That I sold my very favorite piece - and one of my first - a black and white painting, "Numb.". I wake up every day yearning to have it again. It's the only one I wish I'd kept.
Plans for the future
It is my dream to be able to continue painting, evolve as an artist - and to be able to support my son though it.