Today is an exciting day. Today I have the talented Amy Abshier-Reyes of The Brilliant Magpie with us to answer some questions. Amy has long been one of my favorite artists on Etsy (as mentioned here, here, and here). Her imaginary portraits are things that daydreams are made of- daydreams full of glamour, beauty, and the spice of life. With each beautiful lady she creates, she opens a window into their imaginary life as is the case with her portrait, A Study in Black Green and Gold, where she reveals: "She lived for those moments when her ensemble coordinated perfectly with the hostess's decor. It seemed like a rare art form, one in which she diligently applied herself." You can't help but fall in love with the women behind the mysterious red lips, decadent fashion, and perfectly coifed hair found in Amy's shop. And now to learn a little bit more...
When did you start painting and what first inspired you?
I've been painting since before I can remember. My mom still has a painting (highly abstracted, of course) that she says I painted when I was about two years old. I got in trouble all the time in school as a kid for drawing in class. I drew on EVERYTHING I could get my hands on. I drew mostly animals (especially horses) when I was little (and unicorns, holy mackerel, UNICORNS EVERYWHERE).
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian, definitely. Being an artist never really occurred to me, not as a profession. It was such a part of who I was anyway, that I figured I needed to do something else as a "job" job. You mean I can get paid for this stuff?
What inspired you to start painting imaginary portraits?
I'm lazy! That's the main thing. I hated painting from life--it seemed so tedious and dull. And I never saw anyone that I really wanted to paint. It was so much more fun to make up people and stories.
All of your characters are so feminine in the way they dress. Is your personal style also feminine in the way you dress and decorate?
Hahahaha, I totally dress like an old lady! It's cardigans and knee-length skirts, all the way. And mary-janes on my feet. My house is loosely mid-century modern-ish, lots of stuff on the walls (and the floor, um...) with wacky curtains. I dig wacky curtains.
You are listed as The Brilliant Magpie on Etsy. Where did that name come from?
It was actually part of the title of a painting I did five or six years ago, "She was just a Brilliantly-Colored Magpie". Unfortunately, Etsy won't let me have a name that long, so I had to shorten it! "Brilliant" refers to color and hue, not brains (but if anyone wants to think I'm brilliant, I certainly won't stop them) and "magpie" for my love of sparkle and glitter.
Is there any one character you have painted that you relate with or feel represents you?
Loretta, the rabbit woman! She manifested first in college, 15 years ago or so. She's sort of my alter ego, as shy or bold as she likes, dressed in all sorts of outlandish costume; an adventuress. There's also Anastasia, the kangaroo woman, but she's too shy to make any appearances these days.
When you are lacking inspiration, what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?
I look at old snapshots, mostly. Or haul out some of my old sketchbooks and thumb though them. There's so much unfinished business there...
You have your B.A. in fine art, how did your art classes/professors shape your natural talent?
I had some amazing professors at the Kansas City Art Institute. They really had a talent for teaching technical skills that I was seriously lacking. I had no formal art education until college, and I was a rough little greenie.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Shop for records, garden, read, bake, sew... Painting comes first, of course--it's never like a job to me.
Is there any particular music you like to listen to as you work?
Uh-oh, Pandora's opened the box! True story: I'm a music fanatic, a record collector, and a total snob about it. I listen to everything from shoegaze and experimental stuff to bossa nova to alt country to murder ballads to indie rock and punk stuff, but I'm super picky about what I listen to. And I have to stop there, or this will be five pages of the bands I like.
You have had a long day and just want to relax and eat a treat- what do you do and what do you eat?
I sit down with whatever book I'm in the middle of and eat something in the bread family: crackers, gingersnaps, toast. Hmmm, carbohydrates...
How has Etsy affected your life?
It's been AMAZING! I've met so many gifted, talented, friendly people--it's a wonderful community. That's what I envision when I think of Etsy--it's like a cool little artsy town that hasn't been run over by McDonalds and Walmart.
What are your 5 greatest loves?
Aside from my husband and daughter, they would be art, music, books, plants, and daydreaming.
What is your favorite thing to do with your family?
We love road trips. Now that our daughter is old enough to really enjoy it, we plan weekend trips whenever we have enough time off work (and enough scratch) to travel.
Name 3 other Etsy sellers who inspire you.
Emily Martin (Black Apple), naturally! She works so hard and has accomplished so much! Also Christine Alvarado (Dubuhdu Designs)--her dolls are so beautiful and she's incredibly friendly and kind. Louise from Art and Ghosts does lovely work, also, and she works tirelessly. All three of these sellers motivate me to work harder and do good stuff!
available in her shop
Can you recall any bad advice you were given pertaining to being an artist that you don't want others to listen to?
God lord, I always remember being told that artists don't make any money, blah, blah, blah! What I think about it? You work with what you have--I think you can make money with your art if you really put it out there and try. It's a labor of love, and you have to constantly refocus and fine tune your abilities. It's not a casual flirtation--it's a serious relationship.
If you could wake up tomorrow and be living your ideal life, how would that look?
That's a loaded question, wow! Actually, all I can think of is having enough money so that I wouldn't have to worry about money. I think my life as it is now is pretty freaking awesome--I've got all I really need to be happy!
available in her shop
What are your goals for the future? Where do you want to be in 10 years?
Right now I'm thinking of painting (at least a little bit) from life, finding a few models to work from, and really pushing myself to go in new directions and to not be afraid to try. In ten years, I wanna be rich and famous! Heh heh heh. Honestly though, I think I'd be happy just clicking along like I have been, selling paintings and getting excited about new ideas and themes and characters. It's been a fun ride so far.