Friday, April 20, 2018

Bi-Weekly Interview #11 - Amanda Makepeace

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them. 

Today we'll be interviewing Amanda Makepeace.

Kaminski: First question is always the same, tell me a little about yourself. What made you pursue the tricky minefield of creativity? Is it something that you always saw yourself pursuing? What KEEPS you pursuing it?

Makepeace: I suppose I have my mother to blame for my creative passion. As a child I was surrounded by art, sculpture, and books around the house. I use to beg her to draw my toys and watched with amazement when she recreated them on paper with an ordinary pencil. By the time I was 8 years old, I was drawing all the time and essentially never stopped.

While I've always considered myself an artist, I don't know that I could have predicted I'd be a working artist, traveling around to conventions and creating book covers. I began my journey as a fine artist more than a decade ago. It's only been in the last 5 years I've turned my focus toward illustration and fantasy/scifi themes. It's been an amazing experience.

What keeps me pursuing it? I honestly can't imagine doing anything else with my life. I see art and stories everywhere. It's a joy to create them and share them.

Kaminski: Interesting! I've heard of many an artist talk about the variance between fine art and illustration.

Since you say you've been a part of both worlds, what's your take on the two? Are there any differences that you can see or do you see them as distinct branches? Do you enjoy one over the other and/or why?

Makepeace: I’m sure someone, somewhere, has written a thesis on the world of fine art and illustration. In simple terms, the main difference between the two is intent--one is narrative (illustration) and the other can be whatever it wants. One focuses on publication and the other galleries and collectors. There's a grey area between the two that overlaps and connects them. We can see that especially now, where galleries are catering to illustration themes. During my time as a fine artist, I was more focused on still life painting and nature themes. But even then, there was often a story hidden within the art. When I moved more into the world of illustration that story became less abstract.

I love both and I still create pieces that I wouldn't call illustration. The difference now being I'm less concerned with showing them in galleries. I have the control in where and how I sell them and reproduce them.

Kaminski: Yeah, there was always this upheaval during my stay in college between the two, so it's refreshing to see another person agree with me that they are more-or-less one and the same.

Switching gears: your artwork seems varies from piece-to-piece. Not just in terms of theme, but in terms of media used, size, etc. Is there one that you find preferential over the others (media-wise)? Or do you love the versatility offered? Does one media effect your output over the others?

Makepeace: I do work in a few mediums! My main mediums are graphite, watercolor and digital but there was a time I only worked traditionally in acrylics and watercolors. I have an autoimmune disorder that effects the connective tissues in my body. In 2011, it became increasingly difficult for me to paint my large acrylic paintings. It was a difficult time for me. Out of desperation to create, I began experimenting with digital painting and fractal generation. Working with a Wacom Intuos turned out to be far less strenuous on my hands and I fell in love. Digital art opened a door--it tapped into a part of my creative mind that had been dormant.

I love both traditional and digital, but my traditional work tends to be smaller in size because of my health obstacles. Digital let's me go as big as I want to print, but it's not necessarily faster. I approach digital painting far more like a traditional artist as far as process goes and use far less of the nifty tricks. However, I'm continually pulled back to traditional. I love my pencils and watercolor too much to let them go.

Being true to yourself, your art and to others will set you apart--it will make you shine.

Kaminski: With your background in traditional roles, what made you dive into the convention scene and not strictly gallery work? What effect have conventions had on your work? Are there any cons you particularly enjoy over others? And lastly, what makes them stand out over others?

Makepeace: I owe my leap to conventions to an illustrator I met at the DragonCon Art Show, who has since become a close friend. He convinced me my art would be a good fit. At the time I had only just begun my journey transitioning to fantasy and sci-fi art. I was unsure, but after my first art show the following year (at DragonCon) I was hooked. I have since had a few pieces in galleries, but I love conventions for the interaction you get with the fans. Having a chance to interact face to face with someone who loves a piece you've painted, in a truly honest way, is priceless. I've never had that with galleries.

From a business standpoint, conventions have allowed me to make more lasting relationships with those who graciously support my art. Those relationships have evolved beyond just the conventions themselves. I'm creating art not only for myself but for them as well, and it's a wonderful experience. I'm quite partial to the conventions here in the southeast but I'm planning to branch out more in the coming year.

Kaminski: Yeah, I feel you on the relationships being more meaningful - hell half of the people that I talk to currently are from people I’ve met at conventions. Social media is great and all, but there's something to be said about face-to-face.

Speaking of social media and relationships: What are some suggestions you have for promoting yourself and/or keeping yourself relevant? Do you have any particular suggestions for things that have worked for you in particular?

Makepeace: [On] social media and self-promotion... I used to spend an enormous amount of time researching ways to stay relevant and sell my art online. I still try to stay in the know, but I worry about it far less. I think the internet is flooded with art and illustration. Artists have to work ten times harder to gain any traction on social media, whereas, face-to-face interaction is instant. They either love your art and buy it, or they walk away and you greet the next person. Ultimately, if you're making connections with fans of your art at conventions and other events the best thing you can do online is stay true to yourself, interact with those fans, and keep creating and sharing art. That's the core of it. I like to think of social media as a way for my fans to stay up to date with what I'm doing till they see me again.

At the same time, you're putting art out there that may be seen by other eyes--potential clients. It's important to remember what you post online is a reflection of you and your business. Not much is truly private anymore. How you present yourself online can be a deciding factor in whether a client will hire you.

Kaminski: Do you have any project or series in particular that you'd like to throw out there - along with some of the ideas and reasonings behind them?

Makepeace: I don't tend to focus on very specific personal projects or series of works, which I know is out of line with what a lot of other artists are doing right now. That's probably a side effect of being an artist that works in multiple mediums and genres. My mind is an endless stream of ideas and visions. I've found, as long as I'm creating something I love and connect with on a deeper level, then others will connect with it too. However, there are themes and subjects that I gravitate toward and I think they can be found in almost all of my work. There are strong elements of nature/organic and magic/power that span my art, from Fantasy to Science Fiction and from my Traditional art to my Digital. These are themes I've always been pulled toward and they permeate other parts of my life too, not just my own art.


One project I would like to shamelessly promote is the Bird Whisperer Project Melissa Gay and myself launched in 2016. What began as a fun monthly challenge between the two us has grown to involve dozens of other artists. It's an open challenge to artists of all levels. The core idea behind it is to have fun and promote making art. It doesn't hurt to have a love of birds too!

I'm also participating in two group projects that are forthcoming. One is a card game being developed by the Changeling Artist Collective and another is a collaborative art book focusing on Victorian Horror. I'll be sharing art for those online in the coming months.

Kaminski: Which do you prefer more, the convention scene or the gallery scene?

Makepeace: I very much prefer the convention scene! I love being there as an artist and interacting with fans, but I also love all the fandoms too. I attended DragonCon long before I was ever an artist there.

Kaminski: Since Midsouth Con last month was my first jump into doing a convention's art show, I felt a little lost myself, even though after-the-fact I see that it's pretty self-explanatory.

What tips and tricks for solidifying your work in the art shows for conventions would you be able to toss out there? Do you find any particular method to arranging your pieces or mounting or anything seem to change the end-result of your art show? Do you find art shows to be more or less rewarding than tabling at a show?

Makepeace: Conventions are a great way to grow your fan base and sell your art but they can be intimidating when you're just getting started! They can also be a bit of a long game too. I've found that the first year at a convention is the one where everyone gets to know you and your art. When you return the second year you're a known quantity and it makes a big difference! I also suggest taking the time to be observant. Look at what other artists are doing, look at their setup, how their table is arranged, etc. and take notes. I'm not saying copy what other artists are doing, but you can learn from them and adapt things to suit you. There's a lot of trial and error involved until you find that sweet spot.

For example, my gallery setup for Art Shows is continually evolving as I find what works for me. I also change it up depending on the show. Some shows like more of my SciFi than my Fantasy. Some want it all! My table setup is still evolving too. But one thing I've found in both instances, is you need a lot of stock. You need a library of art to show. The more you have, the more rich your display/table. Also having various price points can be helpful--something for everyone.

If I could, I'd table at every show. Having a table is usually more financially rewarding, but it also lets me interact with more people too and I love being able to do that. But that won't be true for all events, especially smaller conventions. Those that are small, that have an Art Show, allow me to be involved in other ways that are rewarding too and give me the opportunity to make connections with fans and potential clients. I've found that if you stay positive and open you can often make any convention work in your favor in one way or another.

Kaminski: All great points!
I think that the niceties get lost on convention vendors sometimes.
I was at a show one time and the guy behind us was absolutely losing his mind. I'm assuming that he wasn't selling well or that the customer base wasn't reacting as well as he had hoped. That being said, I think that the crankiness was rubbing off on everything around him to the point where his entire backdrop actually fell apart, taking his framed pictures with it.
It was really sad and I bet made his show ten times worse than it could have been had he walked into it with a good mindset.

Makepeace: Yes, I know exactly what your talking about. I've even seen a few artists come onto to Facebook after a con and completely bash the event and the fans. So sad and incredibly unprofessional.

Kaminski: What drew you to birds? And also, what kinds of birds happen to be your favorite to paint / draw?

Makepeace: Uh-oh, you've opened a can of worms now...

It's rather ironic I've become so entwined with birds in recent years. I owe that very much to The Bird Whisperer Project. The truth is I'm drawn to them for the same reason I'm drawn to all wildlife. I love their beauty and their spirit. As a child, I spent a lot of time outdoors, playing in the woods, going on camping trips, riding horses, etc. Horses were actually the first animal I practiced drawing. Birds came much later! But at the core of it, there have been times in my life I've felt more connected to nature and wildlife than people and society.

That applies to birds too! I'm especially fond of Corvids (Ravens, Crows, Magpies...) and Owls, but if I had to pick one I would narrow it down to the entire Tyto genus (Barn Owls and their cousins). My latest Bird Whisperer painting features myself (as a child) and a Barn Owl. It's a painting close to my heart and definitely a favorite of mine for the moment, or until the next one!

Kaminski: That's intriguing! I think much like you I'm drawn to nature - which a lot of people might find so funny because I draw so much cyberpunk.
In my own way, that's why I try to connect that juxtaposition with the natural and unnatural.

Makepeace: Interesting!! I wouldn't have expected that. But the flip side is, I love Science Fiction too. And I'm a HUGE Alien/Aliens fan.That often surprises people too.

That's very cool! I like that idea of that juxtaposition. Glad I'm not alone in having two very different parts of me. For a long time I didn't really share that side as much. Last year was the first year I began showing my Scifi art alongside my Fantasy/Nature. And it was a hit.

Kaminski: As well it should be!
Ashley always says it's best that no matter HOW fantastical, to always root it in reality. Hell, even Neil Gaiman said such things during some of the interviews about NeverWhere.

Makepeace: Yes! I think it gives people something to relate to and that's so important in art and illustration. I'm just glad to hear that more artists aren't so cut and dry and there they are all multi-faceted

Kaminski: What goals do you have set for yourself for the immediate? And the long term?

Makepeace: After winning my first DragonCon Art Show award last summer, I wanted make an effort in 2018 to attend more events. The goal is to get my art seen by more potential fans and clients, but also to make new connections with other artists too. That means there are more expenses to tackle this year, but so far it's been worth it. I started off January at ChattaCon and won 1st Place Professional Science Fiction for my piece Saturn's Twilight. I have eight events on my calendar that I'm attending and two I'll be mailing out to for the art show. It's turning into a lesson in time management, since I also have commissions from clients and I'm continually trying to build up my portfolio.

Long term I'd like to get to a point where I'm making good profit from shows. I want to build a library of art that speaks to people. Time and persistence are my friend.

Kaminski: No doubt! You're definitely getting there though!

What's the best piece of advice you've received OR what's some advice you could give fellow artists?

Makepeace: I had to think on this one! The best advice I could any artist is be genuine. Being true to yourself, your art and to others will set you apart--it will make you shine.

Kaminski: Thanks so much for another awesome interview. It's always fun to learn about another illustrator, especially one so fond of birds, such as myself!


Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Amanda Makepeace.
If you did, please give it a SHARE via Facebook or Twitter, below.
You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of Amanda's work at her WEBSITE:
You can also learn more about the Bird Whisperer Project HERE:

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!



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