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Art & Life with Stefanie Bales

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stefanie Bales.

Stefanie, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I’ve always been an artist really- my artistic inclinations are innate, and as my mother likes to say, I was born with a crayon in my hand. I studied fine art painting in college and graduated with a BFA in studio art. I grew up and went to school on the East Coast, so I hightailed it to San Diego after graduation where I got a job working at a Fine Art Interiors/ Art Deco company. After a year with the company I returned to school to pursue my Master’s degree, studying educational psychology and art therapy. After completing my coursework and during my graduate internship I picked up a part-time job teaching a figure drawing class at Platt College, which turned into my full-time career. 10 years later I’m still teaching at Platt, but I’m only there part time since having my son and pursuing my painting career more seriously. Currently, I’m exhibiting regularly and am really active in the local creative community. I have a couple of fun side projects in the works that I’m excited about, and am always looking for ways to collaborate with other creatives and small businesses.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My most recent series are collections of colorful, acrylic and mixed media intuitive paintings, many of which are inspired by the coastal topographies of Southern California, but others are interpretations of geographies that are much less specific. The landscapes are meant to invoke whimsy and serenity, and the universal feeling we, as humans, collectively draw from the earth and the sea. I don’t paint on site or from photographs, rather my paintings come together instinctively as amalgamations of memories and impressions.

My process has evolved over many years of experimentation and I came upon it rather unintentionally, to be honest. I took an ink transfer technique that I learned in college and started experimenting with its potential until I was able to hone the technique into something that was really individual to my work and aesthetic. My method is similar to collage work, but instead of cut and paste, I’m transferring bits of texture and imagery amidst the painted areas. Because I’m uniting elements that weren’t intended to be combined, the overall image becomes a montage of varying perspectives, timeframes, and topographies, resulting in a landscape that is surreal and juxtaposed. My aim is that the viewer sees the work as a whole, and it isn’t until further investigation that the incongruities that give it its ‘dream-like’ qualities are noticed. With that being said, the visual by-product is actually secondary to what my technique lends in process. What this method allows is a certain freedom to respond intuitively to color, texture and form since I don’t have a set visual map or frame of reference that I’m following. I start with one inspiration, be that color, concept or form, and just let the painting come to itself with each progressive mark. It’s an exciting way to work because it allows me to a peek into my own subconscious and reflect upon my visual preferences, inclinations and memories as my body of work grows. I’ve definitely discovered my strong feminine point of view by working this way.

Regarding my visuals inspirations, I’ve always been interested in documenting light and atmosphere. My most recurring inspirations are the color palette created by the rising and setting sun, the texture and movement of the sea, and the cultural and geographic dimensions of an ever-changing landscape. I (and I’d imagine all artists, really) observe the world in intricate ways and am constantly in awe of the beauty of both our natural and built environment. Beauty is a subjective perception and one that is often considered to be trite in an artistic conversation, but I can’t help but feel the need to share my witness. I’m also really moved by language, music and poetry. I aspire to create what I’ve named ‘pictorial conversations’ that elevate communication beyond prose.

Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
A couple of things. First, to be patient with the process. It takes a while to get your bearings in the Fine Art world and isn’t one that typically allows for quick success. Maintain your integrity with both your why and your work, as it’s easy to lose yourself to what pays or what sells. I never put much pressure on myself to “make it” as an artist, which has allowed both my career and creative process to grow organically, and I truly believe this paved the way for my current success.

Also, be as educated as possible in your craft. Being self-taught is great up to a point, but as in any industry, a thorough knowledge of history, materiality, and contemporary movements are prerequisites for creating any sort of innovative, timeless, meaningful work.

The thing I’d wish I’d learned earlier is how to delineate a worthwhile opportunity from a bad one. It amazes me how many people and organizations are out to make a profit off of artists looking for exposure. Luckily there are some amazing social media platforms that allow artists to share their work to a large differential audience for free. This didn’t exist in the beginning of my career, and I allowed myself to be taken advantage of with the promise of exposure and sales that never once came to fruition. Artists shouldn’t pay (sell tickets, “rent” a space, pay a fee) to showcase their work. Period.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
I’m represented by Adelman Fine Art in Little Italy so I always have work showing there. I have six paintings in the current exhibition “Flora and Fauna” which is hanging through the end of April. You can also check out my website at www.stefaniebales.com or Instagram @stefaniebalesfineart.

I know original art (and art in general) is an investment, so I offer high-quality archival prints of many of my works that sell at a much more accessible rate. I also love to collaborate on projects with creatives in other industries, so would love to be kept in mind for any business or community projects. My dream is to not only have a strong career as a gallery artist but to work with high-end fashion and interior designers to create custom works that cross genres.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Maha Comianos / Studio Maha

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