Artist Spotlight: Casey Wiest

I am especially excited about the following interview.  I met Casey at York College in Painting Class, and I loved seeing what she came up with for each assignment.  I also had the pleasure of sharing a few classes with her and showing my work with hers at the YCP Senior Art Show in May of 2009.  She won first place out of the nine seniors!  I know this is a long post, but it is well worth reading.  Casey has such a way with words.  Here is her interview:

Brief Bio

Casey was born into an industrious family suffering from a lack of creative fulfillment in York, Pennsylvania. Through the years she filled her time and fulfilled her heart with drawing, painting, and any manner of artistic endeavors. When it came time for college and thoughts of serious life, art seemed out of the question. She simply had no where to begin and no support for the endeavor. After many years of struggling with herself, college and the world of dead end part-time jobs, Casey finally accepted herself for what she was born to be…an artist poor of pocket, but rich in self fulfillment. She is now working on transitioning into an illustration career since graduating from York College of Pa with a degree in fine art. She works in various drawing and painting media but is exceptionally fond of oil paint. Her work revolves around the plants, animals, and landscapes of the natural world as well as magical renditions of like subjects.

At what age did you realize that you loved art?
Of course I always loved to draw, as most all children do, but I guess I became aware of that fact when the other kids in school seemed to give it up and move on to other interests. I think by the age of 9 I knew it was something I would always do. At that point I was signing my drawings and including dates as well.

You are an amazing illustrator. How is illustration different from other forms of art?
First of all, thank you for the complement. I myself feel that I have so much farther to go, so much more to learn. But after all that is the point of life really. Illustration is an interesting field in that it borrows heavily from fine art, yet its commercial applications make it the most democratic form of art for its accessibility to all. At is core it exists to further the ideas of a story or an idea and it is often married to the written word; although a great illustration can tell a story without any words.

Explain a bit about your process.
One of the major differences( for me at least) in creating an illustration rather than a landscape painting, for example, is the amount of planning and craft that goes into designing an image and crafting the message you want to it to carry. The most important element of an illustration is the information it conveys to the viewer. My process is not at all spontaneous like the common stereotype associated with artists describing them as wild free spirits who create on a whim.  That’s not to say that I don’t draw from life, because that is of utmost importance to hone and maintain their skills. However an illustration starts as an idea (your own or someone else’s) and evolves from a thumbnail or a loose sketch over many revisions into a good solid drawing capable of carrying a message. My own style and standards dictate that the drawing should be technically sound and absolutely believable no matter what the subject matter. The real craft and challenge I find is achieving a finished product with all this careful consideration that looks to everyone else to be just as fresh and spontaneous as an ala prima landscape. Once the structure and detail is hammered out in the drawing, I transfer the image to good paper, canvas, or board for the finished project. Other important steps include a good tonal drawing to flesh out the areas of shadow and highlight as well as color studies to work out the finished palette. I must confess that sometimes when it comes to color, I like to just go with my gut and keep that a little more spontaneous.

What inspires you?
I find this to be a hard answer to nail down. So many things spark interest and creativity for me.  It could be as simple as a beautiful color combination, working in my garden, or watching the birds out side my window. But I think mostly its all about a great story, so naturally illustration is where I belong. I have always been intrigued by myths, legends, and especially adventures full of danger and characters who find fulfillment and greater purpose in life through trials and experience.

What is your favorite part of being an artist?
I think my favorite part about this whole mess of a life adventure would have to be the sense of fulfillment that comes from the creative process and sharing that intimate piece of yourself with others in your finished work. This gives my life meaning and a strong sense of purpose.

What is your favorite thing to paint?
Landscapes are a lot of fun when the goal is just to paint freely. I especially love to experiment with color and light. Also it gives me the opportunity to work on pieces from very small to very large scale as well as experiment with different formats. Landscapes can also be very beautifully detailed or simply rendered fields of color. It’s a nice complement to the often more disciplined approach I have to my illustrations. When it comes to my illustration, my favorite subjects are often animals and mythological or magical subjects.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from anyone about art?
I think this is less advice and more of a point of view but it sticks out in my mind. An older more experienced artist who was a classmate of mine once said that as artist’s “we are like priest’s –we don’t to this because we want to, we do it because we have to.” I find that to be a profound truth in my life as I am sure other artists will as well. We are pulled by some indescribable need to create; it really is a calling if you will. No one chooses the harder path simply for kicks.  So I would turn this into my own piece of advice for anyone considering art as a career path.  If you could be just as happy pursuing anything else in life, by all means do that instead. I have to be honest that being an artist in my opinion is a lot harder than most people think or give us credit for. There are many undesirable stereotypes associated with artists and their habits or lifestyles. Generally if you want to be successful at earning a living with your art (and keep in mind more often than not it is a modest living), you have to be a very hard worker, well organized, and often a level headed business person. It is also challenging to remain diligent and disciplined in your work habits. Staying motivated and continually producing a steady stream
of creativity can be draining. Dedication and perseverance along with a willingness to make sacrifices are essential to keeping your creative fires burning. But if you find that simply no other life will do, then by all means be who you were born to be and certainly be proud of it.

What is your favorite piece?
I think so far my favorite piece was my Self Portrait of 2007. A lot of considerations went into how I wanted to best represent myself and I think I found a suitable subject. My hands are so integral to what I do as an artist, but also as a productive individual. I have many hobbies and interests all involving hand skills and hard work. I also got the chance to include imagery from my favorite video game series— The Legend of Zelda, which aside from revealing my inner nerd, illustrates my love of adventure stories and how the tried and true reoccurring themes of legends and traditional tales never loose interest. It was a great painting for me and it resulted in a nice sale.  The hardest part was letting it go since I was, and am still very fond of it. But that is another good lesson for any aspiring artist, you have to be willing to part with your work if you want to be able to afford to keep working (and maybe even eat here and there).


About Melody

My name is Melody Martin. Check out my art blog, and learn all about the steps and techniques that go into oil paintings.
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