Since I just recently moved, I’ve been on the hunt for wonderful art work to fill the blank walls of our new home. While on Etsy, I came across Amy Abshier’s work and was smitten. There’s an incredible delicacy to her miniature watercolors that instantly attracts a person. At the same time, there is a wry tongue in cheek humor to some of her work that showcases Amy’s great personality. Whether you’re looking for something unique or beautiful, Amy’s art would look great on anyone’s wall. And not only are her prints detailed and delicate, but they’re actually affordable.

Join me in welcoming Amy to the blog!

Tell us about your influences as a child. Did you grow up in an artistic household? Did you always want to be an artist?

I think I’ve always drawn and painted—I can’t remember a time when I haven’t. For me, it’s something I could never stop doing. Even if I never sold another painting, I don’t see how I could stop. I never set out to grow up to be an artist, it’s just a huge part of who I am. I’ve always had a regular “job” job for a steady paycheck, but painting is (and will always be) a major part of my life. Some of the women in my family dabbled in painting when they were young, but none of them continued it as adults.

How did you hone your craft? Did you study anywhere specific?

I grew up in a small rural community where there just wasn’t any kind of emphasis on the arts (especially in school). I had no truly formal art education until I went to college at the Kansas City Art Institute. My parents never dissuaded me from choosing art over something “practical” as a career, and it was fantastic having their support. It was an important decision, but not a tough one for me to make.

Discuss your art, your preferred medium. What’s your process like?

I prefer painting in oils. Oftentimes I start with no sketch, no real idea of where the painting will go. I may have a vague idea of what I want to do, but usually I just start painting and the piece evolves. That’s the best way to describe it—I do make conscious decisions about a piece, but for the most part, it kinda just happens. I start with a very loose, ill-defined underpainting, then start focusing and tightening up the details until the painting is done. And I usually know when it’s done.

I grew up going to antique stores with my mom and I was always drawn to the miniatures. You paint on a smaller scale. Why did you decide to paint the smaller size?

Most of my Etsy pieces are on a very small scale, because they’re less expensive and also easier to ship. But even with my other paintings, the largest I paint is around 2 by 3 feet. I have a teeny studio and I just don’t have the space to paint any larger than that. But in this economy, it’s proven to be a good thing. I’ve sold a ton of small pieces, while my larger, more expensive work just sits there.

When did you decide to make art your living and was it difficult to get started?

I think I always knew that art was something I’d do no matter what. It’s taken a while to get to the point where I am now, selling in galleries and such. I wish Etsy had been around 12 years ago when I graduated from college! I think having that sort of avenue to sell my work would have made things much easier. When I got out of school, we still hauled around portfolios full of slides and transparencies of our work to show—now it’s so easy to send out emails to potential galleries. Things can happen so much faster!

Do you remember your first sale?

Um… Actually, I can’t remember! I do remember passing the $2000 milestone five or six years ago. I never thought I’d sell a painting for that much!

Where do you get your inspiration and when do you work?

I get inspiration from all sorts of places: dreams, old snapshots, strange things I think I see from the corner of my eye, sometimes even a random sentence from a book. I work mostly in the morning these days—my schedule has definitely changed since having kids.

Who are your favorite artists?

I love so many different artists and styles, it’s hard to narrow them down. I love traditional portraitists like J.S. Sargeant and Whistler, and I’ll always have a soft spot for the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Waterhouse. I love Romaine Brooks, Joseph Cornell, Mark Rothko, and Walt Kuhn, to name a few more.

What advice can you give aspiring artists?

It can be a disheartening way of life sometimes. But you just can’t give up something you love—you just have to keep with it. And don’t overthink things.

Of all the pieces you’ve done, do you have a favorite?

There is one piece I kept from my very first solo show, back in 2000. It’s a small piece called “Some People are Haunted and Never Realise It”. It’s a painting of a small girl skipping happily about, oblivious to the huge looming ghost behind her. I don’t think I could call it my favorite, but I’ve never wanted to sell it.

What do you do when you’re not working? Any hobbies?

I work part time at an auction house. I run the warehouse: taking in consignments, sorting and researching items, etc. It’s incredibly fun and I’ve learned so much more about antiques in the last couple of years.
I’m also an avid reader, gardener, baker—there’s so many things I love to do.

Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

Some of my old tried-and-true favorite authors are Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Charles Baxter, and A. S. Byatt. I read as many books as I can get my hands on, and no week is complete without a trip to the library to discover some new titles.

Where can we find you on the web?

I’m woefully remiss about updating, though. I’m currently a month behind!

I also have a Flickr account where I’m a bit better about posting new work and life stuff. That can be found here: www.flickr.com/photos/amyabshierreyes
I usually post new paintings and aceo’s to my Etsy shop about twice a month, usually on Friday afternoons at 2pm central time. Check my storefront: I always post when the next update will be.

What are you working on now?

I’ve got a ton of commissioned work that I’m way behind on, and some paintings that are for an upcoming portrait show this fall. Plus all my regular Etsy goodies. There are never enough hours in the day, I swear!

Thanks Amy!

For those of you reading the interview, leave a comment and email addy! Two people will win a 2.5 x 3.5 inch print! First place winner will get her/his choice of “A Study in Black, Green, and Gold” on the left OR the “The Love Letter” on the right. Second place winner gets whatever the first place winner doesn’t pick.
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