Interview with an Artist | Cynthia Juhailey
Interview with an Artist is a new blog series where I introduce you to artists you might not know about but will fall in love with!
If you’re interested in being interviewed, send a message to email@example.com or for the easy way, just scroll the the bottom of this post to fill the form. You don’t have to be an artist, you can be a blogger or someone with a small business who wants to get some exposure!
Now, let’s get to know the artist!
Enjoy this post, Interview with an artist!
Interview with an Artist: Cynthia Juhailey
Principal Artist – Modourn Color
Cynthia Juhailey is an American mixed-media abstract artist who currently lives in Toronto, Canada. Creative from a young age, Cynthia has always been drawn to color, texture and shape. A summer job at an abstract and sculpture gallery in Miami as a young teenager helped her envision her own art on walls and was the starting point for her journey as an artist.
She openly discusses living with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and the stigma surrounding mental health. The complexity and contrasts of her work illustrate someone who has lived through trauma and had to think quickly to manage difficult situations, even if it meant suppressing overwhelming anxiety.
The initial steps of her path to healing have inspired her to open up and share feelings and experiences that used to be locked away in the hope of assisting others to not feel isolated or afraid to reach out for help.
Cynthia has stated that while her anxiety and PTSD do not inspire her art, they have made her a complex thinker and contribute to it. Her inspiration, like her art itself, can at times be quite random and multi-layered.
Q and A:
Q: Is there anything or anyone that inspires you and your work the most?
There are so many things to be inspired by in the world; I find nature, art, poetry, and even the aesthetics of different photographers inspire me. My mind is messy, there is so much that happens in my brain as I sit and create.
I don’t believe my style of abstract is other worldly, at least not yet, however I can easily say that my stubborn personality is definitely a part of my creative process as I end up doing whatever it is that I want to do without being limited or constrained. It is all very experimental when it comes to the techniques, colors, shapes, and patterns in my art.
However, while working on collections I try to choose a subject. For example, right now I am pulling inspiration from coastal Caribbean culture from Central America.
When I close my eyes I picture a place like Utila, Honduras; a paradise, the warmth of the sun touching my skin, surrounded by vibrant colors, and I am building the collection through my imagination rather than pictures, or videos that I can find online.
Q: How do you explain your art to someone who knows nothing about it?
My art is a feeling. But the feelings it evokes in others does not need to align with the feelings that went into creating it. The important thing is that the piece speaks to them in some way. That to me is the beauty of abstract, a single piece can have endless meanings and is completely dependent on the viewer.
When I first began to draw as a child, I most often drew eccentric shapes and patterns with pen and pencil – too frequently during class – but they were based on my emotions and feelings of the moment. I did not really think of my drawings as art; I actually didn’t have exposure to art museums and galleries at the time.
One day my elementary school’s librarian was really taken by my illustrations and said to me, “this is too advanced for someone your age to be doing.” I didn’t know what she meant by ‘too advanced’, they were just drawings. Shortly afterwards, she showed me her abstract work on the classroom’s computer, I was blown away by it, and realized how what I was doing could also create feelings in others.
I was once someone who didn’t understand abstract, and I didn’t even know why I felt the need to create it. For myself, art is subjective and different for everyone. Abstract art can be pleasing, upsetting, and disturbing to different senses. You can choose to like it, make it an experience, or completely move on to the next piece.
Q: Do you want your audience to view your art in a serious way, or do you want them to just enjoy it without having much deep thought?
Hopefully my art will speak to people in a personal and individual way. For some, a piece may have a serious impact as it taps into something deep inside them. Others might look at the same piece and only see whimsical colors, shapes or patterns. I want them to see what they see and feel in my art, and have their own interpretation of it.
Q: Is there something you want your audience to feel or see when they look at your art?
I believe the way my art is received completely depends on the person. I’d like them to have a connection to it in an emotional way because of what they see in it. It might be the patterns, shapes, or colors. I hope that it makes them feel curious, bright, and happy!
One of my fascinations about art galleries is the reaction people have towards certain pieces. Some look at a painting for three seconds and immediately take a couple of steps and move on to the next one. Others stare at it for several minutes (and you really want them to move because you want to get closer to it) because it speaks to them in some profound way.
I hope for more of the long lookers, but realize that there will be those that a piece will only touch superficially.
Q: Do you want a full time job in making and selling art, or do you want to make it a hobby?
I hope to make creating and selling my art a significant part of my career, but not my sole focus. Ultimately, I would like to own a boutique where my art would be featured alongside other artists and that would also include unique fashion, jewelry and other artisan creations.
I do hope that the creative process always feels like a hobby and never the negative elements people associate with a job.
Q: How long have you been selling your art?
I sold my first piece in elementary school, and a piece every now and then during high school when someone saw something I had painted and said they really wanted it. It was only after I started taking college classes that I actually thought about creating pieces with selling them in mind.
Q: Do you have any favorite artists?
There are so many. A couple that stand out right now are Frida Kahlo, whose work makes me feel all kinds of different emotions, Iliana from GrowMija on Instagram, an amazing illustrator.
Since moving to Canada I have learned more about their famous Group of Seven and discovered the incredible work of aboriginal artist Alex Janvier.
As a maker, I can happily say that I am also an art collector. Creating and selling my own work has really inspired me to purchase directly from other artists, and from self-owned small businesses in many different areas of craft and art. It’s always great to support other small businesses, indie brands, and artisans.
Q: What are your goals with your art?
My goal is to create enough interest and profile to regularly sell pieces, maybe even develop some collectors who want multiple pieces from different collections over the years. Ultimately, I hope that it will generate enough income to help fund the start of my boutique.
On a more personal level, I do hope that sharing my story of PTSD, anxiety and depression as part of my art will not only continue to aid in my coping and healing, but also assist others who have not yet shared their stories or started their paths to healing take those challenging first steps.
Q: Do you listen to music while making art? List your playlist if you like.
Music is very important to me. I like a variety of genres, and artists. My forever staples are 80s pop, Utada Hikaru, Sigur Ros, Alan Walker, Myriam Fares, Daddy Yankee, Selena, Jorja Smith, Lady Gaga, any hip hop from the 90s, and Celia Cruz. I also listen to a lot of classical music and love film scores by Alexandre Desplat.
I have also started listening to podcasts while painting as I have discovered that they occupy my mind in a unique way that allows the art to just happen naturally.
Q: Tell us your a routine/art process if you have one.
My routine is a little scattered at the moment, though I’m really determined to find something solid that will work for me.
I love reading other artist’s processes and testing out some of their practices.
For me, it very much depends on how I feel after I wake up because some sleeps are better than others and some are worse because I tend to have most of my flashbacks at night. I have what I refer to as “sleep anxiety”.
Let’s say I had a decent sleep… first thing I like to do before I enter my studio is grab water because I realize that if I’m drinking water, I tend to feel more refreshed (I don’t know why, but it works for me).
Next, I look at my in-progress pieces and reflect on them. As I like to work in layers, I decide what colors I would like to see in them and feel what shapes and patterns to create. I visualize them in my head, and if I’m not sure, I take a picture of the art, upload it to a digital design app on my phone and draw it out to see if I like it. Kind of like doing a ‘study’ before taking brush to the primary canvas.
Before I actually begin to paint, I find something to listen to. Something new that I’ve been trying when I’m having intrusive thoughts or anxiety is listen to music. Lately, though, I’ve been all about listening to other creatives and entrepreneurs tell their stories or teach me their ways through podcasts.
I go through this process until I’m satisfied with my layers. Then, I add varnish to protect the piece — I find that it livens the colors and makes them pop.
Lastly, I take pictures of it to post online and show to the world. I do minimal editing on the photos to ensure that they are as true a representation of the piece as possible.
A painting can take me a few days to a week to finish. Some pieces can sit for weeks, or even months, until I feel what the next layer(s) should be. Most of my work include a variety of mediums, including ink, chalk pastels, oil pastels, graffiti markers, sharpies, and mostly acrylic paint.
Q: Do you sell your art on certain platforms? If not, why? If you do, which are your favorite sites to sell on?
I am still working on my full sales strategy to be honest. Right now, I am primarily displaying my work on Instagram and Pinterest. I have a Facebook page and website in development and hopefully launching soon.
I’m researching, exploring other platforms, and sites at the moment. I will likely add a couple of them to what I already mentioned.
Q: Is there anything you don’t like about being an artist?
There are so many things I love about being an artist, and the best quote that can capture why I feel this way was said by Viola Davis,
”I became an artist, and I thank God for that, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”
I really felt that one.
But of course, being an artist has its moments of doubt when I feel like I’m not good enough. There are times when I hate some of my work, and I wish I could recreate some of my best pieces from the past. Often, I am challenged by when to stop working on a piece; telling my brain that there are enough layers, there is enough detail, that it is not incomplete or empty.
Q: What do you do to combat art block?
Artist blocks are really difficult to come out of because you’re essentially fighting a mental battle with yourself. When it surfaces, I start small. I draw, doodle, paint with watercolors on a small notebook and I tell myself no one has to see this, it’s only for my eyes.
Then, I write down how I’m feeling, and why I’m not creating art in a notepad on my phone. This allows me to reflect on the episode when I’m feeling better.
Lastly, I find that listening, watching, or looking at inspiring things can really help me feel motivated. Spending some time in nature, art galleries, watching inspiring videos, and documentaries all help.
Q: Do you have any advice for other artists?
With my anxiety and depression, I found myself making up a million excuses not to be creative, along with physically and emotionally not being able to do anything. My biggest advice is to just paint.
Continue to paint regardless of how you’re feeling. It will create a habit of you showing up for yourself, and also exercises your artistic muscles.
Trust the process; you know what you want to create more than anyone else. Allow yourself to make mistakes and grow from them.
Hopefully that will lead to you falling in love with the process as well, but don’t beat yourself up during the moments you struggle.
Follow the Artist!
Are you an artist who wants to share art on my blog? Read this post!
If you liked this post, why not share it with your girl boss friends? I would love to interview more women who are doing amazing things through art, writing, poetry, design and more!
Share your talents with me down below! <3