After looking at my artwork and reading a little bit about me, I think it goes without saying – Fiesta has become a huge inspiration for me and the art that I create. One of the aspects of The Order of the Alamo's Fiesta that I have always found so entertaining and, quite honestly, FASCINTATING, are the crazy parties that each of the Duchesses in that year’s court throw for themselves. Fiesta itself is already considered a “Coming into Society” landmark; however, the party that each Duchess’s family throws in honor of her helps raise the level of her name recognition, as well as let the rest of the Fiesta participants know what her personal style (and personality) is really like. (Not to mention, it's another reason, outside of the official week of Fiesta, to get all dressed up, socialize and have an amazing time!)
Some of you are thinking – well wouldn’t they already be able to tell her personality from her Duchess dress? Don’t you get to design or pick them yourself? No. While the girl’s preferences (which are listed on a form once she accepts her spot) are taken into consideration … the dresses themselves are already designed; the Court Artist, who is in charge of designing the dresses, is asked to do the job 3 years ahead of time (there is a different artist for each court) and starts putting together ideas almost immediately. So, by the time the dress designs are finalized, they are just matched with the girl whose preferences most align with it. Now, that being said, they CAN make some adjustments - if necessary. For example, the physical design for the dress portion of my Duchess outfit was not really possible due to the fact that the style did not allow for any alterations. If it needed to be taken in or let out, the dress maker would have had to make a whole new dress – which just isn’t possible when you could be doing final fittings up until a couple weeks before Fiesta. Anyways, this change in plans gave us the chance to put our own funky spin on it, but most girls don’t have that opportunity.
However, when it comes to the parties, the girls and their families have complete control over them. You can throw the party anywhere, anytime and with any theme! And let me tell you, there have been some crazy themes! And those parties, that had the over the top décor and theatrics, are what inspired this painting. So “Let’s Break It Down.” and explain “Let’s Get Weird.” one section at a time.
I chose a black background primarily because I wanted the subjects in the painting to pop. The other reason I chose black was because these parties often happen at night and go until all hours of morning.
The Disco Ball
I added this element because the best parties always had one! A disco ball also represents the idea of dancing – which there was always a lot of at every party. Whether it was a single DJ or multiple bands flown in from all over the country, no expense was spared, and the best of the best were brought in to ensure that the dancing didn’t stop ‘til the sun came up! However, the beautiful, glittering disco ball also represented two other things – the beauty and glamour of the outfits that the Fiesta party-goers wear, and the glittering rhinestones on the Duchess dresses themselves. Which brings me to my next point …
The Darth Vader in a Navy Tux Wearing Bunny Ears ...
No matter how crazy the theme was, people always came dressed to impress. I mean, a man in a custom fitted, navy, “James Bond” type tux – you just can’t beat it. But even dressed in designer black tie, party goers weren’t afraid to get into the theme! For example, one party was a fairy tale theme, so when you walked in, you walked through one of those spinning tunnels and when you came out on the other side … you were in Alice in Wonderland! There was a vine wall with gloved hands popping out to hand you drinks as you walked in, chandeliers hung from the trees, giant mushroom statues lurked between strange looking buffet tables, and these giant, trippy looking, vine people walked around on stilts to greet you. Did I mention this was just the theme on the lawn before you walked in? Inside the auditorium, the bar was a giant castle with a fire breathing, papier-mâché dragon that took up the entire center of the room. To the left, there was an Aladdin, Middle Eastern theme with rugs, pillows and luxurious lounge areas. To the right, there was a Peter Pan / Pirates theme – complete with a small ship that you could walk onto for a seafood buffet. And, at the front of the auditorium, was a dance floor fit for a princess. Once the party was packed with guests, costumes, funky hats, glow sticks, sunglasses and masks were handed out as party favors while the decked-out, full-on marching band paraded through the party. That party took fun themes and outrageous costumes to a-whole-nother level (which I personally found to be FABULOUS), and it was what inspired me to do a man in a sharp tux, rocking fluffy bunny ears, and a killer Darth Vader helmet (with matching gloves, of course).
The Champagne Bottles and The Over-The-Top Ice Cream Cone
Well, that decision was easy. Every Fiesta party and every Duchess party (even when it's a brunch) has an open bar. It’s Fiesta y’all. The word Fiesta literally means “Party,” and when Texans decide to do something, they do it up BIG. This also includes their buffets. At most Fiesta parties, there are so many buffets, I don’t even end up getting to half of them. Like the man in the painting, you wind up double fisting drinks and plates and whatever else you can carry back to an open seat so that you can scarf down some fuel before you hit the dance floor again.
The Flying Attack Rooster
Even though I was out of town at the time, I heard about this one Duchess who had a party where the theme was Jungle Safari… or maybe it was just a Zoo theme? I am not really sure. But, I heard all about it when I got home. She had live monkeys, koalas, exotic birds and other strange furry creatures for her guests to be able to interact with and take photos with. Weeeellll, keeping in mind this was all happening at a black-tie party, one can see how theses interactions were bound to lead to some chaos, …. while one of the girls was trying to take a photo with one of the monkeys, it started jumping on her head and pulling her hair (not to mention, it maaay have peed on her dress) … So my point in adding a flying attack rooster into the painting is that sometimes these parties skirt the line between extravagant and chaos, and well … sometimes chaos happens.
I hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about what inspired this painting and how it all came together. To learn more about my process, continue to read my blogs or visit my Videos page where you can watch “Behind the Scenes” videos of me painting. To learn more about me as an artist, go to my About the Artist page, which has my Artist’s Statement and Bio. If you would like to stay up to date on all my current projects and events, follow my Instagram page @vchampionart and my Facebook page www.facebook.com/VC.Art.
*Original sold in 2018. To purchase a print of this painting, click here.
As you can see from my galleries, I have two very distinct styles of painting. Type one: elegant vibe, subdued or natural colors and stoic subject matter. Type two: creative vision, bold in color, and intriguing subject matter. And let me tell you straight from the artist’s mouth, art does actually imitate life, or at least the artist, in one way or another.
For those of you who didn’t know, I was actually on track to attend veterinary school before some increasingly severe allergies to animals caused me to change course. Art had always been a huge passion and hobby for me. I had even considered going to art school. However, coming from a family full of medical professionals, a more traditional career was encouraged. My dad, who I am so proud to have inherited so much of my personality and talent from, wanted me to do as he did – go to college, work hard, make a living with a career that would make me happy but keep hobbies, such as art, as a fun past time that you could take a break from work with.
Somehow, the universe and everything in it maintains a healthy balance. When the door to becoming a vet slammed shut, as devastating as it was, it opened another door to another passion that I could pursue without guilt or doubt. Going back to school, incurring massive amounts of debt, and starting from nonpaying internships all over again, and all for a career path that I had no passion for, wasn’t an option for me. Thankfully, my husband – shout out to the love of my life!!- supported me every step of the way as I stumbled and started, not from the bottom, but at least from a place of “Ok I can paint. So now what? How do I make this a business?”
It was at this point that I realized my right brain / left brain balance might actually be more of an advantage than a disadvantage in building a real art business. That creativity and drive to push boundaries can only get you so far. You have to have the discipline to continue to work when your joints hurt and muscles burn from painting through the night. You need the intelligence to take creative ideas and mold them into different revenue streams. If you can take one creative idea and formulate a way to market it or customize it for a wider range of clients, then you’ve completed a huge chunk of the battle to become a well-known and profitable artist. You also have to have the organization to do your research – what sells in your area? How knowledgeable is the public about art and the local artists? Who does something similar to you in the area and is successful at it (and then to go and seek them out for a mentorship)?
The serious, intellectual side helps the creative, free-spirit side focus … and as I have realized, it also opens up my art style and, therefore, my range of potential collectors. Bold, sassy art isn’t your thing? That’s ok! I also do passive, timeless pieces as well. I’ve been told several times, even from gallery owners, that I needed to hone in on one theme for my art. Paint one subject or style and stick to it. First of all, I have discovered the one thing that ties in all of my art – happiness. Everything I paint is something meant to bring people joy, and a relatable sense of celebration or humor. Second, when did people start putting labels and restrictions on artists? It’s just so … ironic. Artists BY NATURE are creative humans – this means they come in all shapes and personalities, so does their art. To immediately put limits on that creativity by saying “pick one subject and stick to it” is so limiting (not to mention B-O-R-I-N-G). You want to know why I paint different subjects/colors/styles? Because I am inspired to, which is the whole point. To me, at least some variety in an artist’s work allows the audience to see deeper into that person’s creative mind and personal interests (and therefore creates more interest in the artist himself/herself). Lastly, my two styles, while they are different, they are still a reflection of me, of the person that I am. I can be as serious as I can be silly. I have polar opposite aspects to my personality, each shining through equally, as reflected in my art. But these qualities live in harmony, just as they do in my collection, because, at the end of the day, my painting medium and overall theme is always the same. Happiness.
I hoped you enjoyed learning a little bit more about my artistic style. Check my Instagram @vchampionart for upcoming “Meet and Greet the Artist” events to discuss my art with me in person!
Fiesta San Antonio is the soul of the city. Although it is technically only a weeklong event at the end of April – filled with street parades, river parades, festivals, and balls – the city’s citizens and businesses always find a way to stretch it out into a whole month. And with that amount of non-stop socializing, excessive partying, and still having to go into work on Monday, it is no wonder that this city has become well stocked in coffee shops (local and a “Starbucks on every corner”). I particularly appreciated this when I participated as a Duchess in the 2013 Fiesta – because, let me tell you, “hair and make up” can only do so much. When you have to be dressed and looking fabulous at a parade route by 8 am - after attending a glamorous ball with an open bar and closing time of 2 am - your saving grace, your life line, your power to fight away the puffy eyes … is caffeine. And LOTS of it. Coffee, Redbull, Monster, Rockstar – just about anything we could get our hands on.
Fast forward to a couple years later, … while I was working as a veterinary technician, I gave a lethargic dog (suffering from nausea and dehydration) a large amount of fluids, and an hour later, when we came back to check on him, he had made almost a full recovery. That night, on the way home, I have the memory of absently thinking to myself – about work, about the upcoming Fiesta, etc., etc. – and an idea just clicked into place. “Ya know, wouldn’t it be nice if us San Antonians could have an IV of caffeine for Fiesta week?” And from that point it was just a funny, random thought that remained in my mind.
As I built up my Fiesta inspired collection, Viva by VC Art, I started thinking – how could I make this funny idea into a painting? The idea of IV bags filled with coffee came to mind, and I thought arranging the bags in a symmetrical formation would give them an interesting “pop art” feel (rather than a scary medical feel). The final touch to brighten up the painting was making the background a vibrant, beautiful color that would complement the brown of the coffee. So, I chose one of my favorite colors to use when painting, a turquoise blue swirled with a pearlized blue.
If you are interested in buying a print of “Give It to Me IV” or ordering your own custom made painting, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Viva Fiesta, ya'll!!
I completed this personalized pet portrait for one of my good friends, Sarah, several years ago. The English Bulldog Pickles is the fabulous, "meaty little ham" (as we call her) in this painting. She is also the apple of her mother’s eye and the wiggly welcome party to all of Sarah’s guests.
One of Pickles most distinctive features is her tongue, which is always sticking out in hilarious fashion due to her adorable under bite. The second quality she is known for is her laziness, and, in particular, how she weirdly lays with her front legs underneath her. So when visualizing her portrait, I naturally thought of her laying down, lazily looking up at me.
The colorful, paper flower crowns of Fiesta are not only a fun accessory during Fiesta Week, but also a must have item at all festive parties thrown by San Antonians, year round. Furthermore, I loved the added bonus of how funny the feminine crown looked on the “less than feminine” Pickles! : ) Lastly, when I was painting the crown, the turquoise flower was the only one that didn’t fit on the front, so I decided to pull out more of that color by painting the ground turquoise (Side note: blue – no matter the shade – is my favorite paint color to work with, so I couldn’t let an opportunity to use it slip away.)
I hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about my process for creating the pet portrait “Viva Pickles!” To this day, it is one of my favorite paintings because of how much fun it was to bring to life, and because of how much joy it brings my friend, Sarah, who says she smiles every time she walks past it. (The photo to the left is the picture Sarah sent me after she had it framed and hung in her kitchen!)
To order your own personalized pet portrait, please contact me at email@example.com!
* I completed this custom pet portrait in August 2016 for the Veterinarian I worked for in New Hampshire. It took about 2 weeks from start to finish, and it is a 24 in x 36 in acrylic painting on a deep canvas with a protective polymer gloss. *
Having spent time getting to know not only him, but his “Crew” of dogs, I really enjoyed getting to bring each of their personalities to life on one canvas. While I normally use brighter colors and more feminine accents, Dr. Heck was a more traditional New Englander, spending lots of time outdoors and wore more neutral, earth tones. Therefore, when choosing a color scheme and layout, I knew a simple layout and earthy, masculine tones would be better. I ended up going with a dusty blue for the background (a color that I knew Dr. Heck would like, AND would look good with the colors of his dogs’ fur.) Then, knowing Dr. Heck’s love for tractors and the outdoors, I chose a muted kelly green shade that was still bright enough to be the focal point of the painting and look good next to the white dog’s fur.
As for the subjects of the painting- the white dog on the chair is Howard. “Howie,” as he is known around the office, was originally adopted to be more of a little white lap dog for Dr. Heck’s wife , but his spunky, mischievous personality quickly made him the leader of the pack, Dr. Heck’s (secret) favorite, and often the center of attention whenever he enters a room. So, naturally, he had to be front and center in the painting, and elevated in a regal chair to demonstrate his “Big Dog” charisma. Howie is also known for tearing up toilet paper when he is angry or bored. By knowing this funny anecdote about him, I was able to incorporate a unique touch, and even a funny story, into this pet portrait.
Bode is the dark brown, Burmese Mountain Dog mix on the left side of the canvas. Bode is a quiet, gentle old man who is often very shy around people. He usually just walks around the office at a leisurely pace, plopping down here and there to relish in long naps on cool floors; however, when he does feel like joining in on the activity, he stands there quietly, just waiting for you to call him over and shower him with attention. The stance he is taking in the painting is the way he always looks when standing around waiting; it’s the way I always think of him when I picture him in my head. He is also known for LOVING squirrels. If you want to see this old man come alive, say the word squirrel and watch as his eyes light up as he tilts his head in recognition, as if to say “WHERE?!” Therefore, incorporating a stuffed toy squirrel at his feet added a creative touch to the personality and story of his portrait.
The last dog, the tan colored collie mix on the right, is Casey, or “Case-Dog” as Dr. Heck calls him. Casey is a sweet, friendly dog who is always looking for somebody to go love on. One of the two looks I think of when picturing Casey is when he comes up to you and wants you to pet him; he is almost like a golden retriever, wiggling around, wagging his tail, and as he backs his booty up to you, he looks around, over his shoulder, to smile at you. However, I had a hard time conceptualizing how I would place him on the canvas at that angle. So I decided to go with the other look that always reminds me of Casey. He is the only one of Dr. Heck’s dogs that always seems to just want to be right by your side, … or, more importantly, under your feet. There is a desk in the back that has a dark little nook under it, and when anyone is back there typing up notes, Dr. Heck especially, Casey will go lay down under the desk and curl himself around their feet so that his head is resting on the base of the rolling chair, looking out, watching as everyone carries on with their tasks. To me, this position not only fit perfectly with the rest of the painting, but it was also a nod to Casey’s sweet and ever-present nature.
The pictures I used for the portrait are lesser quality than I would normally use, but since I saw the dogs all the time, I was very familiar with them. At the end of the day, I think this is what makes all the world of difference in creating a pet portrait – really knowing or at least familiarizing yourself with the pet and the owner. If it’s a portrait for someone I don’t know, taking that extra step of sitting down to meet with them and getting to interact one-on-one with the pet is so helpful. It gives me an opportunity to come up with something truly unique and special. Also, it makes the actual process of coming up with an idea for a portrait so much easier and much more fun to paint because I feel like I really know the animal I am painting.
I hope you enjoyed getting to learn more about my process for creating the pet portrait “Heck Crew: Bode, Howie, and Case-Dog.” To order your own pet portrait, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Today, I pull back the curtain to give you a glimpse into my creative process. Here’s the first and most important thing you need to know, the one thing I can’t paint without … Background noise! I absolutely hate silence when I’m painting. But, my background noise has to be one of 3 things: my dance/hip-hop stations on Pandora, a Harry Potter movie, or The Office/Parks and Recc/Friends on Netflix. Why dance or hip hop? They have a fun, upbeat rhythm to paint to; the consistent beat helps keep me focused and motivated. Also, whenever I come up for air from my canvas, I need something to DANCE to!
Surely why I put Harry Potter on needs no explanation - but just in case ... Not only do I love the movies themselves, but having it on in the background also reminds me of the immense creativity and imagination a human mind can tap into. As artist, it helps to be reminded of what you are capable of as long as you trust in yourself and keep yourself open to the endless artistic possibilities that come with a mind that has accepted the benefits of an unrestricted imagination.
Which brings me to the comedic geniuses that created the amazing shows I love to watch over and over again - the always funny The Office, the optimistic and humorous Parks and Recc, and the nostalgically wonderful Friends. So why do I like them as background noise for painting? Honestly, it’s pretty simple - sometimes I just don’t feel like listening to music. So I put on shows that I know like the back of my hand and can follow along with while keeping my eyes on my canvas!
Overall, on extremely detailed work that requires a lot of concentration, I tend to use music to keep me motivated and focused. However, with some of my less detailed, faster paced paintings or background work, I like to listen to one of my favorite shows to keep my mood light and add a little humor to some of the more tedious aspects of painting!
Until next time, my fellow champions.