Eavesdropper Interview & Giveaway: Brandi Strickland.

Top o’ the morning to you, friend!  
Today I’m interviewing an artist I have followed and admired for a very long time, and I am so excited to share her with you.
Her name is Brandi Strickland, and I discovered her work a couple of years ago at Design Crisis.  Brandi is a mixed media artist, who paints and collages canvases in the most unusual, dreamy way.

I don’t know what it is about Brandi, but her art straight up SPEAKS to me.  I’ve always been drawn to collage-y pieces, but when I got into Brandi’s stuff back in 2009, I noticed how each of her pictures seemed to place human characters in these wild, fantastical scenarios.  Sometimes, groups of tiny people rejoice by the ocean; other times, children are walking alone across a pyramid-accented stretch of desert … or possibly the moon.
One of Brandi’s pieces has a phrase scrawled on it that I obsessed over for the longest time:
“Learn to teach yourself.”
It’s in one of the pieces below, and for me, that phrase sums up everything I think about blogging, writing, the creative process.  That learning a skill is important, but learning to be a student of skills is more so.  I find this concept oddly comforting / anchoring each time I sit down to write a blog post, or try a new trick on aerial silks, or take a photograph … because it’s ok if I don’t get it exactly right the first time.
 I suppose you could call Brandi’s work surreal, but that label doesn’t fully capture her wisdom.  Besides her undeniable artistic talent, she’s also just a balanced, cool person.  (And just 25 years old!  I was still ridiculous at age 25!)  

Below I chat with Brandi, who is also generously giving away a prize from her art shop to Austin Eavesdropper readers.  Details at the bottom.

Without further ado, here’s Brandi Strickland!

1. Welcome to Austin Eavesdropper, Brandi! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Thank you for inviting me, Tolly!  I’m 25 and I live in Richmond, Virginia with my love, Robert.  I spend my time making artwork, documenting/sharing the artwork, doing research, and cooking lots of food.
2. I am dazzled by your mixed media work. Where do you gather materials? What is your creative process as you put each one together?
I collect books, magazines, bit of paper, photographs, etc… I like materials from all time periods, for all ages and audiences. Rare items and weird stuff excites me.  I buy nearly all of my collage materials in thrift stores, although once I scored the mother-load of National Geographic magazines via Craigslist.
My process is very intuitive and varies somewhat, but I usually start by drawing or painting on a board or sheet of paper, then begin building up my collage elements.  I generally work with acrylics, so the process itself is quite direct and everything dries quickly, but often my pieces take weeks or months to finish.
I think this happens because at some point while I’m working I get to a place where everything is almost right. It’s really hard to even touch an artwork that’s ‘almost there’—because it’s so easy ruin (alas, no undo button!). I hang them up and meditate on what exactly it needs, and eventually I finish them.
3. Your artwork seems to tell little stories … about myth, spirituality, people.  What tales do your pieces tell?

Since I work intuitively, I feel like I unravel the story in much the same way the viewer does. I don’t illustrate ideas as much as I just keep pushing paper and paint around until an idea presents itself. Lately, the ideas seem to be related to growing up, learning to teach myself, the power of love, helping and allowing myself to be helped, acknowledging the unseen, washing my brain, embracing what’s really real, and simplifying.
4. Tell us about the artistic collective you belong to, WAFA … I love what the acronym stands for.
WAFA is a small international community of artists. Keywords are: collaboration, sharing, friendship, and support. Recently, we entered the 21st century and had our first Skype chat. I got to hear everyone’s voice for the first time. It was pure magic.

5. Favorite childhood book?

Hmm, that’s hard, I read so much when I was a kid. Some favorites at the top of my mind: The Giver, King of the Wind, From the Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankwiler, The Egypt Game, the Redwall series…. I could go on and on.
6. Personal icon / role model in life? 
I think that changes all the time. Right now I have a lot of admiration for Ruth Stout, Dan Winter, Neil Young, Ani Difranco, John Anthony West… There are so many inspiring people, this would be a long list too!
7. What is the secret to living a creative life?

Ha! If you find out, tell me…I need all the help I can get! But seriously, that’s probably very individual.  On a fundamental level, love.  Love gives me the confidence to express myself, without that expression needing to have value or validation.  

Also, when things get really busy or complicated, I don’t feel creative.  So (for me) a creative life is quiet and simple and full of love.

thank you for stopping by austin eavesdropper, brandi!
Special to Austin Eavesdropper readers, Brandi is giving away a $35 coupon for her artwork: Enough to buy a whole small print, and a significant discount on her large prints.  I encourage you to stop by her Facebook page, and also peruse her shop!  Which room would look that much more fabulous with Brandi on the wall?  Answer: YOUR room.

To enter, just:

1. Like Austin Eavesdropper on Facebook.

2. Follow Austin Eavesdropper (i.e. me) on Twitter.

3. Enter your name and email address below.

I will choose a winner on Tuesday, August 2, so get your entries in before then.

good luck!