I remember the first time I purchased a piece of art. I was walking home through the park where an art fair was taking place. The booth of a watercolorist caught my eye. He painted animals in a fairytale way. I asked how much for the one of the lions marching off to war with their teddybears. When he told me the price, I hurried home, counted out the necessary sum, and raced back to the fair to buy the watercolor. I was ten.
Buying art should always be that instinctive and straightforward. But mixing art and business is like asking a horse to dance. It is possible but it takes discipline, training and finesse.
Today, I am writing about two artists who share an ability to communicate with their buyers to such an elevated degree that the ensuing process of creating art is enhanced and both artist and buyer are benefitted. These artists, Amy Sheppard Morose and Stephanie Barenz, metaphorically illustrate the client's experience directly onto the canvas. Aside from their talent, I think there is one powerful reason why they are able to do so: they listen with their hearts and they dig for the story.
AMY SHEPPARD MOROSE: ABSTRACT PAINTER
Amy Sheppard Morose paints large scale abstracts in richly layered colors and velvety textures. Much of her work is custom and commission-based and she welcomes the challenge of solving a problem for a client. With a background in commercial art direction and graphic design, she is accustomed to rigorous communication with the client. She delves deep into what the client likes and doesn't like. She builds a visual framework that includes the client's history, environment, and thoughts.
"My work comes straight from my head and heart. Those pieces are where most commissions start. The client finds something they like in my portfolio and we build upon that, adding their experiences as another layer to the process. I think that 99% of the time, a commission turns out better than something I would have done on my own. The outcome is so much richer."
Sheppard Morose draws inspiration from the post-modern masters of the last century. There is a precision and a quilt-like quality to her collages. They're expressive yet somehow mathematical. Her textures are deep and delicious. The colors are subtle, fluid, soft. The overall effect walks the line between chaos and comfort, which is something we can all understand.
Sheppard Morose is as approachable and warm as her canvases are large. She takes pride in assuaging the "intimidation factor" involved in buying art. She listens before she paints. Her client is almost a partner. And when they collaborate, the process stretches her as an artist in an unexpected way. "It's a joy," she says.
For more information about Amy Sheppard Morose, click here.
STEPHANIE BARENZ: STORY PORTRAITIST
I heard Stephanie Barenz give a 30-second elevator speech at an event a couple of weeks ago and I was riveted by what she said. Just like that day in the park when I was ten, I rushed home to look her up. She uses her mixed media canvases to tell a visual story and I'm a huge fan. You will be too in a minute.
If you're a local reader, you may recognize Ms. Barenz as a recent artist-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel here in Milwaukee. During her yearlong residency, Barenz worked alongside Pfister narrator, Molly Snyder. Together they produced a book called "The Carriers", containing both illustrations by Barenz and narrative by Snyder. The collaboration was revelatory and changed both women. There was no going back and the process led to a formal artistic partnership outside of the Pfister residency.
Today, Barenz and Snyder work together with clients who seek to memorialize a moment in time: a significant journey, a story from the past, or a lifetime of experience. Barenz sits with the client for an extensive interview, during which she creates a list of possible vignettes that will be a part of the canvas. She and the client tour Barenz's gallery and Barenz listens closely. Later, Snyder joins the process to put words to images. After approving sketches along the way, the client receives both a painting and a bound storybook.
Barenz paints in an illustrative style that reminds me of some of my favorite children's books. (Remember The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats?) She layers architectural elements, human silhouettes, and everyday objects and somehow floats them in a very connected way onto a vivid blended background that by itself could be a work of art. What I see is a dreamlike landscape of a memory, and I get lost in each one. For her clients, Barenz's artwork represents a mark that they matter. Their story has value. The painting and the storybook honor an individual's journey.
For more information about Stephanie Barenz, click here.