Interview with Lynn Colwell in embracing different art mediums

Lynn Colwell considers herself a Jill of all artistic trades, meaning, she's tried them all.   Right now she's enamored of watercolor collage, mixed media and photography.   The results of her enthusiastic embrace of these mediums is shared here.

Faten Abdallah(FA): What does art mean to you?

Lynn Colwell (LC): Art is one of those words that cannot be encapsulated in a simple definition. In my view, art can be anything and everything. For instance, just this morning, a friend sent a picture of a blade of grass under an electron microscope. If that incredible picture isn’t art, I don’t know

 what is. Whether human made or taken from nature, the unifying element (again, for me personally) is that art helps me experience something, feel…something. Whether art is “great” or “mediocre,” I cannot judge. Whether I understand it is less important than that I react to it in some way, that it makes me think or change.  When I go out for a walk, I appreciate grass. But I don’t think about it as art. Yet, when I see a photograph of emerald grass spread like a carpet before the setting sun, or six blades of grass in black and white arranged just so, I do see art.

If I were classically trained, or had attended art school I’m sure I would have a much more sophisticated answer, but there you have it!

FA: What inspired you to be an artist?

LC: I’ve always been an artist although I never called myself one until recently. The reason is that I was one of those kids who was told in school, “You don’t have artistic talent. Choose something else to focus on.” Unfortunately, I believed that teacher and art for me, in the meaning of learning to draw or paint was squelched. But I’ve always been creative and tried many different artistic adventures from sewing to jewelry to scrapbooking and batik. But it wasn’t until a year and a half ago when I signed up for a one-year series of classes called, Lifebook, that I found that I can draw and paint and I feel now able to call myself an artist.
FA: What kinds of work have you done?  What was your most favorite? Why?

LC: My favorite is always what I’m doing this moment. While some people might consider me a dilettante (If you are like me and have scrolled through several dozen careers and hobbies, check out the book, Renaissance Soul, and you’ll discover you are normal), and I admit I have a short attention span and have absolutely no desire to be the best at anything (that may be un-American), I love the new and live in the moment. What I did in the past matters not a whit to me. Neither does what I may achieve in the future. What matters is this moment because it’s all I have.

Right now I’m immersed in learning and experimenting painting faces, especially women. I’m excited to wake up each day and jump into a new piece. I rarely know when I begin, where I will end up. Being process oriented, I drift to another sphere when I am working. No music, no other noise, just me and the paper and about a million dollar’s worth of supplies. (I’m exaggerating but not by much.) I was a writer for many years, so combining writing with art is something I’m very much enjoying right now. Sometimes I write the quotes myself and other times, I take others’ words. But in either case, I tend toward the uplifting because that is what keeps me going.
FA: What do you want the world to see when viewing your art?

LC: Such a deep question! Each piece I paint is unique. As I said, I don’t usually plan them in advance, so I am never certain how they will turn out. When a piece really connects with people for any reason, it’s thrilling for me, even though I don’t set out to make that happen. Honestly, I do art for the sake of doing it, because it excites me and the process is so darn much fun. Because I rarely have a goal in mind when I start out, I can never fail. If I’m not particularly pleased with a piece or if it doesn’t “go” on my Facebook page, I abandon it and hope that someone will find it for whom it will have meaning.

FA: You paint individuals and then encourage the buyer to donate to a humanitarian cause.  Why?

LC: I greet each day with gratitude and joy. I have been given so much in my life, I want to find as many ways as possible to give back. But I’m no Mother Teresa. I have always tried to find ways to combine my strengths and talents with the urge to give. About half way through last year’s painting classes, I realized I was building up a horde of paintings. Most people in the classes put everything into book at the end of the year. But I don’t need more stuff, even things I’ve made. I want to give, not keep. I started thinking about how I could continue to paint and stop feeling guilty for accumulating all the work. I knew I didn’t want to get into selling it. Way too much work and for what? I’m incredibly fortunate that I don’t need the money right now. It took me about a half hour to come up with the idea to give everything away through my Facebook page in exchange for a donation to a non-profit. This has turned out to be the perfect solution: I get to make as much art as I want; buyers get a piece they want; and non-profits get donations. I pay the costs of envelopes and mailing. I do have an online “shop,” but only because people say they want prints of my work. I add very little to the cost of printing because as I said, I don’t want the hassle of a business. One of the best things about my doing this is that several other artists have followed my lead and are giving away their work in the same way. Love that!

FA: What are some of the organizations people have donated to?
LC: In terms of this project, it is the buyers who donate. Some of the non-profits are: various hospices, organization that places service dogs for veterans, AIDS organizations, programs for the homeless, conservation and sustainability organizations, health organizations like cancer prevention, food banks, schools, organizations that help women, educational orgs, and organizations that help refugees.

FA: Is there a specific cause you would like our readers to be aware of?

LC: Right now, the two where I’m focusing my giving are the International Rescue Committee which does incredible work (including resettlement in the U.S.) with refugees around the world. Secondly, Give Directly, which transfers cash to households in developing countries via mobile phone-linked payment services. It targets extremely low-income households and has proven to be a lifesaving mechanism where there is no middle man/woman between those in need and the giver. The person in need gets to decide the best use of the money. It’s a simple, and in my opinion, brilliant concept and it works.

 I’d like to encourage anyone reading this who might like to participate in my venture, to “friend” me on Facebook so you will have the opportunity to join the fun. And if you’re an artist, maybe you’ll try my routine. That would be terrific!

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