Allison, welcome to Reprehensible Digest. Tell us a little about yourself – your background, where you're from, what you specialize in as an artist.
First off, thank you so much for including me in your RepDigest interviews! I really enjoy reading about these multi-talented, inspiring artists. I'm originally from El Paso, Texas. Marty Robbins, a country western singer, placed El Paso on the map when he sang his 1959 hit ballad El Paso. If you think about west Texas being all about wide open spaces, lots of desert, mountains, cactus and tumbleweeds – you'd be right! I grew up climbing mountains, riding horses, and loving the 365 days of sunshine and wide open spaces. My mom – a single mom – was an educator, artist and art collector. Our house was filled with art she purchased from her friends, who were also teachers and artists that frequently visited our house. I loved meeting and interacting with her artist friends, learning about their lives and their art.
I had always loved painting in high school. My logo, a thunderbird, was selected out of all the student's entries to represent our new high school. Recognizing my passion for art in high school, my mom signed me up for classes at the El Paso Museum of Art with regional artist and author Jan Herring – a self-described "modern Flemish painter" using old world techniques. I absolutely loved Jan's free-spirited techniques. I learned how to use oil paints in translucent layers, using the oil as a medium highlighted with "passages" of opaque oil. She used layers and layers of oil to create very translucent, fluid paintings with amazing highlights. She also signed me up for classes with Peter Hurd, who studied under internationally acclaimed artist N.C. Wyeth. He married Wyeth's eldest daughter Henriette Wyeth, also an accomplished painter. Peter's oil painting techniques were entirely different than Jan's, but I loved what he taught me about creating amazing clouds using opaque passages of oil paint.
My mom loved to travel. I remember going on my first cruise to Alaska with my mom and sister. I was only nine years old, but I'd officially been bitten by the travel bug which has lasted my entire life. I later attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas and eventually received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Colorado in Boulder. I've moved 26 times since graduating from college and lived in 14 major cities before landing in the Orlando area. My travels have taken me to many different places, including Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora, Hawaii, Oahu, Kauai and Maui, Turkey, Patmos, Israel, Italy, France, Canada, Alaska, Africa, Mexico, England, Scotland, Greece, Santorini, and Crete. All my travels have influenced my art, to include my early years in Texas, so I really have no idea what kind of art I specialize in, other than whatever I'm passionate about.
One thing I am passionate about is environment. Living so close to the ocean, I can't help but be influenced by the large amount of plastics that wash up. I see the plastic washed up first-hand on the beach. I once worked closely with the Mayor of Melbourne Beach, who partnered with the Surfrider Foundation's Rise Above Plastics initiative to rid the oceans of plastic debris. His excitement over this initiative encouraged me to create my own Community Art Group on Pixels/Fine Art America, an online art gallery consisting of 164 amazing artists and photographers each showcasing their favorite conservation-related images. Every week I post images on Twitter to help raise awareness about the Rise Above Plastics initiative as well as my Environmental Art – Specifically Ocean Conservation group.
How long have you been an artist and when did you realize this was your calling?
I've always wanted to be a full-time artist as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, I just couldn't afford that financial luxury. I've held many interesting positions during my career, including work as an Interior Designer, a residential/commercial Custom Faux Finisher, an Executive Producer, and a Writer/Host for a cable television series highlighting amazing women. This program was broadcast on a Texas CBS affiliate. I was also host for a cable network television series, a writer for safety videos with the United Services Automobile Association, and a writer for La Quinta Inns & Suites. I've also served as District Sales Manager for North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia Revlon Professional Products Division. Most recently I served as a Real Estate Agent for ERA and Century 21 Realty.
What mediums do you prefer working with and what are your favorite brands?
I used to love working with oils, but I changed to acrylics – my reasons being two-fold. My most important reason is environmental. Acrylics can be easily cleaned and diluted with water, plus they're non-toxic. Water-soluble oil paint can now be cleaned with water as well, but that wasn't always the case. Oils required toxic solvents to clean the brushes and the oils take a very long time to dry. My second reason was transporting wet oil paintings and getting paint all over me and my car.
I had my work on display at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Art Gallery in Orlando. I would paint on-site in the gallery during their wonderful Sunday brunch. I'd work on several pieces in the art gallery all at once. Hotel guests would enter the gallery and discuss their passion for art with me. They'd ask me to tell them about the work I was creating. It was amazing fun and at the end of my gallery time, I would load my "very wet" oil paintings into my car. Invariably, I would get oil paint on me or my car, sometimes both… so I switched to acrylics for a quicker drying time and easier clean-up and transport.
Describe the art scene in sunny Orlando. Are you an active member of the arts community?
There is definitely an active art scene in Orlando, and I've been actively involved in the art scene for more than 18 years. I held the position Public Relations Chair on the national board of directors and the local chapter of Women's Caucus For Art for three years. The Women's Caucus hosted as many as three to five major art events in Orlando every year. I've shared space with two other artists at the Orlando Visual Artists League and, during my tenure there as Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator, I orchestrated and promoted over 36 highly successful art and cultural shows.
In a three-year period, I had seven solo exhibits and participated in 13 group shows, including The Orlando Museum of Art's Third Thursday event. I was also fortunate to have a solo exhibit at the Orlando Public Library. As Arts Administrator for the Seminole Cultural Arts Council, I coordinated all fundraising efforts, media, community relations, marketing, communications, grant coordination and membership. I was able to secure 19 local artists to hand-paint over 20 specially crafted Adirondack chairs for A Summer Chair-ity – raising funds that were disbursed in the form of grants to local artists. As board member for the City of Casselberry Art House, I held the position of Public Relations and Media Representative. There I provided leadership in promoting the monthly art gallery events and artist selection for exhibits.
You've been featured in various galleries across the Orlando area. Please share some of these memorable experiences and highlights with us...
Some of my most memorable moments came when I was painting on-site at the Grand Bohemian Hotel Art Gallery in downtown Orlando. As I mentioned earlier, I was painting in the gallery during the hotel's amazing Sunday brunch. Hotel guests would visit the gallery after enjoying their brunch. My paintings were on display for several exhibits in the art gallery, including the Small Works on a Large Scale and Good Things Come in Small Packages exhibits. I was painting on-site so I could discuss the paintings I had on display, or at least the work-of-art that was currently in progress. Guests were visiting Orlando from all over the world. I had a chance to express my passion for art and they had an opportunity to share their love of art with me. It was an amazing opportunity to meet people from all over the world. They would ask me what I was painting, how I got started in painting, then they'd share their own art stories with me. Art unites people and brings them together, so it was a magical experience for me!
How would you describe your style to a casual observer who may not understand your art?
I'm unsure that I have a particular style. I paint whatever comes into mind... whatever I'm passionate about at that moment. I also that know each observer brings their own interpretation to my artwork. I remember talking to some enthusiasts of my work while on display at the Orlando Museum of Art's Third Thursday event. I was totally amazed at everything they saw in my paintings. It went WAY beyond anything I could have ever imagined. They interpreted deep, hidden meanings and all kind of subterfuge in my paintings. In most cases, I'm just riding a wave of emotions with my paint brushes.
I remember after seeing the film Moulin Rouge, I was so taken aback by the crazy visuals and music, I spent two weeks in an emotion-filled frenzy painting my own version of Moulin Rouge. A friend of mine absolutely loved the painting. It was a really fun-crazy painting, with all kinds of things going on simultaneously. It was totally off-the-wall. I asked her why she liked it and she simply said, "It makes me smile. It's a happy painting!" So, the one thing I can say is that I put 100% pure emotion into my paintings. I never really know how my works will be interpreted.
When creating nature-related themes, how do you capture the vibrancy and raw colors of nature? What is your favorite time of day or special season you enjoy creating most?
I absolutely love mornings! Everything is scrubbed squeaky clean and it's a brand-new day. I love seeing the sun rise, the shadows it creates. In Florida, because there's so much humidity, there's a fine mist that filters the light and makes all the hard corners soft. Everything is filtered through a lens of fine mist. My favorite season is autumn. In Florida, our sycamore, maple and other trees display their warm colors. Sometimes we'll actually have cooler temperatures in October, although our winters don't usually arrive until January or February. Autumn temperatures fall just enough to take the edge off, then I can paint outside on my patio. I definitely can't do that in the heat of the summer!
Two-sided question here… A) What is your favorite painting by any other artist past or present? B) What is your favorite painting that you have created personally?
My favorite painting is Almond Blossom by Vincent Van Gogh. The cropped image of an almond branch has a very distinctive Japanese feel to it. The flowering almond blossoms seem to jump off the canvas. The painting was created in 1890 as a gift to his brother Theo and his wife Joanna for the arrival of their first child. Vincent was the baby's godfather. Vincent had spent weeks painting all kinds of blossoming branches before he painted this piece. I like the bold outlining and close-up view of the branches, the large blocks of color, and the vibrancy and delicacy of the blossoms. I think one of my favorite paintings that I've created is A Stolen Life. I love film noir movies. One of my favorites happens to be A Stolen Life, which Bette Davis starred in and produced in 1946. One particular shot at the end of the film shows Bette Davis standing by herself framed by these amazing trees. It was so mesmerizing… I simply had to paint it! I think it came out exactly how I'd envisioned it.
Name three other artists who have influenced your style or taste?
I absolutely loved visiting the Musee d'Orsay (Monet Museum) in Paris. The museum features over 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet. I absolutely love the feelings I get when I see a Monet. It is such an expression of colors and shapes. I truly was blown away by seeing his works in person! I also love the work of Georgia O'Keeffe. I love the way her vivid flowers hit you in the face. I've had the opportunity to see her studio and museum in New Mexico. I was totally blown away seeing her vibrant flower paintings close up.
I used to watch artist Jerry Yarnell on PBS. He really is an amazing traditional artist, expounding upon the elements of good, basic drawing skills and art techniques, utilizing light against darks, good perspective, and showing artists how warm and cool colors work in paintings. Jerry started out as an Audubon artist painting realistic images of birds. He really has amazing skills and is a passionate art teacher, really showing would-be artists how to create great pieces of art.
If you could work with any other living artist, who would you love to collaborate efforts with?
Actually, I'm really sort of an anomaly as far as most artists I know personally. I really like painting in social situations, like painting in the art gallery at the Grand Bohemian Hotel. I infused all the pieces I created on-site with the energy of my guests. It became more of a collaboration – infusing their thoughts and feelings into my pieces. Which brings me to your question about collaborating with other artists. It would be amazing to bring all the talented LinkedIn artists together… including you, Waldys Foubelo, Marina Syntelis, Tim Lord, Sef Berkers, Carsten Dahl, Erik Armusik, Stephen McGuinness, Alina Ciuciu, Gigi Stan, Maria Parenteau, Brande Summers, Kelly Armitage, Missy Burton and all the other amazing LinkedIn artists on to a joint collaboration like the Twitter Art Exhibit (TAE).
The TAE brings artists together from all over the world to create an original postcard. The artist then mails their postcard to the exhibit curator of the host country. A non-profit is selected from that area for the proceeds of the original art postcard to benefit. This year, TAE art collectors can purchase the postcards online because of Covid-19. Normally the exhibit is held at a location where the public can see and purchase the original pieces in person. This year's recipient of non-profit proceeds is a special needs and disabilities non-profit in South Carolina. One of my artist friends hosted TAE here in Orlando, so I know how much work goes into making the exhibit a success. Maybe after a vaccine is found for Covid-19, I can distribute a LinkedIn "Call For Artists" and see if there are any artists interested in collaborating on a similar event.
What is the most challenging experience you've ever been through as an artist?
My most challenging experience as an artist is not being able to paint. For example, when I was working for Revlon, I traveled five states and I was in the air more than the ground. I had sales meetings to attend on Saturdays and very little time for anything but my job. I remember making sketches of some of my travels. I kept my sketchbook with me at all times, but the job made so many demands that I had little time for anything else. I really missed painting. It has something to do with the actual act of applying paint to the surface of something that is really therapeutic for me.
How much time do you spend working the social media ropes? Is this a productive endeavor, or do you find that it deprives you of creating fresh art?
I do spend a lot of time on social media. I love the time spent building friendships on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. I think of social media the same way I think of anything in which I invest my time. If you want the rewards, you have to invest the time. Building relationships with people takes time. If you're willing to invest that time, you will receive benefits. I was recently contacted by Richard Branson. He contacted me because I follow him on Instagram and LinkedIn. It was really fun talking to him. He's trying to reach his followers directly and stay in touch with them. I really enjoy engaging with the friends I've made on all social media platforms – you being one of those friends! It has been so much fun getting to know you, and through your amazing posts and the Reprehensible Digest getting to know other artists as well. I can tell you that I agree with Woody Allen's assessment of the situation. Allen says, "Showing up is 80 percent of life." So, I continue to show up and build relationships!
In your opinion, do you feel that art is still a relevant force in society, or do you feel that art is somehow a misunderstood craft in 2020?
That is a funny question. I think art – and perhaps artists – will always, on some level, be a misunderstood craft. Art, like music, writing or any other creative endeavor probably is misunderstood. Even with the creator's best intent and professional expertise in sharing their vision – who knows how their creations will be interpreted? I believe art will always be a relevant force in society. Unless you write copy with an explanation detailing your thoughts and feelings, art will always be interpreted differently by every single person. Even if you write a descriptive backstory, it doesn't matter. Every viewer will experience their own version. I've got a great example... Valerie Greene, an international stroke recovery coach and author of The Fire Within, suffered a massive stroke at age 31. It left her paralyzed and unable to speak. Determined to heal, she spent years going from victim to survivor. When I first met Valerie, her father had recently passed away. She was devastated because she had enjoyed a really close relationship with him.
Valerie saw one of my paintings on display, fell in love with it, and purchased it. It was a painting that I created on-site during my trip to Italy. She found the perfect place for my painting in her house and wanted to share it with me. She invited me over and showed me the painting, then confided, "I saw my dad in that painting." She described to me how she could sense his presence in my painting. It became something much more than "just a painting" to Valerie. On some level, it became a connection, a way to communicate with her father after his death. I was completely overwhelmed. This is something that I, the artist, could never have anticipated. How could I possibly have known that the painting I created could become a passageway into the next dimension? Every image has a life of its own. Since I'm the creator, I have to give that image wings and let it fly. As visual artists, the images we portray on the surface of something is only the beginning. The end results belong to the viewer!
When creating art, do you feel a sense of peace? Do you rely on your craft to help you through difficult times? How does art operate within your heart?
Yes! Painting – for me – is being 100% in the moment… in that concentrated area of time called flow. Mihahly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the groundbreaking book Flow says it best. He describes flow as being "in the zone." Flow is basically concentrating all your energy into the present moment and creating a sense of well-being. Some people call that sense of well-being happiness. I am definitely in that state of flow, well-being, happiness – whatever you want to call it – when I paint. I'm focused 100 percent on the present moment.
That doesn't mean I can't talk to people and interact while in that flow state. I can pretty much transition from carrying on a conversation with someone while still remaining in that flow state. Knowing that creating art makes me happy, I can pretty much count on art to lift my spirits when I'm going through difficult times. It's funny you asked "How does art operate within your heart?" When I first started painting, I called my company Art From The Heart! For me, art is all about passion. What am I passionate about today? How can I share my passion with others? How can I express what I'm feeling right now in my heart on a two-dimensional surface?
I'm listening to a certain song right now and feeling amazing… How can I translate that feeling to the second dimension? So many times I'm riding on a feeling of high emotions, putting 100% emotion into my painting. Then I step back and say to myself, "I don't see it… I don't feel it." Not every painting tells the story I want to tell. Not every painting is infused with the feelings I want imbued – and to me that is SOOOO frustrating! I have this idea, this feeling, and now I have to transfer it from the fourth dimension (spirit) to the second dimension. I have so many pieces that I've discarded because they didn't make the transition. The good thing is that I'm passionate about whatever I paint. The challenging thing is that not all paintings make the cut. They never make the mental-to-physical transition from the fourth dimension to the second.
Is your family supportive of your passion? Any other talented beings in your inner circle?
My husband is an extremely creative person. He owned a very successful advertising agency for 20+ years. He has good taste because he hired me as his New Business Manager! He would come up with these unbelievable advertising campaigns... as if out of thin air. The advertising business is highly competitive, yet I would see him pull rabbits out of his magic hat. I mean seriously killer advertising campaigns – over and over again – and with a tight deadline! He is unbelievably creative and performs these amazing feats under extreme pressure.
He's also a pilot and loves to fly. He's owned several private planes and also loves aerobatics… like flying upside down! The one thing I know about my husband is that he 100 percent understands the creative process. If I have a painting and want some feedback, I know for a fact he will tell the truth. No sugarcoating – just the truth – which is exactly what I want. If I need help with a creative idea, he's the "go-to" guy. He comes up with these ideas out of the ether. He's always supportive and willing to help me in any way possible. I am extremely lucky to have such a creative, and supportive husband!
What are your long-term goals as an artist? Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
I see myself doing exactly what I'm doing now as long as I can do it. I love painting and I see myself continuing to evolve personally as my paintings continue to evolve. I've seen so many changes in my life in the last five years. I've completely shifted my artwork from physical to online art galleries. I'm very involved with social media, opening my exposure to other artists from all over the world, which in turn amazes, motivates and continually inspires me. My long-term goal as an artist would be to continually evolve, to experiment with new techniques, new ideas, to continue pushing my own personal envelope.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I would like my legacy to be one of experiencing a life-long exploration through creativity and inspiring others to do the same. I would love other aspiring artists to know the benefits and rewards of being a creative person, like the ability to be self-fulfilled and happy. How many people, if you asked them outright, would say that their life if fulfilling? Personal fulfillment is what everyone keeps searching for in the wrong place. What is the wrong place to look for personal fulfillment? Anywhere "outside" yourself…
In order to find what fills your spirit, what makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning, you have to go "inside" yourself – where it's scary or maybe even dark – and ask those hard questions. What are those hard questions? What fills my spirit and makes me want to soar like an eagle? What makes me dance around the room? What fills my heart with laughter? What makes me actually feel something inside? Here's the zinger – what makes me happy? It's easy to fill your life with "things" outside of you. Do you think the next new car, new house, new boat – or new whatever – will fill the void in your life? If that's where you're looking for personal fulfillment, then you're probably on the hamster wheel to _ELL!
What advice would you give to struggling artists?
The best advice I can give to struggling artists is don't give up on you and your creativity. Working full time and trying to paint full time probably won't work, but don't give up. Look around in your life and look for what WILL work. Focus your energy on finding time in your life to create something special. I found my creativity was most challenged when I traveled five states for Revlon. On Saturdays, I hosted sales meetings, so in reality, that only left Sunday to get ready for the next week. All I could do was carry my sketch book and make sketches whenever I could.
I couldn't paint like I wanted, but I could still be creative. Don't let that creative part of you die. Find ways with whatever little time you have to do something creative – something fulfilling. Whatever creative things you're doing – keep doing them, because one thing will lead to the next thing, then the next… Stay involved with the art community. It's okay if you don't have time to focus on the local art community, but stay active online. Connect and stay involved with other artists. Stay focused on being creative. Look for ways to add creativity to your life because being creative adds to your life!
Any additional skills, hobbies, or interests you'd like to share – fascinating statements about the artist known as Allison Miller-Constantino?
I was Executive Producer, writer and television host for the TV series Pacesetters: Women On The Way Up, which broadcast on the CBS affiliate KDBC in Texas. I was also the host for Women, which was broadcast on the Texas Cable Network. I am also a blogger (allisonsartwork.com), a book reviewer for Crime Wave Press, and I've even published quite a few articles right here on LinkedIn:
Creative Block? Try these 5 exercises for 5 days to "creative emergence." – LinkedIn
Bring Positive Energy Into Your Living Space – Kivo Dail
How to Relax and Refocus in 30 Seconds – Kivo Dail