“I’m inspired by my family who were migrant workers. We worked in agriculture and loved looking at the beautiful green and fruitful landscapes. I paint what I remember. It was hard work, but I loved working with my family. I paint in an expressive and colorful abstract style.”
Did you always know art would be an integral part of your life?
I always knew I would be an artist. In second grade my teacher, Mrs. Lindenburg, read a story about an octopus to us and then had us illustrate it. Mine had twisted tentacles and it was very large and pink and purple. She called me to the front of the class and declared to the class that I was Connie the Artist! That morning I had been Consuelo, the little shy Mexican girl who was just learning to speak English.
Can you think of a work of art that impacted you profoundly?
It might have been the same year that my family moved to Toppenish for the asparagus harvest that a Native American artist visited the classroom, and I watched in amazement as he drew an eagle with wings outstretched. I was so inspired, again I wanted to be an artist.
Who are your favorite artists?
My favorite artists are Vincent Van Gogh, Diego Rivera, Thomas Hart Benton, and Basquiat, but I love most artists and different styles.
What inspires you?
Everything inspires me. I’m an art teacher, also, so as I’m giving assignments and demonstrating, I am getting ideas also. I’m inspired by color and lines.
What medium are you currently working in?:
I am currently working in acrylics, but I love watercolors also.
Can you tell us about your technique?
People tell me my art is immediately recognizable, but I enjoy using several techniques to paint. I produce a lot of art, so I need to add variety. Recently I've been mixing it up and using dashes and lines from everyone from Van Gogh to Klimt’s designs.
Do you have a routine or certain rituals that help you prepare to work?
I do have a routine. I have a full studio in the basement, but most of the time I am upstairs painting in the living room while my family watches TV. I have a corner set up next to a big window. I can look at my cherry tree and the birds at the feeder. I love old cute tables, and I have one in each room. I would say I have a fetish, but my husband says it’s a problem not a fetish! He is always trying to sneak my tables out to the dump.
How has this year impacted your practice?
I used this year to finish unfinished work and start many more. I missed the classroom and my students. I was actually depressed, but I knew what made me happy, and that was painting, so I got busy.
How does teaching influence your art, or how does your art practice influence your teaching style?
I know every student is different. I was different. I was a migrant child worker, and family and togetherness, fields and abundant crops are what influenced me. Although I give an assignment, I try to have them find their passion, whether it be music, dance, sports… and include it in their art as a starting point if they are having trouble. If they ask me about what inspires me, I tell them about my background and why I do agricultural art. I dabble in a lot of different styles, and I really enjoy teaching the students about different artists.
Tell us a little about what you are working on now.
My current project is a Picasso style painting titled Two Mangoes and a landscape with strawberries.
How have personal challenges impacted your work?
I think I was my own critic. I didn’t really have anyone mentoring me. I was determined to persevere, nonetheless. I would like to paint or do art nonstop, but I am teaching during the day, so I paint late into the night.
What would you say to an aspiring artist?
To an aspiring artist I would say, “I’m jealous you have your whole life to create!”
Tell us about your artistic philosophy.
All art is good and to each his own, but I like my art to be expressive. I’ll paint anything, but it has to be in my style. Chuck Close has a saying I like: “Amateurs ask, ‘How do I get inspired?’ The rest of us show up and get to work.” Just get to work!
What role do you think art has in creating change?
Art plays a role in all societies and cultures. It is often a documentation of history but it can also change the direction of where culture and society goes.
How can our community better support artists?
Our community can better support artists by researching what we have locally. We have many diverse artists here to choose from—and don’t forget our young artists. We have many up and coming young talents.
DrewBoy Creative presents a color show each year. This year the color is Indigo. What does that color represent to you?
Indigo… the word itself is so exotic. I learned about indigo and its origins in 5th grade history, to be exact. I grew up in the early 70s and we learned all about how they use the plant to dye primarily blue jeans. The color green is my personal favorite but blue has always been a favorite color of mine also. Any subject an artist decides to create is changed by using indigo. I teach color theory in school. Indigo is the color of intuition; it conveys integrity, purity, sincerity, and calmness.
The Indigo show at Drewboy Creative is unveiling its culture to Tri-Cities. I love the titles of the shows. I knew we had artists here, but I didn’t realize just how many really great artists we have!
Main image: Evening Harvest by Consuelo Soto Murphy
Ashleigh Rogers is the Artist Feature Editor at DrewBoy Creative.