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Stylish Sophisticate: Did you always know you wanted to pursue art?
Colleen Blackard: Yes. I’ve always been using drawing to express myself, ever since I could pick up a crayon. Every career day I would don a French beret and carry a paint brush and palette. There have been times I’ve gone other directions, like when I chose a liberal arts college instead of even applying to an art school, but by the time I graduated I had my own solo show and was spending all my time working in the studio. That’s pretty much what I do now; I’m living out my childhood dream.
SS: Why did you choose ballpoint pen as the preferred medium?
CB: In college my professors noticed that my ballpoint sketches were my strongest pieces, even though I loved working in charcoal to draw landscapes and thunderstorms. They wanted me to spend more time building up the tones, so they suggested I do one of my charcoal drawings in pen! I was initially overwhelmed by the challenge, but after shifting my subject from storms to the starry sky after the storm, ballpoint made sense as I began drawing only in circles to build up the night sky. My work has spiraled out of that initial subject, and now everything I render is made up of millions of circles. Despite the long hours, days, and months my ballpoint pieces can take, it’s quite calming and meditative to get in that rhythm. Since my pen never really leaves the paper, I can even draw on subways and still have control over my mark-making.
SS: Name 5 beauty products you love:
CB: Mary Kay lash lengthening mascara (and for me it’s even better than Dior Show)
Mary Kay Rock n’ Red lip gloss
Revlon Color Stay liquid eyeliner
Michael by Michael Kors eau de parfum
Ann Webb everything, but I really like the Super C-Ester that you can mix in with any moisturizer.
SS: Do you have any career advice for aspiring artists?
CB: There is no one else who can do what you do. You’re the only one who can express yourself, and the world wants to see it–is practically dying to see it! Wherever you are, just start sharing your passion for your work and see what happens. That’s all it is really.
When I got to NYC, I went out that night to gallery openings and just started meeting people. I did that almost every night for a while, and now I go once a week. Surround yourself by your art community. I volunteered at the Affordable Art Fair my second month in the city and that’s where I made friends with fellow artists who supported me and helped me get my first show in Manhattan. That show led to the next ones, and now I’m showing my art somewhere in the city at least once a month. I’m so grateful for my fellow artists, their love and support is how I got to where I am today. Now I love getting to support other artists who are just starting out- we’ve all been there, and you never know who you’re talking to, maybe the next Picasso or Basquiat.
I focus a lot on the networking aspect of being an artist, but when it comes down to it, all that matters is your work. Just draw!!! While New York has a ton of distractions with all the amazing museums and galleries, I’m constantly reminding myself it’s most important to spend most of my time in the studio, since that’s where the magic happens. So never feel bad for spending all your time working in the studio, it pays off.
And on that note: don’t force yourself to create something you think people will like; just do what you’re passionate about, what you’re best at, and stick with it. People will notice. Always challenge yourself and keep exploring new directions to take your work. I know people also worry about creating a consistent body of work, and yes, that is important, but your work is a reflection of your life, and you’re always growing. So when you look back at all your work in your big retrospective in the MOMA or elsewhere, there will be many different stages with many different kinds of work, but when you look at it all together you’ll see a consistent theme in your work that will be distinctly you. Your signature will be evident in everything.
SS: How does your career as an artist influence your stylistic choices?
CB: It’s everything. As an artist, the first impression is all you get. Dressing up helps me show up, which gives me the opportunity to talk about and show my work. Plus, I’m more comfortable sharing my work when I feel glamorous.
Like my drawings, my style is a reflection of me and what I love. I work in black and white, so (no surprise) my favorite outfits and accessories are black and white. I also like working in monochrome, using only one color and its tones, so a splash of one bright color will occasionally make an appearance in my wardrobe, as long as it’s smartly used. Beyond color, I think of my style as a mixture between the polished Chelsea “gallerista” glam and Cat Woman. I’m here to kick ass, but be nice doing it.
I love my leather jacket and combat boots. They give me comfort and confidence when walking the streets of NYC. I wear them with light and flowy tops or dresses to take a little of the edge off so it’s not too intense. I also like to wear clothes and accessories that are interesting; with some story or detail that makes them unique. I usually wear a leather cuff made by an artist back home in Texas, and my key necklace, made from a token from a preview party for Scotch & Soda. I know keys are on everything now and I love it, but I’ve loved them way before that.
SS: Where do you go to find inspiration?
CB: I go to Transmitter Park to watch the sun rise over the East River and watch it reflect on Manhattan. The water is so soothing to draw, it’s so fun creating ripples and reflections, so I spend as much time as I can there. Other than that, I draw from the Texas Hill Country in Austin near my family home, and lately I’ve been drawing from my trip to Paris last year. Since my primary subject is light, I can find inspiration anywhere, but I prefer drawing from nature. Its beauty is sublime, and I aim to capture that.