McKenzie is an abstract painter (and dancer!) that I met through Instagram a few months back. Her work is just as lively and fun as she is! I'm happy to learn a little bit more about her today.
BB: For those of us who are meeting you for the first time, how did you get started?
MJ: I am a dancer turned artist. Since the age of 3, dance is all I have ever known. As a dancer, I grew up expressing myself through the unspoken language of movement. Crossing over into the language of art has been a continuation of my exploration of expression. I find it so liberating to get out my feelings without having to utter a single word.
My curiosity about learning more about expression led me to get my Bachelors in Fine Art in painting and drawing at Utah Valley University. That sure sounds nice and fancy… but it was sure a journey to get there!
I took a painting class as an elective while I was a dance major… and I was literally the only person in my class that had never painted before. It just sounded fun! But man… it was love at first stroke. It was like the heavens opened and I knew this is what I needed to be doing. And to my surprise I didn’t suck either… like... I was kinda good?? It was a hidden talent I never knew I had! So as scary as it was, I switched my major to art and dove into the world of the unknown.
I began my degree as a deer in headlights feeling so lost and thinking that I didn’t belong. What had I gotten myself into?! I was just a dancer girl ya know?? That’s all I’d ever been. So, going out of my box and becoming something else, even though in my heart I knew it was right, was terrifying! But with the guidance of my amazing mentors I was able to find my own artistic language and all those insecurities fell away. By the end, I had found myself and the confidence to say "I am an artist".
BB: As you've started to establish yourself in the art world, what has been the biggest challenge that you've faced? How have you worked through it?
MJ: My biggest challenge has definitely been comparison. I still feel relatively new as an artist, even though I have a degree in it, and I get intimidated! Thinking I’m not good enough. Why am I even doing this? Am I making a difference? Does my work matter? I sometimes find myself deep in another artists feed envying them. Thinking ‘they must be doing something right’ or ‘why can’t I do that’. It is such a double-edged sword. I get so inspired... but then I get hard on myself.
To work through it I have befriended the artists I admire. I ask questions. I learn from them. I have gained so many amazing relationships over social media with other artists from all around the world! That is how I met this lovely lady of WildHumm, Bianca. I bought her sketchbook last year and got to peak inside her brain… and I found that we have a lot of the same hardships! We all live to create and we all struggle through it sometimes. It’s incredible that we have this tool where we can connect and uplift each other along the way. Heaven knows I need it!
BB: Your paintings are abstract, experimental, and have a lot of energy. What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
MJ: MOVEMENT. Having such a strong and passionate background in dance definitely shows through in my work. It is in the root of every decision I make when I am creating.
My fascination with movement led me to study water for my BFA thesis. In my studies I read the book The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto, which I highly recommend. It brought so much understanding to my art and to my world. Plus… I’m secretly a mermaid, so to explore water I felt like I explored my soul! Haha ☺
Ever since then, I focus on the ever-changing qualities of water in my work. It is a part of my process now. I use a lot of water and keep my materials moving and alive. I let them guide me as I guide them through each fluctuating mark.
BB: Have you ever felt creatively stuck? How do you work through creative block?
MJ: Yes. Of course! With my work being so experimental sometimes I feel like I loose focus easily and just don’t know what to do next. To get back to where the juices are flowing I do a few things:
- Change the music. Since my heart is so tied to music… every melody affects me in the slightest ways. Sometimes I just gotta pump up the tunes and get my body movin and groovin!
- Stop. Walk away, eat some food, bask in the sun with my cat.. hahah ☺ then come back to it.
- Change material. I’ll grab a tool I rarely use or a color completely opposite of what I want. Sometimes out of the unexpected magic happens.
- Step on it. Crumple it up. Tear it. Doesn’t do anything for the piece… just makes ya feel better… hahaha. And it makes some sweet stuff for collage work!
BB: Aside from painting, are you working on any other projects?
MJ: I sure am! I am a dance teacher and choreographer and I absolutely love it. I thrive in the dance studio. I love connecting with other people through movement, energy, and emotion. Over the last few years where these two art mediums have collided in my life my soul has been so enriched. My paintings feed off my dancing. My movement is inspired by my art. My life is consumed with a constant cycle of creating… its awesome! I also just started a job as a custom framer. It’s been so fun to learn the aesthetics of framing and how I can use it to improve my own work. Plus it’s nice to save some money on framing my stuff! Woot!
BB: If you could give one piece of advice to emerging artists, what would you say?
MJ: I would tell them something I always tell my dance students… to find your soul. Use it. It’s yours. Go to that truly human place and become vulnerable. It is so scary yet ever so rewarding. When you come from that place of honesty, only then can you move people with your work. Strive for that. Strive to move souls!And lastly, I’ll share my current artist mantra:
Create something bigger than myself. Do greater than myself.
Keep up with McKenzie here: