I was born a writer. I kept a paper journal, and then a diary, from the very first days when I was old enough to write. I started blogging when I was in college, and finally had my own laptop. Back then, I didn't use the word "blog," and I believe the first one I published online was a LiveJournal record I kept during a backpacking trip across Europe (hey - isn't that kind of what the bloggers are still doing?) For most of my younger years, this type of writing was a way to nourish my introverted soul.
As I've gotten older, I have come to really love and thrive on the collaborative aspect of online content creation. I've worked extensively with my designer friend Meileena (see my most recent post here) and have a number of wonderful new projects coming down the pipeline. Today, I'm sharing the first in a two-part series highlighting the beautiful and fascinating work of my longtime friend Johanna Champlin, the artist behind the art and apparel brand Abstract Deep.
Johanna and I grew up together in the same small town in rural Connecticut and spent all our years together through the end of high school. Her paintings resonate with me emotionally and I believe strongly in the core values of the Fashion Revolution. Deciding to know who makes your clothes is both a powerful and empowering choice to make.
I'm sharing an interview with Johanna as well as photos of the "All That I Need" pencil skirt, available through her site.
1. When did your interest in creating art begin? Has painting always been your primary medium?
Song lyrics and writing has always been something I’ve connected to. When I was in middle school/high school, I had a binder of lyrics, poems, and quotes that I had written out by hand, and just read through all of the time. Jack Kerouac was the most influential “art” of my young adulthood, which I was introduced to in my senior year English class through “On the Road”. I took a drawing and painting class my senior year of high school to be with my friends, and that’s where I really first felt fulfillment through creating art. Painting has definitely always been my primary medium, but life got in the way since then and up until about a year ago, when I first picked up a paint brush again.
2. Can you describe your creative process?
My creative process is something that I’m really still finding, and I’m sure it will always transition through time, as life does. I generally have my easels, paints, canvas, glitter, etc set up in a central area of my house where I’m able to paint for a few minutes at a time while I’m hanging out with the kids, cooking dinner, folding laundry, blah blah blah. My paintings are layers and layers of paint, so this set up works out well to allow each layer some dry time. When I sit in front of my canvas, I choose a color that I want my initial underpainting layer to be, which is usually some sort of a phrase, or song lyrics that just won’t leave my brain. Then, I just kind of choose whichever color “feels” right and fill a space on the canvas that catches my eye, or again, “feels” right. When my painting “feels” finished, I will either paint the final phrase, which I decide at that point, or add the glitter. It’s challenging to describe, but to me, it’s all created by what “feels” right at that moment, which I understand to be guided by my energy.
3. How did the concept of wearable art emerge?
My husband, Russ, gets all of the credit for the concept of placing my art on apparel and incidentals. I had been creating so many pieces, and they were all around the house. He’s the kind of guy whose brain is just always working, and he presented the idea to me. I was actually resistant to it at first, we’re pretty yin and yang a lot of the time. He researched how to take high quality photos of my artwork, which is where the images that are placed on our Abstract Deep products come from. He said he was inspired by my painting Adrift. So, Russ put together the entire website, with necessary input from me, thank goodness! I am so appreciative for his effort because a lot of the time, I just don’t have the patience that the business side of art requires.
4. Do you have any plans to expand your shop?
Right now, we’re taking things step by step. As I’m sure you know, it can take a lot of time and effort to get people to even lay their eyes on, or become aware of what you’re putting out there. Yeah, you can create a concept, website, and the art itself, but if people aren’t able to access it, or know it exists, nothing’s going to happen.
5. Of all the art you've created, do you have a favorite piece?
There are definite pieces that I have more of a connection to than others. But while I’m painting each piece, I’m connected to that particular piece. It’s really just a physical manifestation of my energy at that moment in time, whatever I’m going through in my head. And with some, the process comes more easily than others.
But I do have a favorite piece! “So Deep In The Blues.” It’s all shades of blue, which I have found is the color that I “feel” most when I’m painting. It’s one of my first paintings that just really “felt” the best, in regard to color palette, texture, glitter, and ease of painting it. Also, the phrases that I use can mean anything to anyone, and that’s how I like them. I firmly believe the phrases will speak to whom they’re meant to, however they’re meant to. At the time I’m using them, they mean one thing to me, but I have found that the meaning can change over time. At the time I painted “So Deep In The Blues," I was feeling the blues pretty hard in my day-to-day. In hindsight, the process of creating this piece ended up being a companion (to me) while working my way through a challenging time. So it’s my fave, but I don’t have it anymore! I gave it to G. Love (the amazing “hip hop blues” musician of G. Love and Special Sauce) at one of his shows in Boston. Art is made to be shared, right?
I don't wear a lot of pink, and that makes this skirt feel extra special. I feel like some kind of new Rebecca in it, and I'm excited to get to know her! I've discussed in other blog posts how shopping secondhand makes me feel connected to people and I found myself feeling something similar in this skirt. It is an extraordinary to imagine the process behind the garment.
My husband is also a painter, and through his work, I'm aware of what an emotional process painting can be. It is an honor to be invited into someone's emotional space through art, and I am so grateful to be sharing in Johanna's journey.
Stay tuned for a second look featuring Abstract Deep apparel, and shop the entire collection here. Use code STYLEITGREEN for a one time 20% discount. Thanks for reading!