There is value in all art.
Supporting art on a local level is an essential part of preserving the culture of a city, especially one like Austin that is growing and changing so rapidly.
For Issue 24’s Artist Spotlight, our chosen contributors shared their experiences as working artists. They spoke to the sacrifices they’ve made, how they chose this path and what makes it all worth it.
Read ahead to discover the amazing artists featured in Issue 24 “Worth It.” Follow their pages to get updates on their work (and maybe take home an original piece yourself!)
Ahn Hee worked as art therapist and reiki practitioner with trauma survivors before pivoting her career to pursue abstract painting full time.
“Painting is a piece of my thoughts and process. It’s a comfort for me.
My work aims to connect with the viewer to provide a calming and healing effect. My paintings are influenced by water, kinetic movement such as dance and mountain peaks, representing the flow of energy and the layers and challenges that life hits us with. My paintings more recently have been described as being free flowing, unbounding, calming, and warm.
Starting over and choosing a path in fine arts is difficult of course, but worth it. I have chosen myself, my mental health and community over past careers.
I believe that the hard work, time and energy put in is represented in my art. They represent the freedom and vulnerability, both delicate and free moving. My intention is for the viewer to see my work as a space that provides a sense of calm, healing and balance.
Connecting with another human over a piece of my art is them seeing a part of me and vice versa. It’s a conversation whether it’s emotional or peaceful, that brings me gratitude and joy–that is worth it!”
Cara Jackson creates acrylic paintings inspired by her experiences camping, hiking, and road tripping around the Southwestern U.S.
“I’m originally from North Carolina, and there I fell in love with nature and art while earning a BFA at Appalachian State University.
After graduating in 2007, I followed warmer weather to Austin and found work as a graphic designer for local companies like the Alamo Drafthouse and Whole Foods. In 2017, I decided it was time to seriously pursue my passion for painting and now paint full-time and regularly travel to find inspiration in natural spaces.
The main thing I had to sacrifice was my fear. Fear of failing, of not being good enough, of not earning enough. I finally got to a place in my life where I understood that we have a limited amount of time to live our lives. And I didn’t want to let my fears dictate my choices. So, I decided to be brave and give it a shot. The worst thing that could happen would be failing, but even then, at least I would know that I tried.”
Clint Atkinson was born in New Orleans, LA, but grew up in Guatemala, Houston and Corpus Christi. He worked as a naval photographer for 3 years and received his MFA in Montreal, Canada. Clint has permanent collections in the Canada Art Bank and Surrey Art Gallery, B.C., Canada.
“Time is finite. Life is short. The cost of one’s time needs to be worth it. Making art is life itself. The grind of promotion, of business, of capitalism is the cost, the drain, the loss of creative time. I chose making my art because, cliche as it is, I would regret not doing so on my deathbed. I’ve been good at many things in life, but my art is something no one else can do.”
Steph Ivelisse started her business, Ivelisse Designs, in 2019.
“I began my business doing calligraphy for wedding and events. In 2020, I expanded into painting murals, releasing line art prints and working with resin.
I like to create unique & chic products that celebrate and empower women as well as items that make us feel like we have a piece of luxury in our homes.
Although art supplies are HELLA expensive at times, I think the biggest cost has been my time and mental health. I worked full time as a first grade teacher while also working on my business 60+ hours a week for 2.5 years. I ran off of very minimal sleep and did not prioritize planning self care into my schedule. I chose this path because teaching was no longer fulfilling me.
What I realized is that I only want to do what’s most authentic to me. I am happiest when I am creating and making things, so my dream was to be able to wake up every day and do that. Now I do and I couldn’t be happier.”
Lauren Oland is an apparel & fiber artist focused on sustainability through weaving.
“Mezamé is a collection of modern handwoven artwear created from eco yarns in a zero waste studio. The signature style is inspired by landscape, music, & color theory.
I love that the type of textile design that I create embodies self expression and innovation through weaving. I feel encouraged to try new things all the time when I work.
I also am very passionate about sustainable living and I am able to not only adhere to this but also explore it and encourage it through my career. In many ways, I feel like it is more of a “calling” than a career.
I work countless hours per week and when I am not working I am often processing different work obstacles and new ideas. In addition, it is a constant math-game to make Mezamé work as a business. But it is also a very big part of who I am.
Mezamé also gives me the freedom and flexibility to be a whole creative person and to help my kids learn what that means as well. I am able to take time off for medical needs and help my kids when they are sick. I am able to spend time on new skills and to support the needs of my family and friends but I feel often that I have to work harder to balance out not being the “benefits” holder of my family, etc.
It’s sometimes intense and heavy. But it is always worth it. Every day.”
Ryan Battalion has been, in his own words, “arting and designing through life.”
“I’m inspired by the skate days, Austin’s tattoo culture, cross-hatching and sketchy sketches. I’m a designer by trade, and an illustrator and paint splasher by whenever I’m not doing my trade.
I’m really interested in real things with slight oddities. A shape or contour or container that makes even simple ideas engaging. And I like the line-work to be tight; doused in cross-hatching and negative space. With final pops of color and truly being grounded in the poppy flavored grasses that each sit atop.
My art is a part of me. If I didn’t do art then I wouldn’t be balanced. If anything it would be a detriment (sacrifice) not to illustrate/photograph/be creative.
I do have a full time job as a UX/UI designer, and I love what I do. But design is different from the freedom and expression of being my own “creative director” and creating what inspired me. Because my illustrations are extension of my personality that need to be demonstrated, and cannot live in any other way.”
Lisa Lee’s colorful abstract portraits are mesmerizing.
“I am a Korean Texan who moved around my whole life before settling down in Austin. I work primarily work acrylic paint and canvas.
As far as the cost of making art, I pay for high quality, professional supplies while I don’t sell a lot of paintings yet. I have a main job I work at for 30 hours a week to support my art while I paint 45 hours a week on top of that.
I chose this path because of a personal artistic and creative need to fulfill.”
Axuro LTD makes colorful optical collages using computer software to integrate frequency and mathematics.
“Integrating the software helps me convert the images into shapes to achieve seemingly abstract artworks and animations. I often include geometric shapes and shapes based on nude human figures.
The cost of producing my artwork is mostly in time and experience needed to master the software.
Using computers hours on end can be very mentally draining, so I only work on art part time. I also work in the audio-visual industry and am learning how to incorporate my skills in building custom electronics into my finished art pieces.
Working a day job gives me financial stability and allows me to have the budget needed to put my art on a higher level, and by not relying solely on my income from selling art I am able to focus on making the art I want to make.”
Jeff Skele’s bold, playful abstract paintings are hard to miss.
“I was born and raised in Virginia where I excelled as a soccer player. But at age 19, I suffered knee injuries that abruptly ended my future as an athlete.
During this time of forced rest and reflection, I found myself always drawing in a sketch pad to process my thoughts. I moved to Texas in 2013, which gave me the push I needed to start over and do art full-time, and I’ve been a full-time artist ever since.
When I moved to Texas to pursue art, I sacrificed being close to my family and a town that I knew so well. I didn’t know where art was going to take me–I had to jump into the unknown. It pushed me to keep creating because it was all that I had at first.
The cost of art is fucking expensive in every sense. But the cost is worth it. It means I get to do what I want with my life.
And after 9 years, I can confidently say it was all worth it. Art is the one thing I’m good at, and the one thing that I get pure joy from.”
Xander Rudd makes process-oriented paintings focused on learning through experimentation and finding balance within each composition.
“I know it might sound cliché, but I truly believe that this path chose me.
Growing up I was always observing people stressing and unhappy in there job. At a certain point I told myself no matter what I have to sacrifice I will pursue something that is fulfilling and I’m passionate about.
It was towards the end of high school that music and art begin to really catch my interest.
At the time I was a highly competitive tennis player and went on to play college tennis. That first year of playing college tennis, art began taking on a different level of interest and it turned into a burning passion. It was eagerly pulling me away from what was once a passion.
I started taking close notice of how much enthusiasm I felt for the world of visual art. It was that next year I enrolled in the school of art at the University of Tennessee and devoted myself to the path.”
Richard Samuel is a graphic designer and watercolor artist. He is also the owner of Richesart Gallery in downtown Austin.
“I’m focused on the sensual nature of art. I create vivid, eclectic, and realistic watercolor paintings adorned on the walls of private collectors around the world.
As the only Black-owned gallery in Austin, Texas, I’m committed to diversifying Austin’s art scene and bringing work from underrepresented communities to the forefront.
Unfortunately success doesn’t come without sacrifice, but once your sacrifice starts to pay off the cost of creating becomes minimal in my opinion.
I had a pretty crazy change of professions last year. I quit coaching because I wasn’t happy and dove full speed I to my art. Monetarily it wasn’t the easiest decision but for my happiness it was so simple.
My art brand started to do so well that I opened up the gallery downtown and now I feel like the cost of creating is next to nothing. The sacrifice completely paid off.
Mentally I feel so much better than when I was a part of the coaching carousel. I realized that the 22 years I played football, from pee wee to pro, was good enough and I can move on. It is one of the best epiphanies I’ve ever had.”
Photographer Corey Haynes specializes in movement shots that reach out of the box.
“Through my work, I try to offer an organic look into human expression of body and emotion.
Dance and movement should be an art form that is inclusive and meaningful. I hope to showcase that.
Creativity is worth nothing. It was freely gifted to me by the Universe, so I feel obligated (and joyful) to give it back to the world. It’s priceless.
Worth it? I mostly ask myself how I’m lucky enough to experience it, no matter the financial cost. It’s brought my community, myself, and my clients moments of happiness and purpose.”
Photographer Brittany NO FOMO has captured everything from high profile events like ACL to the national Black Lives Matter protests.
“My camera has always been more of a tool for me to become part of a community and capture real stories and history in the making vs intentionally making art.
But of course, everyone and everything I end up being surrounded by and shooting is art. I’ve always loved capturing people’s favorite moments to look back on–music festival blissed out memories.
My path isn’t a clear trajectory as my parents didn’t want me to pursue an “art”, so I studied marketing and worked in advertising.
The best thing I did for myself was take a sick day from work at an ad agency when I was 22, and I went to a Starbucks off Astor Place in NYC, and launched my music blog No Fear of Missing Out.
From that day forward, I covered Brooklyn underground rave culture, concerts, and festivals and grew a team of journalists. It was always on the side, balancing a full-time career in something completely unrelated, so the journey to get to touring with artists and shooting major festivals was a unique one.
People don’t really understand the effort and pure luck it takes to be able to be granted the access you need to even get a good music shot, I’m eveen still working on this!
Fast forward to the pandemic where I had to relook at my entire life’s journey and question what to do next. I made some changes like switching my music photography to photojournalism and supporting the BLM movement across the US for 80 days, for example.
The journey as a photographer never ends–income wavers, interests swap, new challenges arise and you personally change. And while your eye changes, your camera follows, and you just hope your supporters continue to grow with you.”
Anxa Robles specializes in a multitude of mediums: acrylic paintings, digital illustration, and pen & ink drawings.
“My artwork uses bright color and expressive mark-making to explore my interest in the natural world, cycles of time, nostalgia, and sky-gazing.
I find endless inspiration in the perfect balance of color and light found in nature. I hope to create art that puts the viewer in touch with their environment and reminds them to appreciate the present moment.”