Whimsy with wax: Visual Artist Sara-Jane Lee

Visual Artist Sara-Jane Lee

Sara-Jane Lee was born in New York City and grew up with a very strong connection to the arts. Throughout her artistic evolution, she has focused on accurate physical representation, as well as exploring the range and complexity of human emotion evoked by an image with inspiration drawn from nature.

Although she continues to work in all mediums with a focus on realism, Sara-Jane has recently become fascinated with crayons. With the textural energy of the wax and it’s vibrancy of color, the crayon medium combines and expresses the whimsical side of her personality, and presents a dichotomy of precise realistic renderings with tools presumed for the artistically primitive. Her drawings are immediately relatable. The large scale in which she prefers to work adds to their impact, and enables a purity of emotional response.

Hermit Crab

3 things that make my life richer: The first thing that enriches my life would have to be any time I am able to spend outside, surrounded by nature. I spend as much time as I can throughout the week going for hikes, or walks, taking in the beautiful North Carolina landscape. The second thing that makes me feel enriched is spending time with animals. My work consists mainly of animal portraits, and spending time volunteering at animal shelters, hanging out with my two cats, or even visiting zoos or aquariums is always extremely inspiring. The last thing that is enriching may sound silly, but would have to be a really well made cup of tea. I’ve found that it is important to take little moments like having a cup of tea for yourself to maintain mental clarity and openness to creativity. 

Local artist that I admire: One local artist that I have really grown to admire is Guy Jencks. Jencks is a potter, based right here in Cumberland County. His ever-changing style, and constant experimentation with new techniques always pays off, and definitely encourages me to continue to push my own artistic boundaries. 

Current artistic experiments: I have recently been experimenting with many different surfaces. Instead of sticking to your traditional “paper”, I’ve been experimenting with different colored and textured matboards, as well as wood, to achieve new effects with the crayons. 

What changed about my work in 2020: Throughout 2020, I really expanded the color palate of my pieces. I’ve only been working with crayons for a few years, and it has taken some time to really perfect my technique, with an extremely temperamental medium. It has taken me a while to understand how to layer colors and manipulate the crayons, without being able to erase anything, to produce pieces that have a full range of color – not only 2-3 layers. 

Where I practice my art: Currently, I am lucky enough to have a small studio room in my house. I normally work with my pieces pinned vertically to the wall, so I have bolted smooth wooden boards as neutral work surfaces on which to pin my work. Since I work on a large scale, my boards cover a 4’x8′ area. 

How do I find my next subject: I usually look for an expression that makes me laugh. Whether that be from a human, or an animal: Humor has always been a major part of my personality that I can’t help but show through my work. Animals are absolutely more expressive and relatable than we generally give them credit for. 

Advice for an emerging artist: Always make sure that you remain true to who YOU are when creating. Many artists start out copying master work for practice, or trying to emulate a particular style, however this will always make you feel confined. Always make sure you leave a clear piece of yourself in pieces – they always come out better that way!

Photographer Brandon Wilder on Collectives, Community, and Cats

self-portrait of the artist. Brandon Wilder, 2021.

I started working as a bartender shortly after school; it allowed me to meet a great deal of people with all kinds of different personalities/morals/viewpoints on life. It allowed me to see thing from others’ eyes. Not that I’ll ever truly walk in their shoes, but I know what size they wear. I actually only started creating Art and Photography fairly recently, about five-ish years now, although I have collected Art my entire life. It started with Comic Books as a kid, Ansel Adams prints in my teens, and progressed from there. My wife & I actually had to thin our collection to move down to Fayetteville. 

Taking a photo is me freezing a second in time, telling a story that deserves to be told. Past achievements include, but are not limited to: three exhibitions at The Delaware Contemporary Museum (Wilmington, DE); one showing at the Center For the Creative Arts (DE); shot various bands and DJ’s (EDM) throughout northern Delaware & Philadelphia PA. I created album covers for musicians I’ve had a strong creative relationship with and been published in various music trade magazines. My work can be found on Instagram where I have separate pages for Art and Photography.

3 Things making your life richer & why
1- My Wife is absolutely amazing, and in so many ways: she is insanely creative, one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, as well as supportive of all my craziness. 
2- Our Cats: Armond, who is a savvy 17 year old Russian Blue that’s always at my side. Lazlow, who is just the cutest thing you ever did see: a very vocal 2 year old Ocicat weighing in at about 15 pounds at his last vet visit. 
3- My camera, and by extension the equipment I have collected over the past couple of years. I have tendency to buy the equipment that most photographers think “why would I ever use that”. I have so much love for these smaller companies that make really original offerings in a market where everyone tries to copy the same things their competitors are doing. A personal favorite is Lensbaby out of Portland OR.

Local artist you admire: I moved to Fayetteville a little under five months ago from Wilmington DE and I’m still getting woven into the local art scene. I hope to be more in touch with the community and meet many of the artists that reside & create locally, but that just hasn’t happened yet. It’s been tough finding ways to reach out given the pandemic and hurdles created because of it.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I am currently collaborating with my wife on a multi-media experiment involving her amazing x-acto(tm) knife skills and silk screening experience with my portrait photography.

Also for the past few years I have been working with an organization called Tri-State Underground. We are a music/arts collective that puts together events with various rock/hiphop artists and then use those gatherings as an opportunity for locals to feed the less fortunate within their communities. Currently, we are working on expanding our outreach that began in the Philadelphia market to encompass the area from Raleigh to Fayetteville.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? 2020 was tough and 2021 hasn’t been a picnic. It definitely led me to broaden my horizons as far as subject matter for photography. When you’re a live music/event Photographer and all that comes to a screeching halt, you either give up or move on. I moved on to creating photography where loneliness and fear of being alone was a central theme. I had to do that for myself more then others, to remind myself that it wasn’t just carefully planned courses that stopped without much of a warning. Art is definitely a form of therapy, for the Artist & the audience. 

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I practice in the streets, music venues, just about anything or anywhere that catches my eye. I never leave home without a camera bag. I pretty much work out of a Jeep Wrangler/a well organized Pelican case/a smaller grab & go sling bag set up for street shooting. 

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? In Delaware I was pretty setup with contacts that would call me about various projects, but here has been a bit more difficult. Social media definitely helps. I have had some amazing shoots down here with some of the local Hip Hop collectives. 

I have also worked in tattoo shops as a Body Piercer for the better part of fifteen years, and that has taught me more about art, in a real day-to-day sense. The thing is most tattooers create much more than just the tattoos they sell. Be it visual/physical/writing/etc. it’s very much like a pseudo-Art school for the thick-skinned. If you put ten people with strong personalities from all walks of life in a room everyday for years that only have one real bond (Art), guess what they are going to talk or argue about.  

Advice to newer artists in your genre: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” -Andy Warhol. That quote in particular has definitely stuck with me over the years.

Sarah & Brad: Married, Musicians, Muses

Sarah Chapman and Bradford Dougherty in front of holiday lights

Sarah Chapman is a local actor, musician, and currently the Education Director of Sweet Tea Shakespeare.  She has been in local productions such as “Evil Dead: The Musical” (Gilbert Theater), “Dogwood” (A Yellow Beanie Project) and “Much Ado About Nothing” (Sweet Tea Shakespeare). Bradford Dougherty, also a local actor, is a solder at Ft Bragg in the 44th Medical Brigade. We both have been musicians and performers since childhood. We married in 2018 and have three children, Tristan, William, and Genevieve.

sarah & brad. photo courtesy A Yellow Beanie Project.

3 Things making your life richer & why

Brad: my family, art, and career; being in a career of service, both by medicine and the army has given me a unique perspective in what I can and should do for the people around me. My art gives me the opportunity to participate intimately with the things I’m passionate about, and my family provides a warm and supportive environment. They inspire me to want to better myself in all aspects of my life.

Sarah: Aside from having wonderful, empathetic children of my own, I love watching appreciation of local artists, and the arts in general, grow exponentially from what it used to be in Fayetteville. I grew up here, and I’m proud to contribute by working with our local youths in theater. I also find wealth in simplicity: occasional peace and quiet is a privilege these days and I don’t take it for granted.

Local artist you admire: We both agree that El’Ja Bowens is an AMAZING artist who has a unique way of delivering profound, impactful performances. We’re huge fans of his work!

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Getting up and performing for the first time was our icebreaker for putting ourselves out there. When Sarah isn’t working on music production for local projects, she’s making original music and when we come together we pick songs we mutually enjoy and practice. We’re also currently recruiting to expand into a full band.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Between the two of us, we have picked up more ways to artistically contribute and create within our community. More volume has required more practice, the necessity to find new skills and develop abilities (especially with tech), and it’s allowed us to collectively step outside of our comfort zones. We are happy with where this has led us and hope the trajectory keeps moving forward. 

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. We have a “studio” in our home. We recently upgraded it to professional status when we got Sarah top tier recording software and sound equipment. We are also able to house a full five-piece band including 4 mics, plus we have a few classical instruments. Sarah has an old desk in this space where she does her work with pictures of our kids and gifts from friends and past students displayed.  

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? It’s different for both of us. For me (Sarah), my brain is on the go at all times, and everything is sensory overload on my worst day. Music and art is my safe space. When it comes to original work or performing live, I peak when I’m feeling everything in the moment and lose myself. Writing a song when I’m anxious, portraying a character in theater; everything is visceral and authentic.

Brad says: I like a good story, so if there’s something I’d like to recreate, if it moves me, then I’ll want to riff off of that. Sometimes it results in me writing work for intended film projects, sometimes it pushes me toward musical collaboration where musicality communicated between me and other musicians in a jam session. That communication can tell it’s own story. 

Advice to newer artists in your genre.

Sarah: Set realistic expectations, practice, and don’t allow criticism to discourage you. I also believe in staying humble because success comes from others’ appreciation and support.

Brad: Find an influence that’s better than you, and steal as much as humanly possible. Everything you learn playing their licks is going to make you a better musician, and developing skills listening to lots of other musicians can help you develop your own musical identity. Also don’t skimp on your hobby; that doesn’t mean you have to drop a ton if money for top of the line gear, but if you are serious about playing, decent gear will give you a chance to hear and feel when you play well, where cheap or bad gear is going to provide a miserable experience and will discourage you, because it isn’t going to sound or feel like you are improving. The cost incentive is going to make you want to make the cost worth your time as well. 

The Connected Creator: Visual Artist Katlin McFadden

Katlin McFadden is a Pennsylvania-born mom of two. When she’s not helping women in business, and juggling mom-life, she’s painting portraits of them. She began her college education focusing on fine art and worked in a variety of industries. After relocating to North Carolina years later, Katlin decided she wanted to pursue a degree in marketing and sales where she felt she could combine her love of business with creativity.  Katlin often jokes she loves to create everything from businesses, to artwork, to grocery lists. 

During this time, she became interested in creating a business of her own. She designed a product and navigated the prototyping and manufacturing process. This business venture lead her to discover the power of social media marketing. After exploring the world of invention and marketing, she decided it was time to channel her effort into a career. Becoming part of the team at the WBC was a perfect fit for Katlin’s interest in business and promoting small businesses specifically.  

Katlin became a member of the Women’s Business Center of Fayetteville at CEED in March of 2018. She began her career with the WBC as a part-time Business Advisor and is now the WBC Program Director.  Katlin loves empowering women to bring their ideas to life and firmly believes where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Outside of her role at the Women’s Business Center, Katlin sells her original artwork and prints. She is currently working on a series of paintings titled, “Luminosity” and focusing on newly commissioned work. 

3 Things making your life richer & why:

My two wonderful daughters: They constantly remind me to stop and appreciate the little things. They are my greatest motivators and inspiration. 

My career at CEED: I feel so incredibly grateful that I get to be so creative at my job and I get to learn so many things. CEED has allowed me to pursue my hunger for growth, knowledge, and new experiences. 

Community: Like many, I am a transplant in Fayetteville who chose to stay. The community, my friends, and the team I get to work with-they all make it a truly enriching place to be. 

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: I admire the work of many local artists. Fayetteville is full of talent! One of the artists I particularly admire is Sarah Sourcier. Her paintings are full of emotion and I love how she bridges abstract brushstrokes and conveys realistic images. Her work is so fun and dynamic to look at; her painting of Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite works in Fayetteville! 

What is one of your current artistic experiments? One of my current artistic experiments has been the examination of ambient light and capturing that glow. I’m truly enjoying the process and building the contrast! 

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? My practice drastically changed in 2020. Prior to 2020 I primarily created art in black and grey charcoal or graphite. I used to describe myself solely as a pencil and paper artist. When the “stay at home” period of the pandemic began in 2020, I dove into the world of paint and color. I wanted a challenge and felt the inspiration to grow as an artist. Feeling stuck in the four walls of my home created this need to bring color in. This change is here to stay. I still draw often but, I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface of the world of paint and what I can do what it. 

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I mostly work in my home studio. My workspace is compromised of a vintage military trunk full of paint and a shelf of eclectic mugs and jars full of paintbrushes, palette knives, and charcoal pencils. My walls are lined with my in progress work…I am running out of wall space! 

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? I find myself looking for images that are relatable or convey a relatable feeling. Last year my primary focus was on images that had an element of water. I wanted to examine how to create the translucency of water into paint and the concept of “staying afloat”. This year I have a concentrated focus on light sources. My current series ranges from natural sunlight cast on the human form to the glow of ambient light. 

Advice to newer artists in your genre: My advice for newer artists in my genre would be to keep painting as much as possible and don’t forget to take a step back and look at your overall picture throughout the process! Also, don’t be afraid to try new styles and mediums-don’t limit yourself! For the longest time I was stuck on one medium out of a passion and comfortability but I surprised myself with the happiness I’ve found in this new and exciting chapter of work! 

Fusing Work, Play, and Family: Metal Sculptor James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez, a metal sculptor, possesses a steady hand, a keen eye for detail, and a relentless drive to succeed. James has already created some amazing sculptures. He draws his inspiration from his life experiences, family, friends, and his military background. Deployed to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, he now finds sculpting to be his therapy and a way to express himself in ways he’s normally unable to. By trade, James is a certified welder, with three years experience running his own welding & metal fabrication business, Vulcan Metal Works. He has been mentored by sculpting professor, and local metal artist, Adam Walls of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. 

Still early in his sculpting career, James has dedicated himself full time to creating his next masterpiece, using symbolism you can truly understand, and relate to, in his work. 

Thing making your life richer & why: Working on metal sculptures has definitely made my life richer. I find a different type of inner peace when I’m creating. The response I get from people the first time they see my work is warming to the soul; just knowing I was able to create a lasting impression through my art is an unbelievable feeling. Most importantly, though, is being able to physically show people what is truly in my heart, having a way to express myself in ways I’ve never been able to before.

Local artist you admire: Adam Walls is a local metal sculptor that was a mentor for me when I first started thinking about making a transition into art. He told me if I put as much effort into my art as I did my welding/metal-fabrication business then I wouldn’t have a problem at all. I listened. He’s an amazing local artist, one that I look up to a lot.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I’m actually venturing into the world of clay sculpting and pottery. Working with clay is therapeutic in itself, and being able to sculpt in clay will definitely help me further down the road in my metal sculpting career. Being able to create a small scale reference of a larger statue is perfect for scaling and visual references.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? A LOT changed in my practice in 2020. I transitioned my business from general welding/metal-fabrication to creating works of art. It was terrifying at first. Being colorblind I never thought I would be the artistic type, until I started welding.

Protective Father & Child 
This piece was made for my daughter. It represents a rusted old father that is trying to protect his untouched child from the dangers of the outside world. Spikes on the back provide protection while still maintaining a soft frontside where the child is. His whole purpose now is to pass on knowledge and love the child unconditionally. With open access to a mended heart, the child is the only one that has unrestricted access, and it remains guarded from the rest of the world. He will protect his child until it is able to protect itself.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I practice my art right in the garage at my house. Some people call it messy, I call it organized chaos. I’m surrounded by family all the time, and friends stop by on a  regular basis just to see what I’m working on next! I wouldn’t have it any other way! After all, they’re where I draw my inspiration to create.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Honestly, I’m constantly lost in thought thinking about my next piece. The ideas come at the most random times! It could be anything from a song on the radio, a relationship, a conversation, or random architecture. I’m always open minded and looking for inspiration on a daily basis. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. Chase your dream, no matter what! If you think you can create, you want to create, then you can! Stop thinking and do. If you wait for the perfect opportunity you will surely miss it! There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing something no one else can, then creating it so they can appreciate your vision with you.

Micro World, Macro Happiness: JRoss Photography

JRoss

I was born and raised in Camden, NJ. I’ve been doing art in some form or fashion for most of my life. I started out drawing superhero characters I saw in comic books. Once I got to high school I learned how to paint and after I graduated I joined the Army where I served for 10 years. During my time in the Army I dipped my feet into Graphic Design and Digital Illustration, but it wasn’t until I left the military and went to college at Fayetteville Tech that I started taking Graphic Design seriously. However during my studies I had to take couple of photography courses and fell completely in love with it. 

I consumed all things photography and anything related to it. Fast forward to 2004, I left college and started doing portraiture out of my house, where I still shoot from time to time, and then I discovered drones and the world of 360 photography and added those to my creative arsenal. I’ve been able to use the skills I learned and was able to combine them into what is now JRoss Photography – Fayetteville, NC, where I create traditional as well as custom portraits, sports banners, posters, and wall art. When people ask me what I do as far as art, my answer is usually “that depends on what you want done.”

I do have a regular job that I work during the week, but when the weekend comes, the cameras come out. I use Social Media exclusively for my business. You can find me on Facebook and on Instagram.

portrait of the artist

3 Things that make my life richer:

1. My family makes my life richer because they are my biggest cheerleaders. Whenever I have to go on location for a shoot I can always count on my wife, sons, or even one of my nephews or nieces to help me with anything I may need. I use my wife as my unbiased art critic whenever I create something because she will definitely tell me if what I create sucks or not. Fun fact: my wife and mother-in law went in to buy me my first professional DSLR camera so I guess you could say they were my first investors!

2. Art makes my life richer because I always try and figure out how a particular piece of art was created. The colors the artist used, the thought process behind it…I mean everything. Whenever I’m around art of any type, whether it’s music, video, traditional, etc, I just feel at peace in that moment because I can embrace what the artist created for that moment and put my troubles to the side.

3. Education makes my life richer. I’m a firm believer in the saying; you’re never too old to learn something new. I will find myself watching a random YouTube video on a skill that I might be able to use to create some art, and before I realize it; a few hours will have went by. I just find learning something new exciting and fun.

Local artist I admire: I really don’t know a lot of local artists; I have however gotten the chance to work with a talented music artist named Jamie Davis. I met him at an art show we both were featured in and I ended up creating the album art for his project entitled The Village. I admire the fact that he takes his art seriously and the fact the he gives back to his community.

One of my current artistic experiments: I’ve been delving deep into the 360 Photography / Tiny Planet branch of the photography tree. I first saw Ben Claremont (the top 360 photographer in the world) on YouTube about a year ago, and saw how he creates his tiny planets, so I bought a 360 Camera and have been creating Tiny Planets ever since, when I’m not taking portraits. I eventually want to get a coffee table book of all my 360 planets.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Like most businesses that deal with customer service, when the pandemic hit, I had to adjust from doing studio sessions to doing more on location sessions. That’s also when I took up doing 360 Photography, and yes I plan on keeping it.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I have a spare room in my house to store my equipment and where I work on new designs. It’s usually messy…I’ll just leave it at that. When I have a shoot I’ll either use my living room, or dining area, otherwise I’ll most likely be on location.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? For my 360 photography, I’ll usually ride around town, or even go out of town and just look for interesting buildings, bridges, trees, etc. Basically anywhere that I think would look good as a Tiny Planet. I’ll usually spend a few hours shooting at a space and then cull the images to create a tiny planet.

Advice to newer artists in your genre: I honestly don’t know too many 360 Photographers, but as far as photography in general: never stop learning new techniques, absorb everything you can from more experienced photographers, learn how to take constructive criticism, and most of all remember: YOU are the artist, so create art that makes YOU happy.

Plants, Animals, and Public Affairs: Painter Paloma Perez Bradford

I am from Los Angeles, California. Growing up, I spent most of my days swimming and surfing at the beach. In elementary school, I was immersed in natural science, which became pivotal to my relationship with nature. I studied illustration and received my BFA in Communication Arts from Otis College of Art & Design in L.A. After graduation, I taught after-school art classes in Manhattan Beach, until I decided to enlist in the U.S. Army as a Multimedia Illustrator in 2019. I found this to be an amazing opportunity to serve my country and further my education. I graduated with honors from the Defense Information School on Fort George G Meade, Maryland in 2021 as a qualified Public Affairs Specialist with a certificate in Graphic Design. 

I met my husband in the Army while we were both attending school for public affairs. In 2021, we moved near Fort Bragg and create art together.

Perez Bradford working on an oil painting

3 things making my life richer & why:

My husband makes my life richer because he helps motivate me to put my art out into the world. There are times when I feel self doubt, however my husband is the one who encourages me to keep going and keep making art even when I feel like it’s not good enough. I think it is important to be able to lean on someone in your life when you need emotional support. 

Spirituality makes my life richer because it helps soften the blows that life throws at me and  reminds me that I am part of a bigger plan. 

Art enriches my life because it gives me purpose. It is therapeutic as well. I enjoy working everyday to better my skill as an artist and it is so rewarding when I see how my work has improved throughout the years. 

Local Artist I admire: I just moved to North Carolina in May, so I haven’t met many local artists yet, but one artist in Wilmington who I admire is Kelsey Howard. I came across her page on Instagram and fell in love with her artwork. I admire her loose style and color choices. 

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I wouldn’t call it too much of an experiment, but lately I have been painting a wash of fluorescent red or orange paint under some of my paintings. Not sure if it is making much of a difference, but I enjoy doing it. 

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? In 2020, I changed up the materials that I use. Up until then, I was using a lot of watercolor and gouache. I decided to try oil painting and get into drawing more with colored pencils. The change in mediums was beneficial for me and I will continue to use these new mediums in more of my future work.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space: Right now, my art practice takes place in the living room of our one-bedroom apartment. I have an easel and art cart set up near the sliding glass door so I can work near ample sunlight and ventilation. 

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Subject matter is sometimes a struggle for me. What I find most pleasing to paint and draw is plants. However, recently, I went back home to Los Angeles to visit my parents and took lots of pictures of our family’s cat. I am currently using the cat as the muse for my current collection of works to come. 

Advice to newer artists in your genre: Hone your skills by practicing frequently, and do not get tied down to each piece of work you produce. As you keep producing work and getting better, it will be easier to accept that older work as learning milestones. 

Graphic Designer Brittany Cobb Pumps Up Passion and Positivity

by Brittany Gazda Photography

I’m Brittany, a graphic designer and hand lettering artist living in Fayetteville, NC. I was born and raised in Florida and graduated with a BA in graphic design from University of Tampa. I’ve always loved crafting and art so when I got to college, graphic design seemed to be the best fit for me. Straight from college, I worked a couple graphic design positions that I hated and then in 2009, I began designing for a small business in Tampa that sold invitations and stationery. Around 2015, modern and more unique fonts became a huge trend for invitations, so I began teaching myself hand lettering. I was awful at it for a long time, but eventually developed a skill and love for it. I was with the company through multiple military moves (working remotely), until 2019.

I’m currently co-owner, with Karoll Echeverri, of Meraki Creative Agency: a small business downtown specializing in small- to large-scale balloon decorations for events, curated party supplies, event rentals, graphic design, murals, and art installs.

My husband is in the military and we’re both from Florida. After we married, our first duty station was Germany, then GA, and we now reside in NC. We have a seven year old daughter and two dogs.

Brittany with her traffic box wrap beside Huske Hardware on Hay St.

3 Things making your life richer & why:
Family has always been important to me and I’ve been lucky to have a very close-knit and supportive one! Before I was married, I was never more than a couple hours from my close and even extended family. Through the years, my husband and I have moved a lot with the military (to Germany even), but my family is home to me and I’m always doing what I can to be as close as possible to them.

Color & design. I love stopping to appreciate these things. I’ve always been the type to point out something I like. Whether I’m making a note of it in my head, snapping a picture, or calling someone’s attention to it, I feel that noticing and actually giving time to these things helps with creativity and overall well-being.

Positivity. I’ve always been a worrier and through the years, I’ve gone through highs and lows with anxiety. I’m definitely an optimist, but certain things will really set my anxiety off the charts. Because of this, I like to surround myself with positivity. No news unless it’s good news (hello, Good News Network), no Googling symptoms, and no toxic, pessimistic, gloom-and-doom-filled people surrounding me.

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: My very good friend and business partner, Karoll! I’ve always admired her work around Fayetteville. She’s involved with so many organizations in Fayetteville and she has such a great outlook on life. She’s full of knowledge about so many different things and she has an amazing passion for color and things that fill people with joy. The “color alley” that she filled with hanging umbrellas in downtown Fayetteville in 2016 was what piqued my interest in her work. Eventually, I reached out to her and we worked together on a few smaller design projects. Then in 2020 we decided to really get serious and figure out a way to turn our passions into something new that would cater to both our skill sets.

Karroll and Brittany at Meraki Creative. photo by Brittany Gazda Photography

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I’ve been looking into laser printing a lot lately. Right now, it’s just a lot of researching, but I’m hoping to turn that into a reality within the next year. Another is balloons, of course! Meraki has had a really great year and we’re always looking for ways to go bigger. Everything we know about balloons, we’ve learned in the past year, so as the installs get bigger, we’re able to experiment with more techniques.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Really, it’s been a learning experience for everyone, especially small businesses, but it shows the means we’ll go through just to get by. Karoll and I rented the space for Meraki mid-pandemic, so we sort of just figured it out as we went and tackled any issues as if they were regular small business issues. For a while we (and everyone around us) stressed about people not being able to be together for anything, much less a party! But people love to celebrate and they love holidays, so even if the lockdown and/or restrictions continued, we were prepared to find ways to bring joy and celebration into their lives. Thankfully, that has waned for now and I think people are looking for that excitement after more than a year of pure stress.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I’m a serious introvert, so working remote from home has always been my preference. I have a home office that’s a literal mess of books, craft supplies, shipping supplies, printers and more. I can never find anything I need! When I’m not working from home, I’m in the Meraki shop, which usually tends to be a bit of a (happy) mess due to the two artistic personalities that run it.

Britt designed this “Support Your Local Artist” shirt which Devra always wears on Fridays.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? It’s a constant search to find ways to make others smile. If it’s joyful, colorful, or has a positive message, I want in.

Advice to newer artists in your genre: It’s so helpful to have a variety of creative skills nowadays. Don’t be afraid to try out all different types of artistic expression. From crafting to fine arts, any of it can be turned into a successful business if you’re passionate about it. 

La Scintilla Grande: Photographer and Painter Maura Trice

I was born in Italy in a very creative family: my grandfather was a music teacher and organist with a passion for oil painting, my brother a talented illustrator, and my uncle a professional painter. I started singing at 11 and performed with my band until I came to the States in 2017. 

When I moved here I was inspired by the urge to learn about a different culture and mentality. I inevitably started seeing similarities and differences in how people perceive and treat others with the same curiosity of a child observing the world for the first time. I started exploring this concept representing the beautiful diversity I saw through portrait painting. I had a new way of looking at the world and painting a face made me feel as if I was pointing a microscope to the soul.

In recent years, due to life circumstances, I had to transition from acrylic painting to digital art with which I continued exploring new styles of portraiture. Finally given the opportunity, I then polished off my old dormant passion for photography and started integrating photography with digital art resulting in a mixed media artwork. I’ve been studying several techniques and tools, and I’ve taken several online classes searching for my own style.

3 Things making your life richer & why:
My creativity. I have always felt the urge to create, to express in a visible and shareable way my vision of the world in the hope to make a change.
My family. My husband and my son who make my life and house lively, noisy, and full of love. My family at home and the one that I found here. They are encouraging toward my art and patient with my quirks.
My curiosity. I love to learn new things, meet new people and see new places. The world is so big and diverse that life would be wasted without trying to know more about it.

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: I haven’t been here very long but I’ve had the chance to meet and sing with a very good local musician: Zack Guinn. He’s a great bass player and a very good person. I’m happy to call him a friend.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I’m mixing photography and digital art. I also like to add symbolism to my art so that every time you look at it you can notice something new.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? 2020 was a year of discovery. That’s when I started experimenting with different media: I work with wood, made moulds out of bottle corks, I tried watercolor, glitter, I scanned paper and imported it in pictures. Some idea worked better than others and I will keep using them.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I have a studio in my house. My husband and I put it together piece by piece. We put in a new floor, painted the walls, decorated, set the equipment. On the walls I hung some of my art and some art that inspires me.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Sometimes it’s an interesting face I see on the street. I’ve literally stopped random people more than once to ask them to be in an artwork. Other times it might be a movie, a picture, something on the news. Literally anything can ignite the spark.

Advice to newer artists in your genre: Experiment and learn your craft. Everything else comes with time. Today you’re better than how you were yesterday and tomorrow you’ll be better than today as long as you keep working on it.

There are no rules: Singer-Songwriter Doug Burton on Leaving a Musical Legacy

Doug Burton is a singer-songwriter based in Fayetteville, NC. He has been actively writing & performing since forming his first high school punk rock band, The Cooties, in 1985 in Williamsburg, VA. Doug and Cooties drummer Chris Layton began a songwriting partnership in 1992 that quickly morphed into the band Gunston Midas. Gunston Midas would go on to be a mainstay in the Tidewater, VA/Outer Banks, NC indie rock scene over the next 20 years.

Upon relocating to Fayetteville in 2014, Doug embarked on a solo career, releasing the album, “Hotel Reverb” under the pseudonym Junction Medias that same year. He played regularly at the local venue The Rock Shop, and made frequent appearances in the Triangle area. 2019 saw the release of his second solo album, “Context Is Everything,” which was recorded & produced by Shawn Adkins at Back-A-Round Studio. In July 2019, along with local musician Michael Daughtry, he co-founded Fayetteville Songwriters In The Round, a monthly live original music series. The series features the best local songwriters as well as guests from around North Carolina. During the COVID hiatus, Doug wrote a new album called “Good Music,” which will go into production in early 2022 as the sixth Gunston Midas album. He has been happily married to Katie Jones Burton since 1998. They have no children and wouldn’t have it any other way. They enjoy staying at home and listening to a good record as well as going to concerts & traveling.

Burton at Back-a-Round Records

3 Things making your life richer & why

1. My love of music is my foundation. My main goal in life is to leave the world a better place than I found it. My way of doing this is through the music I make. Being that my wife and I decided to not have children, the music I leave behind will be my legacy and I take that seriously with every album I release and with every live performance. 

2. The love I share with my wife and my closest friends sustains me and when I need them, they’re always there. Likewise, being a good friend and a loving husband is of paramount importance to me and when I fall short, I feel extremely bad about myself. I am a perfectionist. I don’t consider a song and/or album to be finished until it is exactly the way I want it to be and I extend that high standard to most things in my life. It sometimes makes things difficult but when I do succeed, I feel like a tremendous success.

3. The music community here in Fayetteville is, for the most part, a close knit circle and a caring & giving support system. There are healthy rivalries to be sure, but ultimately, there is a real sense of community here that I haven’t experienced elsewhere. Artists here are often inspired by each other, which is also rare in my experience. When a fellow musician says they listened to my album and it meant something to them, that means a lot to me.

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: Michael Daughtry. Upon relocating to Fayetteville in 2014, Michael was the first musician who befriended me and he has been an endless source of inspiration as well as a great friend. I’ve seen him behind the scenes and I’ve seen him on stage and he is by far the hardest working musician I know. His work ethic, passion, and positive attitude are infectious. Though he seemingly has more projects going on than time in the day in which to complete them, he is always giving with his time when I need to run an idea by him or just to chat. He sets an unbelievably high bar for local musicians to aim for. Keeping up with The Joneses? No, I try to keep up with The Daughtry!

Michael Daughtry and Doug Burton

What is one of your current artistic experiments?
During the COVID lockdown, I wrote a large batch of songs and I have written more in the meantime. I have selected twelve that will make up my new album, “Good Music,” and I’ve been busy recording home demos in preparation for the planned recording sessions in early 2022. I am also re-launching the Songwriters In The Round series every month at Fayetteville Bakery & Cafe.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Throughout 2020, I periodically posted songs performed acoustically at home, in the studio, and at various locations in which I found myself. This “Acoustic Series” allowed me to practice my newly written songs as well as revisit many older Gunston Midas tunes. I have not continued the series into 2021 as I have been able to get out and play for people in person more. The various Open mic opportunities in Fayetteville allow local musicians the ability to try out new material and get the immediate feedback not possible with home practice.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I have a music room in our house where I have my guitars and recording gear set up. I keep my Fender Telecaster out and readily available as well as my Epiphone Hummingbird acoustic guitar and Mustang bass. My other guitars are packed in their cases but I do use some of them occasionally on recordings for a variety of tones. I practice there daily but sometimes I also practice while sitting at the computer, especially if I am working on something new so I can make notes to remember parts and/or lyrics for future use.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? I would stop short of calling it “random,” or “magic,” but it’s often a little of both. “Love Makes You Stupid” from my “Context Is Everything” album was inspired by a Seinfeld episode. My early Gunston Midas song “Vancouver” was written in the aftermath of a friend I knew I would miss moving to Vancouver. The title track on “Good Music” is about my desire to leave as much good music  behind as possible, when “my time disappears.” Then there are songs like “Fire Ants” which is a story told through the eyes of a fire ant and how life is often disappointing but “you get used to it.” The first song I ever wrote was in high school in 1985. It was called “Chair.” One day, a friend sat down next to me in class and said, “I wish I had a nice chair ’cause all of these are so uncomfortable.” A lightbulb inside my head suddenly switched on. The first line of “Chair” turned out to be “I wish I had a nice chair ’cause all these are so uncomfortable.” My songwriting mantra is “Never question The Muse.” My Muse has been singing to me since 1985 and I will listen until she stops. 

Advice to newer artists in your genre.
1. Get it on tape. Or ones & zeros in modern parlance. I wish I had recorded many of the songs I wrote early in my life as a musician that have disappeared into the forgotten depths of history. It was more difficult in those days to record but with today’s technology, songwriters are in a golden age of convenience so take advantage of it. 

2. If you write something you are not entirely happy with, don’t consider it done. Put it aside and move on. Then maybe go back later and listen with fresh ears. Sometimes you will find that your initial reaction was too harsh, or maybe you like the chorus or the verse and you can use just that part in something else. 

3. A song is whatever you say it is. Don’t restrict yourself to a formula or structure. Every rock & roll song doesn’t have to be: intro/verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/outro. If you just have a verse and a chorus that you like and they work well together and all combined, it’s only 50 seconds, so be it, that’s what the song was meant to be. My favorite band, Guided By Voices, has more drop-dead brilliant songs that are under a minute than most bands have what you would even call a good song. There are no rules to songwriting.