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. 

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. 

Musician and Teacher Tony Harrison Has Good Music Mojo

Tony wears a blue tie dye buttonup shirt and plays an orange and green bass guitar. He's standing in front of a fellow musician and a drum set, all under a large tent.
Tony at a concert. photo credit: Digital Wolf Photography

Tony began playing guitar, piano drums, trombone and guitar at an early age. After seeing Elvis Presley and later receiving his first electric bass for Christmas, his life path was made clear. Tony started playing professionally while in high school, later attending UNC-Pembroke and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Business. Today, Tony is the sole proprietor of Rally Point, LLC aka Cape Fear Music Center, where he spends his days repairing instruments and teaching students of all ages guitar, electric bass, ukulele, beginning piano and music theory. His shop employs several of the area’s finest instructors and instrument repair technicians.

Tony is the bassist and a songwriter for Rivermist, a regionally recognized and award-winning variety band playing in the Carolinas and Virginia. His newest ballad, ‘Tangled’ is being released in late August, 2021 and is getting great responses at live shows. Hear and purchase Rivermist’s available releases on all of your favorite streaming services at https://rivermist.hearnow.com/

Rivermist playing the NC State Fair, 2019

3 Things making your life richer & why: Obviously music is my passion and I live to perform and teach. I love my wife, Suzanne, who is my motivator and cheerleader in all things. My love for animals inspired me to become a vegetarian last year. 

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change?
With the world in disarray last year I found I needed to develop productive habits. So I started to really focus my practice and write more music. Part of this process has led me to experiment with writing several pieces with similar subject matter. Lately I have been using roads, highways etc. If you pay attention to your surroundings, inspiration is everywhere.  

Rehearsal at Cape Fear Music Center

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I do most of my practice and writing in my teaching studio at 110 Old Street. It’s just a block from where I played my first gig in front of the Market House in 1980 and on land where the mill was in the late 1700’s that our whole community grew around. It has good mojo. 

Advice to newer artists in your genre. My advice to musicians who desire to make a living or just want to enjoy playing and writing music is to be true to yourself. Write and play what makes you happy.  I play a wide variety of music from classic rock, beach music, latin and jazz to musical theater. I love many styles, but love most to play whatever makes the audience happy on any particular night. 

Adaptation and Inspiration (with icing on top): Actor Matthew Stuart Jackson

photo credit courtesy of Bryan Sullivan

Matthew Stuart Jackson is an actor, writer, standup comedian, and voiceover artist currently living in Fayetteville, NC. He loves pizza, cats, and (for some weird reason) mowing the lawn, and he hates scratched DVDs, wet socks, and getting logged out of his accounts arbitrarily.

“Tribes” by Nina Raine at Portland Stage Company


3 Things you can’t live without & why: I don’t mean to be impolite or think that I know better, but I’m going to reject the premise of this question. I’d like to flip it so that we see it from the positive angle, rather than a scarcity-mindset. Artists spend so much of their lives with a scarcity outlook, that I actively try to see the positive, and what plenty I have in my life. So here are three things that make my life richer. [Ed note: I appreciated Matthew’s take on this so much that I asked if I could borrow it. The reframe will feature in future Q&As!]

A) My family. My wife, also an artist; my sister, who is also an artist and teacher; and my parents, who are life-long teachers and academics. They are also artists in their own right (or own write, if it’s my dad).  My entire family has been so supportive of my creative journey; I will be eternally grateful for their encouragement.

B) My mom’s home-made pizza. She makes the dough from scratch. She gave me the recipe, and I can make a good pizza, but it somehow NEVER matches hers. She’s the Queen.

C) Rain. I just love the rain. I grew up in Washington State, which everyone thinks is super rainy, but that’s only the western part. I grew up in the eastern part, where it’s remarkably dry (we’re basically neighbors to a desert). But I went to college and then subsequently lived in Western Washington, and I just love the rain there. I also love the rain in North Carolina. While Western Washington rain is the tortoise (slow and steady for about nine months out of the year), the rain in NC means BUSINESS. I love how hard it rains here. And for all you folks who don’t like getting wet, here’s a quote from my wife’s grandma: “I won’t melt. I’m not made of sugar.”

Local artist (any genre) you admire My instinct is to name my wife, Ella Wrenn, because theatre administrators–ie, the ones who HIRE all the artists–don’t get nearly enough credit. But I’ve been told that I’m not allowed to choose her, so I’m going to go with Marc de la Concha. He’s the Director of Education at Cape Fear Regional Theatre, and I am simply astounded by the work he does. The talent he fosters, the productions he creates, and the classes he offers… it’s incredible. THEN you add on top of that his live performances (did y’all see “Shrek”?) – I can’t get through a performance with Marc in it without crying. Either he’s so moving and truthful that it moves my soul, or he’s so flipping funny that my eyes leak with laughter. That man is a gem, and we are so lucky to have him in this town.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I currently work at The Sweet Palette, peddling cupcakes. I just sell them–I am not nearly talented enough to make them. But the reason I even got this job was because they have this incredible gallery/performance space, and CFRT did a show there that I was in, and so I got to know them over a few weeks. When they started getting more business after Covid and needed more staff, they hired me to sling desserts, with the goal that we could really start using their gallery to its full potential. I’m really excited about what we can start hosting in that space, and what creativity will be born in that room.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Man. Everything changed. I felt like I was really gaining momentum and making headway into the voiceover industry, and then Covid hit, and every single film and stage actor turned to the only thing that was still available: voiceover. The demand stayed the same, and the supply skyrocketed. I had to get *gasp* a “real” job. That job was terrible terrible (don’t worry, it wasn’t Sweet Palette), and it was honestly a pretty bad time to be an actor. My hope is that I can merge this current position at Sweet Palette to cultivate more creativity.

photo credit courtesy of Abacus Entertainment

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. The most work I do is in my “booth”. It’s the closet of our guest room, and I’ve converted it into a recording studio. I’ve padded the walls, trying to dampen the sound, and have set up my little nest in there. It’s janky, and I love it. 

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? This is still in flux, and I think it might be for a while. Adapting is never easy, but it’s always necessary. I’m just trying to keep my eyes and ears open for new opportunities, now that the world is starting to open up. My guess is that it will be a partnership with Sweet Palette and their space, and we create something together.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. Listen, and be humble. The minute you think you know better than someone is the minute you become unpleasant to work with. Every person you encounter is an opportunity to learn, as long as you listen to them. 

Through Observation and Experimentation, Blanca LaCortiglia Blossoms

Blanca LaCortiglia is a painter and an arts administrator. Her work has been published in magazines, a book, and featured in a podcast. She has a BA in Arts Studios and a MA in Arts Administration. Her work has been showcased in solo, group, and juried exhibitions. Blanca is passionate about arts education and has hosted a variety of art workshops and has taught pre-K. She has curated art exhibitions in a gallery setting and has worked at a museum. She is a mixed media artist who enjoys exploring a variety of styles and techniques. Blanca describes her art as Frankenstein, which is dreamy, surreal, and abstract, as her pieces are all different and she doesn’t just fit in one category.

3 things you can’t live without and why Well, I can’t live without ART! I know what a surprise lol. I seriously need the arts in my life because I have no idea who or what I would be without it. I was born and raised in The Bronx. I used to hop on the train as a teenager and visit art galleries, museums, and any public art featured in the city. It kept me sane and happy. I participated in plays, dances, art clubs and much more. The arts have always been in my life. I couldn’t be me without it!

I love Jolly Ranchers. It’s the only candy I can’t live without. They’re so tasty and crunchy. I can knock out all my work with some hard candy crunching in my mouth.

I need my water! I love drinking water. It keeps my body feeling great. To me water is such an essential element in life. It helps plants grow, it keeps humans healthy, and you know, keeps living things alive. Water is so underrated. I love you water!

Local Artist you admire: Damien Mathis. I’ve never met him, but I’ve seen his work and I like it!

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Ok. I’ve been working at this FOR YEARS! I still am trying to develop a better way of showcasing my 3-D flowers made from acrylic paint. Most people want me to use clay and other mediums that are obviously 3-dimensional. I am obsessed with paint so I’m always going to stretch it to its limits. I’m hoping to one day make a huge piece with over 100 handmade flowers from acrylic paint! This will be a long process since it takes about four days for the paint to cure. In other words, each acrylic flower takes up to four days to dry. Talk about having patience.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? I had the biggest artist block EVER.  It was bad. I was able to create a few paintings in 2020 but I usually create a lot more. I wasn’t inspired. As I mentioned before I need to see art and be around art. It was difficult not experiencing the art scene. I will not keep this artist block. In fact I hope to create a lot more art in the future so stay tuned!

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. My workspace is a combination of a lot of paint and canvases around. I have a beautiful window that provides lots of sunlight for me and my plants. I am currently updating my furniture and will be working on a couple of murals in my space. My goal is to make it edgy, fun, and inspirational! I have the best studio space at home…

How do you find your subject? I am such a weird person. I can be driving, talking to someone, or looking at the sky and bam an idea comes to mind. I usually have to write it down, so I won’t forget it. Beach trips always help me feel relaxed and thus leads to inspiration. My studio space hands down is my cozy spot where I can doodle and sit on my grey couch and daydream (I’ve had this couch for years, it’s my fav).  

Advice to newer artists in your genre? Just paint! I know, I know art supplies can be expensive, but you need to paint. I usually use my “ugly paintings” and repaint over them to make a messier painting. After the damage is done, I move on to the next one. Keep going and don’t stop. Not all pieces are going to be your favorite, but you never know who might want that one piece you don’t like. The more you practice your art the closer you will be to achieving the look that you want. I dare say you will also discover who you are as an artist. Make time for your paint and the paint will love you back.

On Scraps and Sketchbooks: Textile Artist Katherine Matos-Gonzalez

Katherine Matos-Gonzalez is a multidisciplinary artist and textile designer from Brooklyn, New York and currently residing in Cumberland County. She holds a BFA in Art and Design Education from Pratt Institute and an AAS and BFA in Textile and Surface Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology.

She has a passion to teach and learn. And her deep love for textiles and fibers has taken over her current art practice. She is a self-taught quilter and enjoys the improvisational method of creating patchworks. Her work is inspired by the juxtaposition of the abstract shapes, color and texture within her hand-dyed fabrics and the more rigid patterns of the patchwork. Katherine creates to ease the clutter in her mind and space, this process brings her peace, calm and creative resolution. She likes to “see what happens” with her fiber pieces. Venmo & Paypal: Katherine-Matos-Gonzalez

3 Things you can’t live without & why: Creatively speaking I CAN NOT live without my two senior dogs, sewing machine, and sketchbook. My two old men keep me company while I play away on my sewing machine and my sketchbook is near and dear to my heart. It contains so many ideas for future making.

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: I haven’t had the opportunity to meet local artists, but  the artwork on display in the Public Arts shows is inspiring me to creatively connect with fellow artists.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Painting future or imaginary quilt designs using opaque watercolors in my sketchbook.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Simply, I make more. Being homebound at the peak of Covid I discovered that gaining access to a variety of art classes and workshops was actually a lot easier. It’s always been a pleasure of mine to continue learning and gaining skills. And through zoom and other platforms I managed to take classes from around the country! I’ve always loved to supplement my creativity with the help of other creatives and this really helped my productivity and creativity. I also have the great privilege of having a spare room that I turned into a studio where I have my own space to make, freelance…  and keep a portion of my plant collection! My dogs also love the futon I apparently got for them. I will definitely try my hardest to continue learning and making in this new space of mine. 

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Rummaging through my collection of hand-made (woven, embroidered, silkscreened) hand-dyed fabrics, yarns and thread help me with my next piece. Looking at art history books and vintage textile art technique books are quite helpful as well.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. Don’t stop learning, use what you have to create, and save your scraps!