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!

Roxanne Rothenberger Embodies Determination in Painting, Work, and Home

photo credit Jenifer Fennell photography

Roxanne Rothenberger was born in 1980 and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a girl, she was heavily influenced by the Chicano-Art movement of the early 90’s. Finding constant inspiration in it’s alluring mix of aesthetic value and cultural representation. Her first exposure to traditional drawing and painting techniques came at the hands of the US Army, where she served 8 years in a lesser known MOS of 25M, or Multimedia Illustration. She continued her education with an AOS in Computer Animation but found that the digital art world did not satisfy her need to be a tangible artist. Seeking a more tactile expression, she soon found herself concentrating on painting. In 2016 Roxanne took over as studio manager at Wine & Design, Fayetteville and her painting blossomed into a productive commissioned art business. 

Roxanne builds her work through continuous study of the human form and her subject’s emotional environment. Seeking to place her figures in an state of their own creation, Roxanne relies heavily on interview and intuition. When working on commissioned portraits, she strives to capture her subject’s warmth as well as aesthetic qualities. Working in both oil and acrylic paint, she tries to harness each medium’s specific merits to evoke excitement from the viewer. An underlying current of movement can be found in most of her work and it is intended to both intrigue and unbalance the viewer.

Roxanne currently teaches oil painting and drawing at Fayetteville Technical Community College. Additionally, she is available for commission work.

Three things you cannot live without & why: 

  • God’s grace and a pocket sized Bible. I find I need to reference it daily…trying to be a better person. It is a journey, and I am not anywhere near done. 
  • At least one audiobook and a few library books. I listen to the audiobooks while I work and enjoy the physical books whenever I get moments to myself.
  • My broken yoga practice. I am relatively new to it (only practicing a year) and I know enough to know that I know NOTHING! The act of turning my focus into my body helps me to compartmentalize and focus. 

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: Tiffany Ragin is a local artist who also does figurative painting. I find joy in her work, her use of color is explosive and invigorating. Additionally, her paintings explore femininity and faith, two things that are not easily discussed together. 

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I am currently working on a body of work that combines byzantine religious iconography and realism with modern symbolism. 

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? In 2020 I was commissioned to paint quite a few memorial paintings. Portraits of loved ones that have passed on. I found so much peace and solace in working on those portraits. I’m hoping to do more of them, I am extremely honored when somebody asks me to memorialize love one.

photo credit Jenifer Fennell photography

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. My studio is a room right off the kitchen. I work in spurts, as I am a wife and mother of two young children. I only have 20 to 30 minutes at a time to get work done. My current piece is in my line of sight all day long, I walk by it and look at it and make decisions while I’m vacuuming, doing dishes, making food etc. And then when I finally have a moment to paint, I don’t waste any time. Because I’ve spent all day making plans on what I’m going to do. By doing this, I find that the 30 minutes that I get in front of the canvas, is extremely productive.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? I get inspired by looking at other peoples work and art history. I enjoy learning the historical background of a particular piece. I am intrigued by the context of a painting, the political and cultural state that painting was created in. To me, a painting is a mirror of the time and place it was created in. I find so much inspiration from artists who have come before me. 

Advice to newer artists in your genre: My advice to newer artists is to trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to fail. There is so much learned when you make mistakes. You have to paint the bad paintings and draw the horrible drawings. It is that work that will make you a great artist. Keep pushing through, keep painting. Every time you make a mistake, you learn something! It’s not about creating one amazing painting; it’s about creating 30 mediocre pieces, to hone your abilities, then using all that you have learned through trial and error to finally create real beauty. The piece that you create after all that will be infinitely more powerful and insightful, because you will have earned it.

Also, to let go of your ego. Nothing will keep you stuck in a rut and unable to grow as an artist, more than your ego.

Michael Curtis Houck Comes Home to Writing and Film

Michael Curtis Houck is the Creative Producer for A Yellow Beanie Project, a digital collective rooted in collaboration among regional artists with intent to provide a new platform for emerging and established voices within the Cumberland County community. Michael’s produced and published work can be found in print, on stage, and on the screen. Michael lives in Fayetteville, NC, with his significant other and two kids and two dogs and one cat and too many plants, some would argue. To financially support his work, use Cashapp $AYellowBeanieProject and watch for a Patreon account coming soon.

on set for LOVE, LUCY a short horror comedy that is currently in post production. Marc de la Concha and Tori Gowland Ortiz de Rosas. co-directed with Ashley Owen

3 Things you can’t live without & why:

Music. The world is a noisy place and often it’s too much to handle and I need to drown it out. I always have background music. Some days I need Nina Simone, some days I need Fugazi.

Kindness. The last few years have uncovered a lot of (not so) hidden ugly in the world. Stop.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches. When you really, honestly, truly examine the science of it, it’s the perfect meal.

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: There’s a local singer-songwriter I really admire and love working with: Ayana Laurene. She’s a hustler and, dang, does she have some pipes. We’ve been collaborating on a concert film/documentary called BOY, YOU AIN’T SHIT. It’ll come out this summer on social media.

Houck and Jordan Barnett on set for an episode of DOGWOOD; this episode is directed by Alason Little.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Right now I’m developing a digital series called DOGWOOD, which aims to put a spotlight on some southern themes. This series is coming together sort of like an extended universe set in the fictional town of Dogwood, NC, and it will include eight short films and weekly podcast episodes and live video streams across social media starting in July 2021. It’s a really big experiment and kind of daunting! The Yellow Beanie team and I have been working really hard for a few months building the fictional world of Dogwood, writing all original content including original music, and *fingers crossed* we’ll produce an original theatre piece later this year!

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? 2020 pushed me from working exclusively in live events, which I had been doing for nearly a decade as a full time job, to just written and filmed works; like the rest of the world, this was due to safety of public gatherings. It was a sudden ‘stop and change what you’re doing’, and I did go through a period of grief. But what this forced me to do is find other outlets and return to my foundations: I went to school for creative writing and film. Coming back to this kind of work that I haven’t done in a decade has been therapeutic for me. In hindsight, I don’t know why I ever walked away from this genre, it is my language.

Still from DOGWOOD. With Sarah Chapman and Malissa Borden

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I consider my art to start with what I write: It all begins on the page. I believe in having a farmed yard, so I spend a lot of time outside and I write while gardening: standing up or crawling around in the dirt, talking out loud. I need to feel the space around me and imagine how the characters would contort their bodies or gesticulate when saying something. When I like what I have in my head, I take a break and hop inside to my office and jot it down in one of my many notebooks or turn on a recorder and play out the scene.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Most of my work begins with collaboration. I admire a lot of locals, and there are many folx I’ve never had the chance to work with professionally. I really enjoy approaching these people asking, “Want to make something?”

Advice to newer artists in your genre.

For newer writers – workshop those pages! Get with some friends and share your work. Schedule a table read. Trick people into coming over for brunch then slide your manuscript around. They’re trapped. Make them read. It took me a long time to be comfortable having my work read aloud, but what a difference it makes!

For newer filmmakers – you are likely reading this article from a device that has a high powered camera installed on it. What’s stopping you?

Tim Zimmermann is on a Quest for Theatrical Adventure

There is a saying that goes “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”. Tim Zimmermann’s goal is to be a master of as many things as possible, and approaches his crafts–acting, singing, music and producing (with a little bit of dance thrown in for good measure)–with that same acumen. Originally from Philadelphia, his first professional gig was as a singer for the United States Army Reserve band based out of Fort Dix, New Jersey. After a stint in Nashville teaching and recording, Tim boarded the Norwegian Breakaway to perform in their concept rock and roll bar production show “Syd Norman’s Pourhouse.” After 10 months total on the Breakaway, he transitioned to Norwegian Jade, where he performed as a production cast vocalist, traveling the world from Italy to Greece, down through the Middle East and to Southeast Asia. It was there that the Covid-19 Pandemic hit and forced him to return to Fayetteville to stay with family and attempt to rebuild.

Since moving to Fayetteville, Tim has had a wealth of opportunities and his proud to call Fayetteville his current adopted home. He was fortunate to be cast in the Gilbert Theater’s productions of Rope (Granillo), Oedipus Rex (Creon/Corinthian Ambassador) and is preparing to play the role of Bobby Strong in Urinetown: The Musical. He additionally performed the role of Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing with Sweet Tea Shakespeare. He will also be performing with the Fayetteville Dinner Theater in their upcoming show: “Beyond Broadway – Music of Our Time”.

When he is not performing musicals, he is performing his own headliner style shows: “Broadway Blitz” (rock and roll Broadway revue) and “Rockestra”(classic rock revue), using his own self-produced tracks through his digital recording studio “True Fortune Studios”. What will come next for Tim isn’t certain, but he looks forward to each new challenge!

aboard the Norwegian Jade

3 Things you can’t live without & why: In no particular order: My computer I quite literally can’t function logistically without. It’s where I produce all of my music, mix and master, design my shows, write music, research roles, etc. Technology has begun to play such an integral role in what I do.

I also couldn’t live without the support of my family. They are my lifeblood. They have supported me so much throughout this creative journey I’ve been on; I believe I would have given up a long time ago without them.

Finally, though I wouldn’t die without it, my soul thrives on travel and seeing new places/things. I haven’t gotten to do as much traveling as I did before the pandemic, but I hope for all of us to be able to get back to it soon!

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: It’s difficult to pick one! I would say all of the artists I have gotten to perform with at the Gilbert Theater and Sweet Tea Shakespeare.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? My next big adventure is actually one I started a long time ago that I mothballed for a time. It is a rock opera that is also a graphic novel (it will eventually be an app that you can watch and interact with) that I hope to adapt into a stage show. In addition, my two headliner shows Broadway Blitz and Rockestra are always evolving!

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? For me, after I got off the ship, I began to envision myself as a successful artist and work accordingly. Before that I was really afraid to audition and put myself out there, assuming I didn’t have what it takes. With the pandemic I realized that we don’t have forever to make an impact on this world, and so I used 2020 to catch up to my peers. Though 2020 was difficult, it really challenged me to open myself to the world and put myself out there, and I have no intention of stopping any time soon.

“Rope” at Gilbert Theater. photo credit: Jonathan Hornby

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. True Fortune Studios! Which is essentially my desk in my bedroom, which is usually a mess and covered with stuff. In addition I have my electric drums and keyboard that I work off of. When not there, I am generally found on stage at the Gilbert Theater, my home away from home. That stage is where everything I do started and I will be forever grateful to it and the people there.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? For acting, I audition for things I find interesting. I try to locate roles that are available that are in my wheelhouse and go out for them. My philosophy is that you can never do too many auditions! I love honing my voice and continuing to push just a little higher. I like to operate at the edge of my comfort zone, so I’m always looking for stuff to adapt into the style I’ve been cultivating.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. Trust yourself as an artist. Whatever your discipline, work harder than you think you should and when you have done that trust that what you do will be awesome. Don’t ever believe you can’t be successful, and if ever you find yourself asking yourself “Why me? What makes me think I can be successful?” turn it around and ask yourself “why not me?” Then just enjoy the ride!

Painter Angela Stout Expresses All the Emotions

Painter-Sculptor Angela Stout

Angela M. Stout is a contemporary Painter, Printmaker, Photographer, and Sculptor living in Broadway, North Carolina. Angela is a disabled veteran originally from Warren, Ohio. She is a member of Cape Fear Studios and teaches art classes to the public. She is a graduate of Fayetteville State University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Studio Arts. Angela exhibits frequently in group exhibitions and competitions locally, nationally, and internationally.

3 Things you can’t live without & why: I cannot live without my family. They are my constant source of love and inspiration. I cannot live without my laptop because I use it to ideate and create my references using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I cannot live without my workspace as it is my place of quiet retreat and the hub of my creativity.

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: Professor Soni Martin is an amazing generalist and my mentor. She is a major inspiration for my journey to be an art educator. She has an amazing work ethic and teaching style. I am enamored by her artwork.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I am currently exploring overlaying my portrait images with abstract textures. I use a mixture of achromatic with chromatic colors to create an emotion. My purpose in my art is to evoke a feeling in every medium I do.

work in progress in studio

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? I focused more on the mental effects that were caused by Covid 19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and my own personal losses I experienced in 2020. My art went to a darker place when I felt compelled to create. I will continue to explore societal issues and the emotions connected to it going forward, but maybe not from such a dark place.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. My workspace is a converted bedroom. I have four easels, a small printing press I made, a sculpting table, and storage for all of my canvases. I have my paint accessible on a rolling cart. I am a disabled vet, so I have difficulty standing to paint. I sit down on the floor and brace my arms on my knees so I can paint vertically without my muscles becoming fatigued and shaking.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? I am always taking pictures of people. I begin with an emotion or idea I want to express. I search through my archive of photo references until I see a person who speaks to me. I open Adobe Illustrator and begin sketching. I start overlaying the textures until something begins to emerge that guides the direction. I move with in the process until I see the potential in a piece.

Advice to newer artists in your genre: As artists we are always putting pressure on ourselves to be original, develop a style, and to make technically great work. We can be harder on ourselves than anyone else. My advice to younger artists is to not look at failure to achieve your vision as a negative. I have learned far
more from my failures then my successes. Another sage bit of advice is to be flexible and not hold on to the original concept with a death grip. Instead remain fluid while you are going through the process of creating and allow yourself to change direction if you see a new possibility.

The Many Forms of Sculpture and Learning of Damien Mathis

Damien Mathis

Painter and sculptor Damien Mathis is a Fayetteville native and resident, and an avid Detroit Fine Arts Breakfast Club member. A Marine Corps Combat veteran, Mathis served two tours in Afghanistan with 1/6 Bravo Infantry Battalion before earning a Bachelor’s in Visual Arts from HBCU Fayetteville State University. Mathis recalls drawing as a child even before he learned to write, but only began painting eight years ago, in his early twenties. His art has since been collected and exhibited throughout the U.S., including the Arts Council of Fayetteville, the Harlem Fine Arts Show, Fayetteville State University, A&T, and various communities along the coast.

3 Things you can’t live without & why: The 3 things I can’t live without is ambition, blessings, and lessons. You need all of them to become individually great. They will balance you.

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: Shane Wilson is a good friend who taught me the meaning of a giving friend. He has a welcoming heart open to the world around him. Other artists are Professor Dwight Smith and Professor Soni Martin of Fayetteville State University: they taught me the freedom of the mind with all materials and to always trust the process.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? My current artistic experiments are learning how to mold and shape fiberglass and different resins with different materials.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? Self management and preventive procrastination changed in my practice in 2020.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I mostly do my creating in various places–maybe in my studio or in the woods somewhere–where everything feels natural. It just at that moment has to have a calming environment as the foundation to start the process.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Usually the next idea just comes from everyday thought in life… sometimes it’s from boredom. I guess it’s just supposed to be created into what it shall be.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. You don’t know everything. You barely even know yourself. Never stop trying to learn or pick someone’s ear. Never know where your interest may take you!!! Creating comes in many forms.

 

Illuminating Friends and Feelings: Dark Pop Singer Keyse

photo credit Matthew Wonderly

KEYSE is a Dark Pop/Alternative Rock project based out of Fayetteville, North Carolina. Madeline Keyse, the sole writer and vocalist, is a former opera singer turned modern pop act. Pre-pandemic, she shared the stage with artists such as Lacey Sturm (ex Flyleaf), Tilian Pearson (Dance Gavin Dance), and Landon Tewers (The Plot In You).
MERCH: https://keyse.bigcartel.com

Surround yourself with people who inspire you to create.

Madeline Keyse

3 Things you can’t live without & why: First, I absolutely cannot live without a keyboard (more specifically my ROLI Seaboard Controller). It is an integral part in my creative process with songwriting; I’d be pretty lost without it. Going hand-in-hand with that, the next item would be my iPad Air 2. I store all my lyrics, voice memos, song ideas, and write out full demos that I bring to the studio on it, so it is a necessity. Lastly, I couldn’t confidently perform live without my Telefunken M80 microphone. It makes my voice sound great, and it’s also neon yellow. You can’t miss it on stage, and it’s a great conversation piece.


Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: As cliché as it sounds, it’s definitely going to be my bandmate and partner Grant Garner. He is best known around town for being the vocalist of The Sherman Neckties, and has performed with his band for various city events, such as Hay Street Live, Downtown Summer Nights, Zombie Walk, and the Dogwood Festival. He not only plays guitar for my live performances, but he handles everything regarding my live performance altogether, and to be quite frank, KEYSE gigs wouldn’t even exist without him. He is inspiring to me for a multitude of reasons from personal to professional, but the most admirable thing about Grant is his need to grow as a musician. He spends hours learning about the industry, new musical equipment, experimenting with audio production, and passes whatever he learns onto anyone willing to listen. He is the most passionate musician I’ve ever met, and our relationship has pushed me to pursue my career in music to the best of my ability.

photo credit Matthew Wonderly


What is one of your current artistic experiments? In March of 2020, I started working with Landon Tewers as the new producer for KEYSE. He produced, mixed, and mastered my most recent single “Are You High Enough To Hold Me?” and we have created a whole new sound for the project. Since then, I have been traveling back and forth between Fayetteville and Detroit, working on the new material. I have been pretty quiet about what the future holds for KEYSE, but what I can say is the new songs are an entirely different body of work from my previous releases. There are some really incredible things that we are working towards, but that’s about all I can say at the moment. The future looks bright.


What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? In 2019, I was gigging about once or twice a week, sometimes three. And I absolutely loved every second of it. So you can imagine that with the entertainment industry shutdown, it has definitely taken a toll on me. Going from having your entourage of friends supporting you at every show to almost complete isolation will do a number on you. But I had to learn to adapt. I went from consistent live performances to recording new songs every opportunity I could get. As of right now, I’m sitting on about 7 or 8 unreleased singles. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to prepare myself for steady releases once I am able to, but I am more than ready to return to gigging, post-pandemic of course!


Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I don’t have band practice anymore, considering that live music doesn’t really exist currently. But my songwriting work space is pretty minimal. It consists of my ROLI Seaboard and my iPad. I will typically come up with a basic chord progression and write the topline of the song over that. Once I get the basic structure, I will take the demo to Grant, my partner, and he will help me re-record a higher quality demo on his workstation. There he can add guitar, bass, sample drums, and a better vocal take to further demonstrate the idea so we can bring it to the studio.

photo credit Matthew Wonderly

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? The majority of my songs are based off real life. Recurring topics in my songs are typically grief, loss, and heartache. But my music is not limited to that spectrum of feeling. More recently, I have been inspired by things as simple as a line in a movie or a character in a book. This past year has been emotionally exhausting for everyone, and I know I don’t want to think on or write about the hardships I’ve faced until I’m truly past it and am reflecting. Until then, using songwriting in a fictional sense has been, and will continue to be my favorite form of escapism.


Advice to newer artists in your genre. Set a couple attainable goals every year, and focus on making them happen. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone when creating. Surround yourself with people who constantly inspire you to create. Make sure your circle of people are dependable, trustworthy, and encouraging. Pay attention to who stays inside for your set at a show, and who hangs out in the parking lot the whole time. Most importantly, be kind to your fellow artists!

Catching up with Shane Wilson: New Stories, New Songs

Writer Shane Wilson. Photo Credit Michelle Winfrey

Shane Wilson is a storyteller. No matter the medium, the emphasis of his work is on the magical act of the story, and how the stories we tell immortalize us and give voice to the abstractions of human experience. His first two contemporary fantasy novels and a stage play, set in his World of Muses universe, are currently available. Shane also plays guitar and writes songs with his acoustic Americana/ folk band, Sequoia Rising. He writes songs as he writes stories–with an emphasis on the magic of human experience. Sequoia Rising’s debut album, Of All the Things I’ve Ever Said, I Mean This the Most, is available on all music streaming platforms. Additionally, Shane’s novels are A Year Since the Rain (Snow Leopard Publishing, 2016) and The Smoke in His Eyes (GenZ Publishing, 2018). Shane’s short story, “The Boy Who Kissed the Rain” was the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize winner and was nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize. Shane is currently at work on a new novel.

3 Things you can’t live without & why: I want so badly to say “a stiff cocktail” or “whiskey” or even “coffee,” but I’m afraid of what that might make me sound like, so I’ll go with something that plays music, something to write with, and a guitar. That might sound redundant, but I’ll explain. Something that plays music can be a stereo or a record player–something with speakers or headphones. I draw so much inspiration from music that the thought of life without music feels like a life not quite worth living. I’m listening to a ton of new and interesting stuff while I’m brainstorming new music, so I would hate to be without. Something to write with can be a pen and paper or a computer or a typewriter, but I need some place to scribble the ideas down that will become the next thing–song or book or play or, hell, film or musical. And I’ve listed a guitar because I need a way to make the music that I’m writing in my journal or on my computer. Also, if something happens to the thing that plays music, I can play a few things myself.

Local artist you admire: You know, I know this is probably the answer you get all the time, but it’s hard to talk about the arts in Fayetteville without showing love to Neil Ray. We’ve worked on projects together, which are experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything. He means so much to the Fayetteville area at large, but he also means a ton to so many of us, individually. This community is full of artists I admire — El’Ja Bowens, Lisette Rodriguez, Doug Burton, Michael Daughtry, Damien Mathis. Artists who are carving their own paths and celebrating original art are my people. This is just a smattering of those names who celebrate originality and the pursuit of genuine artistic expression.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the new Sequoia Rising album, Of All the Things I’ve Ever Said, I Mean This the Most. This was the project that I poured myself into when the world shut down last spring, and it’s finally come to fruition: I’m incredibly proud. It’s a collaboration with Michelle Winfrey and Jerry Smith. It’s the first full length album I’ve written and produced, and to have that record out in the world for people to interact with is a joy.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? I think that living through a year that featured isolation in such heavy doses made me look for ways to mix it up, so to speak. I’ve started looking for more experimental sounds for my music and wilder plots for my stories. I think it started as a way to mentally escape the tedium of the day-to-day in COVID-induced isolation. I think I’ll definitely keep exploring these new avenues of creative expression. I’m hearing a lot of wild songs in my head. I just need to keep learning so I can record them. And the novel I wrote during lockdown? Whoa. It’s definitely a lockdown novel, but it’s also a ton of fun.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. At home, I work in my office surrounded by books and music and instruments or outside on the balcony. I still have music with me, though, no matter where I am. I also usually have some caffeine or whiskey. I also think it’s important to have a physical boundary that can create physical space for creation. Of course, you also need to live with people who respect that process. I’m lucky enough to have that.

As much as I am able to get done at home, I still find time to isolate for a couple of weeks a year in the mountains. The western North Carolina mountains are a magical place for me. Spending time there has changed my art and my process in ways that I’m not sure I can articulate. So, I’ll use time away at a retreat or residency to create momentum in a new project so that when I’m back at home, I can ride the wave for a while.

Shane Wilson and Jerry Smith. Photo Credit Michelle Winfrey

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Oh sheesh. I wish I knew! Life would be so much easier if I knew where to look for that stuff. Seriously, though, I’ve spent so much time thinking about creativity and where inspiration comes from. I don’t know. It’s no wonder the Greeks created a mythos for the phenomenon. The thought that I can just set out and find the next “thing” is so strange to me. I think it just happens–like in a lightning strike that I don’t perceive.

Advice to newer artists in your genre. You can’t wait for anyone to take a chance on you if you aren’t willing to take a chance on yourself. Any artistic pursuit begins with the work. We all want to see our painting on the wall of a gallery, see our book in a library, or hear our song on Spotify, but none of that happens if you don’t pick up the brush, put your pen to the page, or pick up the instrument. Art is a pursuit, and if you aren’t chasing, then you aren’t going to get anywhere. The work of the artist is important, soul-cleansing, humanity-defining work. But it’s work. You have to resign yourself to the pursuit of the work and learn the steps by which you achieve what you want to achieve. We don’t do the work to be famous, though. That way lies only madness. An artist does the work because they don’t know how to not do the work. As Rainer Maria Rilke told the young poet who wrote him for advice, if you can imagine a life wherein you are not writing, then you should not write. In short, artists cannot imagine a life without their art, and if you can, then you should find something else to do with your time.

Tony Murnahan Cultivates Creativity to Calm

all photos courtesy of Tony Murnahan

Fayetteville based multi-media talent, Tony Murnahan, has been honing his skills in still and moving images since 2006.  He has worked with many local recording artists and models to create award-winning music videos and short films. He also co-produced “Pieces of Talent”, an independent feature horror film, that won multiple awards on the film circuit including “Best independent horror film – 2014”.

Tony is also a gifted musician himself and has nationally toured with bands showcasing his musical talents on guitar, bass, and drums.  In his spare time away from his visual media work, he enjoys creating soundscapes with his handpan. Tony is a critically acclaimed recording artist on acoustic baritone fingerstyle guitar.

3 Things you can’t live without & why:

My photography equipment – My creative eye never rests. I am always studying lighting and looking for different ways in which to capture images. I enjoy the entire creative process from start to finish. 

My musical instruments – Creating music keeps my blood pressure low and relieves any stress that accumulates throughout my day. I would be miserable without them. I continually play music throughout my day, especially when I feel like I need a little decompression.

My ping pong paddle – When I was 16 years young, I was really into skateboarding. One day that year, it was raining and my friends and I could not go out skating. So, my friends invited me to play ping-pong. We visited the U.S.O. in Jacksonville, NC and there I met a Marine by the name of Joe Billups. Billups was a master table tennis player. He told me I had lots of natural ability, and suggested I continue playing regularly to develop my skills. So, for the next few years, I trained with him several hours a day after school. Today, I am a (USATT – USA Table Tennis) certified state coach and I continue to play for fun and exercise. I’ve competed in over 100 tournaments and have earned dozens of trophies over the years. I challenge anyone in Cumberland County to a game. You can meet me at the Cape Fear Table Tennis Club (http://capefearttc.net)

Local artist (any genre, Cumberland County preferred) you admire: I really admire Raul Rubiera. He is such a loveable guy and a fantastic photographer of course. He has this great way of making you feel like family. His family is very talented and creative and this area is fortunate to have them here.

What is one of your current artistic experiments? Currently, I am cultivating soundscapes from my handpan. I feel like the handpan is my soul instrument, and every time I play I feel a little piece of my soul is repaired. I really wish I would have started playing handpan a decade ago. I have the Covid pandemic to thank for learning handpan. I figured I needed to learn something new if I was going to be spending so much time at home.

What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? You know… I do not think much changed about my practice in 2020 aside from avoiding large gatherings. My photo & video endeavors pretty much continued on as normal thankfully. Musically I have been rolling solo for the last few years so nothing much changed there either. I have not been performing live because I mainly focus on recording and creating videos for my social media pages.

Where do you practice your art? Describe your workspace. I practice my music in the peace and quiet of my uncluttered home. I practice my photography & videography everywhere. I’m inspired by life, and by the people and things around me.

How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? I gave up hunting for my next subject or idea. I usually come up with ideas when I am not absorbed in work or practice. I have found it is more effective and efficient for me to just stay aware throughout my day. There is so much around us to feed off of, and if you stay observant and perceptive ideas will find you.

Advice to newer artists in your genre: My advice to newer artists is to keep your mind open. Spend lots of time with the people you trust and with the people who inspire you. Make your own rules and experiment with different ways when it comes to your art.