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. 

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. 

Guiding Light: Brian Adam Kline

Brian Adam Kline is a director of film and theater, Artistic Director of Chameleon Children’s Theatre, and, perhaps most importantly, the theater teacher at The Capitol Encore Academy, where he brings his passion for enlightenment to his lucky students.

What does success mean to you?

Success to me is how I feel as a person, where I am as a human being. Success is measured on how you help other people, how you encourage young people who are going through the same things that you did. I don’t think that success is necessarily measured in awards or in money or what other people think. I think that to a degree that has something to do with it, but I myself measure success as Am I where I should be at this moment?

When you feel there is a disconnect, “no, I don’t feel like I’m being particularly successful,” What then? How do you look ahead and go, “well, what do I need to do to change that?

Well, I’m all about the journey. I’m all about the process and not the product. I say that all the time to my students: it’s the process, not the product. If you look at the product, you get in a lot of danger; no one knows what’s going to happen. So I try to embrace the process more if I’m working on a children’s show, right. And things are not right. I don’t dare think about opening night right now. I’m thinking about where we are right now, how we improve ourselves, are the kids having fun? Am I having fun? Are we learning? Are they being artistically expressive? Am I being artistically expressive with them?

I think we’ve all seen that image of the iceberg: the bottom of the iceberg, it’s really deep and you see all of the things underwater that an artist goes through like rejection. Then you see the top of the iceberg: awards, money, applause. Those things everyone sees, but they don’t actually see what’s really below. Art is not instant. I like to give a Renaissance example: Michelangelo worked on the Sistine chapel for years. I’m just amazed by that, by the fact that somebody worked on and off for that many years to complete a project.

What changes do you seek to make with your art?

I want to educate everybody. It’s just that the level of that education is different. For instance, if I’m teaching a theater class to first graders, that’s going to be a lot different if I’m working in New York City with a group of actors trained at conservatory. Even if I’m on a set with adult actors, or experienced kids, I still want them to learn something.

I want people to be enlightened as much as I am. Enlightenment is key. Not just the people I work with, but the audience, too, I want to enlighten them. Even if I’m doing a piece that might not seem too much of an enlightenment piece, I think that there’s always something that we can find in there. In everything that I do, whether a children’s show or a film with adult actors, I want the people I’m working with to feel enlightened and to learn something and take something from the project.

Everything’s a stepping stone, it just keeps going up and up and up. I didn’t see it before, but I see it now that I’ve worked with some of these students for 10 years. I get to see how far they go. I have a student who I’ve known since she was maybe 11 or 12 years old and she just graduated with BFA in acting, which is the same degree I have. It’s so cool to see her take that journey. I didn’t see that as a young acting teacher in the beginning. I didn’t see the importance of that and the evolution of that.

I feel like I’m making a change through education primarily because whenever a student wants to come back, or is excited, or they talk about your class, or they talk about a play that we’ve done. I’ve gotten messages on Instagram from students who moved because of the military and then I’ll get random message thanking me for “Peter Pan” that we did four years ago. That’s proof that I’m making some type of change. I want students to feel that no matter what race, what gender, what sexual preference, what nationality they have, I want them all to feel they are worthy and they can do anything. They really can do anything. And theater and film is such a great vehicle for that.

Kline (kneeling front left) and Houck (front right) with the cast and crew of “Love and Coffee”

How have you construct the bridges of your career?

As a kid, as a teenager, I used to think about “how am I going to become the next Steven Spielberg?” And the thing is, you cannot do that. You just can’t. You can’t be sitting around and waiting for it to happen either: you have to find a balance. And so I started discovering that balance. I’m finding that if I work really hard on each project, then more things come. People will hear about your work.

I’m from a very small town and film making was very expensive back then. I actually had an opportunity in high school. The librarian received a grant and she bought a camera that you had to use a cord that went to the back of the computer with it and you would have to press play and then press record on the computer. And she stopped me in the hallway one day and asked, “Aren’t you the kid that makes movies with your parents’ RCA camera?” So the librarian offered to let me use this equipment. And I just went crazy casting high school friends. We were making sci-fi films. We were making horror films. We were doing exactly what I wanted to do as an adult.

When I went to college, a similar thing happened: they had camera equipment which I would use. So I got to practice. I went to school for theater because at West Virginia University they had a theater program, but not a film program. So I sort of did my own independent studies through filmmaking. And then everything I learned in theater class–acting or lighting or makeup or sound–I took advantage of that and took those elements of theater and used them in my filmmaking.

I worked at The Cameo and Lynn Prior, the founder of the Gilbert Theatre, heard about me. He met me, he introduced me to Robyne Parrish, then the new Artistic Director. She puts me into education there at the theater. I start directing plays. And then I started directing bigger plays. And then, CFRT asked me to do work for them. I’m now working with Sweet Tea Shakespeare. So if you focus really hard on what you’re currently doing, others see it, and then things will– as they say– blow up.

Now, Michael [Houck] heard about me through the Gilbert and actually we ended up producing and I directed a film called “Love and Coffee”, which was based on one of his plays at Gilbert. So that is kind of how those things happen now. You should just work really hard where you are, and then things start coming to you. Sometimes you just start your own set. The Chameleon Children’s Theatre I started because I had a space at school, all these resources, I had kids that wanted to do theater. So you start your own thing.

Has there ever been an idea pitched or an opportunity that you were like this is too scary, I can’t do this right now. Or I’m scared out of my wits, but I’m going to try this.

I usually say yes unless I feel that it will not allow me to grow. I mean, it’s not the size of the project; I have said yes to really small projects. But if it’s something that I cannot grow in, then it’s not something that I should do now. There are some things that I could have grown in and then I made the decision not to do it. And it was a mistake that I didn’t say yes. One example is an opportunity to be in a film that was being shot in Atlanta. I was gonna have this really small role. I was much younger and said no to it, because I would have to drive to Atlanta, I’d have to take off of work and all this stuff. And that was something I regretted.

But I’ve also said yes to things like that. A few years ago, I got the opportunity to work on a movie called “She’s Out of My League” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s on Netflix now and it’s so cool to see something like that. It opened up a lot of doors for me. Sometimes you make mistakes by not thinking the right things. And then sometimes you take a chance. I don’t necessarily use the word regret often. I think that every mistake you make is actually sort of a step. It makes you stronger, you know?

Who do you consider your present artistic cohort?

Well, I want to first start out by saying that Gustavo is a writing partner and love of my life. Then, professionally, Robyne Parrish is my fairy godmother. She is wonderful. She basically was the head of the transition from me being a student, not making any money, doing everything free to actually feeling that I had professional potential. She still does that for me, makes me feel that way. My second one: Mikey is so amazing to work with. I love how we produce things together. He helps me with projects. I help him with projects. He’s a wonderful writer and he knows how to make a screenplay just perfect enough to where it can be handed to me. Our working relationship is just fantastic. And he’s a great friend too. Third, is Gerard Falls, the director of The Capitol Encore Academy. He’s just a huge pusher for me to keep me going. He’s a big supporter of the theater company. Fourthly, Nicki Hart, she’s an actress and we’ve worked on I think, six projects now, and we just have this really great director-actor chemistry. She’s sort of like Tom Hanks to my Steven Spielberg or Uma to Quentin. And then the other artistic directors in town, Jeremy Fiebig and Mary Kate Burke; they’ve just been so wonderful on keeping me involved. I really do appreciate what they’ve done for me. And then just the other artists in Fayetteville, there’s so many, from the six year olds to the 60 year olds. There’s so many people that I’ve worked with in town and then there’s so many people that I haven’t quite got the chance to that I really would like to.

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 All the Artistic Opportunities: Jessilee Hari

Jessilee Hari in her art studio, various paintings and collage on the wall behind her

Besides family and a career as a logistics specialist in the Air Force, Hari works across both visual and performing arts fields. You can also catch her catching Pokemon in downtown Fayetteville on Community Pokemon Go! Days.

I was born with a natural drive to create art. I began with doodles, which turned into painting murals on my bedroom walls. That drove me to create completed works of art. I am skilled in modeling clay, pottery, drawing, painting, vocal arts, and performance arts. I attended Mississippi School of the Arts, a high school for artistically gifted kids, where I found out I could compete vocally. I sang at Carnegie Hall in NY and performed John Rutter’s “Requiem” with our choir. I also fell in love with dance: I created my own choreography for a show. In the visual arts, I was awarded the highest accolades for my portfolio in MS. I put on my own show and fell in love with displaying my works. Years later I put on a second show held in Memphis, TN and am now currently in the works for my third show to be held here in Fayetteville.

Put your voice in your art and you will find gratification in your work.

Jessilee Hari

Favorite Local Third Place: I have to admit, I am stuck on Latitude 35’s shrimp tacos with sweet potato fries. I crave them. So, I like to take my out of town family and friends there to enjoy the patio seating. I have been to a few events there, one of which was with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County. I have had art discussion meet ups on the patio as well. I love it. It is a wonderful place to sit down for a discussion and a meal with a breeze on your face and a cold one to sip on. The staff is friendly, and the establishment has a family feel to it, as if they genuinely appreciate you coming to dine.

3 Things you can’t live without: Standup comedy. I LOVE to laugh, and many nights I fall asleep watching Dry Bar Comedy videos online. I feel like laughter is a medicine of its own. Just a few laughs every day keeps me feeling positive. It is so easy to get caught up in all the negative parts of life right now. 

Cereal. It is its own food group in my home.

Outdoor experiences. Camping, canoeing, rock climbing, hiking, tree climbing, inline skating, biking, sky watching, rainstorms, stone skipping on lakes, fishing, etc. All of it. Many of my most nostalgic memories are from the outdoor moments in my life. Being outside inspires me to really take in life in the moment. It inspires me to create.

Local artist (any genre) you admire: I have fortunately had the opportunity to meet several local artists. One of my favorite local artists was a woman I met through the Cool Spring Downtown Street Busker program. I wish so badly I could remember her name. Fortunately, I can’t forget her performance. Her confidence in her art form was striking and mesmerizing. Belly dancing is so physically demanding. She had the moves and security in her own talent to perform in front of hundreds of people both on the street and at local events. She was a beautiful soul. 

A practice you’ve started during quarantine that you plan to continue: I have begun illustrated journaling. Covid-19 has completely changed the way I live my life. With all the added stressors, I needed a cathartic outlet I could pick up and put down with no associated time limit. I found illustrated journaling to be an important part of stress relief in that the images do not need to be planned out or utilize any formal techniques like I would with a painting. The images also flow freely from my mind like words would for a writer. I began my artistic journey with graphite #2 pencils and pens in the classroom. Going back to that baseline feels like a blast from the past.  I forgot how much I love to draw. I usually utilize painting as an outlet, so I like to incorporate mixed media in the journal illustrations: graphite, tea, pen, or watercolors. 

What is one of your current artistic experiments? I love to experiment with new media. Right now, I am experimenting with adhesives and glass. I am only using the glass as the material to create the images on. I am using adhesives to create textures and translucent imagery. I am enjoying this form of experimentation quite a bit. It feels like a problem to solve since I am learning the capabilities of each adhesive. I love mixed media. 

To give an example, I used a glass pane as my canvas. I used color pigment in an adhesive to create solid color marks on the glass. Then I filled in areas with a clear adhesive and strategically implanted pigments into it to leave the translucent effect. My favorite objective for mixed media is creating art that makes onlookers want to touch it. 

Who is someone who encouraged or championed your art work? Out of all my mentors over the years, there has always been one constant supporter of my art: my Father. I have had art instructors when I was a teen, admirers in my friends, but no one who has ever believed in me more than my Dad. If he could, he would buy every piece of art I ever create or commission me to create works for his home. I have a completely biased supporter, but he has encouraged me to pursue my artistic interests over anything else due to the intrinsic rewards I get from them.  He would say “you can work any job to get money; why not be in a career that doesn’t feel like work?” He always seemed to have all the right words to say. My Father put many miles on his vehicle transporting me back and forth from his home to Mississippi School of the Arts. He encouraged me to attend their program there, for which I lived on campus for 2 years. I have not had formal training beyond those 2 years, but they impacted my entire view of what art means. If it were not for my Father, I would have never had that opportunity in my life. 

What advice would you give to new/younger/less experienced artists in your genre? Don’t feel like art is a competition of skill, but rather a journey to self-discovery. No, seriously.  So many people criticize the definition of art, trying to fit it into one description or another. “That’s not Art; that’s a craft” or “That’s not Art; I could do that if I felt like it”. Lose the labels and ditch the unnecessary censorship. Your art is just that. I used to strive for perfection in my drawings. For a little while, I thought my art was poor quality because I was not creating hyper-realistic images. Then I remembered the reason I first picked up the brush in the first place. The process of creating was more important than the result. What ended up on the paper or canvas was my voice. Put your voice in your art and you will find gratification in your work.

Art Attack Rides Downtown for Fourth Friday

It’s An Onslaught of Arts! Artists Wield Everything from Drumsticks to Tattoo Guns to Palette Knives!

Shawn Adkins gets shit done. Not content to simply run his store, Back-A-Round Records, Adkins is rebooting the Art Attack, a multi-disciplinary art event and networking opportunity for artists. This next iteration will happen all over downtown Fayetteville on Friday, May 24th, as the Fourth Friday celebrations put on by Cool Springs Downtown District.

The Art Attack started at Adkins’ former venture, the well-attended music & event center, The Rock Shop, which closed in 2017. “We did the Art Attack every week for three years,” he remembers. “Now that I’m here [on Hay St], I want to be a part of downtown.”

Adkins’ has worked with Cool Springs for years on the Zombie Walk every October, so the collaboration is well-established. And he’s been here for 28 years so when he remarks, “I want to help make Fayetteville cooler than it already is”, he knows what’s he talking about. Fourth Friday makes downtown a cool evening destination. Art Attack will have a little something for everyone: bands on a stage in front of Back-A-Round, Lacey Crime’s selfie stations from the Dogwood Festival will be back out, live dancing up and down Hay Street, spoken word and poetry artists, gallery showings, and more.

For the artists, the Art Attack is also a networking event. Having lots of different artforms represented allows artists a chance to talk to each other, maybe plan a collaboration, or simply be inspired by each other’s artwork. Adkins mused, “Hopefully there will be new friendships afterwards… they’ll go do some work together.”

Being part of Fourth Friday also means the event is designed for all ages and family friendly. Budding (or established) young artists are encouraged to attend and apply to show their skills, be they on stage or in a visual medium. With Cape Fear Music Center, Gilbert Theater, Fascinate-U Kids Museum, and Cape Fear Studios–all of which teach kids classes–within walking distance of the main traffic circle in downtown, it should be no trouble finding talented young artists to participate.

To keep up with all things Art Attack, make sure to follow them on Facebook. And mark your calendar for all Fourth Fridays: every one will be slightly different through the year. Adkins is confident that Art Attack will have some kind of on-going monthly presence after May. “If people come out to hear the performers and if the artists make some money, we’ll do more of these.” Adkins says assuredly.