James Rodriguez, a metal sculptor, possesses a steady hand, a keen eye for detail, and a relentless drive to succeed. James has already created some amazing sculptures. He draws his inspiration from his life experiences, family, friends, and his military background. Deployed to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, he now finds sculpting to be his therapy and a way to express himself in ways he’s normally unable to. By trade, James is a certified welder, with three years experience running his own welding & metal fabrication business, Vulcan Metal Works. He has been mentored by sculpting professor, and local metal artist, Adam Walls of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Still early in his sculpting career, James has dedicated himself full time to creating his next masterpiece, using symbolism you can truly understand, and relate to, in his work.
Thing making your life richer & why: Working on metal sculptures has definitely made my life richer. I find a different type of inner peace when I’m creating. The response I get from people the first time they see my work is warming to the soul; just knowing I was able to create a lasting impression through my art is an unbelievable feeling. Most importantly, though, is being able to physically show people what is truly in my heart, having a way to express myself in ways I’ve never been able to before.
Local artist you admire: Adam Walls is a local metal sculptor that was a mentor for me when I first started thinking about making a transition into art. He told me if I put as much effort into my art as I did my welding/metal-fabrication business then I wouldn’t have a problem at all. I listened. He’s an amazing local artist, one that I look up to a lot.
What is one of your current artistic experiments? I’m actually venturing into the world of clay sculpting and pottery. Working with clay is therapeutic in itself, and being able to sculpt in clay will definitely help me further down the road in my metal sculpting career. Being able to create a small scale reference of a larger statue is perfect for scaling and visual references.
What changed about your practice in 2020? Will you keep this change? A LOT changed in my practice in 2020. I transitioned my business from general welding/metal-fabrication to creating works of art. It was terrifying at first. Being colorblind I never thought I would be the artistic type, until I started welding.
Where do you practice your art? Describe your work space. I practice my art right in the garage at my house. Some people call it messy, I call it organized chaos. I’m surrounded by family all the time, and friends stop by on a regular basis just to see what I’m working on next! I wouldn’t have it any other way! After all, they’re where I draw my inspiration to create.
How do you find your subject (next piece, idea, voice)? Honestly, I’m constantly lost in thought thinking about my next piece. The ideas come at the most random times! It could be anything from a song on the radio, a relationship, a conversation, or random architecture. I’m always open minded and looking for inspiration on a daily basis. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking.
Advice to newer artists in your genre. Chase your dream, no matter what! If you think you can create, you want to create, then you can! Stop thinking and do. If you wait for the perfect opportunity you will surely miss it! There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing something no one else can, then creating it so they can appreciate your vision with you.
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.
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.
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 official short bio of Leslie Pearson reads: a multimedia artist who utilizes many fiber based materials, processes and techniques to create sculptures, installations, encaustic paintings, and handmade books in which she explores themes of memory and identity. She pursues art as a studio artist, community arts advocate and educator. She has taught at various colleges and Universities and currently serves on the Board of Trustees at the Arts Council of Fayetteville, and is a member of the Surface Design Association. Pearson exhibits her work nationally and internationally. But that doesn’t scratch the surface of the long and varied path her artwork has taken her on, how she’s become a fixture in Fayetteville, or even touch on Fayetteville Pie Company or her forthcoming establishment, Curate Essentials. Pearson has traveled the world and embodies the idea that you can improve and be improved by your local community.
What does success mean to you?
When I was younger, I used to dream of being an artist. I thought, “Well, how can I make money as an artist? How would that look as a success?” So I thought I would teach art; that was my limited knowledge of what I could do as a profession in the arts.
I pursued that and then switched from arts education to studio practice because I knew I needed to hone my skills as an artist. Then, I wanted to work at the arts council in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, when I was taking my studio classes. That opened my knowledge of arts administration and being able to work in a gallery space, which led to pursuing a master’s degree in museum studies, in the hopes of working in an established museum. But when I got back to the States, that was when 9/11 happened and people were really holding onto their jobs. I realized, if I want to work in a museum, I need a PhD or I need to at least learn a foreign language, but it was really hard to even get a foot in the door in museums.
So there I was with debt, student loans, things like that. I was having meetings with professionals in the art world; I moved to Kansas City for a little while because I thought I would have a better connections. And I ended up working at Sonic and selling my plasma three times a week. That’s how hard up I was. I worked at a donut shop before Dawn and I was substitute teaching. I was like trying to do whatever I could to earn some money. I met this kid who said, “I’m going to join the army because I’ll use my GI bill. They’ll pay for my education after that.” And it just kind of clicked in my mind; I’d never thought about joining the army. And she said, “well, why don’t you just talk to my recruiter?” one thing led to another, and then I’m in the army as a photo journalist. That was the most creative thing I could think of to do for the army. From there, I started writing articles for the local newspaper in Augusta covering arts and entertainment. I realized after I got out of the army that I could get a master’s degree, which would then allow me to circle back and teach art at the college level.
After arriving back in Fayetteville with her husband, Pearson opened the Fayetteville Pie Company, which she credits to a childhood spent learning from her grandmother how to garden, can food, and bake pies for a crowd. Another childhood dream was to open a studio/coffeeshop-type place with her sister, who now also resides in Fayetteville and works closely with Pearson. They are currently renovating a Haymount building to achieve this dream.
To go from being artist-, writer-, teacher-brain to business owner was a big change for me. Through that, I’ve really learned a lot about running a business, which is now helping me as I’m developing Curate Essentials, which I think brings me full circle because with it, I’m able to take everything I learned from the pie shop and develop this store. All that I learned about teaching: I’m going to be able to teach workshops here. Everything I need in terms of travel to exhibit my work, this place is going to allow me the flexibility of that. I’m going to be able to use part of this space as a studio space to continue making work. I’m going to be able to show work. I’m going to be able to bring visiting artists. And so I’m going to be able to cultivate all of that interest in teaching and being with other artists.
So to answer your original question when I was younger, I used to think that being a famous artist was being someone featured in an art book. For me now, it’s just being able to constantly live in my natural, creative, passionate self, but also earn a living doing that because what I’m doing has a monetary value as well.
What changes in your audience do you seek to make with your art?
I am interested in autobiographical work and the idea of family and being in a community. At first it was very literal: my thesis work was called “Vignettes of a Family”, and I broke down each person who had a big impact on my life and started exploring their story. Then branching out to think about the people who had touched my life in some way, even if it was indirectly. Because embroidery pieces are extremely time-consuming, I’m still working on a series called “Trace Evidence”, which is a fingerprint embroidered over, in an abstract way, old family photos. I love to learn. I’m a lifelong learner. So I was taking some classes on forensic science at Methodist University, where we were learning about fingerprints, how to take fingerprints and about trace evidence and how every single person has trace evidence that they leave. There’s a part of you that you leave at a scene and you also pick up things and you take them with you. So you always are touching your environment and being touched by it. I was thinking about life and how we touch other people’s lives and how one person can be influenced by this person. And they’re influencing you as well.
Pearson’s visual work is complex, usually made up of smaller pieces that represent community, and they are enhanced with text of some kind, giving more depth and intricacy to draw in the viewer.
They just, they like it for the simple shapes, the forms, the colors, and possibly the materials. And then when asked deeper questions, I have answers for them, because people approach artwork differently: everybody who approaches art comes with their own perceived notion, their own background and how they think about things. But I think that idea of family is a very universal thing.
Now how I’m going to use that to change the world in some way. As an artist, I absorb all of my surroundings, all of my interactions with people, everything that comes my way. And then I translate that into my work as a way to get it out and then invite people to just experience it. They have been able to connect with it and maybe see their situation a little bit differently.
How have you constructed the bridges of your artistic career?
There’s a great book called Hinds Feet on High Places that always made me think when I’m going through hard times, God’s got a plan. This little character, she’s trusting that she’s going to the high places and to get there, she thinks she’s going to go straight up, but she has to be led down lower and lower into valleys and in dark times, she realizes that she’s learning to trust more in her guide and in herself and the pain that she goes through makes her stronger. So she actually is able to live in the place where she’s meant to be on the mountain top. There’s been times in my life where I’m just like, ah, I just really want to get to this place where I have this huge exhibit and but I’m still here with these little small exhibits and stuff like that. Well, now I understand that when I do get an opportunity to have a big exhibit, I needed to show in those smaller places. I needed to define my work. I needed to grow as an artist. I needed to know those things. I needed to go through grad school to learn more technique and how to be a professional. I needed to teach at a community college before I could teach at a university. So it has been very, very, very small steps along the way.
One of my biggest problems is I never have enough time to actually get to all the things I have or want to do. I keep a journal with sketches; sometimes, I’ll say, okay, I’m going to do a little sample piece, which I’ll set in my studio. It will remind me, even if it’s a year or two later: Oh yeah, that’s what I was going to do with that.
Who do you consider your artistic cohort?
Firstly, my sister, Leigh, who is my studio assistant. She has been a big help to me. My husband, Justin, who never complains about the ongoing projects I’m involved in. My friends Jennifer and Ellen, who are always game to do something creative and both challenge me to be the best version of myself. Everyone who works at the Pie Shop: they work so hard and are so creative. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. And all of my Facebook friends who are always encouraging me. I also look to the other women business owners in Fayetteville who are in the trenches every day making their own dreams come true.
For me, also, is going to places and doing workshops. For instance, I’m going to be teaching at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, Tennessee soon. I’ll be surrounded by other artists who are teaching classes, and also exhibiting their work, and all the students. Those are the times when I get pushed; there’s a synergy that happens. So I rely on those times.
I have another friend, MJ, she’s about 80 years old and she’s my best bestie: she’s an artist. When I’m around her, we just push each other and we’re constantly being creative and things like that. I always say, I want to be like her when I grow up. We used to be together at Acme Art Studios in Wilmington. There were 22 working artists there. That was such a highlight of my life to be there every day with people who were working as practicing artists for their living and teaching and doing commissioned work and things like that. That was a really sharpening time for me.
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.