Featured Artist: Ali Cavanaugh

Today’s featured artist is Ali Cavanaugh.  I’ve been admiring her work for years.  It is simply stunning!

Her work is currently exhibited in museums and curated shows.  She has work at Robert Lange Studios, Charleston SC and Sirona Fine Art, Hallandale Beach FL.

You can check out her website for more details about shows and exhibitions at www.alicavanaugh.com She also has a huge Instagram following.  You can follow her on social media at @_alicavanaugh_

1. Tell us about your journey and how you became the accomplished artist you are today.

I was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1973. My mother was a school teacher and my father an auto worker. After the tumultuous years of my early childhood passed, my mother remarried and I became part of a blended family with siblings. My parents raised us on a small rural farm in the St Louis area. I have been married to my husband, Brett for 22 years. We have four children. My children are my biggest source of inspiration, but I also love spending time with the elderly.

I began drawing and painting in middle school. I was drawn to the figure and portraits from the beginning. I do believe that my hearing loss influenced this. At two years old I contracted meningitis and it took most of my hearing. I have been hard of hearing my whole life and so this has forced me to depend on reading lips and being attentive to the body language of others to communicate.


2. Describe your process and how you create.

I carefully layer watercolor pigment on a wet kaolin clay surface using round synthetic brushes. My methods of layering translucent pigment on the white surface give the paintings a sense of being lit from behind. The luminous quality is often described by collectors as being transcendent or sublime and the detail and light can only be experienced in person. My paintings are most similar to fresco-secco paintings, but I use all modern materials; hence, modern frescoes. My panels are constructed by Ampersand Art Supply located in Buda, Texas. Ampersand first treats the wood panels with its trademarked ‘Archivalseal’ primer and then they coat the panels with a ph balanced kaolin clay veneer. This archival clay coating is delicate to the touch but very durable to the watercolor medium. I use a variety of watercolor brands; Holbein is my current favorite.

3.  Who are the artists who inspire you most and why?

Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, Ingres, Andy Goldsworthy. Two of my contemporary favorites are Felicia Forte and Cesar Santos. My inspirations in no particular order- folk art textiles, Scandinavian textiles and design, the sky, bodies of water, good poetry, and good music.

4. What do you hope to convey to others through your work?

In my process I try to paint people with love. My ultimate goal is that when one looks at my work they see a body/soul composite, not just a physical body. Painting the unseen presence of the person is what I’m always striving to capture. So what am I trying to share with the world through my work? Love others, value others, every single person on this earth has immeasurable value and potential to love and be loved.

5.  What five things can you not paint without?

florescent lights, large yogurt containers, white ceramic tiles, paper towels, and curiosity.

6. What advice do you have for established artists, and those who are just starting out?

Following your dream of being an artist is a wonderful concept, but if you do not think through the reality of life and what it takes to provide for yourself, the idea of “following your dream” can become a heartbreaking disappointment. For example, if you have creative talent, and want to be a professional working artist then I do not recommend spending money on art school. I would instead recommend watching you tube videos to learn about materials and techniques, travel, and apprentice under artists. Spend a year or two taking business classes and graphic design at a good community college. Most artists spend a fortune to get a degree in painting and graduate without any knowledge of how a business is set up. I recommend taking graphic design classes because there is so much design required in preparing your art to be marketed on the internet. You need to know how to use the software to market your own work. Learn how to make a business plan for your dreams. Then you have a blueprint -that’s based in reality- to follow.