We were lucky to catch up with Amanda Marie Bell recently and have shared our conversation below.
Amanda Marie, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. We’d love to hear about when you first realized that you wanted to pursue a creative path professionally.
I have always been creative. I was involved in art and music at a very young age; it was something I was naturally drawn to. I attribute this mostly to my mother who encouraged me to explore my creativity. She tells me I wrote the alphabet on the dining room chairs, marked all of the white couch cushions with orange crayon, and cut triangles with safety scissors out of every piece of fabric I could get my hands on — all before the age of five. I hid those triangular fabric pieces in my desk and was found out later but never punished for it.
Growing up in an unstable household, art and music was an escape and a way to process emotions I didn’t know how to put into words. When I was in high school, my younger brother received Photoshop 3 as a gift which allowed me to explore digital art and design. By the time I was 15 years old I had taught myself how to design and code a website with HTML and CSS. This should give you an idea of which generation I belong to: When the social media platform MySpace was popular, I would create promotional GIF banners for local bands to use on their profiles. I guess you could say that was my very first gig as an artist. My interest in music and art grew in tandem through high school, but somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to study music education in college.
I made it three semesters into the music program at Moores School of Music in Houston, Texas before I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the path for me. Music began to feel like a chore and as if I wasn’t doing it for myself anymore. I switched gears and enrolled in design school to pursue my artistic passions. Since then, I’ve been able to develop my skills as a graphic designer and artist over the course of my career; I work full time as a graphic designer while continuing my art on the side with my never-ending pursuit of exploration and learning. I have never regret my decision.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
My name is Amanda Marie Bell and I am a multifaceted graphic designer and artist with a passion for branding and illustration. I graduated from University of Houston with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Communications in 2014. A native Texan, I currently work out of Indianapolis, Indiana.
As a graphic designer, I pride myself in my ability to adapt. I’m a creative problem-solver and I love tapping into my critical thinking. While studying design, I was encouraged to stay away from using computers until I fully understood the fundamentals of design. This analog approach helped me develop my craft and plays right into my affinity for mixed media. I rely heavily on the Adobe Creative Suite software for my design process from concepting to completion. Concepting can take many forms such as sketching, word lists, and mood boards; it’s a way for me to organize my thoughts and set myself up for success. I’m inspired by a wide spectrum of design aesthetics from clean and minimal to elaborate and experimental.
Over the last three years as an artist, I have focused exclusively on digital art and illustration. After jumping from medium to medium over the course of my life, I find myself attached to the digital space. I lean on my background and knowledge in traditional art along with my curiosity for technology. I use Procreate on iPad to draw and I’m obsessed with visual texture and patterns. I use a neutral color palette with red, though lately I have been exploring other color ways through my experimentation with gradient mapping. My inspiration comes from a variety of places: specimen drawings, traditional tattoo flash, nature, surrealism, pop art, the postmodern and dada art movements, digital collage, mark-making, still life drawings, and my lifelong battle with mental health. .
With my creative background, I do everything from branding to album artwork to motion graphics to large-format printing. I love experimenting with my work and pushing past my prior boundaries.
Is there a mission driving your creative journey?
My goal as a graphic designer is to bring the client’s vision to life; I want to meet their specific needs while offering a wide range of ideas with consultation and guidance on best practices.
As an artist, I want people to feel something even if they don’t know what that emotion is. Giving little context about the piece is a way for people to insert themselves into it, the takeaway being whatever resonates with them in that moment almost like an intuitive reading. For me, art is an expression of vulnerability; a way for me to process trauma that I put my soul into.
Learning and unlearning are both critical parts of growth – can you share a story of a time when you had to unlearn a lesson?
Growing up I was taught that creativity wasn’t profitable and that I would live up to the “starving artist” trope. My father was supportive of my career choice to an extent but his only reference was my brilliantly artistic mother who, in his eyes, never did anything with her fine arts degree. My father’s biggest concern was he didn’t want me to financially struggle my whole life, but money was not a motive for me. I also didn’t believe in the “starving artist” because it disempowers people trying to promote their work. My father is an architect and has been with the same firm for over thirty years. I have never once heard him say anything positive about what he does for a living. He seemed unhappy all the time; he was working a job, not pursuing a passion. His passion was working on cars. Passion is what I yearned for. I received conflicting advice from my parents; one fully supported my creativity and the other questioned a career in it. I was raised by parents and step-parents who didn’t take my opinion seriously and interpreted my self-advocacy as defiant, disrespectful, and lacking humility. I was told to “sit down and shut up” in more or less words.
Learning how to advocate for myself has been a struggle most of my adult life. It definitely dictated how I pursued my career. Although I have never regret my decision in becoming a graphic designer, if I could go back and take a different fork in the road at some points I would. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I never dwell on it. I learn from it. Pursuing a passion was important to me and I never let that go; living life just to unhappily work a job did not resonate with me. I wanted better for myself.