We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Grace Chepenik a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Grace, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Can you talk to us about how you learned to do what you do?
Thank you for the opportunity to expand my platform! Being an artist is a unique and winding journey, one that has led me around the world learning from other artists and creators.
From my earliest memories, I have always known that art was what I wanted to do as a career. I like to incorporate a variety of mediums into my art, with glassblowing and painting being my main emphasis.
I’ve been painting since I was very young, it’s a passion I inherited from my grandmother. While visiting her we’d always spend hours in her studio where she really taught me to paint. We continue to take workshops together to this day! My dad helped me build my first studio at 14 years old, where I spent the majority of my freetime painting. I feel all of those hours combined with my love of painting has helped enable me to make a living doing what I am most passionate about.
When I went to college, I was really set on leaving as a painter. But when I saw students across the hall blowing glass I knew I had to try it. After my first course I was completely in love. I took every course the school had to offer and then with the help of my glass professor, wrote my own independent studies to continue working with the medium.
I jumped on every opportunity I could to learn more about glassblowing. I have traveled to New York, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and my hometown Jacksonville, Florida to either work for other artists or take courses in specific techniques. My favorite place I traveled for glass was Murano, Italy, which is a mecca for glassblowing. Currently, I am going through an apprenticeship program at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia to continue my education in glass. Being surrounded by wonderful artists has really progressed my work, education, and self.
I know my glass and painting education will never end, because there is more to learn than I would like to fit in one lifetime. I feel so blessed and grateful for the journey my art has taken me on and so excited to see where it’ll lead me in the future!
Grace, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I am a 23 year old painter and glassblower from Jacksonville, Florida. Last May, I graduated with my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Sculpture and Painting from the University of Miami.
My work focuses on the metaphysical relationships between spirit and nature. I celebrate the connection each subject has to the universe through intense colors, brush strokes and textures. I often paint animals to emphasize their electric energy and pure relationship with nature.
My first love has always been painting, but since discovering my passion for glass, it has seeped fully into my artistic practice. The glass further celebrates the idea of the aura and energy in a physical sense as it transforms the space around it. The ethereal medium of glass also reiterates the metaphysical qualities and messages in my work.
As I continue learning and evolving my skill set, my goal is to make paintings with glass components bursting out of the canvas, bringing the painting to life with a three dimensional quality. I would consider myself a sculptural-painter, I’m constantly working towards finding the best way to combine my two passions. My goal is to create artwork that is uniquely me with these mediums that I love so dearly.
I am really excited to see how my work will evolve over the years as I continue to push my skills and hone my craft.
Thank you for taking the time to get to know me and a little about my work!
Learning and unlearning are both critical parts of growth – can you share a story of a time when you had to unlearn a lesson?
One lesson I unlearned was taking all advice at face value. I had a professor comment on how large my signature is and how it must be because of a huge inflated ego. At the time I was definitely hurt by his comments and stopped signing my pieces the way I had since I was 13 years old. I really internalized what he said, and took it to heart. When I finally had the courage to go back to signing my paintings as I always had, I did it more subtly; it was thinner and in a more muted color. Although the advice came off aggressively and was hurtful, I took the positive of his advice to best benefit my work! The lesson I learned from this was to trust myself in what’s best for my work and to listen to all suggestions but to only take out what feels right.
Looking back, are there any resources you wish you knew about earlier in your creative journey?
It sounds like an obvious thing but YouTube! It’s been so helpful with my art to learn new techniques or a specific skill. I have to make a wood canvas for an upcoming show and I learned every step from a 5 minute video. It’s such a wonderful and overlooked resource, and just great to put on to learn new ways to approach your craft.