We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Serena Louise a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Serena, appreciate you joining us today. We’d love to hear about the things you feel your parents did right and how those things have impacted your career and life.
Growing up, my projected career path was always changing. I wanted to be countless things, a writer, a designer, a Broadway actress, marine biologist, the list goes on! My parents never projected their own expectations of what I should do. They supported my decisions and passions starting at the very beginning. I think they did their best to keep me grounded in my passionate pursuits. I could do any of those things, but I needed to discover all that they entailed. Like, when they told me I needed to have a deep understanding of science to be a marine biologist, I dropped that idea quickly. My mom and dad wanted to lift me up to achieve it all, but with no unrealistic pressure and judgement. I felt free and very loved.
By no means was I raised without the concept of hard work to reach my goals. If there was something I desired, I had to earn it. I learned simple money management this way. I was expected to help around the house, chores, yardwork etc. I was given an allowance when I did these helpful tasks and I learned to save. Through those lessons I felt prepared to take care of myself, my space, and my future. Although I pursued many paths, I never felt obligated to choose just one. My parents still always see my potential, my creative spirit, and love every bit of it. They show it through constructive criticism, genuine interest, and words of praise. I am grateful beyond measure.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
Since I was young I was always attracted to creating. Every art medium there was in school I wanted to get my hands on it. I was obsessed with music and theatre as well. Making music was a huge passion of mine. I played alto saxophone for seven years, was in choir in school and church. I auditioned for every play/musical through my entire public school career. I loved to dance at home and in the studio. I was always expressing myself in some way.
Eventually, I found myself pursuing an art education degree at the University of Northern Colorado. I thrived there. I was challenged in ways I had never experienced and grew so much as an artist and as a woman. I was so inspired by all my fellow students and the professionals that would share their work with me. When I graduated with my BA in fine arts, I could not decide what I wanted to do. I was only 22 years old and was afraid of being stuck. I wanted to explore and learn about myself as an adult in the world. I wanted to see if I could be more than just a student.
Being away from school was difficult. I didn’t have the accessibility to materials and tools anymore. I had a copious amount of ideas and projects, but zero motivation. I began to feel guilty and fearful that this path I chose was fading away. I ended up reaching out to some really wonderful mentors of mine for help. They said, “start small, make a mark every day.” I had played with every material possible, except watercolor. I began experimenting with watercolor because the actual pigment, tools, and clean up were super easy. You can take watercolor anywhere without the hassle. I had no experience using it and it was one of the most challenging mediums for me. I kept at it and just played. I didn’t plan for what I was going to make, I just put the paint to paper and enjoyed the journey. Its been over ten years since I began painting with watercolor. I am so proud that it lead me to having a number of art shows in galleries, cafes, and restaurants.
Now, I am working as a professional independent artist, My artwork has called upon a throng of motifs: animal symbology, illustrative narratives, mail art, cataloging, and collage. My current inspiration is derived from the versatile landscapes and the slow-living style of my community in Crested Butte, CO.
I have recently rekindled my love affair with collage. Often, I have pieces I create and then put away in a closet for years. I enjoy revisiting these collections. I then start to dream about a new life that art piece can take on. I have started to take scissors to a lot of those pieces. I cut them up and combine them with other works. It has been such a joy to bring new life to a past creative journey. I am a big believer in reusing and recycling. This collage process has allowed me to reflect and rebuild a new narrative. It is very refreshing!
I have deep appreciation for hand written letters! I felt it was important as an artist to make art that could be sent to loved ones. I have a constantly evolving collection of greeting cards. I sell these on my Etsy shop and in some brick and mortor spaces in Colorado. I also have high quality prints of some of my pieces. I am open for custom private commissions, often being pet portraits. I love animals so much, so I wanted to give back to the animal community by donating 10% of each pet portrait commission profit to an animal rescue of my clients choosing.
Are there any books, videos, essays or other resources that have significantly impacted your management and entrepreneurial thinking and philosophy?
A book that I was heavily impacted by, and will recommend to everyone is THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron. It has been around for many years and holds true to this day. Cameron uses her book to teach courses for creatives of all types. Essentially, this book was written to unblock your creativity. Her philosophy (which I align with) is that all humans are creative. We may not all be incredible at drawing, or dancing. But humans are born to create. Whether it be writing music, poetry, cooking, or interior design, we are ALL natural creators. When we as humans make something it connects us with our communities, the universe, or a higher power. When we are blocked from our creativity, it is an unnatural state. It is so common for us to be blocked. We live in a world that demands a lot from us! A lot of people suffer from negative self talk and ultimately talk themselves out of any creative pursuit. This book helped me so much, especially when I had so many ideas and no energy for them. Each chapter represents a week of your life. There are 12 chapters and it is like taking a self led course. Much like any healing, you need to be ready and willing to do the work. The work she has the reader do is beautiful. It promotes mindfullness, reflection, and action. She shares the idea of an inner artist child that we as the reader need to nurture. I came out at the end of the book so much more confident in my spirit and my skills as an artist. I began making again! I plan to revisit this book because it will always be an inspiring and helpful resource for me.
In your view, what can society to do to best support artists, creatives and a thriving creative ecosystem?
I think that there is a large of amount of wasted potential in this country. There are many reasons for this, but the big two reasons in my opinion are: the lack of value for the arts in public schools and the inaccessibility of tools to the arts due to high costs.
I believe that our school systems have become so wrapped up in student test scores and standardized learning that a lot of the classes called “special” end up getting cut out. Schools don’t want to fund something they don’t think is crucial to child development. However, those “specials” are in fact essential to child learning and growth. I think it ensures that students find a voice, autonomy, and they develop a mind that thinks critically. Starting kids off with creative learning is the first way to support artistic ecosystems.
I am aware that there are many resources and communities that offer grants for artists. I think society can offer incentives for those establishments. I want to see more of those opportunities for hard working creators who don’t have the funds/income to achieve their goals. Finance is a huge roadblock for people. It can and does stop incredibly talented people from making anything. A great way to foster a creative ecosystem is to promote public artworks! Hold art contests, call for artists, etc. Make sure to make it easy for people to participate. I know a lot of towns already do this, but we need more, more more!