Artists Statement:

In my paintings I use reductive arrangements and decorative elements influenced by early Eastern art. I work to balance positive and negative forms and explore within this context a range of emotional and environmental themes. It is my intention to convey a reverence for nature an the sentience of animals.

…and now for our exclusive interview with Phyllis Stapler

How would you describe your work?
My paintings are of stylized animals and plants. They are flattened images with equal attention given to the positive and negative forms. Sometimes they are symbolic. Sometimes it’s about an animal I know, more often not.

How long have you been an artist and how did you become an artist?
I went to college at the age of 17 to study art and spent the next 5 years getting a BFA in Drawing and Painting. Then I tried to figure out how to get a creative job and do my painting at night. I did post graduate work in Film animation and interned at CNN but was never hired. By my 30’s I started teaching art, residencies and continuing ed, and my paintings started to get attention.

What is your favorite medium?
I use acrylic paint and apply an oil based final varnish. I would say watercolor is really my favorite medium because it is so pure and luminous. But I mostly use it for studies of the larger acrylics, now. I do employ watercolor techniques with thinned down acrylic.

Pick one work from your portfolio and tell us the story behind it.
I did a painting called “Cinnamon Bear” after an incident that happened a couple of summers ago. We were in a drought and the bears were hungry and attracted to our fruit trees. They were so hungry they were out in full daylight. A young one was even living in my neighbors tree. I encountered him one day and told him it wasn’t safe here and that he needed to go. He went over and stretched his claws up a tree to show me he was bigger than me. Someone told my landlord about all the bear activity and he came out and shot that little bear. I just hated it. So I did a painting of him with the apples he wanted so much. I needed some kind of happy ending.

Tell us one medium, technique or style that you would like to try.
I would like to be good at encaustic. My friend Sally Condon does the most beautiful paintings but I am not good with oils and have never tried adding wax to it. So I doubt I will ever try it. But I wouldn’t mind waking up someday just knowing how to use them successfully.

How do you make time for art?
I have to make myself work. It is now my sole source of income, but I still find it hard to do. I may like the results, but I am not someone who usually loves the process. But I always feel better when I accomplish it.

If you could imagine the perfect art day, what would it be like?
I would really like a new studio. So in my perfect new studio on a warm sunny day I’d love to get so lost in the work that I lose all sense of time. I love it when the work surprises me, when I have no idea how this or that element got there. It always makes me smile when I see that my subconscious mind has thrown in a little gift for me. I’m always the last to know! And here in SW CO I see lots of animals in the yard so I’d hope to glimpse some magpies or elk, a fox or rabbit, too.

If you could spend 24 hours with one artist who would it be and what would you do?
I would like to spend the day with the great surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim. Maybe we could work on Exquisite Corpses together.

Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring artists?
When I used to teach I recommended an article titled ” The Miracle of Mediocrity” by Jon Spayde about his wife who started playing with making intentionally bad collages. They started a bad art night and had so much fun they had to turn away people who showed up to play. We have to take ourselves seriously enough to carve out time for our work but we can get too attached to getting a sure result that we lose spontaneity. Actually after reading my answers here I think I’m due for a little remedial collage making!

To learn more about Phyllis Stapler, or to see more of her beautiful work follow any of the links below: