Studio Chats: Stephanie Henderson
Today, I’m honored to have a studio chat with the beautifully talented artist, Stephanie Henderson. I first stumbled across Stephanie’s work on Instagram and was instantly intrigued by her strong use of color + bold graphic approach. And now that I’ve learned her story and seen a bit more of her work and space, I’m so excited to share with you here today.
Tell us a bit about yourself. I am a mom, a wife, a reader, a writer, a gardener, a hiker, and last, but definitely not least, a painter. Painting is my work, my recreation, and what feeds my soul above all else except the love of my family. I am deeply grateful to spend each day, day after day, month after month, year after year, doing what I love to do more than anything else.
What is your FIRST memory of being creative? My earliest memory of being exhilarated by color revolves around my first gigantic box of Crayola crayons when I was probably 4 or 5. It was the size of the Monopoly box and must have contained 150 crayons. I remember gently rolling the brand new crayons in my small hands, deciphering their cool names on the smooth paper wrappers, and discovering new colors (even neon!) that weren’t in the basic boxes of Crayolas. Yet there was a pang of not wanting to use them too much so that I could keep them forever and not wear them down. These are the emotions that color can bring to even the youngest person who is moved by art.
When did you find your way back to creativity? I have always been creative, though not always a painter, and have sought recreation and refuge in various art forms throughout my life. The crayons, pastels and tempera paints of childhood gave way to scattered art classes in my teenage and college years, including a motley assortment of creative pursuits ranging from a middle school sewing camp, a cake decorating course at a community college, and an upholstery class at a continuing education center. In early adulthood, I sewed some of my clothes, most of my curtains, pillows and bedspreads, and joyfully discovered that gardening is another extremely gratifying art form, one that allows the artist to create living, ever-changing compositions.
I found my way to being a professional painter in my forties, as my children were spending their entire days and sometimes evenings at school, giving me the time and solitude to recognize and respond to a deep-rooted need to create for the sake of my mental health. In hindsight, it seems that the death of my father, which coincided with a brief medical scare in my own life, caused me to withdraw from many activities outside the home and sink into a low spell. Eventually, I felt a compelling urge to create in response to my personal sadness and fear, and basically I began to paint my way out of this low phase. Painting scratched the creative itch the best, and I’ve stuck with it almost obsessively.
What’s your creative practice look like on an average day? On most days, including weekends, I paint from early morning right after breakfast to late afternoon. Besides taking breaks for exercise — long walks and some yoga — and the predictable trip to the grocery store, a regular day for me is spent entirely in my home studio.
Where do you find your inspiration? Color is everywhere, so I don’t have to look very hard for colors and combinations of colors that make me want to paint them. I will say that my garden is a great source of pleasure and inspiration, and I find that my palette does trend seasonally depending on whether camellias, peonies or dahlias are in bloom.
Tell us a bit about your space. On the side of my 1930s Dutch Revival house, a former screened porch converted into a sunroom serves as my bright and happy studio. It is glass on three sides with a partially glass roof and overlooks my perennial garden and birdfeeder.
What advice would you give yourself if you were just starting your creative journey? My advice is to follow your gut, paint or create exactly what you want to create, not what well-meaning friends and family suggest that you should paint. If I had taken the advice of friends and family about what they thought I should be painting, I might be painting dog portraits and rainbow trout right now.
Being creative means: everything
My creative habit brings me: a reason to get up in the morning
My advice to anyone looking to push themselves into a creative life: trust your instincts and create what gives you a sense of accomplishment. You know what gives you a thrill, no one else does.
Favorite book: Anything by John Steinbeck, Wallace Stegner and Philip Roth
Favorite cocktail: More of a wine drinker: White Burgundy, Provencal Rose, or Spanish Albarino
Gregg Irby Gallery, Atlanta, GA
Libby Silvia Artstyle, Wellesley MA
The Shayne Gallery, Montreal, Quebec
M Design, Ketchum ID
Gallerie Noir, Miami, FL
Thank you Stephanie!
Are you an artist, a creative, a maker, a writer, a curiosity seeker? If so, we’d love to talk to you about your work, your process and what creativity means to you. Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to say hi!