My Artist Journey

Age Three

Crayola bold markers
Crayola markers, the only brand worth using

My artist journey begins at age three, when I started telling grown-ups I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I had no idea what kind of artist I wanted to be, but I definitely wanted to make art my entire life. My parents always kept me well-stocked in art supplies, and as a young child, I spent countless hours drawing with colored pencils or coloring with Crayola markers.

I shunned crayons as much as a 7 year old could, without giving up art during Sunday School and such. They just didn’t give me the rich, deep colors and full coverage I could get from pencils and markers. And watercolors were right out. Who wanted to paint with something that was barely darker than the paper?

Elementary Education

Although I took a few extracurricular art classes during elementary school, my primary art teacher at the time was Commander Mark Kistler and his Secret City on PBS. Through the medium of cartooning, I learned the classical foundations: foreshortening, placement, size, overlapping, shading, shadow, contour, horizon, and density. When I got to Junior High art class, I’m pretty sure I was the only student that knew the word “foreshortening.”

The beginning of my artist journey - Commander Mark of The Secret City
Commander Mark taught me foundational drawing skills.

Mrs. Funcheon and Mr. Jackson

Terry Jackson and Stephanie Funcheon
Terry Jackson (left) and Stephanie Funcheon

In Junior High I attended my first “Summer Challenge Art” program with Stephanie Funcheon. This was a four-hours-a-day, five-days-a-week, four-week-long art class over the summer through our local public school system. It was at this time I truly began to appreciate everything I had learned from Commander Mark. Even in the honor class I could tell I had a head start.

Mrs. Funcheon made such an impact on me. It was the first time I had an art teacher challenge my decisions and make me defend my choices. We experienced real art critiques, and she pushed all of us to be the best we could be.

Junior High “Summer Challenge Art” and freshman art classes with Mrs. Funcheon prepared me for my next three years with Terry Jackson. We learned graphite pencil drawing, colored pencil drawing, loose graphite drawing, pastels, oil pastels, oil painting, and watercolors. It was in Mr. Jackson’s classes I fell in love with Prismacolor colored pencils and watercolors. I couldn’t believe watercolors could be so vibrant! Mr. Jackson had a giant set of Prismacolors in his office, and when my regular 24 pack just didn’t have the right shade, he’d let me use one of his. (My gratitude for this gesture increased dramatically when I learned how much a single Prismacolor pencil cost.)

He gave us the most torturous still life assignments, like the two below. I still remember how much I hated doing that drawing with all the chrome and plaid, and how proud I was when it was finished.

Again, it wasn’t until college that I really appreciate Mr. Jackson and how much I learned in High School. He was a hard teacher. We had regular critiques, and he could always find something for us to improve upon. Mr. Jackson was never satisfied, and that was a good thing.

A Fine Art Degree

Thanks to Mr. Jackson, I was first accepted to my Fine Art program at the end of my junior year, but when they found out I had another year of High School, I had to re-apply the next year. The second time, it was official and they gave me a scholarship to go with it.

My focus was graphic design, but since I was working on a Bachelor of Fine Art, I took the full spectrum of fine art classes as well. Introductory art, drawing, and painting the first year were a breeze thanks to my excellent high school education. I was also able to learn photography, printmaking, and ceramics. The last two years, along with my graphic design classes, I focused on watercolors, honing my techniques and expanding my experimentation.

  • Abstract watercolor 1
  • Abstract watercolor 4
  • Abstract watercolor 3
  • Abstract watercolor 2

My Journey Since College

After eighteen years of creating art nearly every single day, I needed a break. Although I made a few pieces of art after graduating, it was no longer a focus. The next ten years saw me producing fine art very infrequently, while I channeled my artistic energies into freelance graphic design projects, cooking, and starting a family.

Over the last five years, the majority of my fine art had been created while teaching my young children about various types of art. Still, creating fine art wasn’t something I made the time to do for myself. I had gotten out of the habit of it, and new habits are hard to form.

All that changed December of 2019. My husband and I were having a conversation about color and why painters use red, blue, and yellow, plus other colors, but printers just use cyan, magenta, and yellow. This was followed by a Christmas gift of a cyan, magenta, and yellow acrylic paint “kit” for me to experiment with. It was such a joy to paint and experiment again.

Painting of flowers using cyan, magenta, and yellow.
My very first CMYK Painting

Unfortunately, I didn’t make painting a priority again until we went into quarantine. A few years ago I bought a package of 50 blank watercolor cards to paint, but never did. Quarantine seemed like the perfect time to start the project. I’m now setting side time every week to make at least one card. Since I’m a designer and prefer doing client work, I choose the design of each card based on the person I’m creating it for. It gives me scope and helps me focus.

Table set up for painting, with taped-down paper, a pallette, water, brushes, etc.
My typical set-up

Once I run out of cards, I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but I’m sure I’ll keep up the habit of creating fine art again.