Meet the artist: Tesia Blackburn

Meet the artist: Tesia Blackburn

Posted by Ellen Reilly on 25th Aug 2014

Abstract painter Tesia Blackburn is passionate. She is passionate about the formal tools of art: line, shape, color, form, texture and light. She often works in series, taking inspiration from music, architecture, and the world around her. She captures the harmony and beauty in seemingly simple elements. In building up many layers of paint, she creates works that have depth of translucent color, luminosity, and strength in design.

Hailing from Shreveport, Louisiana, Tesia has been a working artist in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 25 years. She is currently the Golden Working Artist (Golden Artist Colors) in San Francisco. Her work is in the collections of Brigham Young University, Kaiser Permanente Hospital, Rigel Pharmaceuticals, Bellevue Towers, and numerous private collections. Tesia received her BFA from the Academy of Art in 1984, studied lithography at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1990 and received her Master’s of Art in 1992 at John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California.

Tesia has just published a book, Acrylic Painting with Passion: Explorations for Creating Art that Nourishes the Soul (Northlight Books, Cincinnati, Ohio). Acrylic Painting with Passion is designed as a wire-bound workbook on how to get the creative spirit working. It is filled with luscious color illustrations of Tesia’s work. FLAX is delighted to have copies in stock and a book signing with Tesia planned for August 9.

In Acrylic Painting with Passion, Tesia takes a “just do it” attitude; stressing process over perfection, and leaving no one out for lack of formal training or the “right” tools. She covers design principles, tools and techniques, art-making materials, color theory and color mixing, and finishing techniques. The book provides illustrations and photos to guide the reader through processes. Her loosening up techniques are particularly enjoyable: speed painting, dance/paint/dance, and the “what ifs.” There are insightful artist interviews at the end of the book.

Acrylic Painting with Passion is great for a beginner, refreshing for any experienced artist, inspiring for all.

FLAX interviews Tesia Blackburn 

Tesia, you ask a set of questions to the artists you interview in your book, we at FLAX would like to ask you the same:

 With teaching, marketing, publishing a book...etc, what is your strategy for finding time to make art? What was your experience in making the transition from working the art around a day job, to making it a full time career?

It's always a struggle to find the time to create. When you are passionate about creating, like I am, it makes it easier to give up Friday night at the movies, or Sunday with the New York Times. Practically speaking, I've paired down my social life a great deal. I have a really good friend, who is a writer, and we get together for a long lunch one or twice a year. She knows I'm painting and I know she's writing. Those are the sacrifices you have to make if you want to create. The funny thing is, it doesn't feel like a sacrifice. I want to be in the studio whenever I can so if I have a spare thirty minutes between classes, I will run in to the studio and do something. I've been known to run up the stairs to my studio, keys in hand with my coat on, and put down a layer of paint, then run back downstairs jump into the car and go teach a class. For anyone passionate about creating, it's easy to grab the time. Who wants to watch TV when you can be painting?

Making the transition from a "day job" to working as a full time artist was a long time in coming. I worked many years as a temp or typist. I used to try to get my various bosses to let me work nights so I could paint in the daytime. Sleep? Never enough. For years I worked eight hours at a "real" job and then painted for four or six hours either at night or day, depending on what temp job I had. It was my passion so I wanted it. You can always sleep later, right?

The biggest boost to my career came when I was taken on as a Working Artist for Golden Artist Colors. The visibility that position gave me was the final piece that allowed me to give up part time temp jobs forever. I was already working as an artist pretty much full time, but working for Golden put me over the top.

Tell us about your dedicated space for making art. What can you recommend for beginning artists, in creating a space?

I am very fortunate that I have a studio in a building with a lot of other artists. In fact, The Shipyard in San Francisco, where my studio is located, is supposedly the largest working artist colony in the United States. That being said, I worked in my bedroom or the dining room for years. I don't think you need      a special space, in fact I know you don't, to create. Waiting for   the perfect space can be just another obstacle to doing your work. If you want to work, find a way to do it. Clear off the breakfast dishes and make art on the kitchen table. If your space is too small, go outside or make smaller work. Or, make installations! There are so many ways to work. Just make stuff, anywhere, anyhow you can. Yoko Ono tied pieces of paper carrying   wishes to cherry trees and then planted the cherry trees in cities across the globe. No studio needed - big impact. With the technology that we have now, it's so easy to create work that can reach a large audience and never leave your desk. So— go make it!

What inspires you to keep working as an artist?

Wow, that's a huge question. I guess I'm curious so I keep asking questions. If you look at my work, you'll see that I don't have one particular "look." It's all paint on canvas or printmaking, but the images have changed over the years. I think of myself as a formalist, in that I'm very interested in how the formal properties work together, like color, shape or texture. I spend a lot of time looking at composition and color, the two main components of design that interest me. I will often take one particular problem, like composition for instance, and work on it over 30 or 40 pieces, trying to figure it out. Maybe I have more of an art laboratory than a studio. I'm always performing experiments to see what happens.

There's also that magic that happens when I'm working that inspires me. Or maybe a better way to put it would be the buzz that I get when I'm working and it's going well. There's nothing like that feeling. It's addicting too! You want to get that little butterfly in your stomach when the painting is just so great— so you keep painting! I love that feeling.

If you have a typical day in the studio, what’s it like?

   There's no such thing as a typical day. I travel a lot. I teach a lot. So studio    time is broken up into chunks, a day here, two days there, a weekend. I        do a lot of my work during breaks in teaching. And I will sometimes              schedule a long weekend for myself that is nothing but studio work. But      when I do have a full day at the studio, it's lots of music - everything              from Beethoven to Usher—and long hours of painting. I can paint for 10       hours without breaking a sweat. I usually have my dog, Soxx, with me          and we will take a break and go for a couple of walks. Good to clear my         head and step away from the work. I always, always have multiple pieces     going at once. I can't stress this enough. I think the biggest mistake               beginners make is trying to work on only one painting (drawing, print,           sculpture) at one time. It can end up with the work of ten pieces being poured into one—usually with disastrous results. And I abide by the 10/20 rule. If you paint for 10 minutes, you must look for 20. That is so darned hard. Put that brush down and converse with the canvas for 20 minutes. Now that is not for sissies! But it works!

You teach classes at FLAX. What do you like about shopping at FLAX?

I guess the thing I love the most about FLAX is the people. Everyone is helpful and knowledgeable, everyone is friendly. There's a sense of continuity too. I've seen the same people there over the years. That's something I don't get a sense of at a big box store. With FLAX it's like my neighborhood art store.

And don't even get me started on the paper department. OMG! I just want to swoon every time I go in that department. It's an artist's dream, that is, if you dream in paper, which I do. :-)

And FLAX puts on great events. I went to see Austin Kleon recently and it was so much fun and free. You gotta love that. From a teacher's perspective, FLAX has always been great when it comes to my events. Always set up great, plenty of chairs, lots of room. I love that. They really take good care of teachers and presenters. Yay FLAX!

Tesia Blackburn - Artist and Teacher