Notes by Christen: No Compromising

My aunt Sandy has been an artist for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I used to sit next to her and watch as she would work on an illustration. My favorite part was when it came time for her to fill it in with color. She would grab marker after marker from her large PrismaColor set. I hoped that one day I would have the same set.

Sandy has held her share of art-related jobs. She designed novelty T-shirts and party décor, and she oversaw the packaging for a gift company. While it’s impressive that she was able to get paid to do work that she loved; what was more impressive is that she never compromised on her designs. She stood behind them, and when the company she worked for no longer did the same, she knew it was time to move on. After 30 years of working for someone else, she recently began her own company. I admire my aunt for standing by her art and not compromising her style in order to make something more appealing. I wish I could say I’ve always been like her in that respect.

I’ve always had a creative side, but when I began working at Stampington & Company a whole new world opened up to me. I wasn’t familiar with mixed-media art—particularly vintage collage. Right away I was impressed by it, and so I tried to copy what I saw coming in. I was creating in a popular style, but it wasn’t giving me the same pleasure as my usual crafting did.

A couple years later I found myself once again drawn in by a style of artwork: layering, inks, stencils, etc. I sat at my worktable and tried to emulate the style of the artwork I was seeing. With all of the layering and the painting, I was having a bit more fun, but something was still off. It was during a conversation with a friend that I realized that I wasn’t creating how or what I wanted to. I was creating what I thought others wanted to see. I was going through all the motions of making art, but I wasn’t enjoying the process, and I wasn’t being true to myself.

Just a few weeks ago, I sat down in front of a canvas. I shrugged off any mental images of what I wanted the final piece to look like, and I played. I painted with colors I loved. I took my time. I was deliberate and spontaneous at the same time. The work that came out of this experiment is perhaps the piece I’m most proud of. It’s a piece that’s left me with the burning desire to paint more ever since.

This art community has grown exponentially in recent years, and there’s a huge push to get artwork published and work as an artist full-time. It’s amazing that the industry has grown so much that it’s a possibility for so many, but with that comes the temptation to compromise our art in order to make it more appealing to others. My hope for all of us as artists is that we don’t get so caught up in “getting published” or making a business out of our art that we forget the most important thing, and that is why we are artists. We create art because we have to. Because it allows us to express ourselves. Because it centers us. Because we enjoy it.

Of course, these are words that sound odd coming from an editor who relies on submissions and people with the desire to be published. But trust me, nothing excites an editor more than receiving artwork that is unlike anything else being published. So, sit down at your canvas with no expectations, and fall in love with process all over again.


You can contact Christen at, or listen to a podcast with Christen by clicking here.


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One Response to Notes by Christen: No Compromising

  1. Collage Ideas says:

    Your comment that you “shrugged off any mental images of what I wanted the final piece to look like” really resonates with me. Thanks.