Anne Kelly (00:12):
Hey friends. Welcome to Art in the Raw conversations with creative people tonight, I’m excited to introduce you to Rebecca Kunz owner of Tree of Life Studio, a full-time artist. If this is your first time watching, you might be wondering who I am in a nutshell, I’m somebody that’s been in love with art and music, my entire life. I’ve now been working in the professional gallery world for about years now. And I started Art in the Raw about halfway through 2020 to keep people connected and inspired. So if you see value in that consider subscribing, but in the meantime, I’m excited to introduce you to Rebecca. Welcome Rebecca.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (00:58):
Thank you for having me.
Anne Kelly (00:59):
Thanks for joining. And where are you this evening
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (01:02):
In my home studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Anne Kelly (01:05):
We both went to the college of Santa Fe, but, but at different times, so we did not cross paths there. These days. You do a bit of painting, a bit of printmaking,
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (01:17):
Mixed media, printmaking, interested more lately in Monotype block printing. I’ve kind of developed my own technique with Monotype, a painting, watercolor, pen and ink, graphite. Pretty much anything I can get my hands on,
Anne Kelly (01:33):
Spent a little time with your website. I also see you’ve had some projects where you’ve painted on rocks and recently a mural or two. So as long as you, you can create something you’re into it.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (01:45):
That’s right. We had our house built and we helped with a lot of the building process two years ago, that became my art project as well. And that was part of the reason why I wanted to build a home. A lot of what I did in the home was create handmade, reliefs and little details around the home that have my touch. There’s more to come. That’s also something I’m interested in is working in handmade elements into any and everywhere into architecture into walls. I created handmade, ceramic, I guess you could call them tiles, although they’re not square. And for each of my daughter’s rooms, I created a tile with symbology that was about who they were. And each of those got embedded into the walls of their bedrooms when we were building the house. So there’s a lot of that integrated into my home. And that’s something I’m more interested in, in the future as well.
Anne Kelly (02:51):
Well, I really love that story. Why does art just need to be limited to a piece of paper or a canvas and not live in it? And that’s amazing for your daughters. I actually have a painting that is up in my house currently. That was in my bedroom when I was a little kid. And I really feel like it was very influential. You started tree of life studio in 2007, as I understand it. So is it kind of safe to say the business started when you were pregnant with your first daughter?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (03:22):
I, I was working on it before that, but that’s when it formally I opened my business.
Anne Kelly (03:27):
It’s kind of like, okay, it’s happening?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (03:30):
It’s happening. It’s official. No pressure.
Anne Kelly (03:32):
Yeah. <laugh> none at all. You did that in 2007. I don’t know how many years that is. You’re you’re well on your path.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (03:42):
I’ve been really an artist my whole life and painting since 19 and I’m 46 now. So,
Anne Kelly (03:49):
So I am curious, you you’d started off as a photography major and then transitioned over I’m. I’m kind of curious about that.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (04:00):
That was an interesting moment. I love an adore photography and I still do to this day. I love taking photographs, but there was something in me that wanted something a little more, um, raw, something that was truly coming from me, not something I found, photography started feeling a little bit like I was like a found object or I had this very intuitive sense that I needed to switch over into something that, that was much more purely, only coming from me. And it was not easy. I struggled for a long time with painting and finding my way and learning how to paint and how to even make things look like. I wanted them to look in images that would come to me in my head, bringing those into true form into life was quite a challenge. The figure drawing has always come pretty easily and I’ve felt confident in that way, but the abstract nature of painting that I’m more drawn to was that took a lot of effort to get to a place where I felt comfortable and confident in my skills and happy with the work I was doing. Glad I, I stuck with it even through a lot of bad art that I made in college and beyond
Anne Kelly (05:26):
That’s that’s part of the process, right? It’s gotta, I think, make what doesn’t work before you figure out what does work. That
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (05:33):
Is so true. I had many frustrating moments and many moments I could have given up. And I know a lot of people can relate to that. Any career, anything that’s meaningful in life. It doesn’t seem to me that it should come easily. I have paid my dues and I truly believe that’s part of most, anything that’s worth doing in this life. It takes a lot of work and dedication, and it’s not easy a lot of times. And that’s, that gives us that grit to keep going. Otherwise, someone that something might have fallen into their lap easily, they don’t own it as much, and it’s not, um, it’s not integrated into their, their soul in the same way I believe. And I I’ve experienced that with things that do come more easily to me, I, it doesn’t have the same weight or meaning
Anne Kelly (06:27):
Overall, you have a very recognizable style. Can you talk a little bit about the journey that you talk to cultivate that style?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (06:34):
The style has come in different waves and bits and pieces. As I began finding my own voice, as I would say, that was probably some years after college, uh, after studying painting and truly finding things that would work, that I could actually paint. And I tried a lot of things. What, when things really started coming together for me, that was after I really dedicated myself to my business. I committed to, to myself and my business, certain things and certain goals. And at that point I found my voice through, like you said, also through painting a lot of things that do didn’t work, but, and through exploration and asking a lot of questions and abstraction is, has always called to me. I’m deeply inspired by petroglyphs lifts, diving more recently into mythology and what that means to us as humans on a very basic level as humans and not so much the mythology that we always find in books, but our own personal narratives, our own mythology that we create in this world.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (07:50):
And I’ve been exploring that a lot and exploring it through the different genres of painting and print making. And sometimes they have overlapped and sometimes they have felt like they they’re separate, but they have informed each other. My print making my block printing in particular being much more simple and almost crude sometimes as opposed to some of my paintings being a little more complex, a lot more complex. And it has been interesting to me to compare them over the years and see them change and grow because I’m inspired by both in very different ways, but also I’ve unconsciously noticed in the last few years, how they have been merging together more, the two styles, the primitive more primitive print make style and the more complex layering of colors and textures through painting. And I’m really enjoying how they’re overlapping more. And that’s a series of work. I’m just now starting on, I’m seeing more integration and it’s not exactly, uh, conscious, but it’s something that I’m noticing is happening.
Anne Kelly (09:02):
I love your blog, by the way. I, I love all the stories that you’ve written about the art, but I also love that you’ve included in that recipes in talking about creativity. Mm-hmm, I find creativity extends into all things, kind of like, it’s not just on a canvas mm-hmm, it’s on a tile on the wall, but it’s also on the dinner plate. And so I love that you kind of mix all of that together into the blog.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (09:30):
Thank you. And I did do a lot more of that in the earlier years as I, when I started my blog and it’s evolved as many blogs have and changed, and there have been some moments where I’ve thought, oh, maybe I need to take some of that. Some of those old blogs down and because my blog has changed, but I’ve decided to leave it because it’s a, it’s a whole picture of who I am and have become and who, who I was and still am. But yes, art in everything everywhere
Anne Kelly (10:00):
Kind of helps paint a larger picture of, of, of who, who is the artist, which is something I’m always curious about. So whether it’s a particular pizza crust or an amazing story about coyotes, I, I think it’s all connected on a recent post. You had mentioned coyotes as, as muse’s. We see some of those coyotes in, in recent paintings that can, can you tell us a little more about the coyotes and, and those tales
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (10:30):
Spring of 2020, the world started shutting down. I’m a runner and I have a favorite trail that I, I visit. It’s a part of town in Santa Fe. That’s more out on the planes where the coyotes often are. I’ve learned depending on the time of year, late afternoon or evening at dusk, that’s the time I like to be out. And it’s also the time when the coyotes are out, it’s their territory. At this time, I, I was beginning to work on this series for this show that I knew was coming in a year and a half. From that time I was reading and learning a lot about Cherokee mythology and the creation story. And at this same time, these coyotes, where I felt accompanying me on my run, and I just started to form this relationship with them that I’ve, I really learned to love and cultivate.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (11:29):
So the coyotes as I would I out on the trail and anyone who’s been around coyotes, you know, their, their call very distinct, but sometimes they would be off to the side and sometimes they would, they would be on both sides of me sometimes, far away, sometimes quite close. I started listening to them and I feel that we, we have a relationship with animals if we choose to listen and, and cultivate that relationship. And they have a lot to tell us, and we have a lot to learn from them. And so these coyotes, as I was doing this deep dive into mythology, they started speaking to me and I, I began to ask for visions for my work as I was creating it. I have often noticed as a creative adult, that is the ideas for my paintings. Ands often come to me in, um, consistent ways.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (12:25):
It’s often when I’m moving my body, when I’m out in nature, obviously when we’re inspired by something beautiful around us or something, we’ve heard something, a song, someone has told us something that stirs our spirit. And I started noticing that as I was out running and on the trail, these, these visions were coming to me regularly. And so these coyote voices started working their way into my paintings. And I really fell in love with them and their personalities and their calls. And they started working their way into my unconscious mind, also in my dream world. And as I was studying, the creation story fell in love with that story as well. My creative process is part of these visions in this moment of, of creative inspiration. I had all these, these visuals of coyotes falling, falling from the sky, but then I would also often see them falling back up.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (13:25):
And it was, it was a really poignant moment for me in, in time that whole spring. And so I would often go home and write down my visions, or, and that’s, that’s part of my creative process also is to write down my ideas. So these, the consistency was there with these ideas and the visuals and my love for these animals. And I started to ask more directly and pray <affirmative>. And that is also part of my creative process. I have cultivated and I, I ask for guidance and stories directly more. Now that is not something I did in , before that. And it’s something that I learned to really love that asking has given me a lot and of learned to love that relationship with my creative process.
Anne Kelly (14:19):
Do you think the act of asking causes you to listen more?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (14:25):
It does exactly. And it there’s a listening, there’s an asking and a response and a listening that happens. I think it’s, it’s important that as adult I’ve learned, I, I believe in asking and speaking things out loud, writing things down, acknowledging things, we’re grateful for things we’re thankful for, not directly asking for specifically things that we want, tangible things in this world, but mm-hmm <affirmative> as a form of prayer and ask and asking for what we feel like we need the path to get there anyway. Uh, it’s really quite amazing how the answers do come and, and really unusual and unexpected ways how they <affirmative>. And it, I feel it’s really important to, to say things out loud or in whatever way that means to you, whether it’s writing it down or acknowledging it. Somehow
Anne Kelly (15:22):
I think writing is, is really kind of an interesting aspect of, of visual arts. Some artists do it, some artists don’t, but then there’s always that, how do you incorporate it
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (15:35):
As I was forming this series? I, I was actually not sure. I was going to tell the stories behind the pieces. Traditionally, it’s the viewers. They, they make their own story up about the, the work. And I love that about art. Each piece can mean a different thing to, to each different person that views it, that it’s an interaction, but in this case, it felt important to, to tell the stories that I was experiencing and the questions I was asking with this particular body of work. It became an integral part of it
Anne Kelly (16:09):
In, in this case, even though you’ve put it out out there, this is the story there’s, there’s still enough left in there for the viewer to have their own. Maybe not story. I mean, maybe, but their own connection. Mm-hmm <affirmative> to the actual pieces.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (16:26):
Thank you. My
Anne Kelly (16:27):
Hug. I really, I just love all of your work in having lived in, in Santa Fe in the Southwest, since the late nineties. There’s, there’s something about the coyotes and, and the Ravens that is relatable. Maybe there’s this larger story and there’s your story and there’s the mythology, but then there’s also my own personal connection to, I see, say a coyote, for example, and the, and I have my own memories of, of coyotes and what that means to me. So I think that’s kind of the best of both worlds.So another thing I’m typically interested in is, you know, the way artwork is disseminated and in 2022, there’s so many different ways I specifically visited your booth at that art show. I scoped out your booth on the Instagram page. I was like, okay, I’m going there, but I didn’t realize you were the artist also responsible for those cards. I had been buying over the years, so it was kind of this cool moment. I was like, oh, oh wait. But you’re also this person in that moment, it all made sense. It was like, oh, I already know you. I had been buying your cards around Santa Fe for, for years. There’s, there’s probably one or two in the room I’m in right now. I
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (17:45):
Love that story. It’s my first mission when creating my business to create art, that was something that, for one that I could create with a baby at home, something that wouldn’t take months to finish a piece and something that felt accessible and something where I could reproduce the work, my paintings, that was the beginning. My business was just the carts for the first eight years. And that felt really like something sustainable for me, having babies at home and working from home that I could do that.
Anne Kelly (18:21):
And I think that’s part of making art as a career, a sustainable thing. Be not everyone out there can go by one of your original paint thingss mm-hmm <affirmative>, but you can buy the cards. You also have prints and the block prints are all pretty affordable as well. But just generally, in terms of an art business, having a range of different things that you’ve made, that are all part of that, that puzzle of the business
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (18:49):
I have met. People are around town, become friends, or they know me in some way. And then they realize that I’m the person that has been making those cards that they’ve been buying for their loved ones. And that’s kind of a, a common story because it is a small community,
Anne Kelly (19:04):
But that said, I was looking at your, your website and there’s a pretty extensive list of, of commercial businesses where you can go and, and buy. I don’t know if it’s mostly the cards or prints as well, but it, it is not limited to New Mexico.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (19:22):
And I would like the market to be larger or more extensive, but I haven’t put a whole lot of energy into marketing outside of, of where I
Anne Kelly (19:32):
Am. But in terms of way work is disseminated. You’ve shown in some various galleries, but you also kind of have the freedom to be pretty self represented. And you have your website. There’s also the Etsy page, the blog, you have some, the videos up on YouTube, you’re out there. Um, both virtually and mm-hmm <affirmative> in, in the physical world, which I feel like we’ve only really started noting the difference between those things maybe in the past few years. So in terms of getting the website up the Etsy page, what, what has that whole experience been like for you personally?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (20:18):
My website came first and it’s evolved and it’s a lot pretier than it used to be. Thank goodness I got on Etsy pretty quickly after that, I didn’t set up my website shop though, until I guess it’s been in three or four years, but I did have my website and my blog for a while from the beginning. And that has been a journey in my experience. It’s not easy to sell a lot of things online. The, the main issue being you have to find your audience has to find you, and there’s a large pool of people to choose from. And a couple of things that have helped me are I became a New Mexico, true notified artist. And from there, they have promoted my website that a lot of my traffic comes from that. And from my, my mailing list that I have created and Etsy separately, it that took some time.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (21:18):
I didn’t realize early on how much I didn’t know and why I wasn’t getting sales on Etsy in the very beginning when I started. But more recently, I took a class on Etsy, how to run an Etsy shop successfully. And that helped me greatly. There’s a lot more to it than, than people than I had realized. There’s a range of important things, but one your photography of your products has to be very high, quality, natural lighting, beautiful photographs. You need to represent your work well. And then also SEO understanding how SEO works on Etsy. In particular. I learned a lot about that. And since, since then, I’ve been implementing all those practices that I learned from taking the class and that has helped immense. And then I also have certain products that particularly sell well online, and I have learned what sells well and what didn’t sell so well.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (22:16):
And I’ve, I’ve learned a lot. It is a trick to find an audience online. Etsy has its own audience that’s built in which helps, but with you just have a free standing website and is show up that is it its own art form. And that could be a full-time job for me. If I chose to do that. And without the traffic that is brought in through New Mexico, true. And through my newsletter, and a lot of the traffic comes from people that find me either on Instagram or know my art through my buying my cards go directly to my website, but I don’t, I don’t get a huge amount of organic traffic other than that. And that is, I think, a struggle for a lot of people. And I, I simply have not put the time into the SEO for that, but I love that I can, it can be my own person, especially on my own website and sell my work online.
Anne Kelly (23:08):
It’s easier to have a, a website anymore with, with the template based websites and, and all of that. So, so as artists, we have all the tools to get ourselves out there. Like you said, how do you drive traffic to that website? And then there are websites like Etsy where there’s lots of makers within that website, but even within that website there or so many makers, how do you stand out? So it seems like taking that class was really valuable. Where did you end up finding that?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (23:38):
So women’s small business entrepreneur organization was an in-person class in town, but there are many online classes that I have heard of since then. That would be wonderful as well.
Anne Kelly (23:51):
I’m always excited to share resources like that as part of my pre-con conversation research, I, I did go through as the website, but also the Etsy page. And I noticed for most of the images up there, you’d posted least three or four, maybe even five images of each piece. I don’t know if that was covered in that class, but I know for, for a lot of makers, it’s like, okay, this is a one D thing. So like, how do you even post more than one image of each piece? Your solution was you had the whole piece, but then there was also a video and then maybe some close up images of it, little things like that are really, maybe not even obvious, but helpful in having the, the potential buyer think, okay, I’m doing this.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (24:36):
Absolutely. I’ve learned so much from the Etsy seller community and the Etsy community. They, they do a lot of outreach to their sellers so that people like me understand how to be successful. And that is a one really important thing. They say use all of the photographs that they allow you to post. And I think it’s like 12. I wanna say they really encourage you to show different angles, show the product, not just if it’s a painting, not just show one image of just the image of the painting, but what does the painting look like on a wall? What does it a mock up of it, whole painting framed if it’s a note card showing it in use. So that might not, that might not resonate with all artists or purists. Um, my main goal from beginning of my business was to be able to create my own work from, from my heart and sell it and make a living, make my own living.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (25:38):
And so at some point I became more comfortable with that and reproductive selling my reproductions, selling note cards and prints, and I’ve, I’ve actually moved more in recent years into selling handmade originals. But a lot of my money that keeps me afloat is from the reproductions. And part of that is just being comfortable, selling that and photographing it. And I’ve gotten much more comfortable with that. And a lot of photography is key in anything, because if you’re expecting someone to buy something online without seeing it in person, they need to have a pretty good idea of what it’s gonna look like, what it actually is and what you can do with it.
Anne Kelly (26:21):
So, so that photography background coming into play, being helpful.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (26:27):
It is all though, I would say for anyone that doesn’t have that don’t let that stop. You just get your phone. If you have a good modern phone, most phones can do everything, go to a window with bright, uh, natural light, indirect light, and find that sweet spot of what that light is and photograph and, and simple, very, very simple background, whether it be white or gray or whatever color works with your work and stick to that formula, find a formula that works and stick to it. But it’s all about natural light that bright, indirect, light, not direct. And it’s really quite simple. Once you find, learn how to do it,
Anne Kelly (27:10):
Man photography sure has changed since we were at the college of Santa Fe, there was no fancy cell phone with the 12 plus megapixel camera and the app
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (27:22):
And, and we photograph things and then we would send them off to the lab. Or if you were a photography student, you’d go to the lab and then you would be surprised by the images you found. And it, it was mysterious and <laugh> not instantaneous. And we had to wait and not know if we took any good photographs at all.
Anne Kelly (27:43):
Still plenty of people exploring those analog processes and, and letting themselves be surprised by that. But for the more commercial application of photographing your work to be sold online, I think the digital technology’s a little bit better for that, for
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (28:02):
That purpose. Another
Anne Kelly (28:03):
Thing I, I was kind of curious about with the photography background and the block prints, the printmaking processes. I feel like there’s that connection photography informs it. Do you agree?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (28:16):
I could see that. Definitely. I hadn’t ever really thought of that until you mentioned that, but when you say that it really resonates, especially black and white photo, which was what I was doing. Very simple. And the, the relief block printing that I’m doing oftentimes is very simple and black and white
Anne Kelly (28:35):
In the block prints specifically, you’re kind of carving your negative. Oh, right. Which prints mm-hmm, <affirmative> a positive.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (28:43):
Yes. There’s the foreground in the back ground in the positive space, negative space. Exactly. Like photography.
Anne Kelly (28:50):
Is, is there anything that you collect?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (28:53):
That is an interesting question. I am a little bit obsessively minimalist, almost, maybe, uh, to a fault because I, I can’t stand clutter. I, I do collect plants. <laugh> that is something I love. And I, I would love to collect more art. I’ve begun collecting treasures over the last more recent years of artists that I love. Don’t have a whole lot of wall space for as many artists as I would like to collect.
Anne Kelly (29:24):
Is there any art living or a dead blue chip or local emerging, if you could just all of a sudden have one of pieces, what that might be.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (29:36):
That’s a good question. Maybe a Picasso, my first choice, some of his really simple black and white drawings, I, I love the art that’s coming out of Oaxaca. The very simple primitive printmaking styles that I’m seeing. One artist that I particularly love, but has her work in a local gallery called Hecho a Mano on upper canyon. And her name is her last name is MoracI think I’m pronouncing it correctly. M O R a C Gabriela. I love her work. I’d love to own one of her prints, which I will probably go and buy one, one of these days, I just bought a, a sculpture from a dear friend, Lisa Smith, who was a local ceramic artist. I, and I told her when I bought her piece, I felt like I just bought a Picasso because it’s, it’s so brilliant. Some of my dear friends are my favorite artists.
Anne Kelly (30:33):
So if you could travel in time, backwards or forwards, do you know where you would go?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (30:41):
That’s such a good question. There’s so many places, but I think if I were just to pick the first one that pops into my mind would be my people’s Homeland here in the us. I have a very vivid dream that sometime when I had young children came to me and in the dream, I was flying over my ancestral Homeland, which would’ve been for the Cherokee people, which is part of my heritage. It would’ve been in the North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee area in my dream, I was flying over my ancestral homelands. And it was a feeling like nothing else. See the village and the trails and people living in this communal village life. And the, the feeling I had made me long for that, wherever that may be that feeling of anywhere in the world, where, where we lived in more of a tribal society, I think I would go back to any of those places. I, I spent some time in Zimbabwe, in my early twenties and very similar to my dream, the experience I had staying in a village, the feeling of that community being held by a tribal community, even though I was not part of it was unlike anything that I experience in this modern life in the u.s. And that’s what I would go back to that, that particular feeling in my spirit
Anne Kelly (32:09):
Say there was a time machine involved. Is there a particular date you would type in there?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (32:14):
I guess I’d say pre industrialization, just to know how, how we, what was important, how we lived in that, in that simple way, just the Dawn of change.
Anne Kelly (32:28):
I’m also curious about other general inspirations when you’re making your imagery or even just thinking about it. Is music, part of that practice. Are you listening to something or is it more of a quiet space?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (32:43):
I’m almost always listening to something. And that wasn’t always that way. There was a time when I would get my CD player out and play CDs, but now it’s, it’s much more Pandora and Spotify. I love a lot of genres of music, more contemporary singer songwriters in the us and beyond Jenny Lewis, not sure how to pronounce it. Benne B B, B E N E E. My daughters were listening to it. And I was so very inspired by, by that. I wouldn’t have heard of that artist if it weren’t for my daughters darlings side, the, a recent band. My first true love is Americana folk art, John Prine, Jean Richie, the Carter family, and so much world music, my love for African music and Afro pop.
Anne Kelly (33:33):
It’s kind of amazing the broad range of music we have access to anymore. And, and in particular with a lot of the algorithm based music streaming options, where we can be introduced to music we didn’t even know about. And then you mentioned your daughters,
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (33:52):
Other artists, I just heard tonight, I, I have three daughters and they were playing this song that was pretty raw. And maybe even something I wouldn’t necessarily approve of, but <laugh>, And I asked who it was and I think it was Billy Eilish. I didn’t think I liked pop music that much, but I guess I’ve surprised myself and I, I’m not sure I want my kids to know what she’s singing about, but I <laugh>
Anne Kelly (34:13):
Liked what I heard. Is there a specific way you think your daughters might have influenced your art making practice?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (34:22):
I’m sure they have like so many of us when we see our children’s are specifically our own children’s artwork. We just think, I can’t believe you created this masterpiece. My favorite periods of art is when they were three and four and five and six, that, that really crude, simple art that just comes without any inhibition. And that way I’m constantly inspired by them. And they, they do give me feedback and that helps to inspire me. And they’re always looking over my shoulder and wanting to know what I’m doing and their feedback does, does help me and inform me and inspire me I’ll. So to ask them like today I was working on a piece and I said, what do you think is happening in this relief print that it was working on? And it was really fun to hear what they thought it was about and what they saw. And I said, do you like this lightning bolt that’s in, in this top left corner? How does it make you feel when you see that? And I was debating, do I wanna keep the lightning bolt in here or not? Cause I had just sketched it in and I hadn’t carved it out yet. And I thought, I’m not sure, but it was so fun to ask my kids, what does that make you feel? Their answers were interesting. And so that did inform me and does,
Anne Kelly (35:36):
And I imagine you’re getting the raw, honest answers. That’s
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (35:40):
Exactly. That’s exactly why of going back to what art teachers try to create in a classroom is a natural critique session with your fellow students, but it’s never quite the same as the answers you would probably get from your own children, which are like, you’re saying very honest,
Anne Kelly (35:59):
That’s interesting thing I’ve heard from different artists. Who’ve gone to, to art school where some people maybe feel a little thrown off for a few years, post graduation in that maybe they showed up at art school with the mindset you’re talking about that maybe your children have, and then you, you come out with this very, okay, you have more education, but you’re maybe overthinking certain details and they feel a little more inhibited. So there’s kind of that struggle of, okay, you’ve gone in, you’ve educated yourself, but then there’s also like kind of taking that in, but then letting it go mm-hmm <affirmative> as part of the, the process. I don’t know if that’s something yes. You personally struggled with.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (36:42):
I have absolutely. I think in my early years of trying to form my own, as I would say, voice mm-hmm <affirmative>, I, I struggled with that, trying to tap into that very primitive, creative self, that creative knowledge that I had in me. And we all have a for where informed by the world that it’s wrong or it’s not good enough that it’s not just perfect. And I, I did struggle with that early on before I felt confident and enough in my skills and my creating a painting that I felt like was representational of what I was feeling inside. And almost like there was that notion of feeling like my work was feeling contrived mostly to me. And I did work through that. And I think the only way I did was just through, I just kept working and kept at it and kept working and worked through all the bad work and kept going.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (37:32):
And somehow kept the faith that my paintings would get better one day. And they did thankfully and my work did, and I’m, I’m very comfortable with how I work now and my work, but there were, there was a long period when it was that way. And I think that that’s, that’s a common struggle for many creators. I would almost wonder if you haven’t been through some struggle of that sort. The struggle is so much a part of we are and who we become. And without that, it can mean something quite different as we spoke of earlier.
Anne Kelly (38:06):
So that’s basically the advice you would give to any young artist.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (38:11):
I would say yes, whatever is guiding you to, to try and be true to that. Even if feel like what you’re creating, you don’t love it, or it’s not representing and how you feel inside, or you’re not happy with it, or don’t have the skills you wish you had just to remember that vibe, that pure drive and that pure creativity that you have inside of you and try and remember that and keep going, just, just, and keep the practice. I would also say that that was a pivotal moment for me as an artist when I decided to make a career out of this. And, and I would not stray from that. And luckily I am thankful to have a supportive husband who helps to make that happen. Not everyone is lucky in that way, but that disciplined practice is how I got to where I got more comfortable with my style. And I just kept working and working through all the difficulties until I found my own style and my own rhythm. And I stuck with it. Even, I had some kind of drive that instinctual that I had to keep going forward,
Anne Kelly (39:11):
But you found it helpful holding specific hours instead of saying, oh, I’m an artist. Like I’ll just make whenever I make dedicating yourself to. So, and so time,
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (39:22):
I really believe in that actually for some people they don’t need the specific days that they have the type of life or drive where they can just make that happen. And there’s no issues, but for me, there’s, there are always dishes to do. If you have can kids, there are always messes to clean up. There are always kids to take to wherever. And if I don’t, I didn’t carve out that time. I would not have pushed myself through all those hard patches. And I probably would’ve put it off till the next day or another week. And I wouldn’t have worked as much as I have. And that sheer volume of, amount of time I have put into my work, that’s where I’ve learned the most is just I’ll keep going and push through and push and sometimes to a fault most of the time it’s, it’s how I’ve learned is just through putting in so much time
Anne Kelly (40:10):
On your blog, you had a post on creativity and your theory was that it was there, but you were going into just kind of tapping into that
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (40:20):
That’s right. I, I just don’t believe that there is not a soul, a human on this planet. That’s not creative. We were born creative beings and that can be interpreted in many different ways. That could be the most primitive people have always created. That’s how we survive. It’s was pivotal to our survival. We would create pots because we needed things to eat out of that’s creativity. And sometimes the pots that people were creating would, would be decorated. Sometimes they wouldn’t, but there is a creativity and creating a pot. There is creativity in cooking food for your family at night, or you’re working your garden, there’s creativity. And that, and I’ve heard so many people say, I love to be an artist, but I don’t have a creative bone in my body. I just don’t agree. Maybe that person hasn’t found their, their right niche or their right genre. Maybe they just need to find the right teacher, the right person to pull that creativity out of them, or they need to find how to do that. It’s often just something that they haven’t found out how to tap into, but it’s there under the surface. And I believe it’s what connects all of us. It’s
Anne Kelly (41:27):
All. Do you have any shoutouts?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (41:28):
Oh, I would love to take a moment to say how grateful I am for the support I’ve had my whole life starting from childhood. My parents always believed in me and never questioned what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be. Never asked me why or how I’m going to get there, but just stood behind me. And I have also had a similar experience in my adulthood and people that really believe in me and that have gotten behind me, my husband and my family, my children, and my friends. I have a dear community of friends that keep me true to who I am and they are a mirror to me. And I’m grateful for that,
Anne Kelly (42:12):
That support. It makes a huge difference.
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (42:15):
Absolutely. I try to remind myself every day, how grateful I am for that because not everyone is in that position. I try not to take that for granted.
Anne Kelly (42:24):
Anyways. Thank you so much for joining tonight. Really enjoyed talking to you and look forward to seeing. What, what comes next for you?
Rebecca Lee Kuntz (42:34):
Thank you so much, Anne. Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Anne Kelly (42:37):
Thank you for watching art in the raw. I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Rebecca and that you’re feeling inspired. If so you meet a solid like comment, subscribe and tell like-minded friends, keep the inspiration going and have a good night. Y’all.
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