Today we have the pleasure of talking with artist Connie Hozvicka of Dirty Footprints Studio who is not only an amazing visual artist and writer, but she is also an extraordinary teacher who is dedicated to helping others tap into their creativity without fear or judgment. Connie believes that everyone has a creative gift to share, and it is our duty to unleash this creativity into the world. Even though Connie has been hard at work with her students in her FEARLESS™ painting workshop, we were excited to have the opportunity to sit down and talk for a few minutes with our latest Featured Artist.
First of all Connie, maybe you can start off by telling us how a nice Catholic girl from Cleveland became this fearless and formally-dreadlocked yoga mama artist that we now see before us?
I have always been curious–always interested in pushing the limits within myself and doing things my way–and through both my curiosity and determination to follow my heart–I’ve seemed to live multiple lives in my 36 years. Hair styles is only a tiny part of it–but always a reflection of my journey to fully understand and express my truth.
Who are some of your favorite artists, writers, or influences?
Oh my, that’s quite the question–because there are so many, where do I start? But I will say that I am so blessed to do the work that I do in this world. My fabulous students alone amaze me again and again with their courage and willingness to stretch past their edge in their creativity–and their lives as well. I live in a constant state of inspiration because of my students. Yes, they are my greatest inspiration for sure!
I’ve always been curious where the name “Dirty Footprints Studio” came from? The more I get to know you, the more it seems to be a perfect fit because you’re someone who is never afraid to take chances and risk getting a little messy both in the studio and in your life in general.
About six years ago, I moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Phoenix, Arizona. At the time I was working pretty heavily in clay–and immediately signed a lease to be part of a clay co-op studio out in the middle of the desert. And, I have this thing about always being barefoot. (My ugly feet are proof!) So one day at the studio we were having a meeting–when one of the other artists stated that they always knew when I had been in the studio earlier that day–because they could see my “dirty footprints” on the floor in the clay dust. At the time I was selling my pottery in little craft shows and needed a name for my business–so Dirty Footprints Studio was born! A couple years later I left the co-op and decided to focus more fully on painting and writing and started my blog Dirty Footprints Studio–which in my heart symbolizes my journey in life.
You went from being a traditional elementary school art teacher to teaching others how to tap into their own creativity and let loose without fear of judgment in your FEARLESS™ Painting online seminars. How did this get started and what has this experience been like for both you and your students?
Before I was a traditional elementary school art teacher–I was an art educator for the Cleveland Museum of Art for 8 years. I believe that my dedication to helping others tap into and let loose with their creativity was really conceived during those crucial years in my development as both a teacher and an artist. Being around such fearless painters daily like Pollack, Picasso, Van Gogh, etc really rubbed off on me!! Though, truth is, I have always felt in my life that art is a powerful agent for breaking through mental obstacles and emotional barriers. Through the years, the more aware I have become of this power art has on my own self development–the deeper my desire has become to share it with others. Going from museum work, to the public school system, to now the world-wide-web simply feels like a natural progression. As we grow in awareness of ourselves, so does our circle of influence of those whom lives we touch grow as well.
On your site, you talk about how your art and your spiritual life have become so closely interconnected. What can you tell us about how these two aspects of your life mutually benefit one another, and what are some of the things you’ve done to bring these two parts of yourself closer together?
For years I created art for commerce–and I wasn’t very good at it. I barely sold stuff at all to be honest–and I wasn’t happy making things that in the back of my mind I was always wondering if it would sell. So in 2009–as an experiment I decided to quit. To quit thinking I had to sell my work to be considered “an artist”. Instead I decided to solely create art that is a pure expression and exploration of my truth. To let my intuition take precedence instead of my need to accomplish something or earn money. And guess what? Ironically, it took off like a sky rocket!!!
I was sharing my work on my blog and making little videos as I painted–and the result for sharing my passion was getting commissions left and right. All through 2010 I got so overwhelmed with commissions that I was loosing that essence again–that spiritual connection to my work that fueled me more than any monetary reward could. So this year I decided to quit commissions as well. I’m the happiest when I create art for me–when it’s purely a way for me to stay totally in alignment with my creative source. Like kirtan musician Jai Uttal says: I’d rather it affect my career than water down my soul.
You are an extraordinarily honest writer, and in fact, it was articles like “I Need You to Hear Me” & “Cut the Crap” that were my first introduction to you and Dirty Footprints Studio. So many artists that I talk with are scared to share their thoughts/fears/hopes/etc… because they are afraid of what gallery owners, potential customers, and even other artists will think of them if they confess their moments of doubt and frustration. What’s your take on sharing these kinds of things on the web for all to see?
Anytime you make yourself vulnerable and transparent–it is always taking a big risk. But I’ve found over my years of blogging that the more honest and “real” I am about my journey as a self sustainable artist–the more trust, respect, interest, and admiration I receive from others. But even better than that–the more fearless I am with sharing my own journey–the greater the healing and empowerment I have ignited in others. That in itself outweighs the very few experiences where my honesty and vulnerability has caused me any drama or grief.
You clearly have such a passion for what you do and you always seem to be exploring something new. So many of us seem to eventually settle comfortably in our little niche while you always seem to be out there pushing yourself in a new direction. Is this just a part of your personality, or was this more of a conscious decision?
I’ve always been curious about this and that–and always hungry for new experiences, that it’s fruitless to think I’ll ever be different. But I will tell you, it is a bit unnerving at times–because I’m never quite certain what exactly I’m going to make of what I’m doing or interested in–but the beautiful part is that with time–it all makes sense. Beauty of being an artist.
As you know, one of the things that we’ve talked a lot about here on the site is the value of formal arts training versus a more organic learning experience through exploration and good old-fashioned trial and error. As someone who has attended both a formal arts program and has also done quite of bit experimentation on your own, what is your take on this whole issue of the cost vs. the benefits of attending an art school?
Believing in yourself as an artist is by far more important than skill, talent, or a fancy degree, in my opinion. Self awareness should always be priority. In my workshops, I have had the honor to work with so many talented artists that possess skills up the kazoo–but they lack confidence and trust in themselves as an artist–and their voice, unfortunately, goes unheard because of it. This saddens me more than anything. The best part of being an artist, I feel, is that growing, learning, and experimenting naturally comes with the territory!
As artists we should indulge the cravings to strengthen our skills and deepen our understanding of art–but never at the sacrifice of knowing truly who we are. Though, beautifully, creating art itself can teach us more about who we are as artists than academic training–but academic training can just as well give us the keys to unlock many of those treasure chests inside our heart. It’s all about balance, I suppose, and knowing what works best for you. Every Artist is different, thank goodness!
You not only have your own website that you update frequently, but I know that you’re also actively involved in other social media sites like Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter. So many artists these days are telling me that they have trouble keeping up with all of these sites and still be able to find the time to create their art. Why do you think it’s important for artists to be connected in this way, and how do you manage to keep up with it all?
Well, honestly, my approach to social media is light and easy. I don’t take it too seriously—and if I don’t feel like tweeting or updating my Facebook–I don’t do it. But I will not deny that it is a powerful tool in sharing my workshops, art, and blog posts–while connecting with some amazing souls. The majority of my clients learn about Dirty Footprints Studio through Facebook or Twitter. And heck, that’s how I found Skinny Artist myself!
If your intention is to become a self sustainable artist–I highly recommend carving out some time dedicated to social media and possibly tweaking your perspective just a little. It’s helped me be more open and embracing to social media when I decided to perceive the task as part of being an Artist–just as much as hanging out at art openings, going to artist lectures, and browsing through the art store. The key is finding a rhythm and rhyme to social media that works best for you, your lifestyle, and your intentions as an artist.
Finally, after everything you’ve learned as both an artist and as a teacher, what’s the best advice you could offer to someone who might be just beginning his or her own creative journey?
The best inspiration comes from within. Look inward more than out–that’s what makes an artist a force to be reckon with.
Thanks again Connie for talking the time to talk with us today!
Absolutely Drew! Thanks for inviting me!! And thanks for all you do to support artists!!! BIG Hugs!