Guest Post

Why is Marketing Important for Artists?

Layered Onion Guest Post all about marketing for artists by Alexis Arnold, artist and founder of Art Connective

Marketing is an essential aspect of any business, and that also applies to artists. For artists, marketing helps to promote their work, connect with potential buyers, and build a reputation. It is a way of getting their art out into the world and making it visible to a wider audience. Marketing can help artists to establish themselves as professionals, and showcase their skills and talent to the public.

Marketing can also help artists to build relationships with their audience, and create a loyal fan base. By sharing their work on social media, attending events, and collaborating with other artists, they can create a strong network of supporters who are interested in their work. This can lead to increased exposure, sales, and opportunities for future projects.

In short, marketing is crucial for artists because it helps them reach their target audience, build their brand, and establish themselves as professionals in their field. By investing in marketing, artists can increase their visibility, expand their reach, and ultimately, achieve their goals.

Now that you know why marketing is important, how and where do you start? The easiest way to start is with social media. Instagram is the top platform for artists because it is focused on imagery. You are able to build a timeline showing the progression of your artwork. Collectors are attracted to your development as an artist, and how certain styles from early works continue into later works. This is an area where the longevity of the internet plays to your benefit – the timeline framework of Instagram provides a logical flow.

Effort = Success

Social Media content graphic - social media is critical to an artist's marketing strategy.

The great part about social media is that you can create an account and start sharing your art quickly. Unfortunately, Instagram and other platforms cannot be mastered quite so quickly.

The amount of effort you put into something often determines the level of success you achieve. That being said, there are many other factors that can also play a role in determining success, such as natural talent, resources, and luck. However, putting in effort is a crucial component to achieving success. When you put in effort, you demonstrate dedication, persistence, and a willingness to work hard to achieve your goals. This can lead to improvements in your skills and abilities, increased confidence, and a greater likelihood of achieving your desired outcomes. So, while effort alone may not guarantee success, it is an essential ingredient in the recipe for achieving your goals.

Remember, this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to grow and build anything. As you are building and growing, you are also learning. Pay attention to what people are reacting to when you post. Be sure to comment and reply when someone leaves a comment. Follow and comment on other artists and art-related accounts as well, aiming for at least 15 minutes a day. All of these things let the algorithm know what you are interested in.

Now, this can be difficult for those of us with lived experience, and it can be an excellent opportunity to leverage tools such as social media managers to help you plan content so you don’t feel the continued pressure of posting daily.

One in particular that offers a great free plan is Metricool. It gives you analytics tools for monitoring website or social account traffic, but more importantly, the Planning tab allows you to post to multiple platforms at once for days in advance.

A screenshot of a social media manager tool called Metricool that allows for post planning in advance. Can assist artists in marketing efforts.

Using Create New Post, you can create and schedule a post out months in advance! Say you have a holiday sale you know you want to promote that you don’t want to forget about.

A screenshot of a social media manager tool called Metricool that allows for creating posts in advance. Can assist artists in marketing. Marketing for artists.

Scheduling posts can help make content and engagement feel more manageable, especially as we manage our own health – which must always come first.

If the above seems overwhelming, start by scaling. Or create different types of post content that require less prep work, but still get engagement from your fans.

Don’t make this mistake

Keep your personal account personal and your art account about your art. If you already have a “personal” account, great, keep it for just that. Create an artist account that is only for your art & you as an artist. Your Instagram is essentially your digital business card. Yes, galleries do look at it, and yes, potential collectors do view it. If I find an artist whom I am interested in, I go to their feed and see what they are sharing. If the art is scattered within other random posts of your life, I am not going to follow. Why? Because I am here to see your art and follow you on that journey.

Key Marketing Points to Remember

  • To see results, you need to post more than once a week.
  • Engage in other art-related accounts by commenting and sharing.
  • Comment and reply to people who engage with your account.
  • Keep your personal and art business accounts separate.

The sooner you start, the sooner you will see results. Just start posting: Don’t worry about it being perfect; just post. Oh, and let go of the idea of it ever being perfect, because it won’t be, and it shouldn’t be. Marketing today is very different: it is about sharing your story and your journey. You are inviting people to follow along as you make and share your artwork. Have fun with it, and be yourself!

About the author: Alexis Arnold is the founder and president of Art Connective, Inc, a non-profit art organization dedicated to helping artists gain more time to create by understanding the business side of art. Want to learn more? Enroll in any of Art Connective’s online courses at

You can follow her on Instagram @theartconnective for exclusive live sessions on Thursdays as well!

Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Natalia Tcherniak

In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about each artist and their work. In this post, we are featuring Natalia Tcherniak (she/her). Natalia Tcherniak is a cyanotype artist, alternative photographer, sketch artist, and has referred to herself as “cyanotypical.”

A photo of the artist, Natalia Tcherniak. Canadian artist, cyanotype artist. Mental health through art. 
Talks about mental health for art.

Natalia is a visual artist, theatre set designer, alternative photography printmaker, and occasional burlesque performer. She is also a licensed architect, working on mixed-use and healthcare projects across Canada.

Natalia did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about her art:

What first drew you to art?

I grew up in a fairly artistic family, but because it was comprised mostly of architects, visual art has always been regarded as a “side” to architecture. Not until my last years of high school did I fully separate art into its own discipline, and not until my early 30s did I choose to pursue it as a second career.

How would you describe your artistic style?

Since I work in many disciplines, I don’t have a word to describe my style. A piece’s style is dictated by the media that I use – cyanotype is one, architecture is another, painting is a third, and that is different from what I do in my sketchbooks. It changes to adapt to the medium and the intent.

Natalia Tcherniak, Snakarchitecture.

How do you decide where to start when you sit with a piece?

Almost all my creative process starts in a sketchbook. Whenever I have an idea, I write it down, draw it out, in whatever form it takes. As it starts to develop, it informs me of what shape it is going to take – whether it’s going to be a cyanotype print, a painting, a mixed media collage, or an installation. I look at the sketch and decide what the most important part is that I need to translate into “a final piece,” and I start there. For example, a long piece in the making was “Self-Section,” where I was investigating what my soul would look like if it was a wall construction assembly. I started by developing a language for it, and eventually, it became a cyanotype.

Sketch work.

Mental health and the arts.

But often it just remains a sketch in a sketchbook, because it has already said everything it needs to say.

Cyanotype. Blueprint. Blueprint Jam. Mental health for art. Architecture informed art.

Are other parts of your life reflected in your creative work?

Inevitably a lot of my work is influenced by architecture, which is what I have been trained in. In a way, my artistic practice started as a form of rebellion against the architectural practice: something that is not bound by the same rules as my professional life.

How does mental and emotional space play out in your work?

I often do art therapeutically. Whenever I am in an emotionally challenging situation or a poor mental health phase, I turn to my sketchbook and try to put pain down on paper. I live inside my head, creating headlands and mindscapes.

Why cyanotype? How does this technique work? What draws you to it?

Cyanotype was invented as a way of reproducing technical drawings, and has evolved since then into a vast practice of alternative process photography. The technique, for me, consists of two major aspects – application of the medium (the sensitizing solution) and overlaying the negatives for exposure. This combination I see as painting with photography. It provides a platform for so many layers of intent and communication: the brushstrokes look like something violently exploded, while the reproduced image of a map is so strict and orthogonal. I feel like the cyanotype process has a large volume of potential.

Cyanotype. Blueprint. Blueprint Jam. Mental health for art. Architecture informed art.

What draws you to multi-media cyanotype?

One of my main themes in art (and in life) is the idea of existing “in the multiple realms,” trying to get a thing, a concept, a piece, to work on more than one level, serve more than one purpose. And since the cyanotype process already has that inherent quality of being versatile, I am curious to stretch its boundaries further. That’s why I experiment with different substrates, negatives, etc. – to see “what else can it do.”

What other mediums have you worked with and do you enjoy?

Ink wash, acrylic paint, watercolour, and stamping.

Natalia Tcherniak, Japan street. Watercolor.

I really love the BioGraph on your About page. Can you tell us more about that? What does it help you express? I would love to know more about what cyanotypical means to you. ?

Text reads:
We are not alone; we are not in a vacuum. We exist in a network of relationships, visible and invisible,conscious and unconscious. We connect directly and indirectly to other people, things, concepts, events,places, and everything around us. If lines were drawn to represent all the connections, they would comprise a pattern so dense, it would be solid, a Connective Tissue. Overarching theme in my work is a search for orientation. I explore methods of defining position within a Connective Tissue, creating new frames of references, mapping new readings, adding layers to the tissue. I strive for multiple readings as I explore my own psychological construction assembly and the dystopian urban environment I call home.
Circular image that graphs out Natalia's relationship with burlesque, art, architecture, and theatre. BioGraph concept created by the artist.

BioGraph came from the idea of making a biography in graphic form. I like mapping and diagramming, so this was an exploration of how to visually represent many aspects of my life in time and place – how to map out my existence. Also, admittedly, in the end, it looked like a bacterium under a microscope, and now “bio” has a very different meaning.

Cyanotypical is a play on the words “cyanotype” and “typical,” as in “typical detail” or “typical [construction] note.” In the architectural world, typical is something that is very common, ubiquitous, and easily applied to multiple things, the opposite of “unique.” While cyanotypes in general and the cyanotypes that I make are unique and atypical, they are also commonplace for me, so I chose to use this oxymoron.

Anything you’d want to add or answer about mental health that I didn’t ask?

I think what is not being talked about enough in the artistic community, or in general in the world, is how inconsistent the creative process can be and how much of a struggle it can be just to keep it up. I am sure we all go through periods of artistic blocks and creative droughts, but what I am still having a hard time coming to terms with is that it can last years. And during those “lost years,” the biggest challenge is not to give up, and to fight self-doubt and self-deprecation, to have faith that despite not creating all the time, you are still an artist.

You can see more of Natalia’s work on her Instagram @nattchbob or in the second issue of The Shallot. It is the cover piece!

The Shallot Volume 1, Number 2. Natalia's art is on the front cover. 

Cyanotype on wood.

The Journal advocates for mental health through the arts. The power of art for mental health.

More work visible on the website – BlueprintJam!

Guest Post

Read this before pricing your art!

A Layered Onion Guest Post all about pricing artwork by Alexis Arnold, artist and founder of Art Connective

A viewer evaluates pieces of artwork hanging on a gallery wall. One is colored faces of a woman, another piece is a giant painted dollar sign. An illustration on pricing artwork - very literal.

Before you price your art, read this.

Are you an artist looking to make some money from your artwork? It can be tricky to know how to price your artwork and ensure you get a fair return for your hard work. In this blog post, I will provide some helpful advice on where to start before you begin crunching numbers. Don’t worry if you’re feeling overwhelmed – I will make it easy to understand!

Pricing your original and limited-edition artwork can be a challenge for most creatives. Where do you start? Do I price higher or lower? Should I offer sales or discounts on my work? This artist is similar to me; should I just copy their pricing?

I’m sure at some point, you have had at least one of these questions run through your mind. Know that this is completely normal, and the majority of artists struggle with pricing. Unfortunately, this is normal because there is a lack of open discussions and information sharing around pricing artwork.

How you price your artwork equates to how you value it but, more importantly, how the collector will value it. Too often artists are pricing from their emotions and connection to their work. This is one of the worst things to do.

Need help pricing art? Price your art? A string of emojis - hearts, dollar signs, and dollar bills is here for emotional support.

Artists will price too high because they “love” the piece and essentially don’t want to sell it. They may also price too high because of the time spent to create it. On the flip side, artists price too low with the thought that the lower price is what will sell the artwork. An artist may think, “Who would pay $800 for this painting?!” If you think it is too high and you wouldn’t spend that amount, why would anyone else?

These thoughts and rationale will only hurt you in the long run.

The first thing to remember, you cannot become attached to the work. When you do, you price without a method and toss numbers out there, hoping they will attract the right buyer. You may get lucky and have some sales from this method, but what happens when you keep selling at this price point and soon realize you are not even breaking even? You may then suddenly raise your pricing to cover costs, but now you have lost your collectors because they are accustomed to your work being at a certain price point.

Let’s take an example regarding this that we all will understand. Let’s say you get coffee from your local coffee shop weekly, and you order the same thing, a large vanilla latte for $5. You are used to this; you know it will be close to that price each time you come in. The coffee shop has created loyalty with you by being consistent with product, price, and service.

Now let’s say you go in to get your weekly vanilla latte, and when the cashier goes to ring you up, she says, “That will be $15.” You would be shocked and most likely tell her she can keep the drink and walk out!

Fifteen (15) dollars in five dollar bills laid out. Can you imagine a fifteen dollar latte?! 
Illustration of sticker shock re: pricing art or pricing your artwork.

This is the same concept when you abruptly change your pricing for your artwork. It shocks your collectors, and they are left confused. Understand that you should be increasing your pricing by around 10% each year, but this also is dependent on how well you are selling for the previous year. Before we can talk about pricing options for your artwork, you need to sit down and figure out what you are spending on supplies, framing, marketing, packing materials, travel, etc., for your art.

Serene image of clean paint brushes on an indigo background with a white stripe at the bottom. The brushes are of various sizes.

Yes, you need to make a budget for your art business. It’s time to know what is coming in and what is going out. This is essential for any artist seeking to do this as more than a hobby. Create a monthly expense log and start recording what you are spending on the things I listed above. That is a short list – of course, you may have more or fewer items on yours.

This is your primary starting point. It is often an eye-opener for artists who realize that it costs them $50 to create an 8×10 canvas painting only to then sell it for $65. You have “earned” $15, which doesn’t cover your cost of materials nor the time it took you to create the artwork. You would have needed to sell it for closer to $200 to cover the costs of your materials and for you to pay yourself a small amount. These numbers will vary from artist to artist, which is why it is important for YOU to figure out what works for you.

Start here, figure out what you are spending monthly, then log what you sell monthly. Seeing the numbers on paper or your computer screen is the first step towards taking control of your creative business.

Once you have this figured out, then it’s time to decide if you want this to turn into your main source of income or if it is a side income that provides you with some extra spending cash.

If you are ready to learn more and establish a solid foundation to grow, you can enroll in the Building Blocks for Becoming a Successful Artist online courses now until June 11th, 2023. The first online courses of its kind helping artists understand what is needed and expected of them. By having a solid foundation, you can open the doors to more opportunities.

Learn more here:

Logo for the Art Connective.

Alexis Arnold is a working encaustic artist as well as the founder and president of Art Connective, Inc, a non-profit art organization dedicated to helping artists thrive. She created the Building Blocks online courses to give artists all over the world access to learn how to become more successful doing what they love. You can follow her on Instagram at either @theartconnective or @scorpioencaustics.

Artist Spotlight Artwork Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Erin Smith Glenn

In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about each artist and their work. In this post, we are featuring Erin Smith Glenn (she/her). Erin is open about her mental health and how it impacts her work. Black history also greatly influences Erin – she illustrates its power in vivid colors.

A photo of the artist, Erin Smith Glenn (Erin M Smith), with The HAIRitage of Nina Simone. Art and mental health. The importance of black mental health and black history. In Black history month and beyond. Simone was neurodivergent and likely bipolar. 

Erin was published in The Shallot.
Photo of the artist with The HAIRitage of Nina Simone.

Erin Smith Glenn is an associate professor of art, advisor of the Visual Arts Club, former vice president of the board for the Dayton Society of Artists, and proud alum of Central State University, Ohio’s only public HBCU (historically black college or university). She holds an M.F.A. from the University of Cincinnati with a concentration in 2D drawing and painting, working in a variety of media and mixed media. Erin has exhibited works in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana, Vermont, Texas, Virginia and Illinois, respectfully, including numerous solo exhibitions.

Recently, she was awarded Best in Show for her 4’x8’ painting in the “New Woman” art exhibit hosted collaboratively by the Pendleton Arts Center and the Clifton Cultural Arts Center, Cincinnati OH. Upon completion of the new CCAC building, a gallery in honor of Elizabeth Nourse (1859-1938) will be housed within the new CCAC. As a feature included in the Best in Show prize package, Erin as the inaugural exhibiting artist in this venue and has been invited to spend 3 months creating new work in Cincinnati’s only home established by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Elizabeth Nourse gallery will be dedicated primarily to women artists and is due to open early 2024.

Among Erin’s lifelong pursuits is to continually practice her artwork and overall creative experiences, vowing never to stop “growing as an artist and individual,” while always striving to instill this concept in her students and her three children, as she does within herself. The award stated above has already begun to provide students with opportunities to engross themselves in the art scene. Erin proudly stands on the shoulders of many while she strives to be that same catalyst for others.

Follow the gravitational pull within you that leads to a life of consistent growth and development through the pursuant act of creative imagination. 

Erin Smith Glenn

What first drew you to art?

I have always been an artist. My first “masterpiece” was when I colored over the family portrait at the age of 3. 🙂 I soon realized that reproductions of this kind would not be suitable for a lifelong career, so I started drawing FROM the portraits instead of ON them. My first portrait sales were at the age of 11, and soon, I became addicted to this new lifestyle. But it began with many hours in the basement drawing from family photos, especially baby photos.

How would you describe your artistic style?

Realism with an emphasis on color theory, alternate use of the color palette, and a touch of fantasy.

What topics inspire you?

Black culture and every aspect of it, especially parenthood, joy, politics, and, more recently, mental health awareness in the Black community, which is only recently gaining traction in society.

The HAIRitage of Nina Simone by Erin Smith Glenn. Art and mental health. The importance of black mental health and black history. In Black history month and beyond. Simone was neurodivergent and likely bipolar. Neurodivergence needs to be recognized.
Erin Smith Glenn, The HAIRitage of Nina Simone. Acrylic paints by Royal Talens of North America. 2022.

What was the impetus behind The HAIRitage of Nina Simone?

I LOVE Nina Simone. My favorite quote by her is, “I’ll tell you what freedom is: no fear.” Because of her unwavering tenacity in speaking for and speaking up for Black people, I know I have a duty, a responsibility, as Simone says, to document the times. “For what is an artist if they do not document the times they are in?” I have now completed 2 of many pieces that will be part of the “FREE NINA SIMONE” series, for when her mental health suffered near the end of her life, lawyers manipulated her into signing over her fortune. Her family, to this day, does not receive royalties. I plan to protest this through my artwork until a change has been made.

HAIRitage is an intentional play on words that contains a world of meaning. What conversations does the piece spark?

Wow, so many conversations are rooted in the power of HAIRitage. In the past (15+ years ago), this was my way of reconnecting with my own hair and cultural roots, as it was rough for me growing up in conservative Ohio. This was my early protest against the injustices that loom within many communities concerning the perspectives, microaggressions, and misinterpretations often associated with Black hair. More recently, I have focused on celebrating short hairstyles and no hair, child-to-adult hair ritual ceremonies, adornment culture, and even the mental health associated with not knowing or even understanding one’s own attributes due to the deaf ears and blind eyes of the often critical mindset within American society.

What influenced your choice of colors? They really bring the pieces to life, and they stand out.

I typically work from black and white images, which often means removing saturation altogether from images before working from them. I love the idea of using colors to evoke more than just mood but also energy. Nina was a very dynamic figure, and so I wanted to create a piece (unlike the other piece I created of her in B&W) that felt like her energy from songs, lyrics, and influence was flowing from the artwork to the viewer. In a way, I also wanted to make her relevant to the current generations by showcasing her in a lively way, ultimately begging the question: “Who is/was Nina Simone?”

Golden Time of Day by Erin Smith Glenn. Mixed media - acrylic paint, acrylic yarn. Yarn art.
Erin Smith Glenn, Golden Time of Day. Acrylic paint and yarn, mixed media. 2022.

Applied with careful strategy and super glue. 😉

Vivid color is also true of the second piece we discuss today – Golden Time of Day. Did color speak to you for this piece?

Color was purely at the heart of this piece. I used this time as an image in color because I wanted to capture the various colors in the model’s lovely espresso-toned skin. Surrounding it with a sun-like halo against the “sunset violet” adds a nice contrast and makes her stand out against both the “sunrise” and the “sunset.” The Sunrise, in this case, represents the mindset that arises from the Sunset, the low, deep depression. 

The piece is mixed media. What inspired you to incorporate colored yarn? 

The yarn represents the tangling, the very unraveling of the mind as we go through life’s challenges. The facing upward in the painting portion of the work represents the “golden time” where the lyrics of the song by Frankie Beverly & Maze: “When you feel in your heart all the love you’re looking for…don’t it feel okay? There’s a time of the day when the sun’s going down…that’s the golden time of day.” I feel that whether we are rising for the day or falling to sleep, any time should be the golden time of day, especially mentally and spiritually.

You mentioned that Golden Time of Day is a mental health awareness piece – did that influence your inspiration?

As I faced the end of another academic year of teaching and some of life’s challenges surrounding being a divorced single mother of three with a demanding career, I suffered a nervous breakdown. Upon my healing journey, and with much support, good advice, healthcare and by taking back my power, I used that energy to curate “The Inaugural Women’s Mental Health & Trauma Art Exhibit.” This was the first time I displayed this piece in public, and it is one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever created. I plan to do more this summer, once I have the time and space to plan out another one that hits on this level.

How does mental health play into your artistic style?

I want to normalize mental health worldwide. Mental health and the awareness of it in both my hair-themed work and in my artistic lifestyle is a must; everyone deals with mental health much like we all eat, breathe, and live. So, yes, mental health is embedded in my work whether I realize it or not, whether I like it or not, and whether I try or not. After suffering much trauma throughout my life, I know that mental health awareness is part of my life’s mission and purpose, and that is very liberating for my family and me.

Do you have any takeaways you want the reader to have?

Trust your gut when it comes to creativity and life in general, but know when to fall back and take sound advice and counsel. You’ll thank yourself in the long run. And speaking of yourself in the long run, your latter self is looking at you now. Don’t disappoint them, so do what you gotta do, love; work on you for the sake of no one else but YOU. 

Anything I missed asking that you would like to share?

Just an announcement. 🙂 I have a solo exhibit coming up called “HAIRitage: A Cultural Journey & Experience.” The exhibit opens at the Dayton Society of Artists on March 3rd, with an artist talk on March 11th and the grand closing reception on March 31st, my birthday! You can find more details on Facebook or at the Eventbrite link.

Erin Smith Glenn, The HAIRitage of Lauryn Hill. Colored pencil. 2018.

As we close in on the end of February, Erin gives us a perfect chance to celebrate Black history, mental health, and the incomparable Nina Simone. These pieces have power.

Erin brings the HAIRitage to life in living color. You can see more of Erin’s work on her Instagram @thescarvinartist in the first edition of The Shallot and available for purchase on her Etsy shop.

Thanks for sharing, Erin!

Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Ifasina Clear

In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about each artist and their work. In this post, we are featuring Ifasina Clear (they/them). Ifasina is a performing artist and dancer, introducing us to the rich history of African dance, among other things.

A picture of the interviewee, Ifasina Clear. They are a dancer and performing artist with soul, heart, and movement and the center of their being.
Photo credit: Debrena McEwen

In their words:

“My given name is TaMeicka Lashelle Clear. I have come to love this name as it says a lot about the time frame that I grew up in (early 80s) and displays my southern, Black roots in a way that really shows the color and creativity of Black people during that time. I believe that Black American English is real, valid, and a whole language. TaMeicka Lashelle is a proud badge of Black American English that I love to wear!

I received the name Ifasina during ritual initiation into the African Traditional Practice of Ifa, in 2014. Ifasina translates loosely to ‘Ifa brings forth blessings with power and great force.’ It is a powerful name and a vibration I strive to walk in. Most people in my life know me as Ifasina at this point. My roots and history both from the name I was given at birth and given at rebirth are a large part of who I am.”

Ifasina did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about their art:

on dance

What first drew your interest to dance?

When I was in 2nd grade, I joined a modern dance class taught by the most beautiful dark-skinned woman I had ever seen. She reminded me a little of Janet Hubert (original Aunt Viv from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). She had us perform a piece at the Dallas Museum of Art and complimented me on my “natural turn out,” also known as being slew-footed. I thought she was so elegant, and more than that, I felt so alive while moving together with that troupe. Being in sync with the others and expressing my inner spirit in that way, felt like home. I took to dancing in any way I could from then on.

Photo credit: Debrena McEwen

What kind of dance do you do?

I am formally trained in modern and jazz dance. I am self-taught and informally trained in hip-hop, west African, afro-beat, and liturgical-style dance. I also use improv and interpretive dance styles in each area of dance that I engage in.

How do you prepare for shows?

For dance shows, I tend to listen to a song on repeat for weeks all day in the car while doing chores, any chance I get. I have to embody the song, know when the beat changes, anticipate certain notes and runs to be able to play with it so that when I want to improvise or put emphasis on the song, I can be ready while also using the moment with the audience and/or how the song makes me feel to really be present and IN the performance. I operate more like a minister than a choreographer as a dancer. Giving as much energy as I get and, at times, soliciting the audience for response to my calls. 

What’s your favorite part about dance? What empowers you?

I feel so empowered when I sit. When I do something to slow down and take care of my body while still keeping it in motion. When I make direct eye contact with someone while moving my body suggestively. When I make a loud sound with my hands or feet at just the right moment in a song. I feel like a note in the song, and it allows me almost to transcend my human form while also being more human than ever when I dance. The duality is delicious and one I wish for us all. 

The artist's Instagram is @get.embodied. They are a dancer, teacher, performing artist.
Photo credit: Ifasina Clear

on performing

What kind of performance do you do?

I am a performance artist, and for me, that means I will recite a poem theatrically, tell a story with passion and bravado, learn lines for a character, and embody them/perform them, usually for the purpose of being with complex ideas, and experiences of the human condition. I love to perform a piece and then do audience discussion after–to engage around social issues. To act out things the way they are, the way we wish they were, to dream the impossible, and to imagine a world that we all wanna live in. One that affirms fat people, and makes space for the humanity and sexuality of disabled people. A world that normalizes queer and trans folks, and deals with death, loss, and change head-on and wholeheartedly. I don’t know what to call this kind of performance, but it’s the kind I do. Sometimes it’s funny, and other times it’s painful and gripping. 

Are there performances or characters you remember fondly or are especially proud of?

Two come to mind. I played a character called “Dewey The Announcer,” and he was the announcer on a racist talk show called “Ask a Black Girl.” I’ve always heard people talk about how fun it is to be the villain. It really is!

In that same show, I played a character in a different vignette called Donique. This was a genderless/genderqueer kid in a story about the return of The Ancient peoples that left Black people on earth in hopes that we would survive. I channeled one of my favorite actresses Regina King, who is doing the voice of the two kids that star in the animated series The Boondocks. Donique was literally the best protagonist I’ve ever been able to play. I still think of what it felt like to get into that character and how much I wished to be like Donique more in my life – bold, honest, direct, committed to their people, and brave. 

What’s your favorite part about performance?

Performing with a cast. I get to use what I have experienced, coupled with what is around me. You must be present. You can’t just recite words when you are performing with others. It’s an adventure of its own kind to become the character and to really live in the story you are creating with the other cast members. 

What led you towards improv and comedy? What do you find most challenging and most rewarding?

These tools can really teach. People walk away with reflections, questions, and even changed perspectives. They get help with imagining something different, and laughter helps grant the levity required to really change hearts and minds. It is one of my greatest social justice tools.

Photo credit: Debrena McEwen

Anything inspiring or exciting that you’re working on right now?

Mostly, I am trying to write small books on different things that I care about. Things that seem complex, like managing grief and protecting young Black kids from molestation. I wanna write “manuals” for life that speak in plain and relatable language. That give people ideas and options for some of the hardest things to imagine having to navigate. I hope to act again soon, but I’m not rushing it. I’m writing right now, and as an artist I’m okay with any medium that speaks to me. 

What a lovely interview – savory words and “crunchy phrasing” (“duality is delicious”), as an old music teacher of mine used to say. With such a flow of words and body, Ifasina is a natural performer.

You can see, hear, and learn more from Ifasina on their website or at their upcoming show on 3.26.2023 – Virtual Ancestral Upliftment Showcase EventBrite and Link coming soon. Head to their Instagram @get.embodied to get details and tickets.

Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Bailey Constas

In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about each artist and their work. In this post, we are featuring Bailey Constas (she/her).

Trigger warning: This piece discusses sexual assault.

Bailey uses recycled materials and found materials to bring her works to life.

A black and white photo of the artist, Bailey Constas, wearing statement earrings. The artist works with watercolor, clay, and recycled-media. 

She uses art to heal herself and address mental health - art for mental health.

In Bailey’s words:

“I’m watercolor and recycled-media artist, Bailey Constas. I’m using art to heal myself, the land, and to build safe spaces. I make largescale watercolors with intricate ink linework, ethically forage and process my own clay, and build humane + ecological designs out of recycled waste/material.

Community recycling, composting, gardening, dreams for sustainable Earthship architecture—I aspire to develop safe, beautiful community scapes.”

Bailey was also recently featured in the New York Times (!!) for a eco-focused project using Fresh Direct bags.

Bailey did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about her art:

What first led you to art?

I’ve always been an artist, but my medium has always changed. I was a serious ballet dancer for most of my life, but after hip surgery at 15, I found fashion design and construction. Later on, I discovered photography and writing. But after a traumatic sexual assault when I lived in New York City, it was watercolor that allowed me to express my emotions in ways that words could not. 

I could pull apart the different mental struggles I faced through visual art. The painting would ease my anxiety and depression, and the ink tracing would comfort my constant OCD and ADD brain. I’ve found that allowing myself to use elements from nature by foraging for pigments and clay has connected me to the earth in a way I only felt as a child.

 *OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder

Aino, a piece by Bailey Constas with ink and watercolor.

Mental health and the arts. Art for mental health. Art heals. Representative of southwest art.
Bailey Constas, Aino. Watercolor on paper. 2019.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I’d say my work falls into abstract expressionism more than landscape. My art means to reveal our inner worlds and express the natural patterns happening around us in an emotional and untethered way.

Colorful watercolor of a woman and a shark by Bailey Constas. Art for mental health - mental health and the arts.
Bailey Constas, i married a shark. Watercolor on paper. 2021.

What are your favorite materials and mediums with which to work?

I absolutely love water and clay, especially how they interact with each other. Water always wants to elude and erode, and I’ve found this lack of control on my part is extremely therapeutic. Gravity is also a powerful medium in my work, as I trace the drying patterns of the water with ink. The way gravity pulls the pigments to the paper, mixes the colors, and suspends them in time. That’s why I trace them with ink–to bring our attention to the small miracles happening under our noses all the time.

Clay art. Finding mental health through the arts. By Bailey Constas. Support mental health, survival of sexual assault, living with PTSD.
Bailey Constas, clay settles. Clay on paper. 2021.

You mention you use recycled media. What kind of materials have you worked with recently?

Paper waste, cardboard, Fresh Direct bags! I’ll take paper and cardboard and turn them into paper pulp. I’ll then add cement and create papercrete sculptures. I’ll also just take that paper waste and develop my own paper. I’ll put that paper to use by creating journals out of Fresh Direct bags (or those plastic reusable grocery store bags). The idea behind those is to create reusable journals with 100% waste. That way, there’s no guilt involved when I need to spew my thoughts out.

Pastel watercolor. Mental health for the arts.
Bailey Constas, spirits of light. Watercolor and ink on paper. 2015.

You have an attractive eye for color – do you approach color in a particular way or more freeform?

Thank you! I owe my color inspiration to the Southwest. Growing up in Colorado and loving New Mexico—I’m constantly striving to replicate the patterns and colors of sunsets, geologic formations, and the land. I’ve also started foraging and making my own paint. In some ways, this makes it easier for me to find those perfect colors, but it adds many more steps to painting a piece! I find myself always adding steps to create a more pure piece of work. I also think this has to do with my OCD and PTSD—obsessively collecting colors but also feeling immense shame and guilt when I throw things away. 

You process your own clay!! What is that like?

Hard and messy work! On hikes and in the backyards of my family, I’ll look for clay-rich soil—the type of dirt that is colored so beautifully you want to eat it. I’ll then go through several steps of adding water and filtering any debris or extra water out of the clay. After a few days, I’ll knead the clay and begin hand-building! I prefer to fire my pieces in a wood-burning fire just like our ancestors have done for thousands of years.

You also pursue photography. What is your favorite part about it? What kind of topics inspire you?

I am a journalist at heart (it’s what I got my degree in), and much like my obsession with collecting colors and pigments, I love collecting and documenting moments. I’ve found that I perceive the world around me much differently than others. When I found the confidence to allow myself to believe this was a good thing, I found it much easier to look for those unique angles and throw myself on the ground to get that shot. Sacred geometry in nature is endlessly inspiring to me. I think that’s why I find beauty in a perfectly mirrored sunset in a car window, the erosion lines on a sand dune, or the texture of a leaf. Small things other people might take for granted, and I love highlighting those things. 

Other things on my mind: 

More recently, I’ve realized I make the best work when I’m happy, full of wonder, and awe. When I was younger, I believed that being “sick” or “tortured” made me more exciting and a better artist, but it was only when I started looking deeper inside myself and going to therapy that I found the most inspiration. Getting better and getting help is never something to be ashamed of. 

Icon of the artist, Bailey Constas. Created by the artist. Colorful art.

The Layered Onion supports artists with mental health challenges.

Help can be hard to ask for, but it is something we all need. We’re here for you in this community.

Want to see and hear more from Bailey? Check out her website here. Want to bring one home?  Check out here or here. A spot of color really cheers me up.

Artwork Spotlight

Artwork Spotlight: Michael Highway – Blanched

In the Artwork Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights a specific work by an artist in the community. Artists with lived mental and emotional health challenges show the power of art for mental health. These works range from short stories to visual art, music, poetry, and more! Today, Michael Highway (he/him) shares his digital art.

Michael took the time to participate in a Q+A with The Layered Onion, but before we share the dialogue, here’s a little bit more about our artist:

Photo of the artist, Michael Highway. His digital art is inspired by his experiences with mental health. Exploring mental health through the arts. Art for mental health.

Michael Highway is a Toronto-based illustrator. Most of his works are digital, composed of various colour blocks and few lines, and often inspired by verse fragmentation thoughts from dreams.

Michael participated in a Q&A with The Layered Onion, further expanding on his work. Michael gives us some creative replies that make us think!

Michael Highway's Blanced. Art for mental health.
Michael Highway, Blanched. Digital. March 3, 2022.

What first led you to art?

Can’t remember exactly. I would say boring and nightmare.

How would you describe your artistic style?

The style is like something you’d see in a black room after a shower in the fall.

What are your favorite materials and mediums to work with?

It used to be acrylic, but now I think digital is fine too.

How do you approach digital art?

I found it convenient to draw on the Ipad without having to do a lot of prep.

Any advice for novices who want to dive into creating digital art?

Experimenting with different textures and brushes in digital painting is a lot of fun!

Where do you draw inspiration from?

From time to time, experimental ideas, dream fragments, and some unexpected and interesting things in life.

What inspired this piece?

I initially wanted to draw a cowboy with a line dress, with a smoky beard, balancing in a weird pose. But ultimately, it was all because I wanted to draw striped clothes.

The character has a spoon and a glass in their hands as they balance on one leg. Does this symbolize balance?

I tend to think that the atmosphere of the whole composition has balance.

Can you elaborate on that title/concept of balance?

We dance in the dark

The lines melt on us, the brilliance is fading

but it is ok

We are still in balance

Even with glass spoons and cups in hand

won’t break easily

Any questions I missed that I should have asked?

Did you have sweets today?

 Em’s response: I am currently very fond of York mints – they stop you before you eat too many.

Readers – how about you? Whet the tastebuds with anything deliciously sweet? After all, it was Halloween this week.

Anything else on your mind?

A blue balloon turns into a purple sun at sunset.

Thanks for sharing, Michael! A lovely and thought-provoking conversation. Michael’s work is also included in the first version of The Shallot and you can see more of it on his website and Instagram.

Michael Highway's morning shower. Visual art display of living with mental health challenges. Art for mental health/ art and mental health.
Michael Highway, morning shower. Digital. 2022.
Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Sia Spark

In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about them and their work. 

In this post, we are featuring Sia Spark (she/her).

Sia is a freelance illustrator and digital artist based in Perth, Western Australia.

Combining elements from nature with vibrant colours and whimsical characters and settings, Sia crafts illustrations with a unique, accessible, and light-hearted feel.

Sia loves working with bright, evocative colours and friendly shapes to create illustrations in between fantasy and reality, layering in natural textures to give her work depth. Her work aspires to help highlight the joy and wonder of our world around us.

Sia did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about her art:

What first drew you to art?

I’ve loved drawing since I could first hold a pencil! One of my most fond childhood memories is sitting outside in nature at my parents’ rural property with my Dad and drawing the scenery – usually landscapes and animals. Landscapes and animals are still among my favourite subjects. I went on to study art and art history in high school… Funnily enough, this kind of killed my enjoyment of art for a while. My teenage stubbornness didn’t respond well to that, and I felt like that study had taken all the pleasure out of art and instead set a lot of rules and parameters that I didn’t agree with, so I lost interest in pursuing art for a good few years. In my 20s, a former career in marketing led me into graphic design, and I matured to understand how to follow a client’s brief, whilst still making my mark on a project. That led me back to finding joy in creating art again. Now in my 30s, a little older and (hopefully) a little wiser, I consider myself quite adept at following a brief whilst still pursuing a creative approach, and that’s one of my favourite elements of illustration.

How would you describe your artistic style?

Fluid, fun, and vibrant. I love incorporating real-world textures into digital illustration, and fusing a sense of the fantastical with reality. 

What are your favorite materials and mediums to work with?

I work primarily digitally, but occasionally I’ll also work in watercolours, gouache, and charcoal. I like mediums that can be fluid and expressive.

Your art is whimsical and inspiring – where do you draw inspiration from?

Mostly nature! The natural world is endlessly inspiring to me, and I think that flora and fauna are so beautiful and unique in all their variations – and far more interesting than most things man-made, in my opinion! I love illustrating the natural world for children to encourage them to find beauty in their surroundings and develop a deep respect for all creatures great and small. 

You illustrate children’s books – how did you get involved in the industry?

At the start of my working life, I worked in mental health and marketing. Whilst I don’t regret my time in those industries, it absolutely led me to burnout and after becoming chronically ill, I took an extended break from work and started illustrating much more frequently for pleasure. I was mostly illustrating nature, portraits of animals and whimsical, fairy tale-esque scenes, and it was during that time that I realised that I was garnering infinitely more joy from illustrating than I ever was over the past decade of my previous jobs. I felt hesitant about pursuing illustration as a profession (my fear of change is very real!) but with plenty of encouragement from my wonderful partner, I made the jump and here we are! 

Illustration is truly a great fit for me and my needs – it allows me to work on a range of different projects and be adaptable in my style, allows me to put my creative mark on a project and also allows me to manage my varying energy needs whilst working from home. Children’s books are my favourite because there are endless ways to express subtlety and nuance of a story… Adding hidden details here and there that are a joy for children to discover is one of the best bits! Children’s book characters can be so expressive and whimsical and unique, and that makes illustration super fun.

Mr. Paws, in the fluff

This year, I’ve had the pleasure of writing and illustrating my own children’s book, “Whose Cat Is That?” It’s a fun adventure through a whimsical town called Fishbottom, where the town is turned upside down by the curious case of a missing cat, Mr. Paws. As the characters knock door to door throughout the town, children mark off characteristics of the cats from their list and get to play detective, before finally discovering the true owner of Mr. Paws. The story also introduces children to various pronouns and encourages inclusivity, diversity, and respect. 

What is/are your favorite subject(s) to illustrate?

I’ll always enjoy anything related to nature, animals and scenery. I take a lot of pleasure in drawing rich, intricate, natural-world scenes that are filled with expressive and unique characters. 

Sia’s art gives a sense of child-like wonder, not just for children but also for us adults. The message of hope inspires and the colors enchant. You can see more of Sia’s work on her website!

Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight: Rya Wu

In the Artist Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights an artist in the community. We’ll get a chance to learn more about them and their work. 

In this post we are featuring Rya Wu (she/her). Before we delve into the art, a little more about Rya in her own words:

“Hiya! I’m Rya. Thank you for taking the time to check out my art. Whatever you’re experiencing in response right now – any feelings, sensations, memories, questions – it’s all welcome here. In fact, that’s what lies at the heart of my work – those innermost happenings. Something about largely invisible experiences made visible and tangible has the power to at times shift something deep within – and to me, that’s magic. So that’s what I’m after, really, is listening to my guides and playing with colors, textures, rhythms, and forms to give those internal experiences a visual voice. Through my art, I hope to bring solace and celebration to those who are searching.”

Rya did a Q&A with The Layered Onion, talking about her art:

How would you describe your artistic style?

I’m very much an intuitive creator. With a background in psychology, I think a lot about healing and self reclamation. For me, art is a safe place to process trauma, offering it up as a bridge to my experience. It is hard to talk about with people and strangers. When it is art, it feels more approachable. I want viewers to experience something spiritual in the work, experience something for themselves. Perhaps emotional.

Rya Wu, 夢 Mèng (dream). Charcoal, graphite, acrylic, spray paint, ink, and oil. 2022.

What draws you to art?

Self-expression is so important in my personal journey. I love watching other people do the same and share their truths – hell yeah. Community engagement is a big part of it as well – I want my work to be engaging. Art is so powerful – it can save lives and battle with anxiety and depression. Artists spend a lot of time with themselves. It is hard not to do self-work and reflection in the process.

When I was younger, I knew I wanted to be an artist. At 13 I had a vision of opening a community center focused on developing skills. I could see graffiti, painting on the walls, alternative classes that we don’t learn in school. An environment that fosters creativity.

I came from a family of Asian American immigrants and it didn’t feel like I had the opportunity to pursue and study art. Right now I’m just finding my way back to art. I just got here and I don’t plan on leaving. 

What kind of art and mediums do you work with?

I will always paint but I don’t really identify as a painter. Paintings are like studies for sculpture to me. Third rendition of life from form.

I work with mixed media painting – charcoal, pastels, house paint, acrylic, graphite, spray paint, and more. 

I have training as a silversmith and with sculpture. For my sculpture, I use found materials, fabric, and textiles. I upcycle materials and scour thrift stores. I’m fond of hardware materials like chicken wire, garden netting, and screen mesh. I also use glass elements that I make myself at a local glass shop using torch work. Gestation has some glass chains that I made (see photo below). 

I am really enjoying working with glass & sculpture – I want to expand to a really large size and scale. Public art. I want to do more with interactive and installation art – to keep pushing towards the edge and go bigger.

What’s your current favorite medium to work with and why?

I don’t want to be restricted to one medium as I get bored easily. Right now, I like wire as a “less-friendly” material. It’s not solid, sort of woven – and I can play with translucency. That play with the light is also why I’m drawn towards using glass.

Does your inspiration vary between different mediums?

Not necessarily between mediums.

I’m very inspired by urban life. I love the industrial areas of cities. Peeling paint, rusted parts. I’m obsessed with construction sites. Their repetition and materials. I like to introduce juxtaposition in my work of softer materials like tulle and also lighter colors like pinks and beiges with construction-type materials. 

I’m also inspired by relationships, personal growth, and community – stories of overcoming a situation or odds. I’m a child of immigrant experiences which also has influenced my work.

Left: Rya Wu, Dreaming Together. Woven wire, flagging tape, and permanent ink. 2022.
Right: Rya Wu, Gestation. Woven wire, upcycled fabric, cotton rope, found materials, wire mesh, screen mesh, borosilicate glass, nylon cord, ink, and spray paint.  2022.

You recently had your first sculptural gallery show. Tell us about the show. What was your favorite part?

The fact that it happened is amazing! I can’t pick one favorite thing. That I made it happen – with lots of help – but made it happen.

The title of the show was Birthing a Dream. My name, Rya, means dream. It was a process of birthing my true self. I came from a family where it felt like my life was written out for me and this was a chance to reclaim my identity. A chance to dare to take up space, after coming from a culture where we are told to be small in every way – physically, etc.

Another favorite moment was seeing people that look like me in the space and watching them looking at and relating to my art. A community between people. There is something beautiful in the interaction. 

One of my pieces has the Chinese character for “dream.” I like that there is another layer there to engage with for people who understand Chinese. There is a lot in that piece that people are drawn to – it reflects the Asian American experience.

I got a lot of young BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) artists coming to me to ask questions. They brought curiosity and hope. It was a beautiful part of the experience – being an example of giving yourself permission to choose this path and giving others the opportunity or hope to do the same. Asian women and artists are underrepresented and I want to see more of us out there.

Overall, the show was a fantastic experience. I loved the chance to have suspended pieces with movement. It was definitely a large undertaking and I learned a lot from curating it. I would like to do more of it!

You can see more of Rya’s work on her website and Instagram @rya.wu. Go check it out!

Artwork Spotlight

Artwork Spotlight: Clara Christensen’s “Space Lava Lamp (1, 2, and 3)”

In the Artwork Spotlight series of blog posts, The Layered Onion highlights a specific work by an artist in the community. These works could range from short stories to visual art, music, and more!

Today, Clara Christensen (she/her) will be sharing several images from her “Space Lava Lamp.” Before we delve into the art, a little more about Clara in her own words:

Hi, I’m Clara, a graphic artist. I have been doing graphic/digital art for about 6 years now, and have been mostly influenced by pop art. I am usually shy, so being able to use my creativity to express myself has been beneficial.

Clara Christensen, Space Lava Lamp 1, 2, and 3. Digital Art (Illustrator). February 2022.

Clara participated in a Q&A with The Layered Onion, expanding further on the piece:

How would you describe your artistic style? 

My artistic style is mainly from pop art, and I added my own spin of using no black outlines and adding gradients to create a more clean, light look.

What is your favorite part about art? 

My favorite part about art is being able to visually share my ideas and concepts that I would have otherwise struggled to explain in words. It’s like a window into my mind and creative ideas.

Where did you get your inspiration for this piece? 

I was originally inspired by Roy Liechtenstein, a pop artist who used many contrasting colors to make certain parts of his pieces pop. I was also inspired by retro posters from the 50s-60s, when they were trying to promote space travel. I then added my own spin with concepts of how lava lamps appear weightless and fluid to add to the piece. 

You use contrasting colors of orange and blue that catch the eye. What led you to these colors?

I was mainly inspired by how space contains a lot of cool colors, and lava lamps are usually warmer colors. I landed on blue and orange as good contrasting colors for this piece to help establish foreground and background as well. 

Talk a little about the panels. How does that work for this piece?

I have always loved the idea of having multiple pieces of art that could make up one giant piece when placed together, but could also stand on their own. I also feel like with this particular piece, you could rearrange the panels out of order and it would still look nice next to each other. This began as an experiment with that idea, and I ended up loving it, and plan on having multiple panels for my art in the future. 

You can see more of Clara’s work on her Instagram @claradianedesign or in her portfolio. Go check it out!