Continuing our newest blog series, Meet the Artist, we believe it would be such a pleasure for our community to personally get to know its hometown artists and what awesome achievements they are making to transform the 318! This week, we had the pleasure to interview the talented local artist, Courtney Wetzel.
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Q: Tell me about your background; what was your childhood like, when did your interest in art begin, what’s your family like?
A: Growing up my family moved around a lot. When I got into high school, I had a hard time finding friends- that is until I was introduced to the Meridian, MS Little Theatre. It was there that I was introduced to art through a local artist named Greg Cartmell. I began working at his art gallery/frame shop. He was an incredible teacher; however, it wasn’t until college that I actually tried my hand at it. I graduated with a B.S. in Graphic Communications and a M.A. in Art.
My husband, Zeke, completed his military obligation in the U.S. Navy five years ago then took a job here at St. Francis. We made our family transition to Monroe, and couldn’t be happier to call ourselves locals. I have two busy, creative kiddos, Genevieve and Vaughn, who are both newly involved with Strauss Youth Academy for the Arts, another incredible arts organization. There is never a dull moment in the Wetzel house.
Q: I know you have a specialty in printmaking; can you tell me a little more about the method and why you love this process over other media?
A: In college I experimented with all kinds of media only to find I was at best mediocre. During this exploration, I took a printmaking class. The deconstruction of subjects into shapes and curves and lines is something I found interesting. Working with the extremes of positive and negative space is easier to communicate with printmaking rather than with painting.
Carving and printmaking is a slow and steady process. I can zone out for hours. I use traditional carving tools on a wood or linoleum block to create a “stamp” for prints. After the image is carved, the block is inked. Paper is then pressed on top and the ink is massaged into the paper. I can make as many prints as needed from a single block. Once the series of prints are completed the block is painted and sealed thus ending the life of the “stamp.”
Q: How/ when did you become affiliated with the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council, and what do you do serving as a board member for the Arts Council?
A: It didn’t take long to discover the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council and the amazing efforts being made by the organization to promote and celebrate the arts in this community. Right away I knew I wanted to be involved, and I was given the opportunity in 2015. I like to think of myself as the Arts Council idea fairy and worker bee.
Q: You attended an entrepreneurial training program organized by the Arts Council in February; can you share some concepts you learned there and how your business has changed because of the program?
A: This was an Art Business Boot Camp presented by the Ella Project brought to NELA by the Arts Council to help visual artists navigate through business management and marketing. As an artist, I have zero experience with business, and I am not alone. The boot camp covered many areas of art including copyrights, tax matters, and marketing/promotion. Wow! Who knew social media could give an artist such exposure! I think many artists have concerns about putting their work on this public forum. For me, the training program highlighted the importance of understanding the business aspect of being an artist.
Q: When looking at your website, I read you went through a 13-year art hiatus. Do you mind sharing what you were doing during that time and what compelled you to reenter the world of art?
A: I often joke that it occurred to me in my mid-20s that I needed health insurance which was not included in the benefits package for independent artist. Though that does have some truth, simply put, life happened. I relocated, got married, relocated, went back to school and got a master’s in Teaching: Special Education; relocated, had children, relocated, relocated, relocated, went back to school this time to be an Educational Diagnostician, and relocated. My life wasn’t settled for many years. About two years ago, I finally felt like I was firmly planted. The desire and need to create came back. I started producing work again to have something that was mine.
Q: Where do you go or what do you do to get inspired?
A: The inspiration comes from daily life, the people around, and the places I go. I’m simple. Recently, silence and the journey to finding peace has provided some inspiration.
Q: Other than art, what are some things most people do not know you are passionate about?
A: I have discovered a spiritual teacher/author named Anthony de Mello. His studies and philosophies of spirituality are fascinating. Also, I really like dogs, sponge textured deserts particularly with fruit, Nina Simone, discount stores, and exploring new places.
Q: What was your first artwork you ever sold?
A: It was a nude print that was included in an all black and white group show at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans at White Linen Night in 2001. A man bought it for his wife who was a ballerina. I ate that week.
Q: What is the most touching or rewarding moment you have experienced in your art career?
A: It may sound silly, but anytime anyone positively acknowledges my work, I am thrilled! I would never be so bold as to think that others should like anything I make. I’m tickled when they do.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to all the artists out there?
A: Here’s more than one:
- Hone your craft. Become an expert at what you do.
- Ask questions to experienced artists. Ask lots of questions.
- LISTEN to the answers they give you and apply them where you can.
- While you are working your way up, sometimes you have to paint chickens and magnolias. What I mean is sometimes you have to paint what pays the bills.
- If you put the brush down for a while, even 13 years, pick it up again. You’ll know how to use it.
- Go to an art business boot camp sooner rather than later.
The Northeast Louisiana Arts Council is so thankful for having Courtney on our board and for all the hard work she contributes for artist relations and strategic planning. We are inspired by her enthusiasm for what she is so passionate about, and we cannot wait to see what great achievements she will be making in the near future.