This week in the spotlight, we meet Nathalie Kalbach, a German-born artist living and working in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Q: Nathalie, how did you get started on your creative path?

A: When I was in school, I loved art and had a very bohemian, fun art teacher who did a lot of experimental stuff with us. Unfortunately he left the school and the new art teacher just had us draw our pencil cases. I thought I was doing okay but she took one look and told me “art wasn’t my talent…” so I did the next obvious thing and decided to study law. Throughout the years, I would dabble in some crafty ventures but I wasn’t particularly making it a hobby.

In 2003, I looked for a way to do something with our wedding pictures and discovered scrapbooking, with which I wasn’t familiar. I didn’t like the traditional approach to scrapbooking which had a lot of rules and seemed too cute for my “tomboy” taste. So early on I began using paint media and different materials on my photos and photo pages. I became obsessed with the different ways to use paint, creating layers and texture, and pretty soon the first step to mixed media painting and art journaling was taken.

In 2007 I quit my profession as a paralegal and became a full-time teaching artist. It was the best decision ever and I still love the different creative facets of making art, teaching art, creating art supplies and writing about art.

Q: What are your top 5 tools or art supplies you’re using right now?

A: I am glad you asked about the top tools I am using right now because that always changes! Right now I love using a Bamboo Sketching pen, Sumi Ink, Stamps, Acrylic Paint and Markers.

Q: Where do you create your art?

A: In my studio at home. I just moved and I am busy arranging my studio in a way that will work well with my workflow. I just installed a new wall easel and I cannot wait to start painting again after a longer pause due to all the construction and work that came with our new home.

Q: Who is one other artist that inspires or influences you?

A: ONE? Haha! Do you hear me screaming? There are so many artists that inspire me! My friend Adam Cvijanovic inspires me a lot. His research before each project, the impressively large scale of his paintings, and his usage of unconventional materials like tyvek or mosaic tiles is just as inspiring as his supportive and very un-snobbish approach to art.

Another big inspiration for me is Mark Bradford – his usage of all kinds of materials and his path from a hairstylist to one of the most important and influential artists in America today is incredible. And I could look at his artwork for hours.

Q: Can you tell us about one of your current projects?

A: At this time of the year I am preparing new product releases. I am a license designer for different companies that manufacture stencils, rubber stamps and foam stamps. I have proofs in my hand for some new designs and that is my favorite time as it means I am playing around and creating artwork with the stencils and stamps for their release. It is so exciting because the idea that was first in your head and then on the computer is now a thing in your hand and that is when creativity really comes into play. I am also working on a big annual online event called Creative JumpStart which I have been hosting and organizing with 30 other Mixed Media Artists for 9 years now.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give someone who is just starting out with their creative habit?

A: Make tons of art and projects, and don’t worry if they are ugly in your mind or didn’t turn out the way you envisioned. Just set aside a little bit of time each day for creating. It doesn’t have to be a ton of time. Sometimes 10 minutes are better than nothing. I make a lot of ugly stuff but I learned that this is good. For me, creating is a good lesson in problem solving. Some of my favorite pieces came after a stage of absolute and utter ugliness – where I let go of perfection and just kept on going to see what I could do. And sometimes when you do that, that is when the magic happens.

Want more Nat? Check out her recent YouTube Q&A on Mixed Media Journaling here.

We’ll also be giving away a signed copy of her book, Artful Adventures in Mixed Media, to one lucky enrolled student—so make sure to sign up for the course starting November 11 today.

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