Caeleigh Featherstone, Artist
Caeleigh Featherstone always knew she was creative. But an artist? After many years as a musician, her original passion, she has now shifted towards a more visual expression of her ideas and thoughts.
Meet the young artist from Columbus, Ohio, and read her story about how her love of painting slowly began to replace her love of song writing.
Dear Caeleigh, until you shifted towards art, you were a lot into music. How did that evolve? Or do your two passions rather complement each other?
First I evolved out of playing in rock / punk / grunge style bands, and into making music by myself. The type of music I made was layered and ambient, and filled with samples. I would call them “sonic paintings” because they didn’t have a traditional song structure of any kind. I was excited to make the sonic paintings, but not as excited to play them in front of people. So I had this shift where I felt myself wanting to create these abstract songs without having to stand in front of people to share them. That's when I started actually painting again. A creative activity I had put down to pursue music. I felt excited and curious. As I made more of these abstract paintings I began to realize how similar they were to the "sonic paintings" I had been making before. I think about them in the same way, in the emotional decision making of it all, the chaos, the order, the loose structuring. It all felt like the same concept just in a different medium. So that's when I realized I had found a way to make my sonic paintings visual, so I could present them to people without having to perform them. I imagine in the future working with both mediums. Right now I’m curious about the idea of building a song and a painting at the same time and then presenting them as a total experience… A painting you look at and listen to at the same time.
Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I did not. I spent a long time trying to figure out what I SHOULD do. I was always the musician in the family so I thought… I SHOULD be doing music. And it wasn’t until a few years ago when I started to really go deep and get to know myself and I started asking myself what I wanted… And then I had this moment where I was like “I’m an artist. I’ve always been an artist. This is how I perceive the world, through an intense desire to create and contemplate. Admitting it is the first step.”
I was always trying to figure out what career to go into, what to study in school, and nothing ever made sense to me until I finally admitted I was an artist. Sometimes you just don’t see things until you go looking for them, but ever since I was a little kid I was collecting information from my environment and then making things out of it to share with people.
When starting, how did you balance the time for your paintings?
In the beginning it was interesting because I had to make this complete life shift in order to make room for painting. Where I had previously been living this night life, playing music, going to shows, bartending until four in the morning…. I started to realize that my peak creative hours were in the morning. So I had to let those things fall away so that I had the energy to paint. I got a job that didn’t involve getting drunk and staying up really late and hurting my body so that I had the energy to wake up early every morning and work on stuff. I tried to turn it into a daily practice. Even if the only thing I had time for was a small sketch, it still meant that I was making forward progress.
Did you have any formal training?
I first started painting with water colors in my senior year of high school and discovered they were really intuitive for me. I remember entering three paintings into the local art show and winning best of show for one and best creative idea for another, and I was blown away. Really just honored and surprised to have won anything. But then I tucked it away and focused on music. My family went through some hard times, so the decision to go to College was a heavy one for me. I was able to pay for a two-year Associate of Arts degree, where I loved the design and art classes I took. But when it came time to apply for a four-year arts degree, I wasn’t going to be able to get any sort of substantial scholarship because I didn’t have a portfolio, and all of the art I had made that won awards and stuff had been thrown away over time. So I just said: Screw it, if I have to start from scratch anyway, I might as well just start making stuff for myself. I found a job working at a production studio in town with a bunch of wonderful artists who taught me a lot. Most importantly of which was how to keep your practice. You might work all day, but at the end of the day you go home and you tidy up your studio and you get some work done. I try to keep an attitude that the world and everyone I meet is my teacher. I read books about artists that I like and stay open to learning opportunities from every experience I have.
Do your surroundings affect your creativity?
Absolutely. I work very visually, so no matter what it is that I'm doing, I have to have everything pulled out and in front of me - which can appear like complete chaos and turn into an unworkable disaster zone in no time at all! I work best in a clean and simplified environment, but I’m such a messy person by nature so it’s a constant war I wage on myself. In my home and studio I strive for simplicity for this reason... Clean lines, light colors, and plants keep me smiling and inspired.
Many artists listen to a specific soundtrack or have some other rituals when painting. What do you do?
It depends how I'm feeling. Sometimes I’ll throw a new playlist on, or a new artist I’m listening to. I'm in love with my Apple music subscription. Every Friday, I get a new specialized playlist so it's fun to explore new songs while I'm working stuff out. Sometimes I just like to work in silence. Silence can be very meditative.
This is probably a forbidden question for an artist, but we still ask it. Do you have a favorite color?
I love this question because I’ve always had a really utilitarian answer for it! Ever since I was a kid and that question first came up I decided on Green for philosophical reasons. It’s everywhere in nature so it can’t be given a gender identification of “girly” or “tomboy”. So that has always been my answer to that. But honestly lately I've been loving light grey-blue hues.
What materials do you work with most?
Acrylic, spray paint, chalk, and water have been themes for me recently.
Which creative directions would you like to explore more?
I’d like to experiment with building a song and a painting at the same time. I don’t know what that will look like yet, but exploring that concept is definitely a direction I'm heading towards.
We know it’s too hard to pick one among your own babies, so we won’t ask for your favorite painting. But do you have a piece of work that you’re especially proud of or have a lot of emotions attached to?
The first painting I made from a live yoga event, where I painted in front of the class. It was the first time I took a risk on an idea and really put myself and my ideas out into the world. I was really moved by the positive responses of everyone who participated. And I like how the painting turned out, too.
How can we imagine your everyday life? Is there such a thing as a structure?
At this point in time there is little to no structure! I still work full time at a retail job, so I tuck in artistic endeavors wherever I can fit them. I try to wake up around the same time every day, make coffee first, then meditate, and do some sketches. Keeping this morning ritual up while I was camping and traveling this summer was really cool for the progression of my work and I highly recommend keeping a visual journal of your travels. But always coffee, meditation, and sketching.
Which other artists do you like to follow on Instagram?
Instagram is a treasure trove of talented artists! I feel like I’m finding new and inspiring artists every time I log on! @erikjonesart, @eva_magill_oliver, @n.b._art and @mala_petit_art are a handful of people i’ve really enjoyed recently.
Last but not least: Is there a thing you would recommend to other young artists who aren’t sure if they should make art their living?
I would say to just go for it! Do what brings joy and happiness to your life, whatever that is. Make time for it! Because if you’re feeding your happiness and using your creativity then everything else will fall into place. Or as Elizabeth Gilbert puts it: “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner - continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you - is a fine art, in and of itself.”
➸ Curious? Have a look at Caeleigh's work on Instagram.