Sit Down With Our May '22 Featured Artist

Arleesha Yetzer

Instagram / @arleebean
Featured Artist / May '22 ScrawlrBox 

Most of my childhood was spent in southern California.

I always loved drawing and creating characters, but never really considered it as a career path until life had already led me through college and the births of my two children. While learning to draw, raising two children, and being overworked and undervalued at an unfulfilling job, I started to see the potential in sharing my art journey with the internet in 2017.

What started as a documentation of the learning process has grown into a heartfelt sharing of how surreal watercolour portrait painting can be a binding force for relating and sharing the human experience.

My YouTube channel has grown into a community of over 200 thousand artists and art lovers.

 I love reading, playing video games with my family, and soaking up the quietness of life in rural Pennsylvania. 

How do you capture personality/character in your portrait paintings?

While the obvious answer to a question like this may be “facial expressions”, I actually tend to rely more on subtler forms of communication like colour, posing, and composition. Keeping the emotional intent of a painting a bit more nebulous and vague allows each viewer to interpret it on an individual level. I love striving for that goal.

What is the most important item in your supply collection and why?

I probably rely most heavily on a good brush. Something soft that can hold a lot of water is ideal for me when my goal is expressive strokes and lots of organic watercolour effects

What/who is your top inspiration?

As far as “what” my biggest inspiration is, I’d have to say the shared vulnerability of humanity. People seem to feel lots of things pretty much all the time, and I think it’s a bit magical that we can connect via those experiences. Art has proven to be a fantastic way for people - who are otherwise very different from one another - to say, “Yes! I feel that too!” 

If you had to pick a song to represent your artwork, what would it be and why?

I’m sure this is the type of question I would answer differently every month. If I had to pick right now, I’d say “Awake My Soul” by Mumford and Sons. The song always makes me think about the inevitability of human suffering. Its unavoidable nature makes suffering something people can support each other though, I think. That’s a lifelong process of learning and loving, of course, and it’s always a little spark at the heart of my art.

Can you describe your process of starting a new project? For instance do you pre-plan or do you dive right in and see where creativity takes you? And how do you form an idea?

My planning process has definitely shifted over the years. To put that another way, I actually do plan some things now! I usually start with the seed of an emotion I want to put onto paper and slowly build structure around that. I often build mood boards of colours or poses I find inspiring and hone that in until I have a clearer view of the actual painting. Thumbnail sketches are absolutely essential for my process. Little pencil drawings in boxes are a great way to see the composition and values in a quick, low commitment way. 

What is the most valuable lesson that you’ve learnt about using watercolour?

It actually doesn’t have to be like colouring. What I mean by that is that painting with watercolours doesn’t have to be a matter of simply filling in the lines - I go “outside the lines” quite a lot. I usually paint with the idea of sculpting in mind. I want my darker values to push deep into the recessed shadows while the highlights shine up in the most protruding areas. All of that said, it’s an extremely versatile medium! Different artists can use the same medium, watercolours, in a nearly unlimited number of ways. 

What do you enjoy most about using watercolour? 

I find watercolour to be very forgiving as a medium. If a colour or value isn’t exactly what I want when I first put it down, that’s actually a good thing! The slow and subtle building of layers is what makes watercolour magical, in my opinion. Colours can transition so gracefully from one to another, and varying levels of transparency can create such ethereal effects. 

When did you start pursuing art?

I always spent a lot of time drawing a lot of my favourite cartoon and book characters when I was a kid, but never really considered art as a career until well after both of my children were born. I started my YouTube channel as a casual experiment back in 2016 and committed to art full time about a year later. 

How do you think your style has developed over the years?

I’m sure a lot of artists can relate to the experience of jumping wildly between styles when you’re first getting started. That’s a good thing! Exposing ourselves to lots of different things is how we learn. In the past three years especially, I’ve really been honing in on painting emotional, surreal figures and portraits. It’s been a slow inward spiral as the vision I have for the things I create becomes more clear. 

Do you have a favourite or particularly memorable project that you have completed? If so, what is it and what made it stand out?

Back in 2018, I had the opportunity to create a zine for my followers featuring all of the Inktober art I had made for that year. The amazing thing about this project was that we donated all of the profits to a local organisation fighting against human trafficking. I’ve made art that I’m more proud of in recent years, but that was the first time my community accomplished something of that scale. I will always cherish that time and the kindness that was shown by the people who contributed. 

What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome? Or is there a challenge that you are currently working on?

When I was first getting started, trying to find a balance between being a mother, building my art career, and working a separate job was really tough. It honestly took a couple of years for me to find a healthy balance. My family was extremely supportive and patient, and I hope I get to spend every day expressing my gratitude to them.

Do you have a favourite time of day that you like to create? And do you find that the time of day has an effect on your creativity? 

Oh, absolutely! The morning hours are always the most productive for me. I get my kids off to school, and then I’m excited to get to work. Once the afternoon starts to roll around, I usually have a very hard time concentrating and making productive choices. 

What is your favourite thing to do to relax?

I play so many video games. I think it only works because my spouse and children also really enjoy video games. Sometimes it’s a family activity, sometimes I just curl up during the late night hours and mumble to fictional characters all by myself. Speaking of which, I also love to read. 

Liquid error (sections/pf-4ba868b5 line 69): product form must be given a product
Liquid error (sections/pf-4ba868b5 line 82): product form must be given a product