meet the artist – Alyssa Crisswell
When you’re born into a family of artists there are only two options: pick your poison or go work in the “real world.” Growing up on an isolated reserve in the backwoods of Alabama with her award winning parents (clay artist Becky Bolton Crisswell and painter Troy Crisswell) Alyssa Crisswell learned about the creative process from day one. She attended her first art show when she was two months old and has been hooked ever since.
Location Birmingham, Alabama
Company Name Alyssa Crisswell Art
Preferred Medium Acrylic
What would you call your ‘style’? A combination of natural history illustration and surrealism.
What are you currently working on? A painting of a hot air balloon, but instead of a balloon it’s a brain.
What is a favorite piece of art you created and why? My favorite one is called “A Bright Future.” I just finished it. I like it because it’s a strong visual metaphor, but also really simple composition. My most popular pieces are “Doctor Nautilus”, “Solar Egg”, and the two Butterfleyes.
Who are your art heroes? Leonardo Da Vinci, Maxfield Parrish, M.C. Escher, Luigi Serafini, Salvador Dali, Norman Rockwell, Rene Magritte
What qualities make your art distinctively you? Most of my paintings are fairly realistic, but when you look closely there is something more whimsical, imaginative, or metaphorical than what you might have expected at first. I like imitating the styles of natural history painters and illustrators because the style itself kind of re-frames the image. For example, painting an absurd or imaginary subject in a really traditional way adds a sort of archival or “lost and found” quality to the piece. Sometimes it even adds a humorous element like, wow, why did someone bother to paint this super-detailed version of this silly subject? Some of my paintings are more straight forward. I might paint a subject just because its natural composition is pleasing on its own. Or I might juxtapose two unrelated things found in nature (like human spines and snakes) to show the similarities in their composition. There are lots of cool visual metaphors to be found in nature.
Do you sketch or keep an idea journal? I do have a sketchbook, but my main resource is a folder of images that I collect on my computer – anything that gives me an idea.
What do you do when you hit a creative block? I look at my list of ideas or the images I have collected. I usually don’t run out of subjects, but sometimes I get sick of doing things in the same style. When that happens, I’ll make a painting (usually as a gift for someone) in a different style to change things up.
What do you listen to when you create? A lot of music. Or NPR. It depends on what mood I’m in or what I’m painting. The most popular genres I listen to when I paint are 60 or 70’s rock, folk music, blues, swing, classical, or romantic instrumental pieces.
What other things do you like to do creatively? I’m a musician, so I really enjoy songwriting, recording, and performing. I also like decorating my apartment, reading, and watching TV series.
Preferred Tools: I use mostly acrylic paints, lots of different brush types, and archival ink pens. Sometimes I’ll use watercolors or pastels. I mostly paint on gesso board, but I also love using multimedia paper and canvas paper. I don’t like to paint on a very textured surface. I prefer to create any texture myself because I have more control over how it reads. I make a lot of little homemade tools too. My background is in scenic painting so I learned lots of tricks from some amazing scenic artists and designers. It’s interesting to translate those techniques to a smaller canvas. I’ll use sponges, paper towels, rags, feathers, combs, or whatever I can find laying around to get certain textures and effects.
Find out more about Alyssa’s art at http://alyssacrisswellart.
Also check out her band’s music at http://suescrofa.com