Monday, August 30, 2010

If Your Ears are Burning, Someone is Talking About You.

If the old wives' tale about ears burning when someone is talking about you is true, what happens when someone is blogging about you? Do your ears pop, eyelids twitch, cheeks quiver? This, my inaugural post on my new art licensing blog is a great opportunity for me to blog a little about someone other than myself. I wonder if her ears are burning? Do I have you confused? Let me fill you in.

In starting a blog, I felt compelled to tell you a little about me. But the idea of a autobiographical statement had me cringing. Having been involved in the gallery side of the art business, I remember seeing the look of fear in artists eyes when you would ask them for their bio or artist statement. You would think it was a eulogy. And quite often they read like one.

As opposed to penning a "here lies Aaron Christensen" statement, I've asked my friend, and fellow art licensor Sue Allemand to hit me with a few questions and I'll answer them here. I'm hoping it's less post mortem and a more interesting way to do things. Over the next few months, I'll invite others to ask a few questions that help me introduce myself to you. Along the way you'll meet some of my friends, peers, mentors and idols (provided the idols answer my emails, I promise I'm not stalking me! :)

My guest quiz master, Sue Allemand is a self taught artist, whose folk, primitive and whimsical designs have brought her notoriety in those categories. For 17 years, Sue has been designing for the sewing, painting and creative industries. She's been a generous and inspiring artist to many, as she is a regular contributor of designs to national publications and magazines. Her work adorns products in the wall art, decor, gift and button market. Sue and her husband Dan live and retreat between the lovely state of Wisconsin and sunny California. She explains her attraction to that art genre as "I like warm, simple designs that add a feeling or inspiration to a room without making it look cluttered or busy." I've had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Sue, through our mutual facebook friends. Here are some examples of Sue's enthusiasm for prim and folk on one of her blogs.

Sue Allemand asks and I reply;

1) Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? Yes. My Mother was artist, as was her Grandfather. As far back as I can remember, she shared painting and drawing, with me. I was serious about art from a very young age. So the idea of "wanting" to be an artist never crossed my mind because it was already and always part of me. So, I guess I'm just trying harder as the years march on.
A goal "coat of arms" I created in middle school depicting my goal to be an artist. I had a thing for big idea "light bulbs".

2) Every artist has a "path" that led to where they are now- one step leading to the next...and so on. What was your path? In a condensed version, my initial goal was to become an architect. But, I quickly fell out of love. It was way too linear, you weren't allowed to think outside the lines until you were accomplished. Where's the fun in that? While rethinking my career path, I took a position managing a health club (side note- where I met my wife). One of my pet projects was to make the pro shop more profitable. This lead to redesigning the company logo, creating shirt designs, event marketing and educating myself about new ways to merchandise and outfit a store with fixtures. The merchandising, art and store design bug lead me to a stint as an artist for Tower Records and a display designer/manager for several major department stores. This craft was about creating set-like environments for windows, holiday decorations and orchestrating fashion shows and events. Growing tired of the 60 plus hour, on call work weeks and no holidays off, I began freelancing on the side, searching for the perfect new path. This lead to dabbling with murals, designing children's rooms and retail spaces. In 1997, our own two children's rooms were published in a magazine. So, I went out on my own, launching my design company Embellishments Studio which specialized in those forms of interior design. In 2005, I opened up my studio/gallery in a street-side location. My murals and art caught the attention of some companies that license. For the next several years, I continued building Embellishments up, providing services up and down the west coast to a client list that included everything from celebrities, professional athletes to first time home buyers. Licensing was secondary. It wasn't until January 2009, that I decided to pursue art licensing actively. So for the past year and a half, I've been creating new collections and partnering with some wonderful new companies. It's been non-stop ever since.

3) What mediums do you use to create your artwork. What do you like working with the most? My current works encompass acrylics, latex, glazes and a variety of resists and resistive techniques. Painting is my favorite, although three dimension mediums are a close second. I love to woodwork, carve and sculpt. I'm hoping to reveal new product designs based upon my dimensional work.
A few friends over look my drawing table.

4) What's you favorite time of day to create? Day, what is this day you speak of? Oh, you mean night! Yes, I'm one of those late night inspired artists. I do like to paint late into the evening, but I do keep a regular schedule in the studio of 9:00 - 5:00.

5) You design awesome rooms! Do you design artwork based on the themes you need, or do you design the rooms around the artwork? Thank you, the room comes first, inspiring the art. Although, I have created rooms to match my art when requested. Most rooms are inspired by the child or the client's wish list. During the planning stages, I've been handed bits of scrapbooking paper, fabric swatches, doodles on napkins, clothing and videos to watch and asked to create a room around them. That's where the fun lies, in creating a big idea from little bits.

6) What kind of art do YOU like? What's hanging in your house? Sadly, the way our 1920's Bungalow is laid out, we have very little room for art on the walls. We have a few dimensional pieces, sculptural plaques and vintage finds combined with a variety of local artists works on board and canvas. The remainder of the wall areas display photographs of our family. As far as likes go, I enjoy contemporary folk art, outsider art and am drawn to the works of Hopper, Chagall and Jasper John. In my studio I have collections of art, memorabilia and eclectic finds. I collect vintage Dr. Seuss. He's one of my idols, not solely as an artist, but from his strides to overcome adversity, think outside the box and reinvent the publishing, art and authorship fields. My favorite quote is "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who'll decide where to go."
One of my Dr. Seuss collectables.

7) Your recent work has a lot of "texture" and "nostalgia" to it. Is that what style fits your personality? I like to envision my art as if it's a nostalgic memory incarnate. I didn't grow up in a Nuclear Family so, it's not from my memories but the perception I have of other's memories. My imagery hints at the campy advertising, art and marketing that was prevalent during my childhood. By channeling that period, I'm working towards re-capturing the simplicity, the optimism and charm of those theme filled sub cultures of days gone by. When something is nostalgic, it comforts and reminds us of better times or fond memories. In using textures and various patinas I'm taking my contemporary pieces and lending them some of that nostalgic charm. I wouldn't say my personality is nostalgic, I would think of it being more contemporary or forward thinking. I'm driven by "what's next", tomorrow and the future. I guess that sounds like a contradiction, but then again I enjoy being an enigma, it makes things interesting.

8) Do you have any decorating tips for customers whom buy your pieces? Great question! I receive a lot of wonderful emails and phone calls from customers that have purchased my art. I'm honored to help them. The questions range from wall color choices to fabric matching and about purchasing coordinating props and one of a kind items I feature in my room designs. A quick tip would be to avoid being overly matchy matchy. Too often we define our living spaces with a narrow color palette and feel we must stick to it in order to show "style". I design most of my art to encompass a broad spectrum of colors and variety within so it coordinates with a vast number of paint choices. If you look closely at some of my work you'll see a broad spectrum from pure saturated color to antiqued, subdued and mixed hues. The more variation in color, I believe, creates more charm and intrigue. The same holds true for interiors.

9) Where would you like to see your art career going in the next 10 years? It is my hope that my work will continue to be welcomed and licensed into a growing variety of categories. There are so many products to design for and create, it's mind boggling to try and narrow ideas down to just a few favorites. Of course I'd be continuing on my path painting. I'd love to be creating in 3 dimensions and realizing some of my Christmas and Halloween decoration and product ideas. As well as expanding my children's lines to include more accessories and decor items. I enjoy sharing, so writing a book on children's rooms from a do it yourself, how-to aspect may come to fruition. In 10 years, I'm confident I'll have some great retailers, manufactures and publishers to work with, we will be having fun, selling some goods and marching forward into the next 10.

Thank you Sue!

Sue's request to see some studio picks has been squelched by the need to repair some of the studio walls. We experienced a pipe burst earlier this spring and I've yet to decide on a wall color for the new sheet rock. I'm thinking muted turquiose, but we'll see.

I look forward to sharing with you some of my adventures in art and art licensing as well as introduce you to some of my artist friends. Feel free to drop by leave comments or cruise by my Facebook page.

Keep your eyes open for my work when visiting some of your favorite retailers like Restoration Hardware Baby and Child, Neiman Marcus, Macy's, Nordstrom, Rosenberry Rooms, Target, Land of Nod, World Market,, Posh Tots and an expanding worldwide list of independent retailers. I have a lot of new items hitting the shelves soon that I'm excited to share with you.


  1. Hi Aaron,
    Your blog is awesome. It's really interesting to learn how your career has evolved. We have some things in common in regard to family influence in our artistic father was an artist and so was my grandfather. There's nothing like following your childhood dream. I look forward to your new posts & I wish you the best!

  2. Great answers Aaron!!! You're such a great writer... as well as a great artist! I can't wait to see all your newly licensed products! And I can't wait to see what you come up with next!!