I asked Jean what motivates her art and she immediately responded with her desire to use art for personal development and the encouragement of others. She practices a philosophy to “be the best I can be and to empower others to reach their potential.”
Unlike many artists, Jean does not center on her technique, skill, professional accolades, or final results of her painting. Rather, she places the journey she experiences as an artist as her focal point and driving force behind her artistic endeavors. She approaches art as a way of finding happiness and using that to inspire others.
Humble and sincere, Jean treasures the opportunities her art allows her to meet new people and learn new things. The interaction between herself and others and the dialogue that her art naturally ignites with others are her motivation to continue painting.
Meeting new people through art shows and the Florida shops featuring her paintings are what “expands my inner self…opens up my life.” Jean says this journey has led her to more success with showing and selling her paintings, and that success has helped her build confidence.
Jean had visited a favorite boutique many times, envisioning her art hanging on the walls there. “I had a long term goal to have my paintings for sale in my favorite boutique downtown.” Recently, “the owner accepted 6 of my paintings and sold 5 in one day!” Since then her paintings have swiftly sold, keeping her busy continuously creating new works of art for the shop.
She says she particularly wants her art and role as an artist to inspire more women to dig deep down in themselves to find happiness and to know they can empower themselves to find that joy.
Her history of working with children to overcome obstacles to reach their potential also comes into play. She taught students with disabilities how to adjust, use tools to accomplish goals, and for learning assistance. She retired as an occupational therapy assistant for 21 years in the public school system, and worked part-time for private facilities until the 2020 pandemic. This background influences her philosophy toward art and life.
Another catalyst for her painting is that she has “an addiction to putting paint on canvas to express my joy in the beauty of life.” Referring to her spiritual mentor, Jean shares, “I have had an awesome mentor who is guiding me in my endeavor to express my joy in life.”
Jean has only recently explored art. She started taking art classes after she retired about five years ago. She’d always enjoyed many types of arts and crafts activities but had never had any instruction.
She wanted to learn how to express herself through art so began classes at the local Dunedin Fine Arts Center. Her art mentors are both teachers she met at Dunedin Fine Arts Center, artists Loraine Potocki and Candy Schultheis.
She loves Loraine’s artistic style and as an instructor. When Jean started taking art classes, “There was something in me that had to get out,” and she enjoyed learning painting techniques from Loraine.
She’s also inspired by Candy’s different, intuitive style and approach. Jean learns multi-media techniques from Candy using a variety of tools like decoupage, rollers, credit cards, paper, and household objects to create interest in pictures. Candy directs Jean to “forget everything. Let your heart speak.”
When asked what she’d be celebrating one year from now, she simply states, “I am in a local art show with other women like me.”
The vibrance, color, and joy emanating from Jean’s art move people to her and to dialogue, a perfect example of how “Culture and the arts create a resonance of shared feeling in people’s hearts and bring them together.”
Title: “Florabella” Pyrography design on basswood. Art by Amanda Packard, aka, The Phoenix Quill. This piece was donated to the upcoming Bellevue show for their silent auction, benefiting art programs in local schools. This is also the featured piece for the entire event, and is being used as the promotional poster.
My nearly 80-year mother, who’s primarily a self-taught artist, enjoys seeing the work of other artists. We spontaneously took off late one August Saturday afternoon to checkout a local arts fair at McConnell Springs Park, in Lexington, Kentucky. We found a variety of artist booths exhibiting homemade organic lotions and soaps, paintings, and woodworking.
We soon meandered ourselves into a delightful conversation with artist Amanda Packard, known as The Phoenix Quill, as we perused her fascinating creative works. Beautifully red-headed, Packard’s gentle, friendly personality oozes with that infamous Southern hospitality shared by my mother. (I’ve lived abroad and in the more transient Florida half my life, so my Southernness has dissipated.)
Packard’s artworks are an exquisite visual feast of beautiful craftsmanship and imaginatively story-like inspiration. I had the chance to speak more with Packard about how her creativity began, what led her to create, and what inspires her art.
Though she grew up in Lexington, she’s now married and lives in Harrison, Ohio. When asked to describe her art background, Packard surprisingly revealed that a 10-year involvement in an oppressive and cultish religious group (through her previous husband) had dramatically suppressed her creative expression. Either stimulated by this oppression, or as a rebellion against it, Packard’s creativity called her from within. She deeply felt a “longing to explore imagination!”
Her works reveal a fantastical explosion of creativity. She says creating is a form of finally being able to be true to herself. Allowing her creative expression to come out “was liberating but a tempest of emotions. What hurled me to creativity was using it as therapy. I had honed in on something important to me! That’s what catapulted—my new life— and that art would be a big part of my new life.”
For Packard, her art expresses her value to not suppress it in others, either. She hopes the education system finds this value for everyone to experience. She says that artistic exploration teaches us that, “our emotions are normal and they are to be expressed.”
She says that her creative force had been reignited from her childhood years, with her mother as a strong, positive creative role model who painted, quilted and was a seamstress. Her mother encouraged Packard to observe her painting technique and Packard would emulate it.
“Mom says I was always coloring and drawing, and she did pastels and portraits. I was four or so watching her and being enamored.”
Packard recalls her elementary reading teacher asking her to illustrate a story. When Packard drew a horse, the teacher further encouraged her by gifting her a book on how to draw horses. Packard passionately drew horses through her entire fifth grade school year.
Her high school art teacher further supported her artistic pursuits, and practicing art was a nice outlet during her awkward teen years. During a senior awards event, her art teacher gave her a giant box of 150 colored pencils, with the encouragement to “always hold on to your art.”
These early experiences with positive mentors who encouraged Packard’s creativity have served as inspiration and a source of joyful gratitude repaid through her now constant creative explorations. Her outlets include painting, sculpture, cooking, woodworking, and ceramics.
As a young adult, Packard invested in a wood burning kit (pyrography) and started practicing as a hobby. She started with more traditional work, making simple signs with short quotes or a family name, for people to display on their front porch.
The tools and skillsets essential to Packard’s artmaking include learning about wood types, what burns differently, and how the values vary per different woods. She prefers a softer wood like Basswood to Maple hardwood, as it’s more malleable and has a nice, light color that allows more contrasts for her created images.
As pyrography pens can get as hot as 1000℉, Packard has learned to be cautious to avoid getting a wood oil burn! Another essential to her pyrography process is a good ventilation system and a mask to wear while working. She has experimented to create while using an air filter close to pieces she works on and a carefully placed fan to balance against the toxicity of fumes without altering the temperature of her pen.
She stresses that using the soft basswood is not as grainy, and since dragging a pen across grain makes lines wiggly, it’s an easier wood to work with. She emphasized that though pine has a nice smell and is fairly soft, it’s not great for beginners because its graininess easily affects the task of image-creation. Pine also has sap and oils that affect shading, and potentially boils up, leaving residue on the pen.
How To Positively Impact Your Creative Spark Nature, hiking, being on the water, animals, and emotion itself inspires Packard’s art, especially “morphing an image into something different than what you’d normally see.”
Being emotionally sensitive is her well of inspiration, “Low times or when I feel down makes me more sensitive to things like music. It draws creativity from me.” In fact, she loves listening to even musical genres usually not preferred, because that freshness of sound sparks her passion and creativity.
Walking Through The Artistic Process Packard begins when an idea pops into her head, perhaps from a moment in nature. That idea “connects 100% with my emotions and is pulling me.”
She may dwell on it for days or even a month, tossing the idea around in her head. Once the idea is ready to manifest, Packard starts with composition, form, and the body language of a character, where it’s placed on the wood, sketching her idea on paper to see if it connects with what she wants to express.
“When I find what I’m looking for, I do a paper sketch and then a carbon paper transfer to the wood, versus drawing directly onto wood, to get a clean image transferred to the wood. Then, I burn the outline of my image, and start thinking a lot about color.”
The artist says she used to be afraid of color. Now she has respect for the science of color, and plays around with it, exploring ways for a natural or fantastical look, testing it on spare wood samples. Once she’s spent time on color decisions, she finishes the work, adding a UV protectant, and sometimes a finish.
The Devil In The Details Makes Art Come Alive Her OCD tendency to love the tedious, hard work of detail is her strength as a creator. She loves the intricate, small details and the focus on getting everything right.
As she’s building her work through the smallest things, she says, “You start to see the larger picture emerge. The devil is in the details! Making something alive versus good” is what drives her. “Some artists use color to define their style, but for me, it’s in the details.”
They ask and answer questions for each other about wood-burning. They do artist swaps with each other, based on their favorite topics, and send each other the resulting artwork as mutually exchanged gifts.
Keeping up with different styles like abstract art, and looking at other processes while keeping her mind open to different genres are ways Packard consistently nurtures her artistic skills.
How Being A Woman Influences Creative Process Since she felt oppressed religiously for a long period in her life, and specifically as a woman within that framework, she feels that being a woman has a lot of influence on her creative process. The influence comes into “my creativity as me being a woman, in my roles as friend, mother, wife, daughter.”
She says the experience of religious oppression as a woman “has become my outlet to my imagination. Being a woman influences my art as many of my subjects are female. I love to show a free woman through my art.” Her pyrography often depicts feminine, fanciful and dainty fairies bearing a peaceful disposition.
Keeping Worry At Bay & Using Clarity As Creative Fuel Knowing that the humdrum of daily life can hinder her creative flow, Packard aims to keep stress to a minimum. “Worry halts everything,” so she tries to keep that to a minimum and let trivial things go. She maintains self-care through therapeutic immersion in nature, and spending time with her husband.
“When I have a good vision of where to go with a project, it drives me to do my best. When I have an idea, I just roll it around in mind until I get the direction sense.” Her clear vision about an artistic project positively influences her creative process.
Trusting Your ‘Time On The Shelf’ As Creative Compost Packard has learned to trust herself when that creative flow isn’t happening, calling it, “Time on the shelf.” When going through what seemed to be a creative block, she used to beat herself up for that. But Packard noticed that the time of creative dormancy “is just as useful and crucial to creativity coming back to its flow.”
She learned that her creative process has an ebb and flow. The artist has learned to “just live your daily stuff, doing different things that don’t seem creative. But let it be what it is, and when you come back” to a creative idea, she says, “there’s a noticeable difference,” with sharper skills and creative vision, which triggers inspiration.
When asked to offer advice for someone who’d like to create art, in regard to the most useful skills needed, Packard immediately responded, “Begin by omitting the word ‘mistake.’ Teach yourself how to view mistakes and what it means. It’s not failure—it’s trial and error. My OCD detail-oriented nature has learned to welcome mess-ups. I learned to solve puzzles with that. Take mistakes to spur fresh creativity and make something from them. Accept a mistake and move forward anyway. Practice, practice. Be okay with trial and error!”
Turning Suffering Into A Compassionate Cause Packard is a life-long learner, and her future goal is to be a “student for the rest of my life and to use my art to benefit others like it’s benefitted me.” Having experienced firsthand what it’s like to be constrained, she feels a personal connection to others who endure this kind of suffering. “An idea percolating in my mind is using my art to help domestic violence victims…”
Packard’s creative process has taught her coping skills, and to keep her mind open. She also feels that creativity is itself a form of self-nurturing, as it’s a form of escape she can use if she doesn’t have time or ability to have a real vacation. She says creative work is a “good way to take a break.”
Packard humbly credits her artistic pursuits for instilling within herself “some value and self-worth and the knowing that I have something to offer the world.”
You may find, buy or commission art by Amanda Packard, aka, The Phoenix Quill at:
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