Callie Garp

:: AGE

28

:: LOCATION

New Hampshire, USA

:: MEDIUM

Painter, Printmaker

:: IDENTIFIES AS

white queer cis woman

What is your preferred medium?

I am trained as a painter and a printmaker, but I as I’ve turned my focus solely to Fabulously Feminist over the past few years, I have begun working digitally. Working digitally has been the most democratic medium, allowing me to work quickly, apply my illustrations to a variety of projects and sell prints of my work for a very affordable fee. I draw out and edit the compositions of my illustrations on my iPad, and then I transfer them over to my laptop to add color, texture and text. They finally end up on my desktop for long-term storage. So, all my art hops around my various computers. I’d like to get back to painting soon, though. Hopefully that’s something I will be able to explore more this summer!

As a womxn why do you think it’s important to create?

Creative expression, I think, is about using your imagination to process something, an idea or a thought or a trauma or pain point you’ve encountered. Any kind of creative expression has the opportunity to do this for someone. Writing, blogging, and podcasting are also mediums of creativity and should be included in feminist art dialogues and canons. Furthermore, there’s a chance that your creative expression will connect with someone else, will maybe help them to see a perspective they hadn’t considered before, to empathize with a problem, to give voice to feelings they haven’t shared yet. Creative expression is fundamental to human development, and to a healthy society.

Who are your influences/inspirations?

My early feminism was heavily influenced by feminist art history theorists like Judith Butler, Linda Nochlin and Claire Bishop. I actually included Linda Nochlin in an early project for Fab Feminist. Aesthetically, I am inspired by vintage book covers and vintage ephemera, like the covers of seed catalogues and vintage labels. I love the idea of using that nostalgic imagery to communicate intersectional feminist values. There’s nothing I find more comforting than intersectional feminism.

How do you define art?

I think art is any kind of creative expression. Our present culture often places artificial parameters around what is or isn’t art based on an arguably arbitrary (classist) value system.

How would you describe the space that you create in?

I am currently living in a cozy duplex, nestled in the woods alongside a lake in New Hampshire. I have two work spaces here, one in a brightly lit bedroom that I’ve converted into a sort of studio with windows overlooking the woods, and one in the basement, which I fondly/not-so-fondly refer to as the dungeon. Ironically, I do most of my actual drawing and illustrating either in my living room, hanging out with my cats, or else picnicking outside on my lawn with my dog.

I do most of my creative thinking when I’m taking my dog for long walks in nature. I snap photos of leaves, vines and flowers that I’d like to draw, or have an idea for. I’m constantly thinking of different compositions, jotting down phrases I’d like to illustrate.

How do you make time to create?

Making time to create is challenging for most people, and I find it especially hard to balance with running a business as a solopreneur, caring for senior dog and maintaining a healthy work-life-balance. Let’s be clear, I pretty much don’t have a work-life-balance, as almost anyone who knows me will tell you. But, dedicating time to make work has been really important for my professional development and for keeping things fresh and constantly evolving within my business.

I found that establishing really concrete goals for myself was a great way to make sure I was creating every month. Over the past year, I decided I wanted to create 1 new sticker set on a given theme each month. This meant I’d need to create anywhere from 1 to 20 new illustrations, depending on how many illustrations I’d already done on the given theme. For the most part, I was churning out 10-20 new illustrations in a month, and that was pretty amazing. It was also exhausting.

Now that all the sticker series are done, I am about to begin a 100 Day project, this time focused on Queer Women & Femmes. I’ll be illustrating photos submitted for the project by queer women & femmes and quotes by and about queer women & femmes. 1 illustration every single day for 100 days. It’s going to be intense! But I am really excited to get started on a more interactive project, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how people react to their illustrations when they’re done. I already have many submissions, and I’ll be taking submissions and quote suggestions the entire length of the project.

How does your mental health affect your work?

I have a yin-yang, push-pull relationship with my creative practice. Sometimes sitting down and just focusing on a drawing is the only thing that can calm my anxiety and soothe my racing thoughts. Other times, the push to make a lot of work can completely stress me out and turn something I usually love doing into a monster chore. So, like most things, it’s about finding balance.

What words of advice do you have for young womxn/artists/creators out there?

When life gets busy and stressful, it can seem like the easiest choice to take a break from your creative practice and put that work on the back burner. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the most stressful times of my life (granted, I’m 28 and haven’t had kids yet, so I’m sure even more stressful times are to come) it’s that pushing to continue to make the work is absolutely vital, and often it’s that creative work that will allow you to process, to think outside of the box, to conjure up new solutions and move forward. Sometimes the only way out is through.

What does self love mean to you and how do you practice self love?

I have an evolving understanding for self love. For me personally, I think it means loving myself physically, in every sense. Loving my body as a fat kid and teenager was tough. Loving myself as a fat adult has become a bit easier. Culturally, there’s a lot more body positivity to the draw strength from than there was 10 or 15 years ago. I also work to love myself for my physical limitations and challenges, as someone with fibromyalgia, endometriosis and asthma. The daily impacts of the outside world and my interior world cycle through a filter now. That filter is rooted in self love instead of self hatred, and that was hard to establish.

Just as important, however, self love to me means committing to do the work to constantly make myself a better person, a better feminist. Self love means constantly checking in, assessing my privilege and working to address my behaviors. It means working to recognize my blind spots, to educate myself on issues I don’t know enough about, and committing to do what I can to cause change in my community and my world.

What are some of your current or long-term goals?

It has taken me some time to build a stable enough business as a creativepreneur to provide a livable income for myself. I followed the track many artists take: I graduated with my bachelor’s in fine art, with minors in art history and women’s studies, and I took a year off. I spent that year painting and printmaking, developing my work. Then, I went to graduate school with the intention of launching into my career as an artist and/or an educator. That’s when my path took a sharp turn, because I realized that higher education was not a career path that suited my personality, that the non-profit sector was not an industry that I felt positive entering into, and that I didn’t really believe in the systems of power and financial gain that drive the art market and life of a gallery artist. I know those paths are all valid and right for some people. They just weren’t right for me. When I really looked into myself and the work I wanted to be doing, I wanted to make work that was accessible, that was meaningful, that created space for others. And, I wanted to be making that work on my own terms. That’s when I decided I wanted to launch into my own creative business, and create a platform through which I could run different programs and projects to engage with issues I found meaningful and salient as they entered my life.

The thing is, it’s hard to earn a living this way — really it’s hard to earn a living in this country as a creative person period. Even if you don’t personally believe in capitalism, or the political system or any other formal structures that exist in our society — they are all real factors in your life. And I knew I had to pay my bills.

Now that I’ve reached a place where I can finally pay my bills (phew!) I’m working towards becoming a bit more stable and financially secure. I’d like to get to a point where I can start partnering with other artists, where I can afford to pay people to write about their opinions on different social issues, where I can start doing larger community based projects. Down the road, my secret, not-so-secret dream is to open a physical space, where I can sell feminist craft goods, show feminist art and hold community events like performance art, poetry readings and activist crafting nights. It’s a dream that I’m working towards making a plan.