Chelsie Ring grew up in Provo, Utah, the oldest of 6 kids. She studied Sociology at Brigham Young University and moved to Washington DC after graduation, where she met her husband Andrew. They moved cross country to San Diego and then to Greenville, South Carolina where they now live with their puppy Abby and the squirrels who insist on inhabiting their attic. She has been painting since 2006 and currently works as a painting instructor at Wine and Design. You can find her work at chelsiering.com and on Fine Art America.
1 – Tell us a little bit about how you originally got into painting.
I feel like there are so many ways I could answer this question! Ever since I was a little girl it seemed everyone knew two things about me: I loved to read, and someday I was going to be an artist. For years that’s all I ever got for my birthday or Christmas; books and art supplies. While I took art classes all throughout grade school though, I never did much painting on my own. I did a lot with crayons, markers, colored pencils, and I branched out into lots of other creative arenas like card making, typography and sign making, even flower arranging. But there was something intimidating to me about painting. After high school, it took my mom threatening to throw all the art supplies away for me to actually sit down and try to paint something. I remember the day I sat down with three canvases and some paint and just started painting.
By the end I thought hey, these are actually pretty good. I started painting more regularly as a release, then people started asking for paintings, and it grew pretty organically from there. There have been a few stand out breakthrough moments, like the first time I just threw paint at a canvas. If you’ve never done it, you should totally try it. It’s very empowering. Like breaking a dish, but less destructive 🙂
2 – What inspires your work?
I’ve always been obsessed with color and words. Everything I drew as a kid had to be in rainbow colors. I love to capture scenes or even feelings or experiences and translate them into colors. Sometimes I just peruse color palettes on Pinterest and get my inspiration from those. Have I said the word color enough times yet? I also love words – what they can convey, the story of how they came to be. I’ll take a word that stands out to me and look at the dictionary definition, look up its etymology, and sometimes that will inspire something. Sometimes it’ll be a phrase that I love, then I translate it into color and movement. It’s mostly directed by gut instinct, there’s not much of a science to it. My paintings are mostly quick, made up of short brush strokes. I’ve tried to slow myself down a few times, because there’s this voice in the back of my mind telling me that ‘real’ artists work more slowly, methodically, with a process, but I’ve learned that if I don’t finish a painting in one sitting I usually don’t finish it. I’ll paint over it later with something completely new.
I do basically two types of paintings these days, my abstract paintings and temple paintings. My first temple painting was a little bit of an odd experience, I was only painting abstracts at the time and an ex-boyfriend approached me to ask if I could paint an abstract version of the temple where he and his fiancee were about to get married, as a gift for her. (I thought, does she know who I am? Are you going to tell her I painted this?) It was a fun challenge for me, but I didn’t attempt it again until about 4 years later when I was living in DC and a friend’s dad died. I wanted to create something to show my love, as well as convey my testimony that families are forever. I did a very simplified version of the DC temple and shared it on instagram, and the response to it blew me away. Since then I get way more commission requests for temples than anything else. My temple paintings are different from my other paintings in that I do paint them much more slowly and methodically, to get all the lines right, but I still freehand them.
Here’s an example of a thought process that turns into an abstract painting. I once read that the word ‘Abracadabra’ meant, “I create as I speak”. That phrase completely captured my imagination. It reminded me of the scripture account of the creation of the world, where God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. This brought up images of light and dark, suddenness, contrast, miracles. That’s usually enough to get me to a canvas to start painting.
3 – You recently did a fundraiser for the IRC by auctioning your original work. Tell us a little bit about that experience.
I kept seeing and hearing so much about refugees, and I kept thinking about how I wanted to be doing something to help them in some way. I wasn’t sure how to go about doing that, but it was on my brain a lot. My word of the year is ‘sufficient’ and I’ve been focusing on the idea that I am sufficient, that I have everything I need to face what comes and to make a difference. So I tried to apply that idea to this problem of inadequacy I was facing and asked myself what I already had, what was right in front of me. I had a whole stack of recent acrylic paintings on paper that I had done, so I decided to auction them off. I researched a few groups that were raising money to help refugees specifically, and the IRC (International Rescue Committee) quickly became an obvious choice.
Looking back I wish I had planned the auction better and marketed it more, spread the word to more people. But I got so excited about the idea once I had it, I think I marketed it for about two days before I started it. It was a fun experience overall, and there was just something so amazing about knowing the money being paid for those paintings was going to a good cause. I would love to do more auctions for causes in the future.
4 – If your work could be displayed in any gallery in any part of the world, which gallery would you choose?
My first thought was the Louvre, because it just doesn’t get any better than that, but I don’t know if my paintings are classy enough for the Louvre. When I lived in DC my absolute favorite place to go to was the National Portrait Gallery, it would be magical to go there someday and see my own artwork on the walls.
5 – If you could spend an afternoon with any creative woman, who would you choose and why?
There are so many names I could put here, as I always have several woman artist crushes going on at any one time (If you’re interested, some of my current favorites are Emily Jeffords, Deeann Rieves, Paige Crosland Anderson, and CJ Hendry). As cliche as it sounds, I would love to spend the afternoon with Oprah. That woman creates at a speed and volume I can’t even comprehend, and has made her life and legacy all about building other people up.
6 – What is some of the best advice you’ve been given?
I’ve received a lot of great advice over the years, most of it in the form of books written by other creative women (stand-out favorites include If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert), but the best reminder that has always managed to get me out of any rut is just be yourself. You are enough. Instagram has been an amazing tool in that it has given me access into the studios of a thousand artists I might never have known about otherwise, but sometimes it can be overwhelming to see everything everyone else is creating. Sometimes I’ll get discouraged about my own output or my style, and lose myself trying to imitate someone else’s work. When my inner creative fire dies, I have to remind myself that my own voice, my own interpretation of the world around me, is important. It is enough. I have to trust what sets my soul on fire.
7 – What are some of your other creative interests, aspirations, or passions?
I have more ideas and aspirations than have time or know-how to accomplish… I’d like to do more temple paintings and sell prints and originals through a more mainstream outlet like Deseret Book. I’d like to write and illustrate a series of children’s books. I’d like to write a book – that one has been on every New Year’s Resolution list that I can remember. I’d like to create a series of creative journals. I’d like to travel the world and paint a series of my impressions in each place. Think I could get a kickstarter going for that one? I’d like to create a video course teaching people how to paint their own abstract home decor.
I spent a year teaching French a few years ago, and it was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I loved that moment when the light would go on for a student, when they would just get it. I loved helping them get over any blocks or discouragement about their ability to learn, understand, or speak French. I loved experimenting with different teaching styles to see what worked best for each person. That year taught me that there is nothing I want more than to spend my life helping other people see what they are capable of. Each of us has endless potential to do good and to grow. So I guess you could say my greatest aspiration has to do with helping other people see and experience their own potential, whether I do that through writing, teaching, painting, mothering, being a friend. Most of those great experiences so far have showed up in unexpected ways, so I can’t wait to see what shows up next.
8 – What do you love most about being a creative woman?
Kurt Vonnegut said, “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow…Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives.”
I love creating because it makes my soul grow. Making something from nothing makes me feel truly like a daughter of the great Creator, and makes me believe in miracles. I teach painting classes now at a local ‘paint and sip’ place, and most everyone I teach is a beginner. My favorite rule to share at the beginning of the class is that there are no mistakes. Creating in any form has taught me that – sometimes what I think is a mistake turns into the coolest part of my painting. Sometimes I think I’ve done something irreversible, and I can just paint over it. Creating is a great way to learn forgiveness, and the essence of what Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”