We had the good fortune of connecting with Heather Clements and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heather, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I view risks as essential parts of growing; artistically, emotionally, and mentally. As an artist, keeping a regular sketchbook has been essential to my creativity and the development of my skills. Since a sketchbook is mostly a private place to create, it’s a total playground for taking risks and experimenting. Through that raw and fearless process, ideas form. Some bad, some random and still enjoyable to create, some that serve as therapy, and some that are good enough to leave the sketchbook and become a whole new work of art. Over the years I haven’t stuck to one medium or exact style, I have leaped from pencil to oils to paper-cutting to watercolor. Lately I’ve embraced watercolor and a more playful and risky process into my final works. In parts of paintings, I’ll let loose, and use so much water the paint swirls and splashes and drips. Sometimes this happens after days and days of a more refined portrait, so it’s a big risk because you can’t really know how it will turn out. I have found the more risks I take, the more I discover and the more confidence I gain. The same is true in life. With each risk comes an expansion of what we’re capable of, whether it’s reaping the rewards, or learning that even if a so-called failure happens, we can still survive or even thrive.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My art explores a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature, because we are not separate from nature, we are nature. I mix detailed portraits and figures with elements of nature such as leaves and flowers. Currently I’m excited to be working on a series of women with fungus growing out of their skin. Fungi are so fascinating, how they pop up in unexpected places, and how they connect entire forests to work more like a single breathing organism. I’ve been using fungi to represent personal growth that comes out of dark times, whether that’s natural disasters, a global pandemic, or the death of loved ones. These painful experiences connect us, redefine our priorities, and invoke strength and wisdom.
Making a living from art has never been easy, but it’s always been worth it. I’ve had to learn to be all sides of a business, from production (the actual art-making) to book-keeping, marketing, graphic design, videography, teaching, and more. After my town was hit by Hurricane Michael, a category 5, countless buildings were destroyed, many lost their jobs, and many moved away. I feared I would no longer be able to make my living from my art. But as always, I improvised and got creative by making an online course and reaching an audience outside of my area for students and art sales. By the time the pandemic hit I had gained enough confidence in myself I knew I would be able to problem-solve my way to saving my business again. I’ve learned to be flexible and think outside the box. I’ve learned to maintain a business especially now, the learning never ends.
I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I don’t believe in destiny, but if I did I’d say being an artist was mine. My art has been essential therapy to drag me out of a well of grief and depression. It has connected me more with nature. I share my art in hopes that others might receive at least a small fraction of all of that.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First, I’d plan all the best hiking in the area; from Topsail Hill State Preserve Park to Apalachicola Forest. I’d take them canoeing down the Chipola. We’d eat at Lotus Cafe at Zen Garden in Panama City Beach, Finn’s Island Style Grub, and Thai Basil in St. Andrews. We’d visit art hot spots of our area like Floriopolis, Panama City Center for the Arts, and the Gallery at Gulf Coast State College. We could grab coffee at Amavida and explore all of Downtown St. Andrews, then head over and check out all the beautiful new murals in Downtown Panama City. And of course, we’d have to have a simple beach day.