We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristen Ferguson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristen, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
This is an easy one….Career Day in 6th grade, I met an illustrator. I felt like I’d met a celebrity! I was inspired and committed! I’d already collected recognition for a drawing I did (the prompt was to “draw something from an unusual point of view” – I drew a squirrel staring down the barrel of a shotgun. Yes, I grew up in the country. It would take me many years to figure out that I have a great empathy for animals and other humans.) This happened more than 40 years ago, but I remember it so clearly. I just knew in my heart I wanted to be an artist and art teacher. I believe that heart-felt, deep desire was placed there by God; it was contrary to my family values at the time, so it was a struggle. But I did it!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As I mentioned earlier, my chosen career path was not ideal to my family. So, at 18, I started at the University of Texas at Austin and earned a BS in Communications-Advertising. Married, had children and worked in sales for a number of years. My children were attending a private school without an art program. One of the teachers asked me to do an art lesson for the 3rd grade class. I absolutely lit up and threw myself into this. It was so much fun! I started a little business, “Purple Lizard Studio” to provide private art lessons at our school, after school. And I started making some art. I enrolled in The University again, to pursue my art degree I always wanted. In 2003, I graduated. I’m starting my 18th year as a public school art educator. And I’ve been creating art, off and on, since that time too. For years, I operated under the Purple Lizard name. I worked in pastels, entered competitions, participated in group shows and even illustrated a children’s book. (That was so much fun!) My partner at the time destroyed nearly all of my artwork, out of jealousy. A little success was hard from him. I was devastated. I moved on, moved out, started again. Every time I’d try to create, I’d freeze. I tried every “block breaking” activity out there. This went on for nearly 4 years. In the meantime, I moved from Katy to El Campo, and switched school districts, to be closer to home. In my third year in FBISD, I was asked to be a mentor to a new architecture teacher. Her name? Sharnha Lis. We became fast friends and she introduced me to Robyn Crowell. I also had taken on a 30-day (daily painting challenge) and began working through the wounds of the past. I finally had momentum again!! It felt so good. This past year, I’ve had to privilege of showing my work through SLTX, a non-profit arts group, supporting emerging artists. My work sold well, which was more wind under my wings to keep going. I consulted with Robyn as to my next steps…..there are so many things that an artist can spend their time on. She combed over my past work, shows, awards and created a plan. It worked. I recently took a leap and secured a professional artist website, complete with marketing plan. I’ve started making my work available in print form. Backing up a bit, my move El Campo was significant to my work. My life slowed a little; I went from a buzzing, success-driven community to an agricultural community. The rhythms of life are different. My husband and I spend a lot of time outdoors in our giant garden, fishing in Matagorda Bay, finding adventures. This has dramatically influenced my work; I’m closer to nature. I seek out the sunrises, the sunsets, the moments a flower unfolds, the squash begins to form on the bloom, the thunderstorms…..so much of it is overlooked in our busy lives. I think some of the darkness of the past, the trials, comes through in my work. There’s always darkness. My work tends to be dramatic, with light and shadow, but hopeful. There’s always light. Turn towards the light. On other days, I use the hashtag #happyart – I think we all need more color and happiness in our life. Starting out as a strictly realistic painter, over the years, my style has loosened up and I find that I call my work “expressive”….somewhere in the family of expressionism. Not abstract, not realistic….somewhere in the middle. What I’ve learned over the years is to not give up. Even in the four years I wasn’t painting, I was collecting ideas, photographing, and journaling. I just knew I’d paint again, I just wasn’t sure how or when. What I’d want the world to know about me and my work is that I’m down to earth, like my work. I celebrate nature. And I have the privilege of being the first “real art” purchase for many. Not sure why, but it tickles me. Everyone needs original art!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When I take friend into Houston, we hit The Bungalow, a coffee house. Then onward to Texas Art Asylum, to find treasures and look at the current artwork, and possibly buy bag loads of stuff for the art classroom. Depending the exhibit, we’d hit the MFAH. Or maybe the place in Montrose with 30,000 pairs of boots….I love to poking around in the shops in Montrose and the Heights. We’d eat at NikoNiko’s. Yummmmmy!!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicated this to Robyn Crowell, of Robyn Crowell Fine Art and Sharnha Lis, my dear friend and fellow creative soul. Without these two women, whom the Universe placed in my life at the most divine time, I was able to restart what I was created to do. Robyn consulted with me, looked over what I’d done in my career thus far, and gave me a plan to move forward. Sharnha has been my wise soul, working through some stuff with me, and providing incredible copy to describe my art work! She’s incredible with words! I never stopped teaching, but I’d stopped creating for myself. My art was on an unchosen “hold” – worse than a block. I had some internal work to do. The meeting of these two women gave me the inspiration to get to it, work through some mess and move forward with my personal art career.
Kristen Ferguson, Shawn Ferguson