Featured Artist Mick Theebs

Artist Mick Theebs
Artist Mick Theebs
Mick at work.

Artist Mick Theebs: A Jack of All Arts

This past week I was able to have a discussion with local artist Mick Theebs to discuss his works as well as other aspects of his life. His website ALSOTHAT.com showcases his works as well as several other artists. I had the recent pleasure of exchanging words with him as he is a member of the Guild and become more familiar with him. 

Coastal Arts Guild of CT: At what age did you start to get involved in art?

Mick Theebs: I’ve been writing fiction and poetry for most of my life. It’s something I’ve always been compelled to do, I guess. I can’t really ever imagine life without it.

Visual art, on the other hand, is a much more recent passion. I would say I started painting only four or five years ago, at most. That would put me at around 20 years old. Even then, my paintings were small and rudimentary. Only very recently have I started to take my visual art more seriously. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m enjoying myself.

CAGCT: What were some of the factors that got you going in art?

MT: I can’t say there was one thing that made me realize I wanted to be an artist. It was kind of a gradual thing. I always thought it would be fun to be a painter. One day I finally pulled the trigger and bought some art supplies. It’s hard to explain in a concise manner, but I believe art (writing, painting, music, performance, etc.) is the most important thing humanity has created, as it allows us to explore and document both our material and immaterial experiences. Imagine how ugly and boring the world would be without art!

CAGCT: On your website, there is both photography and visual art. Do you prefer doing one over the other?

MT: I prefer visual art, hands down. I originally purchased my camera to take high-quality photos of my work. I definitely enjoy taking photos, but I think there are bigger barriers to development- namely the price of quality equipment, which keeps me from honing my skills as much as I would like to. Plus, I find the experience of creating something with my own two hands more immediate and rewarding.

It's All In Your Head by artist Mick Theebs
“It’s All In Your Head” by artist Mick Theebs. 

CAGCT: Which piece of art of yours is your favorite and what was the inspiration behind it?

MT: I have two pieces that are very dear to my heart: Kiss and Isabelle. These were the first two pieces I painted that made me stop and say “I think I might be a real artist now”.

I wish there was some deeper meaning or inspiration that I could point to, but there isn’t. I was noodling around in Photoshop and ended up creating designs I liked then decided to make paintings based on those designs. These two paintings are the direct result of that process.

CAGCT: When you are not creating art, what may someone see you doing on a day like this?

MT: This may sound boring, but I don’t really do much besides making art. I try to spend time with my family and with my beautiful girlfriend, Kat. I try to engage the art community by attending events and visiting artists in their studios. I run ALSO THAT, which is in a constant state of improvement. I work on my fiction and poetry and have recently started branching out into script writing with a few close friends. Fit all this around a 9-5 office job and there isn’t much time for anything else.

CAGCT: What is your EDSFTG (Every Day Should Feel This Good) moment?

MT: Whenever I have a full day to myself, I try to set a few goals. Get some writing done, do a little painting. Read. Exercise. Do some website maintenance. I’ll write my tasks down in a little notepad and cross them off when I complete them. I would say my EDSFTG moment is when I get everything done and still have a little time to myself to relax and unwind.

CAGCT: If you could be any person in the world for a day, who would it be?

MT: Somehow this is the hardest question. I feel like Jerry Seinfeld has a great life. I don’t think I would mind being him for a day. If I could be anyone living or dead, I would have to say Pablo Picasso, just so I could know what it feels like to be a genius.

You can follow artist Mick Theebs on Twitter @MickTheebs or @ALSO_THAT or read more at ALSOTHAT.com

Painter Karen Essig in the Natural World

Sailboat by Karen Essig
Karen Essig CT painter
Painter Karen Essig, a Coastal Arts Guild Member,  depicts her New England home and neighbors in landscape, portrait and still life through watercolors & oils.

Guild member and painter Karen Essig will not be found painting in her studio all day. In fact, the room where she most recently used as her studio is now a spare room for her grandchildren.

Like many artists, Essig works full-time. She is a nurse.But her practical life has not stopped Essig from pursuing her dream one. She paints copiously.

“When I was young I would love watching my Mom paint pictures in her spare time. She is a very talented artist, and  I hoped her talents would rub off on me.  I started playing around with a sketch pad for fun as a young girl, and  I painted my first oil painting at the age of 16.”

Sailboat by Essig

It wasn’t until she was 50, that she started working with watercolors. She had found her medium.

“I had always worked worked in oils. It wasn’t until the last 5 years that I really expanded into watercolors. I love it.”
As a painter, Essig has enjoyed dozens of commissions over her years paintings, including children’s portraits as well as 15 paintings for the Hershey Hotel when it was remodeled.

As a lifelong New Englander, Essig said she is affected by the beach, the sea and the natural world.

“I am intriguied by nature and colorful subjects,” she said. “I like to paint realistic images. I have done everything from scenery to portraits to still lifes.”

Contact Karen Essig for commission portraits or to view a gallery of her latest available work.

A beautiful gift: Connecticut artist notecards

Tango: Mark Hannon

We’re proud to present a beautiful packet of Connecticut artist notecards, now available for sale here on our site.

The work of eight of our members are featured on the cards, including information about the artist and their work.

The work reflects a life in Connecticut by our coastal artists. The artwork represented includes watercolor, printmaking, mixed media, photography and poetry/collage.

The notecards are 4″x6″ and blank inside, with plain white envelopes.

Connecticut Ar Notecards

Featured Artist Tony Mack

Tony Mack and his art car "Hustle Hard"
“My real name is Cody Urban. Tony Mack in my artist name. I’m from Stratford. This is my home.”

Three months out of Stratford High School, Cody Urban — now known as Tony Mack, the artist of Colors Beyond Me — picked up and left Stratford. He went to the Bay Area of California, and points north of there. A woman he met hired him to work on her property, to take care of the house. Another man hired him to dig dirt.

“I didn’t know no one. Just took clothes and went to walk around and be free,” he said.

It was through these odd jobs that he met Mendocino, Calif.-based surface ornamentation artist Larry Fuente.
Tony Mack Fish

“I met him and I didn’t even know who he was. He would give me rides to the grocery store and stuff. He told me he made money gluing things onto stuff.”

Eventually Mack saved enough money for a bike. And then a 1974 lime green Dodge Dart Swinger. He started working on his first art car. He’d go to the beach and collect shells and sea glass and whatever else was free. He’s come home with backpacks of it.

One day he ran into Fuente at the store and showed him what he was working on. After that day, Mack said, “I was one of his kids. I would be at his family functions.”

Mack entered his first parade following Fuente. “He was my glue-ru.”

Mack returned to his home state because, he said, he felt in certain parts of the country, there are people who are willing to see and experience things differently. When he drove his “Hustle Hard” car art onto Paradise Green at the 2015 Artists & Artisans show, it turned every head.

“Why would you  want to be anywhere else?” he said. “With my work, I go out and try to make the change. And you will see people around that car who would not normally talk to each other. And they are together, sharing something.”

Tony Mack is a member of the Coastal Arts Guild of CT. 
See more of Tony Mack’s work at Colors Beyond Me. 

Featured Artist Amy Oestreicher

Amy Festreicher 2015Amy Oestreicher is a mixed media artist who lives in Westport, CT.

Amy Oestreicher is a 28-year-old artist, musician, teacher, actress  composer, dancer, writer,yogi, foodie, and general lover of life. 

Surviving and thriving through a coma, 27 surgeries and other trauma has inspired Amy to share her story with the world through her passionate desire to create and help others.

Amy has written, directed and starred in a one woman musical about her life, Gutless & Grateful, has flourished as a mixed media and acrylic artist, with her art in multiple galleries and dozens of solo art shows.

CAGCT: Did you study art?

AO: I learned art accidentally on my way to healing and don’t have much formal art training.

However, I plan on studying more of the technical aspects of art, such as figure drawing, to have a wider range in my work.

Being a self taught artist, the idea of drawing the human body always has intimidated me – we all have an inner critic! However, I used figures in my work over and over again throughout the years in order to process what I was feeling after nearly 30 life AND body-altering surgeries.

   Amy Oestreicher 2015 trees

After every surgery, I would wake up with a new anatomy – a bag here, no belly button here, this missing, that added. It was very dissociating and made me feel like an alien to myself. I drew the figure to find wholeness with my body again, to accept it, to show the different “selves” of me, to love it as my own.

Now, I am very fascinated with the figure in how it relates to the world, nature, and the flesh. Seeing my “figures” look more and more body-like reassures me – it lets me know that I am starting to feel human, starting to accept my body for what it has been through, and call it my own.

CAGCT: Who has influenced your work?

AO: Originally, painting… was an amazing way for me to express what was too overwhelming, frustrating and scary for words. Whatever distress I was feeling, whatever uncertainty I wrestled with, once I put my brush to the canvas, something felt released – my sadness was still there, but at least I could feel it. And so for a long while, my sadness inspired my painting. YET, it would transform my painting. …

… Of course, my latest inspiration has been … my fiancé – who will become my husband in a few weeks. Basically, life inspires me – the fact that life always gives us second chances – that it’s never too late to grow, learn, evolve, and continually change.

Now that I’ve learned more in the art world, I find my romantic whimsy in Chagall, the art therapy part of my work portrayed in Frida Kahlo, the collage part in Matisse, and the abstractions in Kandinsky.

Artist Amy Oestreicher 2015_X

CAGCT: Where do you work?

AO: I work in a studio in my basement that used to be an old storage room.  I tend to work with a lot of layering and mixed media materials – anything from tissue paper to fabric, buttons, papers, or toilet paper (I created much art in hospitals and was very limited with materials!).

The process really depends on what I am sensing within. I love playing with textures, colors and shapes and allowing them to form the sadness, frustration, joy, or whatever inspiration I am feeling at that moment. I love acrylic painting, mixed media art, collage, clay sculpting – anything that I can fully immerse myself in and grasp a sense of who I have become, and discover my interior world.

The best thing about my studio is how it envelopes me – the space is relatively small, and there are shelves on every side, so the shelves of supplies form a circle around me, like my copic markers, stamps, cigar boxes and paints are all surrounding me with love and support, giving me a big bear hug. If I turn around, myself, in a complete circle, all I see are my art supplies. No windows, nothing but art. I always feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m down there.

Amy Oestreicher_Kid Today

CAGCT: How has your work changed over time?

AO: As a self taught artist, I first started to paint to express what I was feeling. It was deeply personal, unstructured, free form, and uninhibited. Now, it is still abstract and personal, but more artistically refined as I have discovered my artistic voice and learned new techniques.

Only lately have I started making my passion a business. I started blogging daily just as a way to document all of the painting I was doing. Soon, I amassed a large social media following, and now have people waiting to see what I’ve created every day! I just opened my first Etsy storefront and am selling motivational prints of a painting that I first made in the hospital, with plans to donate some to foundations and hospitals. I’m also selling cards of my work and mixed media pins – I do sell my originals though it’s sentimentally difficult for me! My art is currently in seven galleries in the area, with the latest in a museum that I always loved as a child.

Amy Oest_2015


Visit Amy online at Etsyher website, and Facebook.

A good look at “Barnwood”

Erin & Vin Scimeca of Barnwood & Bangles

At our June meeting, we got an up close and personal look at our members, Erin and Vin Scimeca’s work. They are the owners of “Barnwood and Bangles,” a custom furniture and home decor company, with items made from reclaimed wood and other beautiful recycled items.

Upcycled furniture vintage Connecticut

Erin and Vin both have “day” jobs, but you can see they are really dedicated to the work they are doing “on the side”… it’s visible in everything they have done in their own house.

The wooden flooring in the kitchen is gorgeous and completely redone with recycled palette wood.

They hosted a holiday pop-up shop in their space with great success.

They’ve built a beautiful seating area in their Lordship-area backyard, including a “stargazer”… reclaimed from their daughter Kate’s old bunkbed.

Brand and Bangles Stargazer converted Bunkbed Arts Guild
You have to take a good, close look at just about everything in their family room… because it’s probably been handcrafted by the couple: everything from the bar to the long table and bench, from the reclaimed wood coatrack. In fact, the whole, amazingly beautiful room was once a garage!

Erin and Vin will be bringing Barnwood and Bangles to our August show Artists & Artisans in Paradise, but I’d recommend you connect with them soon. Their work is sure to be big demand before you know it.

Fire and Paint: The Art of John Houle

John Houle Burnt Offerings 2015

A first place winner at the Elements of Nature Art Show, John Houle’s pyrography is instantly recognizable for it texture and technique.

“I believe art should … make a statement about who we are and about our passions. Pyrography, scrimshaw on wood or woodburning, as an art form is timeless and yet very unique. Our ancestors used burnt wood (charcoal) to depict their everyday lives on cave walls before there were other media.”

John Houle Timber Wolves

John Houle, the artist behind “Burnt Offerings,” depicts animals active in nature, as well as familiar markers of a natural landscapes, such as mills, lighthouses, and trees in his work. The subject matter and the media are intricately intertwined.

“The use of Birch wood with its tight grain, allows for intricate and extensive detail and texture. The marriage of the two mediums, pyrography and acrylic wash, greatly enhance the creation allowing you to touch the scales of a bass striking a plug, feel the plumage of a preening bird or touch the rocks beneath a wave washed lighthouse.”

Houle’s work will be available this weekend at Artists and Artisans in Paradise, August 30th at Paradise Green.

Artist Susan Ernst shares her winter art meditations

Susan Ernst March Meeting CAGCT 2015

At our March Coastal Arts Guild Meeting at Two Roads, mixed media artist and member Susan Ernst, right, presented some of her winter work.

These were not like her hanging pieces, but instead visual journals she’d created, she said, as a way of meditating on other work she’d wanted to do. These were related to identity, winter and her garden.

Ernst is an avid gardener with an associates degree in Ornamental Horticulture and a bachelors degree in Studio Art.
Susan Ernst Collage Journal March 2015 Coastal Arts Guild
The books were beautiful, filled with a combination of magazine images, personal inscriptions, drawings, transcribed quotes and more. Ernst bound most of the books herself. The above visual journal is an altered book, she said.

One of her Garden Songbird silhouettes is featured on the Coastal Art Guild’s Spring Art & Craft Market poster. Ernst will be showing and selling her work at the May 3rd art show.

Spring Art Show Stratford featuring Susan Ernst

Ernst’s original piece, made from old book pages, ephemera, acrylic paint, masonite, ledger paper, acrylic varnish is on sale at her Etsy shop, Wisteria Studios, along with others in the Garden Songbird series.

Thanks Susan for sharing your work!

Featured Artist: Sculptor Dave McNeil

sculptor Dave McNeilStratford metal sculptor Dave McNeil studied at the The Sculpture Barn under the guidance of master sculptor David Boyajian.

In 2010, he began showing his work in various galleries and exhibitions in New York and Connecticut. His materials of choice are stainless steel, recycled steel, and stone.

He started out studying painting and illustration at Paier College of Art and received a BA from Southern Connecticut State University in 1989, working his way through various media, including acrylics, oils and pencil. His primary focus was portraiture. He worked for 10 years as police sketch artist.

In addition to commission metal art, he also works in law enforcement.

CAGCT: Dave, you lead a kind of ‘Batman’ life: police officer by day, sculptor by night. How do the two sides of Dave coexist?

DMc: The two sides never seem to meet. Opportunities to blend the two are very rare. The only time I was able to combine the two world was when I worked as a sketch artist. Artistically, I was doing portrait work at the time so I could combine the two.

Working as a sketch artist taught me how to draw the human face accurately. That was in the mid 90’s and the last time I was able to combine my artistic world with my day job. With sculpture there are no opportunities to combine the two, which is fine with me. I prefer my artistic side and my work side to be divorced from each other. I don’t have a problem separating the two. The subject of art never seems to come up when I am working in law enforcement.

CAGCT: Your work is often LARGE pieces of heavy metal. Why not work with something more portable, like, say, feathers?

DMc: I work with metal and stone because I like the permanence of it. The idea that something will be around long after I am. Who knows where one of my sculptures will end up 100 years from now? It could end up in the scrap yard or it could take its place in a park or a garden. Somebody may wonder who created it and look up my name. They might find only this article but I hope there is more to come.

I took up sculpture a little late in life, about six years ago, and I am still learning.

CAGCT: Your ‘business’ is custom metal art, created on commission. What do you work on, for fun, between commissions?

DMc: Between commissions I like to challenge myself by attempting a complicated form and duplicate it.

An example of this would be the fish sculpture I did. I never made a fish before so I wanted to see if I could make it look like it was swimming.

I tried to capture the fluid motion of the fish as it turned in the water. That expanded to the idea of a school of fish swimming together and how the form of the school swimming would look suspended in the air instead of water. I really learn a lot by challenging myself this way. I learn the possibilities hidden in the metal.

CAGCT: What part of the metal art sculpting process do you find most tedious, and the most fun?

DMc: The most tedious part is cleaning up after myself. I make a bit of a mess during the creative process. It doesn’t matter if I am painting or sculpting. Making a mess is also the fun part. I like the whole creative process. Coming up with the initial idea and then having that idea grow into something greater never gets old.

CAGCT: What do your neighbors think of your work?

DMc: My neighbors don’t see much of my work because I work out of my brother’s barn. It is made of cement block so I can’t burn it down when the sparks fly. I did some work in my driveway when I started. It was noisy and I found that with enough heat an asphalt driveway will catch on fire.

Featured Artist Melissa Benson

Melissa Benson Nightmare Artist Magic the Gathering

Melissa Benson – Illustrator and Fine Artist 

Melissa A. Benson, owner of Ranting Centaur Studios, is best know for her highly distinguishable fantasy-based work for private collectors and collectible card game publishers. She uses a colorful, realistic style for both fantasy and decorative work.She has been creating quality artwork for over 20 years.

She works mostly in a mixed media of watercolor dyes, and color pencils. Black and white work is high contrast multi-weight graphite pencil and large pieces are done in oils. Her work has made her a celebrity in RPG, gaming and fantasy circles.

CAGCT: You are well-known for your work as a fantasy illustrator. Are you famous?
MB: Big fish in a small pond. Go into a comic book shop and everyone will know my name. Walk into Barnes and Noble… probably not.
CAGCT: Your Zazzle and Fine Art America shops are huge, with absolutely stunning work. How does the quantity and variety of products in your shop help you sustain yourself as an artist?
MB: The more products you have available, the wider the net you cast. The income is regular, and constantly growing. 
Trident Fighter by Melissa Benson Coastal Arts Guild of CT
CAGCT:  I know you do commissions, such as character portraits for role playing gamers. Is fantasy illustration the core of your personal work?
MB: I would have to say yes. It is what I gravitate toward. I enjoy drawing organic forms. Mechanical forms don’t come as naturally to me. I want to do some steam-punk pictures, which will be a challenge since that genre is a blend of both. I’ll include my artist statement at the end of the email.
CAGCT: What process do you use to create your fantasy characters? Do you work from a brief or description?
MB: I work best from a description, be it an excerpt from a book or a legend. Then I augment it with my own various accouterments.
CAGCT:  What is your favorite part of the artistic process? And what frustrates you most about the life of an artist?
MB: My favorite part is sketching. Making something that doesn’t exist into something that people can believe exists when they see it. 
The most frustrating thing is when people who think they are artists sell work when in fact they are merely luft mongers. They convince people that if you don’t like their art, you are not culturally elevated enough, are old fashioned, or that you can’t empathize with a tortured soul. Bull shit.
I seek to create a world of beauty & mystery using organic forms and mythic imagery, often with Celtic compositional elements. I present these images using vivid color and dynamic designs through the use of dyes, and colored pencils, graphite or oil paint.
I also explore a range of possibilities through my choice of subject matter. I do not create mundane imagery and defend it as social commentary. I believe that designing with attention to values, contrast, ratio, and proportion are essential to creating a painting that transports the viewer into an alternate reality.
I draw inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelites, the Arts & Crafts Movement, and Wiccan Pagan traditions.

Melissa Benson’s work is highly sought after for commission. You can totally get lost on her webpage, or follow her on Facebook and @NightmareArtist on Twitter.