Emily Carlton | Portraits of an Artist

What is your name and what do you do?

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My name is Emily Carlton and I'm an illustrator & designer based in Nashville, TN.

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going?

I started as a child and I just never stopped. I think some children stop creating art because someone said it wasn't very good or laughed at it, but I think I just saw those comments as a challenge to be better. I wasn't the brightest student in other subjects, but I did see myself excelling in art. I have a competitive nature and I wanted to be better than everyone else at something, and that happened to be art. I continued because my family was (is!) encouraging and creating brings me a lot of joy. I can't not do it.

How do faith and creativity collide for you?

It's messy! Knowing God gave me a gift and not knowing exactly how to use it for His glory is something I'm still learning about and working through. In the past, I've not been a proponent of art and faith mixing, particularly in today's Christian culture as history and personal experience has showed me the combination hasn't been very beneficial. A lot of Christian art I see is cheesy, distracting, inaccurate, or just plain bad.

I used to be a designer for a church for about 3 years, and I got a lot of fulfillment out of using my gifts and talents to help people worship, learn, and hear the gospel. More recently, I began doing sketchnotes and graphic recording for clients. (Sketchnoting is documenting a lecture, experience, process, etc. using written words and images to create a more engaging and memorable visual record.)  I really enjoy the medium and want to get better at it, and one way I do that is by sketchnoting the sermons I hear on Sundays. It's been a really neat way for me to use my gifts and share the message when I post images of my notes. I've had quite a few people tell me they love looking through when they miss a Sunday or that they like the visual aid. I love being able to capture information and bring life to it visually to help share the gospel.

 Sketchnote by Emily Carlton

Sketchnote by Emily Carlton

While I still have some design and illustration clients that are churches, missions organizations, and non-profits, I have come to the believe that you don't have to work at a church or use your gifts for the church in order to glorify God with your gifts. I think simply using them pleases Him.

What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work?

I'm thankful that I live in a creative environment. Nashville has been a place of tremendous growth, encouragement, and support. I especially love the opportunity to be around other great creative people at WELD. I'm so thankful that I get to create art for a living, and that my personality, passions, and desires are being fulfilled with my career.

What are you working on now? 

I'm working on a few things right now - I am learning how to do hand-lettering and I'm also spending more time improving my drawing skills. I have a lot of room for growth and want to be the best artist I can! One of my new year's resolutions is to draw every day; I've been posting many of the results on Instagram to share, even if I'm not proud of it. We all have to start somewhere!

What inspires you?

I'm inspired by a lot of things that are hard to recall after the fact. I love being outside - it clears my head and renews my sense of wonder. I love talking with other people about what they're passionate about - being around someone who is excited and driven inspires me to be the same way. And, as silly as it might sound, I'm inspired by cartoonists! I love how they tie in art, humor, and story in a tiny space.  

What does "being creative" mean to you?

I think creativity is problem-solving. "Being creative" means being someone who solves problems in ways that haven't been solved before. "Being creative" means seeking new things, learning, and innovating.

Was there an artist in your creative field you admired when you were young that inspired you to become an artist? Why?

I love Gary Larson, cartoonist for the famous 1-panel comic The Far Side. I loved that he was a talented artist. Moreover, I admired how he could make you think and laugh in a single panel. It takes a lot of wit to be able to do that, and it's something I aspire to be able to do myself. I loved the fact that an adult was drawing for a living and I wanted to do make that happen for myself, too.

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

Right now I'm in the middle of Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, Creative, Inc. by Joy Deangdeelert Cho, Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldridge, and Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine. Faith and creativity are colliding in my reading list!

Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?

Work hard. Put in the hours and take the time to become an expert at what you do. I think if you are serious about your craft, people will take you seriously. Not that they shouldn't already, but I think there's a new level of respect people have for you when they see that you are dedicated.

 
 "I like this quote because it reminds me that life is not always going to be easy, but that the trials I face are preparing me to be a better person. I have a purpose, and smooth sailing rarely happens when you're living out that purpose." - Emily Carlton

"I like this quote because it reminds me that life is not always going to be easy, but that the trials I face are preparing me to be a better person. I have a purpose, and smooth sailing rarely happens when you're living out that purpose."
- Emily Carlton

 

How does being a woman of faith inform/influence your art-making?

I don't know that it does - not consciously, anyway. I don't create art that is controversial or vulgar, but I think that's more personal taste than anything having to do with me being a woman and being a Christian.

Describe your perfect day of recharging/relaxing.

I'd keep my normal morning routine of waking up early and writing. After that, I'd make breakfast tacos and read for a few hours. Then I'd go hiking or kayaking, and come home to clean up and make a delicious dinner for myself and some friends. I'd spend the later evening drawing & watching a movie, and then I'd go to bed early.

I cannot live without...

 a sketchbook.



Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

If you'd like to be featured, please contact me: sjlee@sohostory.com

Kelsi Klembara | Portraits of an Artist

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What is your name and what do you do? 

My name is Kelsi Klembara and I am a writer and photographer. I wear a lot of hats, but I love writing profile/feature type pieces and writing/shooting internationally when possible. 

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going?

I’ve always loved to write. I used to type up short stories on my family’s very first computer, print them out, and draw photos to go along with them. I remember one specifically that had to do with a lonely Spanish bull. I also read a lot when I was young, so I think I’ve always been fascinated with stories of different people and places. I also love to learn and really enjoying sharing what I learn with others. In high school, I started taking photography classes and fell in love with telling stories through imagery. 

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot more writing than photography. I’ve wrestled for years on trying to decide if I should give up either writing or photography in order to focus on just one thing. Last year I finally decided it was important to just do what was put in front of me well instead of worrying about what I wasn’t doing. I still struggle a lot feeling that I’m missing out on something, but this approach has helped me not only enjoy whatever is in front of me more. I also realized that what I really enjoy is using my gifts well and working hard. If that’s my focus, comparisons and anxiety are quicker to fade away. 

How do faith and creativity collide for you? 

In my given fields, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to express thoughts, ideas and truths that hopefully make faith more tangible for people. Oftentimes, I think this can happen by just doing a good job at what is put in front of me.  I can rest easy knowing my job is only to use the gifts I’ve been given while trusting the Holy Spirit to work through a story, a photograph or a blog post to point people to truths about our God and our Savior.

I also think Christians, and especially Christian women, can become paralyzed by the idea that their work isn’t good enough for God because it’s not daring enough, creative enough, etc. I certainly know this is how I used to feel, but it’s such a ridiculous notion! I really believe that living out faith is a whole lot less about what we do, and a whole lot more about what Jesus has done. It’s a freeing thought to think that my creativity and my talents were not only given to me by a great and loving Creator (and therefore they already are good!), but that because of Jesus, the ways I use or don’t use them has absolutely no effect on my relationship with God. Realizing this allows me to take bigger risks and try new things because I’m not worried that I’m making a wrong decision, and when I mess up along the way, I am still as loved and cared for by God as I was before.  This is a message I’m really passionate about right now and really want to encourage other woman artists and believers in. 

     "Reminds me that faith, and my sufficiency in this world, is not based on what I do – it’s a gift from God."    -  Kelsi Klembara

 

"Reminds me that faith, and my sufficiency in this world, is not based on what I do – it’s a gift from God."
- Kelsi Klembara

What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work? 

I will be honest with you that as I write this, I am in a season full of doubt and insecurity in my work. It’s been a slow start to the year and I have to daily fight off thoughts about not being able to make it and about not knowing what I’m doing. 

But I’m getting to a point where I can also be thankful for this time. I think it’s a time to reflect on what I want to go after, and a time where I’m having to choose to work hard despite the fact that there isn’t a whole lot to work on. I also know that this time will pass – every year I’ve been a freelancer, there have been slow months and busy months, and I think much of this work is finding the courage to keep creating even when you don’t have anyone else to create for. I‘m thankful for that challenge and for the people around me right now who are encouraging me to do that. 

What are you working on now?

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Doug (my husband and I) are in the beginning stages of a passion project we’re basing off stories of people who work on Jefferson Boulevard located in Oak Cliff (located in South Dallas). We live in Oak Cliff and are fascinated by it’s history, and Jefferson used to be the heart of the community. There’s a lot of revitalization going on right now, and so Jefferson is a mix of upcoming business and Spanish-speaking restaurants and shops. We feel like this is a unique moment to capture the stories of all of these people. We also want to use this project to spark conversations about what it means to develop an area thoughtfully and respectfully. These stories can be found at http://www.jeffersonblvd.co/

What inspires you? 

I’m most inspired by quality and thoughtfulness. I may not even like a product or the topic of something I read, but if it’s clear the creator’s goal is to finish whatever they are making to the best of their ability, it inspires me want to do the same with what I do. I also love traveling and thinking through how people in different places interact - I love imagining the lives of people and places I have little context for. 

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

This writer’s work inspires me.
- I am in the middle of House of Cards and consequentially very concerned about the future of our country. 

Describe your perfect day of recharging/relaxing.

Recharging and relaxing for me usually involves a lot of alone time at home. Cooking a big meal is also something that recharges me – I love trying a new recipe and sharing it with others.

Complete this sentence: "I cannot live without ..."

Podcasts – I feel like they’re listening to stories is currently one of my main pieces of inspiration. 
Below are some of my favorites: 

Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?

Don’t be afraid to take risks, but know that whether you succeed or you fail, your identity and salvation is secure only in Jesus. 
Don’t be afraid to ask! Pitch ideas, send cold emails, find someone to brainstorm with. The worst thing that’s going to happen is the answer no.  


 Portrait by Doug Klembara

Portrait by Doug Klembara

Where to find Kelsi:

Website

Read:

- Glass Optical - Matt Bull
Glass Optical - Pastrana
Sister Maria
Medium

Social Media: @kelsiklembara

- Instagram
Twitter


Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

If you'd like to be featured, please contact me: sjlee@sohostory.com

Bella Salazar | Portraits of an Artist

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Isabel, but everyone calls me Bella. I'm a musician. I like to write songs about my life; I play and I sing. 

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going?

I started playing the violin when I was young. I loved it, but what I really wanted was to play the piano. When I was a little girl, a family that we knew was moving out of state. They had two pianos and asked if my parent’s would keep one for them. It stared at me day in and day out, begging to be touched. I couldn’t ignore it; for years, I asked my mom for piano lessons. In the 6th grade I finally started taking lessons. The first song I learned was "Mary had a Little Lamb." The middle-aged beautiful upright piano became my new best friend. I felt life come to my hands whenever I played, and I felt so much pride each time I learned a new song.

As I grew older, I started to write my feelings into songs. I banged on the piano, my emotions flowing through my veins as I hit the keys. You know the feeling you have after a good cry? Like you just lost 300 pounds off of your back? That’s what writing started to do for me. I wrote about loneliness and hurt. I wrote about boys. Aside from my faith, expressing my emotions through writing and playing music is a most freeing experience for me.

To this day I am so grateful to the family who left us that piano. My family would never have been able to afford one. In my heart, I know the Lord knew I would need it. It’s like a token of His love for me, intimately and specifically for me. Growing up as part of a large family, I needed something that was just mine . 

Music became a part of my soul. As I grew, my songs became more and more exposing. Every single part of writing is healing for my soul, my personal therapy session. My number one rule in writing songs is to be utterly and completely honest. I do my very best to leave it all at the piano. In the Lord’s goodness, I believe He knew that I would also need this release .

I could never stop playing or singing. 

How do faith and creativity collide for you?

I see every element of my music as a gift I don’t deserve. I was gifted a piano; I was gifted a voice to sing; and I’m grateful that I also get to use these blessings to worship Him.

 
 “Every good and perfect thing comes from above”(James 1:!7).
 

My first time on stage was singing worship, I loved every single moment of it. I loved being vulnerable while leading the body of Christ into a place of adoration for the Father. I have a tattoo that comes from a scripture in psalms that reads,

 I will praise the Lord as long as I live, I will sing praises to my God with my dying breath. 

- Psalm 146:2

I never want to live for anything other than to worship Jesus, whether that be in my actions or the literal form of musical worship. It’s who I am. A child of the King, an adorer of who He is. Some of the most intimate and profound moments I have shared with the Lord have been the two of us seated at the piano. I feel so honored He meets me in those places and grateful we get to share that.

What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work?

In this season of my life I have so very much to be thankful for. Goodness, there is so much for me to write about because I’ve been in such crazy places these past months - I feel like I could explode with lyrics. However, I've realized that it’s in these moments that I find my limited skills make it difficult for me to write what my heart is aching to hear. I have been sitting down to play the piano more for practice than for leisure.  I’ve also started teaching myself the guitar recently. Because of the season I am in right now, I actually have the time to practice playing both instruments. That is an amazing blessing in itself. In addition to that, with my line of work I am surrounded my creatives on a weekly basis. It’s revitalizing and inspirational. I am challenged to think of myself as a creative and challenged to think like one. I love it!

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What are you working on now?

I’m working on breaking out of my creative box. I hate it when my music sounds redundant. It’s so hard not to naturally go towards what you already know. I’m trying to be open to expanding my vocal and musical creativity. My goal is always to make this song sound different from the last.

What inspires you? 

Circumstances inspire me the most. A few years ago, I was stuck in a heavy depression. I didn’t know how to explain it because I didn’t fully understand it myself. I wanted to will myself into feeling better, into feeling at all, but I couldn’t. One day, I sat at my piano and I focused on the frustration, the lack of emotional sensations and the pain that had driven me into such a place. I wrote about feeling stuck, I wrote about feeling lost and damaged. I didn’t start feeling better right then and there, but I started feeling something. I was released. I felt like I had a voice again. Time and time again, my circumstances inspire me. 

What does "being creative" mean to you?

This word “creative” frightens me mostly because I have never considered myself a creative. I love the arts (fashion, music, theatre, museums, and etc.), but being put in the same category as people that I consider to be brilliant seems absurd. Looking at the people I admire and interacting with artists that I personally know, I've realize that a creative is someone with the ability to create, someone who takes their talents and makes it into something. A creative is someone who pushes their boundaries and unveils a part of themselves we may not always see. This is what I love about creativity! The unveiling of one’s true self - it’s beautiful! This also means we all have that ability within us and I love that, too!

Any advice for women who are aspiring creatives in your field?

Sharing your talent is absolutely biblical. If you’re anything like me, you probably hate that and wish everyone would just forget that one time you decided to sing. However, hiding your  talents away is unfair to everyone else. It  When we are given a gift, it is right to say, "thank you for that gift," and then to share that gift. I do not say this with pride at all, but you never know if and/or when your gift can change someone else's life. For me, I hope my music can give words to the feelings someone else didn't know how to express. 

Don’t be afraid of raising your voice, your words, and your heart. Your gifts are important. 



Listen:


Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

If you'd like to be featured, please contact me: sjlee@sohostory.com

Margaret Barrett | Portraits of an Artist

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What is your name and what do you do? 

My name is Margaret Barrett, and I work as a composer, producer and new music advocate.

How did you start making your art? Why do you keep going? 

I started composing because I was so moved by music and wanted to create music that moved others as well. I also find an irrefutable presence of the divine in all art forms, and I want to make music to both remind others of, and comfort others with, the presence of God in this world.

Why do I keep going? Despite myself, really. I find composing SO difficult and at the end of every project I complete, I wonder whether it's the last one I'll ever do. This is because I often feel like I'm not  good enough to be a real artist, like this composing thing is "just a phase." But somehow, opportunities continue to pop up and somehow, I can't resist them when they arrive. So I keep going, one project at a time, always wondering if it will be my last. 

How do faith and creativity collide for you?

Any creative work feels so rewarding to me because our drive to create is evidence of God empowering humanity, asking us to partner with Him in creation. That God implants in us the desire and ability to make art is a divine acknowledgment that our human experience is worth capturing and expressing. The tools and possibilities for art in our world are infinite and creativity is our attempt to lay claim to a tiny piece of that infinite. My faith allows me to trust in creativity as a spiritual act - it echoes the creative nature of God and because God values the expression of our human existence.

 
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What are you thankful for in this season of your life, your work?

I'm thankful for my newborn son, Adlai - being a mother opens up a whole new world of existence to me, and I am thankful to God for the ways that it is expanding me right now. The demands of motherhood also require me to be more intentional, more deliberate my time allotted to creativity and my approach to composing. I can no longer dilly-dally around varying ideas, taking too much time wondering which one is the best. Because my time is limited, I have to act quickly and this requires me to jump off the creative precipice more quickly and commit to an idea, trust it is good, and run with it. Though this is scary, I'm grateful for the ways the time limitations imposed by motherhood is making me take more risks in my creative work. 

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What are you working on now? Or current obsession?

I am working on a piece for the Mirror Visions Ensemble, a vocal trio based out of New York.  

What inspires you?

Other music, for sure! The Punch Brothers is my favorite band. I am inspired by raw, vulnerable and skilled performances by musicians and all other types of artists! I am also inspired by conversations about creativity and faith with my friends. I'm inspired by spiritual concepts that describe the nature of God - those always make me want to compose. 

What are you reading/watching/listening to right now?

I have been reading a book called Prayer by Timothy Keller and it's blowing my mind. I highly recommend it. I have been listening to the M. Ward station on Pandora (I love his song "Outro") repeatedly. And of course, since it's December - lots of choral arrangements of Christmas hymns! 

Complete this sentence: "I cannot live without ..."

I cannot live without coffee in the mornings. Every night before I go to bed, I think to myself, "Get excited! You get to have coffee at 6am tomorrow!"


 Margaret and her husband, Nathaniel, and her dog, Zelda. Photo by Sean Berry

Margaret and her husband, Nathaniel, and her dog, Zelda.
Photo by Sean Berry

Where to find Margaret: 

Twitter: @MCBSounds

www.margaretcbarrett.com

A Feature on Margaret: Creo Stories

"Faith in Nights"
(A piece composed by Margaret Barrett for solo piano; performed by Grant Cooper)


Illustrations and hand lettering by Sojung Lee.

If you'd like to be featured, please contact me: sjlee@sohostory.com