I am enamored with Heather Chonto's work. Enamored. She stands out to me with the boldness of her shapes and marks. The energy and confidence in her work is left on the paper. And let's be honest, she's a genius with color. But please don't take my word for it, because Richard Morphet (former keeper at The Tate Gallery) summed it up much better here on Heather's website. I've seen her in magazines before, but recently found her on Instagram. These two paintings below are seared in my brain, and I think of them often. I don't know what it is, but the simplicity, the organic forms, the colors together, and the rawness make my heart burst and feel peaceful simultaneously. I may need to just buy them if they're still available.
Thank you so much for your involvement in this interview series, Heather. It was our pleasure to hear your perspective, especially with raising your daughters and living all over the world. I cannot wait to see you fill a gallery with huge paintings like these some day, please make those big dreams a reality!
Tell us about yourself. How old are your children? Where can we find you?
I currently live in Portland, Maine with my two daughters kodie age 16, and Zana age 7. I am an entirely a single mother, with no weekends or breaks, its just me 24/7 with a little help from a babysitter now and then.We are here until the end of the summer and then moving back to Europe to live in Barcelona.
I have been an art director and prop stylist for almost twenty years, whilst I also painted. I never really felt comfortable putting my life's work as an artist at the forefront of my priorities until 2013. I am now mostly working as a painter, focusing on developing my work.
How has your approach to painting, your processes, medium, or your inspiration changed since having children?
My approach and process has never changed really. I had my oldest when I was 20, so I was very very young when I got married and had a family in London. I feel like i have never known anything other than being an artist and being a mother. that's the way it feels.
Is it easy or difficult for you to find/make time to create? Did you have to give anything up? Do you have advice on what works for you?
It isn't difficult. It is who I am, my daughters know that. It is a part of every aspect of our lives and our days. We all have clothes with specs of paint staining them. None of us can really escape it, so there is no need to carve out time or space. I live and breath my painting. If I don't, I am not me, so it defeats everything. I am not very good at giving up things that I feel I need. My daughters are also very creative, so they always want to paint or draw with me. Its a good way to live.
How does being an artist make you a better parent to your children? What do you hope they take away from seeing you as an artist doing something that fulfills you?
I don't know if it makes me a better parent. Getting enough sleep makes me a better parent. I hope that what they take away from watching me is that they can do what they want if it is truly their passion, if they work hard and focus their energy on where they want to be and where they want to go. Its not an easy ride, and they know it, but its all worth it.
Where do you paint or create? What are your favorite things about your workspace and what would you improve? Do you ever create art with your kids?
Everywhere..... My studio is in my garage and it is pretty cold right now, so I am not out there much. I work at the kitchen table, at my desk, on the floor, wherever I can find space. I would have a heated studio with a gallery, which i have had before, but it is hard to work as much as I do if I have to be somewhere else. I need to be here with my kids, so I can't just take off to a studio all the time. It is why I gave up my previous space, but I actually paint more this way.
Do you have any tips to streamline / delegate / outsource household and childcare activities so that you can focus more time on your art? Has your lifestyle changed in any major ways?
I am not sure I can answer this question. I am a terrible at outsourcing help. My older daughter helps me a lot with little Zana. Sometimes it feels like we are raising her together. We are a tight knit little family. I am a big fan of kids learning to play on their own. I often tell them I am not a circus clown and I can not entertain you all the time. We have plenty of moments and times that are just about us being together and doing family things, but I have to grab time and space where I can. I am always present, but I am a do-er and I find it hard to stop in the middle of things create activities. Luckily my children were raised this way and they get it, they get me, and we do our best to communicate that. It works most of the time.
Do you have any big goals or dreams for your art that you’d like to share? What would be your dream project?
My big goal and dream is to keep painting, to never be afraid of doing what I love, no matter how tough it gets. And that people still love my work and continue to collect it because they feel something from it that speaks to them.
My dream project... to fill a gallery with my largest paintings, my 20 foot canvases all beautiful hanging on walls, so that people can feel and see the enormity of my heart.