Danielle Forbes: A Very Talented SAHMwich

danielle pic

I’ve seen some of Danielle Forbes pieces in a few shows and loved her style so it seemed only natural to ask her to do an interview! We got down to it via the internet and then finally met at her house last week.  I got to see some of her works in progress, we talked about some ideas she has brewing for a new series and generally just hung out and talked about life, relationships and art.

p.s.–This interview will be a little different from others as Danielle has included inspiration and explanation for the work featured here.

SAHMwich is the name she’s coined for her social media accounts as well as her Etsy.com shop.   SAHM is a common acronym for stay-at-home-mom.  That and her love of sandwiches led to this name.  Pretty creative, huh?

“Anxiety”Character Defects Series 8×24 inches Acrylic on stretched canvas
This painting is about my fear of God.  In all honesty, fears and anxiety are the fuel to every single one of my defects.  Fear eats me alive.  I’m this little frightened rabbit, hiding in my brambles, surrounded by all my comforts, and God is this burning pillar of fire.  Change can hurt, change is scary… but make a cup on a potter’s wheel- it can’t be used until it’s gone through the fire.
Danielle grew up in a small farming town (Liberty Center) in northwest Ohio.  After junior high, her family moved to Sylvania, a suburb of Toledo. Creating art has been an integral part of her life since a very young age. She also enjoys writing, mostly journaling, essay, press release work, and the occasional bit of poetry. When she was a child, she wrote and illustrated her own books.
My grandparents even bought me a publishing kit at age 11 where one of my book creations was actually published (only about 5 editions) for me and my family’s amusement. Writing and drawing have always been a huge outlet for me emotionally and spiritually.  I had a turbulent childhood and if it weren’t for my pen and paper I don’t know how I would have survived.  My art is a way for me to express what I cannot say with words.” 

I LOVE this piece!!!

“Blending In” Character Defects Series 8×24 inches acrylic on stretched canvas

Blending In.  Being a Chameleon.  I learned early on to blend in and go unnoticed.  It’s honestly how I got away with a lot of stuff… when something went wrong, no one would even suspect me because they did not know who I was.  In high school I skipped gym class nearly every day for an entire semester without getting caught.  My teacher took attendance, everyone walked to the gym, I left.  I just blended in, made sure I was forgettable.  I also blended in with groups of people.  Whoever I was around and admired most, I tried to be like them.  I tried to be just enough my own person they wouldn’t catch on, but I don’t know how many times I said I liked this or that, or dressed a certain way, just to fit in.  I wanted to be unique and cool, but I also desperately needed every single person’s approval.  If you approved of me, I approved of me.  This is another defect that has been drastically changed and nearly removed.   I grew away or lost friends because of this, but I’ve met people and held on to the people who really know me for who I am and love me anyway.

Many of her teachers encouraged her to write and draw …this inspired her to go to college to learn more. So, she made her way to Columbus to attend CCAD.  She graduated from  CCAD in 2008 with a BFA in Fine Art and a Minor in Art Therapy. While there, she received training in printmaking, sculpture, painting, drawing, and ceramics and is also an intermediate fiber artist, coming up with her own crochet and knit designs, mainly for her own entertainment.  Many of her finished fiber pieces were commissioned by her friend and colleague, Laura Anderson of La La Lu Photography.
“Distraction” 16×24 inches acrylic on stretched canvas
 This is about how I distract myself to avoid dealing with my emotions.  Most of my distractions are addictions.  TV, food, busy-ness, coffee, games, social networks, internet.  I also have good distractions, actually they are used to distract from the bad distractions and actually DEAL with my emotions- like art, writing, reading my bible, prayer, and meditation.  But this painting is about the bad ones.  Bad distractions float around my head and soak in…

Following that, she got involved in summer camps teaching art (mainly ceramics) and ended up working with kids in the Central Ohio Camp Fire USA Council for almost a year before choosing to  become a stay at home mom.   Not having the money for studio space and starting a family led to a long break after graduation. Despite lack of studio, she has been actively producing art and showing locally in Columbus since April 2014.  Fortunately, in February her family moved into an Upper Arlington home with room for studio space (yay!!) so now she is able to work from home while caring for her two preschoolers.When asked to categorize her art, she believes it fits into the category of surrealism.  All of her work comes from what she deems as ‘unconscious in my mind’ that she then tries to depict. Growing up in the country, she had many “pets”  (barn cats, dogs, goats, chickens, geese, rabbits, lizards, mice, fish)….and she loved all them; felt like their mama and was drawn to them from a very early age.   Caring for animals feels comforting for her and painting them brings back buried emotions while soothing her.

In her studio

In her studio

In that regard, she likes to play with archetypes of animals in writing to illustrate inner emotions.  The Christian bible, fables, and Native American traditions, as well as dream dictionaries have provided inspiration.  Having grown up watching taped national geographic movies with her grandpa, she loved looking through the old NG Magazines and LIFE magazines and this past year she’s started  a collection of LIFE Magazine yearbooks, magazines, and old wildlife textbooks.  Studying information about these different animals enables her to use them in her work in a more accurate way.  Many animals and their life journeys are inspiring in themselves.  For example, I was commissioned in July last year to do a painting of sea turtles, I learned so much about sea turtles: that they overcome insane obstacles just to live to adulthood, and travel thousands and thousands of miles in their lifetime, many laying eggs on the exact beach where they were born.  It’s natural for me to want to relate to that in my own life, seeing that if a turtle can overcome hardships, so can I.
Recent experimentation with different surfaces and backgrounds, has led to her learning how to prep thrift store wood panels with decoupage and fabric.  In addition, she has tried her hand at mixed media techniques, stenciling, clear gesso; anything that will help her to achieve the desired effect.  She has been priming and painting dollar store composition books for journals and has used  fabric swatch books to create stretched  fabric panels for painting.  “I love the effect of taking a printed fabric and figuring out a way to incorporate my subject matter with it in interesting ways.”

While hanging out with her in her studio, I got a glimpse of some really gorgeous watercolors she recently created…birds that were painted/inspired by the colors of the sunrise and sunset.  Check them out below.  She isn’t sure what she will do with them and how this could translate to canvas but I sure hope she does something with them!
Birds inspired by sunrise and sunset colors

Birds inspired by sunrise and sunset colors

In addition to those, she is toying with the idea of creating a series of paintings to parallel a series she is reading called The Maeve Chronicles.  These books have spoken to her because of the strong woman characters portrayed, most specifically Mary Magdalene. and their connection with the earth.  Her belief that women are still pushed down and not treated as equals. not allowed to be strong, etc.  has led to the ideas that she would like to translate into art. Another aspect of the books that fascinates her is the idea of women being one with the earth, their hands and feet in the soil.   She had one small painting of the landscape (featured in the books) where the hills actually looked like a woman in repose. Darn, I wish I had taken a pic of that one cause it was pretty spectacular, too!  I hope that she keeps me in the loop with these ideas as I would love to see what evolves as she continues to read and experiment!!
When asked about her process, she stated that:
A big part of my process is my desire to reach my viewers and touch them in a way that helps them.  My subject matter is often extremely personal, but I know that many can relate to it.  Often, people remark on how they relate to my struggles and from my art are able to learn something new about theirs.  It’s a way I can express myself and help people in a way other than with writing or speaking.  Something about visual art speaks to a part of our spirit we can’t reach any other way.  I finished a series last year called “Character Defects” which is about my personal unhealthy coping mechanisms.  I showed and spoke about these works at my personal 12 step meeting, and was able to touch and inspire my “adopted” family there.  I feel like one of my purposes is to express myself this way, so that I no longer feel alone in my struggles and can let others know I understand them as well.
Danielle was accepted and participated in several juried shows/events: Agora, Urban Scrawl, Chalk the Block
and The Oak Room’s Personification in Small Works.  In February, her work was featured at  AJ’ s Cafe on State Street in downtown Columbus and she taught 2 crochet workshops through Studio 614.  Her work has also sold at  pop up galleries and festivals.
“Manipulation” Character Defect Series 11×14 inches acrylic on canvas panel
Lying, rationalizing, whatever you want to call it.  I chose the snake because not only is he physically able to manipulate his body well, but also have long been used in storytelling to represent these things.  What came to mind for me was the serpent speaking to Eve, manipulating God’s commands so that she chose to sin.  I manipulate people, places, and things. Some people use the power of persuasion, I use the power of guilt and fear.  By either raging or pouting.   I’m learning to stop trying to fix everything, and just let things be what they are.
Danielle is one busy SAHM….researching opportunities to ‘go big’ and looking into creating public murals (possibly with Danielle Poling), showing at the Worst Kept Secret Fest ( May 23rd) and Summer Jam in July,’performing’ on June 13th at the Columbus Art’s Festival’s chalk competition, Urban Scrawl and Chalk the Block.   She wants to keep playing with patterns and fabric and trying more mixed media.  In addition to all of this, she’s been making hand drawn greeting cards with ink and watercolor with the possibility of making these for the contributors to the Monarch sculpture that is the theme for the Summer Jam Westgate this year.
The coming months will provide more exposure for her work as she will be displaying an inspired work at Global Gifts for their “Fairly Inspired Art Show” coming up in May (the 10th was the reception). In addition, her panel from last year’s Urban Scrawl was selected to auction at Strongwater Food & Spirits for the George Bellow’s Grant program on May 9th.  As if that isn’t enough, she is also looking into helping out the nonprofit Pay it Forward Columbus with an art auction/benefit with that being in the very early planning stages (the art is already created art for the auction).  Then this summer Cap City Creatives (CCC–she is a member) is going to participate in 400 West Rich summer markets and she will be assisting in the running of their booth with Heather Marks and AiNa Turner. CCC will also have a booth at the Eco-Chic Craftacular on May 16th at Whetstone where Danielle will demo how to upcycle thrift store panels.  Whew!!!! And did I mention that she has recently joined CAW with hopes to get more involved with those ladies??  She is definitely getting her groove on in the Central Ohio art scene!  And may I say that I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her a little better and am anxious to see what direction her art goes in the not too distant future!
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