Frequently Asked Questions / Answers for Students

I often get requests from art students to answer questions about my process, my background and techniques. Over the years I have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve received. Feel free to use these as a base to build your papers or articles. If you have a question that is not on this list, please feel free to send me a message via the contact page form. Bloggers, you may also use this text on your websites, just please ask or let me know. I also ask to please link back to this website. I am happy to provide images to illustrate the article. Again, just ask!

Q. Who and where are you?

I’m Cindy Couling. I’m an artist and graphic designer from San Juan Bautista, CA. By day, I run my own design shop and I illustrate commercially. By night (and whenever I can fit it in) I do art for myself. I’m Canadian born. I play around with any art medium that catches me eye. I do ceramics for awhile, then paint and journal, then do a little of whatever craft that’s interesting to me that week and come full circle back to ceramics. I think I am a little A-D-D when it comes to art. I love every aspect of art and want to try everything.

Q. From what age did you officially start producing art work?

I started to fully focus on my work right after art school. I think I was about 25. I went too college late. It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do. First it was music, then I wanted to run restaurants, then I decided to finish up my high school credits and took a night school with a bunch of awesome people. I’d never met folks like them before. It was really the first time I’d been around people who thought like I did. It’s like when babies meet other babies and they have this connection. Well, art freaks are like that too I think. I was really encouraged by the night school teacher to pursue art. That teacher (Richard Gleiser, Owen Sound Vocational Institute) made an impact on me, and his advice changed my world. I went to art school, and it all clicked. Everything made sense to me, and it was … comfortable.

Q.  You are a professional artist, illustrator and designer.  How does each play a part in where you are today with your creative life?

I think they are all one and the same. It’s my entire life. My day job is spent creating, and my play time is crammed with creating.

Q. What is the main inspiration for your art?

My main inspiration is people. I love watching people, observing their behaviors and capturing it in my artwork. I am inspired by everything around me. I especially draw from the routine daily tasks people take for granted, or don’t pay attention to. I find interest in the mundane.

Q. Do you have a favorite theme or genre that you like to reflect within your artwork?

I tend to mess around with alot of different types of media, so with those different mediums, my style tends to change. Overall, I love celestial themes, sun and moon. I enjoy Hispanic art and culture. I also enjoy rich, bright color. My work is very colorful. I like a lot of movement and patterning. My work is very busy, it’s like my brain, cluttered with thoughts and ideas just trying to get out onto the paper.

Q. What is your favorite piece that you’ve done, and what was the story behind it?

Her Mystery Clay Box

‘Her Mystery’. 8″X12″. Mixed Media. Pottery, found objects.

My favorite piece I’ve made is a ceramic piece called ‘Her Mystery‘.

I built this box out of clay, and carved and painted underglazes on it. The heart with wings and the empty hole in it represents hiding away thoughts and feelings. ‘Her’ heart is a mystery because she won’t let anyone in. She hides her feelings within the box, closing everyone out who tried to get in.

The copper wires have a small magnifying glass swinging in front of the heart. It’s used to look closer at the mystery of her heart.

Q. Do you have any preferences what to draw/paint – some motives that are a ‘continuous red line’ in your artwork?

I really enjoy making artist trading cards. ATCs are small format works of art typically 2.5 X 3.5 inches. Artists make and trade them. I enjoy the small format because it’s a small enough size to quickly capture a moment or feeling on. I have a series of ATCs called ‘The Journal Series‘.

Q. Do you have a preferred theme or genre of art outside of your own? If so, what is it?

I actually am fascinated by graffiti and tattoo art. Oddly enough, I don’t have any tattoos myself, but I am just fascinated with the commitment it takes to get a tattoo. Having someone’s art on your body is the ultimate honor to an artist, I believe. I also think graffiti art is the bomb. The excitement of creating a piece fast, and the thrill of getting it done without getting caught is very interesting to me.

Q. What are two art supplies you don’t think you could live without and why?

Hard question! Being a multimedia artist, it’s hard to decide!

  1. Sharpies – I use them for alot of my inking work. They are really durable and can write on most any surface.
  2. My Windsor and Newton watercolor travel kit – My absolute favorite watercolor set in the world. It has all the basic colors I need, a small brush and water dish and it’s small enough to fit in a purse.

Q. How did you start creating art in a professional way?

In college I majored in illustration with a graphic design minor. Honestly, I had no interest in graphic design while in college and wondered why they made me minor in it. Apparently, they knew what they were doing. While I was unable to find a full time job in illustration, there were plenty of jobs in graphic design. Today, I own my own design firm, LunaGraphica Inc, in Sunnyvale, CA and I do commercial illustration and fine art part time. I pretty much have a good balance and have not had to sacrifice my interest in illustration.

Q. Where do you publish your illustrations the most? Books? Periodicals? What kind of books/newspapers are they?

I would have to say I am in magazines the most. I do alot of editorial illustration and advertising illustration. I also create illustrations for children’s books and children’s product illustration.

Q. Being a Painting and Mixed Media Artist, what materials do you like to work with and techniques you enforce, and which ones do you think personally produce the best quality of work?

I truly believe that good tools and quality material is very important if you are serious about being an artist. There is a huge difference between craft paint and artist quality paint, for example. I also believe that if you are making art to sell, you better give the collector the very best final product you can give them. It better last a lifetime if they’ve loved the piece enough to buy it. I will not put my name  on a piece of art and sell it unless I think I’ve done my best work.

Q. Is your artwork based on mythology or portrayals of factual events/issues?

A lot of my work is narrative and deeply personal, yet I still play around with fun, whimsical icons and themes. The faces I draw over and over are all from my head. Rarely do I do a sketch before painting. I believe in letting my head and heart tell the story.

Q. What’s your musical inspiration of choice when you’re working in your studio? Or if (if you don’t listen to music) do you have any rituals associated with your creative time?

I love all kinds of music, but I love good, cheesy 70’s and 80’s music. Listening to ‘Car Wash‘ or ‘Bennie and the Jets‘ takes me back to being a kid again, playing and not giving a rats ass about what other people think. I also love letting my iPod decide what I want to hear based on a single song choice. (I’m amazed at how smart the ‘genius’ function is.) Technology blows me away. I’m such a nerd in so many ways.

Q.  Is there any time of day that you find you are the most creative?  Do you try to schedule studio time or do you prefer to follow the muse?

Usually, in the evening at home, after the nightly chaos is over I have a chance to unwind with some art. Usually it’s while watching TV.

I pretty much follow the muse. Since I have such a hectic life running my business, I fit it in where I can and when I feel I need to. I try to do something artistic every day. I make alot of drawn ATCs. ATCs are great – since they are small, they are low commitment! I can do several in a sitting very quickly and it gives me a much needed dose of creativity.

Q.  Describe your creative space.

I have several creative spaces. My front room of the house that is supposed to be the formal dining room has been transformed into a full studio. I have several desks and tables covered with all sorts of art supplies and works in progress. There is a flat file filled with papers, bookshelves with lots of inspirational books and magazines. I also have a computer station in this room. It’s light and bright with hardwood floors and room for my dog Cooper to stretch out on her bed under one of the desks.

I have converted the garage into a pottery studio as well. There are big tables and counter to work on, shelves to stack artwork and supplies on, a pottery wheel, a kiln and all the supplies for ceramics.

Q. As an artist, we have many roles, which do you find to be the most rewarding and which the most challenging for you?

My day job is owner of a graphic design and web company. I find it to be the most challenging of all my roles mostly because I am constantly creating art for other people, not myself. But what can you do? It pays the bills! lol. Being boss to several employees is difficult too. I have to be constantly on the ball coming up with ideas to give them direction. Sometimes, I can’t think of a darn idea and it creates alot of pressure for me.

The most rewarding thing would have to be giving a graphic designer on staff rough ideas out of my head for a project, or a scrap of paper with a rough drawing and having them come back to me with a wonderful design for a client. It amazes me every time.

Q. How did you get started art blogging?

I’ve never been a good writer. I find it really hard to express myself with words alone. I loved the idea of blogging, but wasn’t excited about writing. Instead of writing, I decided to post a visual journal and let my art tell my stories. Over the years I’ve become more vocal and more confident in my writing.

Q. Do you have any tips for art bloggers?

Don’t be worried about being a good writer. Let your art speak for you. Post what appeals to you, not what you think the viewers want to see. Be your true self and when you write, write how you would speak it. Don’t censor yourself.

Q.  How do you manage to get in your social networking time?

I *need* my social networking time. My job is demanding and time outside of work is limited so I find I need connection with the outside world. I’ve met some really awesome artists I’d never have met outside of the social networking outlets.

Luckily, being the boss I have more freedom to get online. I’m also really good at balancing my time.

Q.  When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?

I try and cram as much art time as I can get in my spare time. I enjoy hanging with my husband and our dog. I like making pottery, gardening, watching movies and TV and just chilling.

Q. Do you teach classes? Where can I take a class with you?

I have taught various workshops both on collage, painting and pottery. I teach offsite, as well from my studio in San Juan Bautista, CA. I have no  classes or workshops available at this time, but sign up on my mailing list to be notified when one is available. If you are interested in having me teach or lecture, please contact me via the website contact form.


(This section is a work in progress, but this is the question I get asked the most!)

I get asked about how what I use to draw on my pottery. My favorite underglazes are EZ Coat by Duncan. To create the thin lines I use a set of squeeze bottles that get attached to the underglaze bottles. It’s taken me years to learn how to control the pressure needed to freely apply the line work. So, if you try this technique and you have less than ideal results – don’t give up too quickly, keep practicing. I messed up many pieces over the years.