HEATHER CHONTOS: PAINTER STUDIO TOUR

Heather is one of those people who makes the world a more beautiful place. When I first found her work online, I was immediately intrigued by her aesthetic sense and use of color. Her paintings seem modern with a timeless quality. Her studio is tucked above the State Theater, which she shares with another creative friend. The tall ceiling and big windows which let in tremendous light give you a sense that it was made just for her. Splitting her time between Maine and wherever else she is in need for her styling work, Heather seems to lead a full creative life. With two girls to parent, a bustling business, and her daily practice of creating, Heather exudes boundless energy and a cheerful and warm personality.

Her work, her life, her travels, her amazing self...they are to be admired. Read more about Heather below!

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You seem to be a very creative person with a strong vision and aesthetic. How did this develop and at what age did you feel like you had a particular “style”?

I am not entirely sure when I developed my style. I do remember painting abstractly the first time. I was in University in London and in their dorms, acing canvas to the walls and messing around. I had always been more into drawing and sketching with pastels. I figured out pretty quickly that color and the balance of it was a major part of creating great work. And I have said this before, "knowing when to stop", is key. I had some pretty awful lime green/brown messes at first and I just kept plugging at it and experimenting with different kinds of mediums. I did not go to art school.  I think I was set in my aesthetic a few years later when I was 22, after much error, but I feel it has  remained consistent since then.

You have traveled a lot for both work and living situations. How has this influenced your work and the way you live now?

It has definitely impacted my views on many things regarding lifestyle. It has been interesting discussing how much I have travelled and lived abroad with my children.  I was so young and fearless that I always just went for it. If I could go everywhere I would. There is just too much to see, so much beauty and variety of life. I find it all equally fascinating, which works as inspiration. As far as my work goes, I think i have absorbed a strong variety of stylistic influences, color  palettes, and textures which I am sure play a huge role in how I see things. If I can share that and experience that with my children then I feel like I am doing a really good job as a mother and as an artist. 

You mentioned you got hooked into the world of styling while in Europe. How did that start, what have been some of your biggest hurdles in the business, and what were some of your favorite jobs?
There are a lot of reasons I got involved in styling in Europe, but mostly it is because it was a new creative platform, a new genre of expressing my creativity within a space and it paid pretty well. As I was figuring out all the different parts of my creative self, it was one form of working that I felt very confident and comfortable in. The hurdles are being freelance for all these years, never knowing what is next. My favorite jobs were when the work was most creative and interesting, when I get to tell a story visually whether it be a fashion story or an interior shoot, I like to translate a concept into eye candy and then let it be experienced. I don't like to be micro-managed and the industry has gotten to be more and more that way. Budgets are tighter and people have less and less experience, so there is a lot of fear and a lot of trying to please too many people. The creative process gets lost in there sometimes. I enjoy being trusted with my eye and my creative skills, for now that is still the case so fingers crossed it stays that way.
 
How do you balance being a mother and full-time artist and stylist?
I don't balance it, my life is a zoo, haha! Seriously, a zoo. I feel I am honest about things with my kids and with my clients. I wear my heart on my sleeve which keeps it all very real. I try to make everything work and for the most part it does, because I have great passion and love for what I do on all fronts. I have an enormous amount of energy and I thrive off of a little chaos, so we just keep plugging along. My girls are pretty amazing, they get me and they get our life and we have so much fun in between the work stuff. They are both so artistic and it helps that they want to work alongside me sometimes because they are with me 24/7 unless I am away. It is a huge challenge at times, but I love our life.
 
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned over the years?
I can't claim to have learned many lessons, because I am stubborn, but I have learned one big one and it trumps all other lessons. You must always speak how you feel, knowing that you are honest. If you do not than you spend  a lot of time juggling unnecessary stuff. It is scary to be up front sometimes, but it is always worth it in any scenario.
 
You have a very developed sense of style when it comes to your artwork. Did your work always reflect this, or has it evolved over the years? 
If there is one thing i know to be %100 true, it is my artwork. It is always evolving, but it is by far the one thing I am certain that I am good at.
 
Name three most influential artists for you.
Cy Twombly
Terry Frost
Antoni Tapies
 
How do you think living in Maine benefits you as an artist? How do you feel it hinders you?
Maine is very inspiring and is a much more relaxed fit for life in general. I love being by the coast and having access to all of its incredible landscapes. As an artist it gives me a space and room to breathe, but I do wish there was a bit more of a sophisticated arena for art here. There is great interest and support  for the arts, but it seems to be swaying a bit more in the direction of the genres of craft and decorative. I can't believe that everyone wants a seascape or a painting of a lighthouse. I wish there was a greater range of work shown around the State. I am excited to be showing this summer at the Corey Daniels gallery in Wells, Maine. It is in my opinion the best gallery in Maine for contemporary art.
 
Do you prefer working in your studio, or in your home?
I love my studio, but sometimes it is easier for me to just be home. I make work everywhere I am: studio, hotel rooms, on planes, etc...it doesn't really matter where I am.
 
Your paintings have been shown in many major magazines and are proliferous online. How did this come to be? Did you market your work, and if so, how?
I guess my job as a stylist has helped give me some great contacts  in publishing and media. I have worked with magazines around the world for more than 15 years and developed relationships with editors and photographers whom have for the most part supported my other work as an artist. I have been fortunate to have those connections and get my work in front of some influential people, but for the most part I like to believe that it has reached the masses and been noticed because it artwork that is aesthetically pleasing and that people like it. The internet helps approach the mass public, giving me a much greater audience. The more it is seen, the more response I get and it sort of feeds itself. I am very grateful for the positive response and support from blogs and the publishing world. It helps me to build my reputation and experience as an known artist.
 
If you had a chance to go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
Oh, that is a dangerous question...I don't think I would change anything really. Who knows how everything affects our path. I wouldn't want to disrupt that.
my site:             www.heatherchontos.com