Artist Juanita Tatum reveals how she discovered her voice and found freedom in creating.

Like many artists, Juanita’s art journey was not a straight line. It was a journey of trying various artforms to discover what resonated most with her. Each endeavor brought her closer to her unique and authentic art style. 

“I started by copying real pictures and I discovered that I wasn’t really good at drawing people. I guess I couldn’t translate it. Then I picked up some charcoal and an impressionist picture and I was hooked. Charcoal was a lot of fun so I started mixing that with everything else. I found my voice by switching from trying to draw what I saw to drawing whatever came out. It was definitely a quick progression.

I scribble, I spread, I spray. I just do whatever feels good. I make stuff every day, lots of stuff.

Normally I just create and if it happens to fall into a category great. But now I’m trying to create with something in mind. And it’s a little more difficult. Trying to make something look like something else looks, there’s a lot of pressure and I create intuitively. I’m honing my skills now. I’m practicing making people look like people.”

Juanita’s art emulates self-discovery, authenticity and freedom. 

As a child, Juanita’s emotional vocabulary was limited to: happy, sad and mad. Many years later, in a ‘Journey to Freedom’ class at her local Y.M.C.A, she was introduced to a feeling vocabulary wheel. Each class opened with the question: “How are you feeling?” 

“This was eye opening to me (and before I started creating). It’s really about the lens that you put on and recognize the emotions nested underneath another emotion.”

She later discovered that creating portraits further allowed her to delve deeper into emotions that are hard to express in words. Her art process unlocked emotions buried deeply within, and brought them to the surface visually. 

“Emotions are messy. I want other people to be able to relate to that and not be afraid to talk about that. Talk about how you’re feeling. And that your feelings aren’t wrong, your feelings are valid.”

Juanita’s art invites viewers to interpret the pieces based on their own emotions and experiences. 

The growth, bravery and joy she experiences in creating has infiltrated into all areas of her life. She has become quick to say yes to opportunities, including ones that push her out of her comfort zone. 

“Art has let me find and be the real me instead of being the perfectionist that I used to be. I’ve relaxed a lot more and let things be the way they are. It’s very freeing. I feel like there was a huge shift for me in my life. I’ve always been an outgoing, happy person, but now I’m more authentic. I think that’s what people like and that’s what I like about me: I can just be me.”

We invite you to connect with Juanita and gallery show titled: Exploring Emotions Through Faces at the 21 Step Gallery (2665 4th Ave, Suite 201)

Artist Talk: Thursday, August 31 from 6-8

Meet the Artist/Demo: Saturday, September 16 from 1-4

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