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Check Out Danielle Gyles’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Danielle Gyles.

Hi Danielle, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I grew up in Pueblo, Colorado. I’ve always been fascinated by the intricacies of the world around me; the patterns, colors, rythm, and harmony of it all speaks to me. Art is a way of learning the language and how to use it to communicate with this world, and to understand it in it’s beauty and pain. When I was a kid I would spend hours simply observing before trying to interpret my observations onto paper with whatever mark maker I could get my hands on. My parents saw my aptitude for art so they would give me crayons, watercolors, markers, and loads of encouragement to explore my potential to create from what I was experiencing. I really got into comic strips, and illustrations. I love using art to tell a story. When I was suffering the stereotypical angst of being a misunderstood teenager, I found reprieve in my creative story telling, turning my friends, family, and myself into cartoon characters, placing them into story panels to play out my anxieties and misunderstandings. Art grounded me and continues to ground me in this way. I enjoy creating cartoon versions of the people in my life, but my work now mostly tells the story of who I am spiritually and emotionally. I still use my art to express my understanding and perceptions of the world around me, but as I grow and explore this world, my understanding of it becomes more perplexed and abstract. My art carries a lot of symbolism and meaning. I spend countless hours reading and researching the human condition through psychology, biology, physics, conservation, politics, economics, culture, and tradition. What I learn manifests itself through my art, which can be playful and whimsical, but also cynical. To live, to be human is messy and complicated, so it is through my art I hope to connect with people in a way that makes them feel seen. We are all in this together. Essentially, we are all one.

I carry this notion into my work as an elementary school teacher, sharing the idea that art is about process, not perfection, as is life and growing up. I teach my students the value of play and exploration through art, and encourage them to break out of their comfort zones to enter new and exciting territory. It is my hope they will translate this into their lives well into adulthood.

When people ask me what I went to school for, I half-jokingly say I wanted to embrace the starving artist lifestyle which is why I got my Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts. This statement is half true. I have struggled to get my work “out there,” wrestling with the demons in my head that tell me I’m not good enough, the fear of failure always nipping at my heals. When not teaching or making art I supplement my income through various odd jobs such as house/pet/babysitting, cleaning houses, or caring for people in my community. I have volunteered my time working as an advocate for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), a program that gives a voice to children involved in abuse and neglect cases, and also with Junior Achievement. I have over twenty years working in the service industry, and am a registered CNA in Colorado. I also manage my personal artist’s website, a handful of online shops, and am my own personal hypegal for my work on social media. My friends have referred to me as a renaissance woman, never settling for any one discipline, but diving head first into multiple disciplines and making them my own. I am a painter, illustrator, sculpter, potter, builder, gardener, writer, singer, and cake maker. I find ways to put beauty and intrigue back into the world that continues to inspire me each and every day in the simple hope that by doing so, I inspire others to do the same.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not been a smooth road for me. As a teenager I dabbled with recreational drugs and drinking which eventually led to losing my license due to a DWAI case I was charged with at the age of 18. The case was deferred by the Court, but it was the last straw for my parents. I wasn’t taking college seriously as I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and now I didn’t have a driver’s licence because of poor decision making. A family friend in Oklahoma offered me a place to live and a job to help me get back on my feet, but more importantly a change in scenery. I did eventually get myself back together while in Oklahoma. I worked as a cake decorator for Walmart, and enrolled at Rose State College in Midwest City, OK, but my grandma’s failing health in Colorado called me back home before I could get my Associates Degree.

After my grandma passed, I chased a doomed relationship out to Virginia where I attained a job working as a cake decorator for a high end bakery called Amphora. The hours were long and the work was especially taxing on my body, and though the knowledge and skills I earned there are invaluable to my creative practice, I couldn’t take the demand on my time and body, and quit after six months. I then got a job working in the food service industry. I did this for the next eleven years. During this time, I moved back to Colorado, entered into another doomed and emotionally draining relationship, and finally got both my Associates and Bachelors Degrees in Fine Arts. I worked my way through school as a server, bar tender, and cake decorator, graduating with a 3.7 gpa. My spirituality and relationship with my Maker has been the guiding force to my determination to keep going, and never give up on myself. Failure does not exist in my lexicon. It is negated through growth and gained knowledge through experience.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I am a painter, illustrator, sculpter, potter, builder, gardener, writer, singer, and cake decorator. I am an artist. To live is art, but I am probably most known for my watercolor work. My watercolors have been selected to show in the Western Watercolor Society, Colorado State Fair Fine Arts Gallery, the Pueblo Fine Arts Guild, various online shows, and the Emmanuel Gallery at Metropolitan State University of Denver. However, the work I am most proud of would be my thesis work, “Let Them Eat Cake; the Pursuit of Happiness and the American Dream”, a kinetic installation/performance piece that showed at the Center for the Visual Arts in Denver, CO. With this work I explored the Myth of the American Dream marketed and sold as the pursuit of happiness through consumerism and oppression. It is unlike any of the work I typically do, but it’s message is clear and profound, expressed through symbolism and materials. I think what sets my work apart from other artists is my need to express an essence of Truth that strikes at the viewers core to question reality and their place within it.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
I live by a handful of life mottos. Two of those mottos are about risk: Never live in the ‘would have’, ‘could have’, ‘should haves’, and get comfortable being uncomfortable. Risk is about growth and change. Positive change happens when we take our trials and obstacles and turn them into learning opportunities. I do not live a life of regrets, and have learned to be thankful for the trials that have made me into the person I am and continue to become. The most challenging moments in our lives become the most fascinating parts of ourselves. It may suck now, but just think of how great this story is going to be when you tell it in the future. Thank G-d you’re alive!!

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