Today we’d like to introduce you to Desiree Brothe.
Desiree, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up in Greeley, obsessing over so many art things: artists’ lives, architecture, human anatomy, plants, history, and how to recreate all of them in various media of my own. I spent hours reading about artists and their techniques and what they used to achieve a certain effect. Later, I discovered Sci-fi and fantasy illustration through comic books, magazines, and a Boris Valejo calendar my mom had, and began making worlds from the stories I loved. My parents were also very creative; I watched them paint, draw, and even rebuild our house, which was a big influence on my creation process. I remember being about 11 and drawing elaborate house plans with landscape design included. In high school, I entered the IB Art program and started taking figure drawing classes that I continued into college.
I took all of this art energy and pursued a degree in art education at the University of Northern Colorado. I enjoyed learning about all the different mediums I would need to teach, which although it only further enhanced my interest in even more subjects, I kept my emphasis in drawing. The semester I began my student teaching, I realized I really didn’t want to continue down the education path, but I finished the degree.
After college, I traveled, taught one-on-one and community arts classes, worked various jobs in the horticulture and medical industries, then moved to Cheyenne, WY, in 2012. In Cheyenne, I finally settled into Community and Economic Development, working specifically in Downtown Revitalization. I developed close relationships with small business owners and community leaders, learning to navigate political paths as I ran events and created subsidy programs with public funds. During this time, my art-making was stagnant. My job was a high-stress environment that I was in love with, but it didn’t leave much time for art. I was always thinking about it, though, and I joined the Arts Cheyenne board of directors so I could be involved with advocacy for local art.
After five years, my love for working in a high-stress environment faded, and I made a move to working with the private sector at a local marketing agency, West Edge Collective. I’ve been at West Edge as the Community Development Manager since last October and have finally found my ability to take time to make art again. This position keeps me in a creative environment, and I can leverage resources and partnerships to continue to enhance the creative sector in Cheyenne.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Career choice and those struggles aside, no, it’s definitely not been a smooth road. Reserving time to make the things I want has become an obsession, and I’m always searching for the best way to maximize it. In addition to feeling like I never have enough time, I also realized I was very concerned with the practicality of making art. The creation process is beautiful, and I approach it very strategically, but in that same vein of thought… what do you do with all the pieces you make? Until the last two years, I wasn’t comfortable enough to sell my work, and I haven’t always had room to store it, so I just simply didn’t make anything unless it was a gift and had a home to go to. I realized that was becoming a significant barrier, and my need to create was going to need to overcome the practicality for where to put the art.
If it wasn’t time or a place to put the piece of art that was prohibiting me from making it, it was confidence, marred by depression and anxiety. There was a long stretch for several years where I didn’t make anything. I had a whole studio full of materials, and I would walk in to just stand there and stare at them before walking back out again.
About two years ago, a realtor friend approached me about painting small watercolors of the homes he’d sold as closing gifts for their new owners. That opportunity, combined with the support of my partner and my friends, spurred something into effect. I was suddenly ready to make things and throw myself out there. I agreed to hang a few pieces at a local coffee shop for the monthly Artwalk. I joined two new art groups in town with people just as dedicated to the creation and support for visual arts as I am. I started leveraging the relationships I made in the downtown environment to create support for myself and other artists who have a similar need to share their work and process in some way. I’m finally at a point where I can define my own art again, and I have opportunities to be taken seriously as I do so.
We’d love to hear more about your art.
I created Magpie Creations at the close of 2019. This has largely been one big experiment just to figure out where I want to go with my art and what I want to do. But I learned enough from the small business world that I wanted to legitimize this process, as well. Though I approach the whole business strategically, I also allow for things to just happen, which appears to be a good balance to meet all my creative needs.
My work focuses mainly on painting, drawing, and mixed media. I do a lot with watercolor, acrylic, and pen and ink, and the mixed media side of it allows me to continue to go sporadically in whatever direction I desire. I pull my subject matter from images in everyday life that I try to grab with photographs for reference later. Regardless of image, every piece I do pulls in emotion and symbolism in some significant way, which harkens back to all of my childhood obsessions. I’m working on striking a balance between creating those pieces I know others appreciate and that might sell, and creating the weird stuff that I really want to make.
Recently, I started doing murals for a few interiors downtown. I forgot how much I love murals, and what they can do for a space, and what it is to work that big. These pieces have also been like love-letters for the locations and subject matter they contain. I pull in colors, symbols, and images that reflect back to the space the mural is located in. For example, my two most recent pieces are part of a series of a woman listening to music through headphones; as she listens, we see sound waves and objects flowing through the headphones. And I listen to a lot of my own favorite music while I paint.
Each new piece is helping me to redefine what my ‘style’ looks like overall. I’ve spent so many years doing a little of everything that I’ve never had a good opportunity to find what that ‘brand’ really is and looks like for myself. I’m excited to continue this process as I allow Magpie Creations to grow and evolve. Someday, I’d love to own a studio business downtown where I can make work, host classes for others to learn, and allow local artists to share their work, as well. I want to continue to create an art environment in downtown Cheyenne that meets the needs of the up-and-coming, alternative, and even low-brow artists of the community. We severely lack a resource and outlet that isn’t focused on the western trend in art.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
In 2017, a local tattoo shop ran a special on a small tattoo that said, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” I’m sure many will remember the political scenario that this phrase derived from. I was interested in getting the tattoo done not just because of that moment in history, but also because this phrase felt close to home and I wanted a reminder of it. Through all the times that I worked out art challenges, made career choices, or dealt with life issues, persistence to keep going and continuing to move forward has been at the forefront of my mind. As my art-making process continues to evolve, I think that the constant reminder to persist through the creation of it as it develops will continue to be important.
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