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Meet Trailblazer Annie Decamp

Today we’d like to introduce you to Annie Decamp.

Annie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Today I work as a full-time mixed media artist. How I got here has certainly not been a straight path, but I do believe all roads have led to me living a creative life and discovering what I am absolutely meant to do. I grew up in Northern California. My family moved there from my home town of Denver when I was five. It was a time and place that offered us a lot of creative freedom; we were influenced by a strong academic culture, a rich music and arts scene happening in the San Francisco Bay area, and of course, the emergence of technology. And it was the 1970’s and 80’s so it was a time of deep social and political change. Although I was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, I had an incredible Mother who sought out activities and experiences that helped me thrive in sports, the arts, community, and school. I was an entrepreneurial and driven child and worked hard.

I would attribute much of where I am today to my Mother’s perseverance as well as my own around my learning challenges. I ended up graduating from UC Berkeley in 1989 with a degree in History, a minor in Art History and a focus on Anthropology, having learned early on not only that hard work pays off but also that our limitations and differences can be our biggest assets when we choose to use them creatively. People with dyslexia often have a high sensitivity and a strong ability to see things from multiple angles. While reading was difficult for me, my ability to be very observant and read situations became very strong. This sensibility is the backbone of the artwork I do today.

After college, I took a job in technology working for Oracle Corporation, having not yet realized I had a creative side. After about twelve years working in tech, getting married and having two beautiful kids, I started to go through some big awakenings. I was directing the development of Francis Coppola’s website for his winery and chateau in Rutherford, CA and during long drives to and from Berkeley, I began to have moments of creative awakening. I think a lot of it had to do with working in the beautiful surroundings of Napa Valley in contrast to the corporate offices I spent so many years in. It’s good to discover what physical environment brings out our best work. During this time, I began painting mostly abstract work in acrylic. I then knew I wanted to build a more creative career and low and behold a friend of mine asked if I would like to make a piece of jewelry with her in her studio (I’ve been an accessory nut forever), so it was like the universe was gifting me this opportunity. From there, I started making jewelry using the lost wax casting process and launched Decamp Jewelry shortly thereafter.

For twelve years, I ran that business with some success but a lot of frustration. I loved certain elements of jewelry design but got lost in the parts and inventory. My business was hit hard in the crash of 2008 so I closed shop a couple of years later and went back into business, first with a start-up and then I moved into technical recruiting. By 2016, I was back living in Denver, (that is another story), and I missed the creative life I once had so I started playing with encaustic painting. Encaustic blends beeswax with resin that acts as a hardening agent and pigment. The medium is heated to about 200 degrees and working from a hot palette, one uses a brush or palette knife in one hand and a torch or heat gun in the other.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road has been anything but smooth, but rewarding nonetheless. Just as I launched my jewelry business back in 2001, my marriage of 10 years came to an end, and shortly after my mother was diagnosed with dementia that eventually led to Alzheimer’s. Coupled with the trauma of my parent’s divorce when I was 18, I became pretty confused around my identity and my value. Let’s just say the next decade-plus was not an easy time, and I was not at my best. Yet, as so many people who go through challenge and trauma will say, broad growth, awakening and wisdom can be born when we find grace during tough times. From my years of teaching yoga, I am humbled to see that everyone has challenges – so it’s good to remember that our mess isn’t that special. What is special is how we deal with it.

Advice for the journey:
I recently heard someone at yoga talk about letting go of three things –
Believing that I am what I do.
Believing that I am what I have.
Believing in what others think about who I am.

Gosh, if I could have learned this a couple of decades ago life would have been so much freer and more fun. My best advice is to not always focus on what you need to do more of, but what you need to let go of more. In yoga, I talk a lot about becoming aware of what we hang onto that maybe never belonged to us in the first place, or that just no longer serves us. Stop dragging that luggage around and focus on making peace with what does belong to you.

How I got to where I am today has a lot to do with letting go of who I thought I was yesterday. This has freed me up to dive so much deeper into my creativity. Creativity I believe, ushers out our truth. Whether we paint it, draw it, carve it, build it, sing it, write it or make it out of clay, when we don’t intervene with worries about what it is, what it means, or how it will be accepted we have found complete freedom.

Other snippets of advice:
Make love a part of your daily practice – love yourself and love others more. That might sound cheesy but feeling loved and loving others really does set our compass for a happier life.
Be a good friend – we need the support of a community and our community needs us.
Be in service – when we give of ourselves, we focus less on ourselves.
Seek help from others – Find a mentor, coach or teacher that can help you along the way. Then become a teacher.
Choose optimism over pessimism – Be conscious of your thoughts and how they affect your mood. Do they help you or hurt you?
Turn your phone off and Meditate – find time to be still.

Please tell us about Annie Decamp Art – what should we know?
Today, with amazing support from friends and family, I paint full-time. I am known as a mixed media figurative artist. My work begins with research into late 19th to mid-20th century black and white photographs. I then either paint from those photographs using charcoal, oil, and encaustic, or I alter them digitally before painting into them with the same materials. My body of work is very layered due to the multiple steps and mediums I use. The process and mediums speak to the complexity of being human and the many layers that we are made of. I use a lot of symbolism to create stories or illustrate how connected we truly are to the lives of others. My work fulfills my desire to be closer to others and have a deeper understanding of history and the challenges of humanity. I am interested in human migration and perseverance. I generally work 10-12 hours a day on my painting and the business of art. It is an enormous and fulfilling balancing act and definitely has its physical demands. Yet the connection I get when sharing my art with people it resonates with truly is the most fulfilling experience besides having children that I have known. Every day feels like love. I work with other artists and sought out a teacher and mentor about a year ago in order to deepen my painting skills and to adapt to working in the fine arts world. I am active on social media, am in a couple of galleries so far and do about 8 to 10 shows a year. This fall, I will embark on teaching art to kids and will also begin teaching encaustic to adults at a new music and arts school here in Denver called New Cottage Arts. On the side, I teach hot Bikram-style yoga and realize that sharing what we do with others brings the biggest rewards.

Which women have inspired you in your life?
My Mother for her love, enduring support and clever approach to problem-solving.

Three of my dear friends for their strength, generosity, wisdom and for teaching me the meaning of true friendship and loyalty.

Betty White for breaking barriers and being a true feminist and animal activist, and also for making us laugh – I’m about to start painting a series of her.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Mark Woolcott Photography

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