Artist Interview with Traci Bautista

Posted On: 11/05/14

 I met Traci Bautista in January of 2009 at a craft and hobby trade show and we spoke briefly about doing a feature on our website.  I've finally gotten around to doing so and am happy that I did. 


Her work stood out to me because she was using such a mash-up of materials, including Copic Markers, where most artist's there were following more traditional paths. Her work is fearless, bright and expressive and as a mixed media artist there is always a lot going on and therefore a lot to enjoy.

Read the interview after the jump. Find out when her next online workshop is happening and get involved. You won't be sorry.

What is your earliest memory of making art? When I was younger, I was always doing something artsy or crafty. I remember going to Ben Franklin with my grandparents and buying latch hook kits and art materials to make art. In elementary school, my dad got me a Badge-a-Minute machine, which I loved. I drew pictures and cut out magazine photos of Duran Duran to make buttons that I sold at the holiday craft fairs.

I recall that, one of my favorite things to draw were pictures using repeating words. For instance, I wrote the word “butterfly” over and over to fill in the shape of a butterfly. Maybe, that encouraged my affinity for typography. Growing up, I designed clothes for my Barbies, loved making fashion designs with Fashion Plates, made hair accessories, doodled on my Peechee folders and decorated my Trapper Keepers with collage.

My love for papercrafting started at a young age, I started making handmade cards, scrapbooks & journals in 5th grade.  When I was 9, I taught myself calligraphy using a speedball book/pen set.  In high school, I designed and sewed most of my dresses for school formals by revamping my moms old bridesmaid dresses. I loved anything that had to do with art, fashion and design.

Do you have formal training or are you self-taught? I am formally trained as a graphic designer. I received my Degree in Graphic Design with a minor marketing from Woodbury University in Burbank,CA. 

As a designer, I was trained in color theory and conceptual design. But when it comes to collage, painting and book making that was self taught. In college, I took a watercolor and life drawing classes that were good foundation courses but nothing like the artwork I create today.

Can you briefly describe your creative process? My creative process differs depending on the project. If I'm doing a theme-based project, I treat it like a graphic design project. I begin by creating an adjective bank, brainstorming and researching ideas relate to my topic. I create idea/inspiration boards to collect swatches of color, photos, magazine pictures, anything related to the project. Then I sketch out thumbnails and/or idea roughs and sometimes alter the artwork on the computer.

If I’m designing a garment, I draw 5-10 sketches for the outfit with notations of materials and ideas I’d like to incorporate into the final piece. My mind is always working overtime when it comes to creating art. I like to sketch out my ideas for jewelry, class workshop ideas, lettering and project ideas so I keep a journal/sketch book by my side at all times.

When it comes to painting, I work a thought of the end result. My paintings are very organic,  I consider myself to be very prolific when it comes to making art or designing journals.  I work fast, intuitively..letting the colors, tools and my imagination to take over. I work on several paintings or pieces at once. I find this helpful to not feel stuck or not know what to do next. It keeps my mind moving. Here's a little step-by-step of how my art is created: PAINT.COLLAGE.STITCH.MAKE

Most times I begin by painting abstract backgrounds on paper and fabric pieces ranging from 5x7 to 24x36. Playing with color, drizzling paint, making marks with stencils, stamping and writing words with various art tools and supplies, pens, markers, oil pastels. Most of my paintings incorporate collage, I use black & white photocopies of my original art on the base layer, then paint and gesso on the top. My journal covers are made of patchwork collage covers using my product Collage Pauge to glue paper to fabric. The collages are randomly pieced together with wild freeform machine stitching to create the journal or art quilts.

Copic Markers are just one part of your art-making toolkit. I would guess you have a tendency to use whatever is accessible in your collage work. Can you describe your approach to art materials? What is the deciding factor on what you're using? Nothing is off limit when it comes to materials I use in my artwork. I do have a few favorite product lines I prefer when it comes to paint and markers. I mix a variety of mediums, pens and pencils in my drawings and doodles.

As for painting, I use very simple tools when I paint…foam brushes, a few different size cheap paintbrushes and a brayer. I hand cut stencils with an Xacto knife out of discarded postcards and make stamps using self-adhesive fun foam from the craft store.  I have collected so many art materials over the years, now I use whatever is in my studio.

I prefer to recycle paper, so I paint on found paper, paper bags, envelopes and paint over unused fabric. One of my favorite substrates are paper towels, I paint and dye them for my collages. I believe that you do not need expensive materials to create great art.

You are a busy entrepreneur and travel a lot. Can you talk a bit about how this came to be and how it facilitates your creativity and art making? Before I became a full-time artist. I worked in Silicon Valley for eight years and my jobs took me all over the country. I developed a love for travel and told myself that when I had my own business I it would involve a lot of travel.

I love to explore new cities, I love hotels, airplanes and meeting people on the road. So I when I started teaching, I set up gigs in cities that I wanted to explore or had family that I could visit. Then in 2006, when my first book Collage Unleashed was published, I set up my own book tour around the country, teaching workshops, offering demos and doing book signings. My book tour took me all over the world including Bali, Australia and Canada.

The past few years my hectic travel schedule only allowed being home a few days a month. It’s a fun lifestyle but has many challenges to maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Being on the road, I do find it difficult to find time to be in the studio. I have learned to adapt to my environment and set up a mobile studio in my suitcase, I work in hotel rooms, on the airplane and in coffee shops.

What/who inspires your work? There are so many things that inspire my artwork…a walk on the beach, flipping through a fashion magazine, making art with kids, a thought, an idea, a word, a photograph.

I carry my digital and video camera everywhere. I take inspiration photos of interesting shapes, signs, art, flowers, etc. These photos make their way in my art through doodles, altered backgrounds and sketchbooks. I love old craft books from the 60’s and 70’s, I revamped techniques based on traditional macramé and latch hooking in the bindings of my journals. Fashion and magazines are a great reference for photography, color and images for the faces that I draw. 

Typography is another one of my loves. I study letterforms and ad layouts for interesting ways to incorporate type and freestyle lettering in my art. I used to teach K-12 art and found that working with kids inspires creative freedom when creating artwork. Technology plays a big part in my life, I am always exploring new ways to incorporate it into the way I market my art and brand.

What advice or criticism from a teacher or mentor have you received on your work that really helped you develop? I can’t recall much criticism about my art since I graduated from college a long time ago. But when I first started my career as full time artist and teacher, one of my mentors offered me great advice about staying true to my style {of artwork}. She said, “If you want to be successful in this career, share your art with the world…write articles, write books and teach people.” She taught me a lot about being a giving artist and teacher. In my workshops and in life I strive to inspire others with my art.

What's the best part about being a full time artist? There is so much about being a full-time artist that I love. The freedom of creating my own schedule, I have the flexibility to work anytime of the day or night. So I can go to the gym or do yoga in the morning and then work in the afternoon thru evening.

I am blessed to be doing what I love daily. I am an entrepreneur at heart, so I am always looking for new business opportunities and exciting ways to further the exposure of my art and develop creative partnerships with manufacturers and other artists.

What is the worst part about being a full time artist? There is not much I can complain about when it comes to my job. I have a career that most people would dream and love to do. The worst or hardest part about being a full time artist is probably not having a regular paycheck and no benefits like I had when I was working in the corporate world. Also, I find it difficult to balance creative studio time and business time.

Now that I have so many other facets to my business, like licensing, online web properties and developing product, I find that it gets harder to spend time in the studio to just create and play for myself. Everything is driven by deadlines for writing, workshops or product, so I am not able to spend as much time creating as I would like.

Any classes or workshops coming up? Yes, I teach a variety of mixed media painting, collage and art journaling workshops. I will be teaching throughout the US and in Tuscany in 2010.  It’s a much lighter schedule than in years past, I have decided to cut back on my live events to hopefully get back in the studio to paint and develop more porduct!

I have also created a series of online workshops, which include downloadable color PDF lessons, videos, discussions and photo galleries. So for those who can’t travel to a live workshop, they can take a class from home. My 2010 schedule is available on my website

Tags: Artists, Inspire, Journaling, Mixed Media, Painting, Showcase, Traci Bautista,