Interview with Katie Bonadies
Chelsea Peterson primarily paints in acrylic and will use anything within reach like charcoal, pencil, pastel, or ink and says she doesn’t have the patience for oil. Chelsea joined RWS in April 2023. Chelsea has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember and her work has always been along the lines of abstract. She always discredited her work because she couldn’t draw identifiable things, even though other artists complimented her work. She spent a lot of time exploring and experimenting with different media, searching for her style. Through this search she realized that making what feels good is her style and now she tries not to force the work. This has let her curiosity take her to different places.
Until recently the majority of Chelsea’s work was intuitively driven and she didn’t take commissions because she felt her creative practice wasn’t in a place where she was able to execute on commissioned pieces in a way that best represented the art she wanted to put out. Now Chelsea is experimenting with planning and adding structure to her work. Her current series are what she calls ‘isometric dreamscapes’, “Like a Barbie Dream House, but weirder.” These isometric inspired works use geometric shapes with horizontal edges drawn at 30 degrees that give the illusion of depth and space. Her isometric drawings are a continuation and development of things she’s been doing on paper for a long time. There’s architecture in the shapes, but the paintings still feel abstract. She enjoys drawing things that the viewer can get lost in.
Her process starts with intuitive mark making, focusing on feeling the best next step and she creates balance and problem solves through overlapping colors, shapes, and textures. In her day job, Chelsea solves complex visual problems as a product designer for a large financial institution. Working in the digital realm has made her feel disconnected from the hands-on craft aspect of being an artist though she takes pride in coming up with efficient strategies for seemingly insignificant tasks. She loves running into experiences that are so seamless they are unnoticeable. Solving complex visual problems is where she feels she thrives, which comes through in a lot of her creative work outside of her job.
Her work started to evolve the first summer of the pandemic when she made a commitment to dedicating time to her creative practice. She came up with a set of rules to work by, including that she wasn’t doing it for money or likes on social media; that she got to decide when the work was done; and that she could work in any medium that felt good. She put layer upon layer upon layer to see what would happen. It took months to develop a piece so she worked on thirty pieces at a time. It was a struggle when she lost her home studio and had to put everything but her sketchbooks and small works into storage for a couple of years.
She says getting a studio space has been incredible for her creative practice. She has been able to dive in and work on one of the larger pieces that had been in storage and at the time felt finished. When she was reunited with the painting she realized she still had work to do. She loves to sit on her deck and use an orbital sander to remove some of the surface of her paintings before putting on another layer. The effect of the sandpaper produces unexpected layers and colors. Chelsea likes to leave a little mystery in terms of how she arrived at where she’s at in a piece, but there’s a story in those layers, in that depth, and a lot of work went into creating them.
Chelsea’s at a point where she’s trying to merge her intentional geometric shapes with her more intuitive work to find that happy medium of controlled chaos. Now she practices under the rule that there are no rules. “I think that sometimes we’re trapped in these structures of ‘I should’ or ‘I have to’,” but she wanted to feel good about what she was doing and sometimes that meant straying from the initial plan.
This is a reflection of the growth she’s experienced in the evolution of her style and her understanding of her own creative freedom. She’s excited to see the images from her sketchbooks scaled up and feels like she is finally able to integrate and evolve those drawings into her paintings, which is something she has been trying to do for a long time. Chelsea describes herself as insatiably curious and it’s fun for her not knowing how a piece will turn out. Understanding that things can change along the way has been a whole new experience. Contact Chelsea through her website, www.cpeterstudio.com, or on Instagram @cpeter.studio.