Mention the name Heather Mader and it’s right at the top with the greats, those artists who first influenced me to start this addictive art form know as fluid art. She knows. She knows about things in life which allow an individual to express themselves with passion through music, art and food. I could imagine Heather being a director to a major movie entitled ‘Eat, Play, Create’ , or should that be ‘Play, Create, Eat’? Julia Roberts obviously as the lead roll.
At the time of writing this, I don’t know Heather, but as I write these questions with her in mind, I think by the end of this article, I would have got to know a sensitive, artistic, caring individual who wants to bring joy to everyone she meets – perhaps (like me) with an obsessive personality, who gives 150% to everything they do (sometimes at their own peril and occasionally hard to live up to!)
1. I may be far off the mark, but do you see yourself in any of the statements above?
Oh my gosh yes! I’m laughing, trying to figure out what my movie title would be if “Like Water for Chocolate” and “Eat Pray Love” were rolled together into a film, and what INTENSELY curvy, mouthy, empathetic, emotional, deep-thinking, obsessive, driven and loving mid-life actress would play the role of me?!? 🙂 Ha ha! I have no idea – Hollywood doesn’t make many women on-screen who represent women like me, but I know we exist.
Obsessive – even at my own peril? Yes I’m an extremely driven individual in everything I put my mind to. I started my own chef company at 28 years old with virtually nothing, and built a career pouring my soul into creating beautiful, artful and genuine food and nurturing others with it. I did the same with my art career, giving it everything within me fully, from the moment I made the decision to paint. And when I find myself struggling with thoughts that I’m not growing fast enough – I remind myself that comparison is the thief of joy. I remind myself that there is no right or wrong speed to grow into the human being I am supposed to be, and that everything is happening in its perfect time. I try to step back and look at what isn’t working, and how can I work more GENUINELY and in a state of open allowance, and to let go of my perceived notion of success. This might be one of the hardest things to do in life, letting go of our vision and being FLUID…like fluid art!
Sensitive? To a fault. I carried the burden of being called “too sensitive” most of my life, ashamed for being able to intrinsically feel what others were feeling or by being engulfed by the enormity of emotions in general. A friend and guide helped me accept and understand my true nature as an Empath, and it was only then I began to understand the gift of it. Letting go of the shame, embracing my true self, and fully allowing the ability to open my heart to others was one of the most healing experiences in my life. I began to understand that my feelings were a conduit to others feelings too – an open, flowing energy exchange. This meant that my joy was other’s joy, and when I realised that Art made me joyful and I could share that through my YouTube channel and social media platforms, by teaching, and by creating beautiful things….it felt perfect and right.
2. Jackson Pollock once said ‘Painting is self-discovery. Every good artist paints what he is.’ I can feel that you really do express yourself through your painting, using beautiful rich colours and shapes to reach a composition that you are in love with, how important is it for you and any artist that they find and convey their own unique identity?
Self discovery is so personal, it’s hard for me to decide what would be important to another artist. Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned about creating art professionally, is that beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, and art is very personal. The old adage of “It should make you FEEL something”….no truer words were spoken. Because at the heart of it, even if there is no composition, no understanding of colour theory or finesse in the use of techniques….the real question is, “Does it MOVE you?”. I had a collector of my work say once, “This one makes my heart flutter when I look at it”….and I knew what she meant, because that is how good art affects me too! It happens while I’m painting sometimes, or when I see someone else’s work.
Logistically speaking – of course I can recognise skill and I encourage others to be themselves and explore, and be FEARLESS! I am all about being uniquely genuine. I think being genuine is probably why I am not as popular as others….the road less traveled can be lonely, and often not well-known. But I believe it’s the most important part of any process….are you being uniquely YOU? Learn the different techniques, study the masters, take the classes and watch the videos…..and eventually…..I encourage you to gather all this knowledge and run with it. Go on a journey. Combine techniques, don’t worry about ruining something, let go of the outcome and follow the fluidity of where the painting process is taking you….that’s the place you will find a little path heading off to where nobody else is going, and that’s where you will find the beautiful, lovely, breathtaking, unmistakable, unique and genuine YOU. xoxo Peace and Light.
3. You make a good point about being ‘uniquely genuine’. Many artists who may be reading this article may struggle to be themselves and worry how they are perceived on Social Media, especially YouTube! I warm to those people who don’t try to be like anyone else, who are willing to make mistakes, show their vulnerabilities and not worry if a painting goes horribly wrong whilst filming (as I write this I’m laffin’ as I have a truly awful video, that I don’t know if I have the guts to upload!)…, these people can be some of the most inspiring people I have come across.
Has Social Media shaped how you view and think of yourself as an artist and how to you cope with the dreaded ‘thumbs down’?
Social media has definitely played a role in how I view myself as an artist – how could it not when I am constantly getting feedback from hundreds of people a day about my work?!? 🙂 Its a powerful tool. It can be both a really positive boost and a constrictive, fear-mongering, dream-killer if you let it. I’m really a person who is probably too sensitive to be on social media, but I’m also a leader and a natural teacher. So that pretty much sums up me on social media – someone who is brave enough to go LIVE and, in real time, paint something awful right in front of an audience of my peers but also turn around and get my feelings hurt when someone leaves a rude comment or I take something too personally. I’m happy to say I have developed a callousness, as I began to recognise that it is TRULY impossible to please everyone. As a chef, I came to this understanding a little quicker for some reason. Perhaps it was because I KNEW I was a great cook, and I didn’t need the affirmations of my diners to confirm this for me. But being an artist, and being vulnerable and out there for everyone to see and judge…its taken more time for me to come into this knowing. But isn’t that the ultimate end-game – a knowing of your own worth and talent, regardless of what anyone else thinks? I often remember to compare my artistic self to that of a self-actualised person – independent of the GOOD OR BAD opinions of others. Because if you don’t, you will find yourself lost and hurt all the time.
4. Let’s talk about food and music!
At the risk of quoting Shakespeare… ‘if music be the food of love, play on’. The lovelorn Orisino is frustrated in his courtship of Countess Olivia. He asks for more music because he muses that an access of music might curb his obsession with love, in the way that eating too much removes the appetite for food.
I love food, I am a great cook (although not a chef like you), I love music (I play the flute, probably not as good as you)… throw art into the mix and you have a heady mix of creativity flowing in all directions. At the risk of another cheesy quote from the great John Miles, which of these was your first love and what do you think will be your last (deep I know!)
I ask myself the same question and I surprised myself with the answer…. Music!
Which of these do you turn too in difficult times? (All three are an amazing way of conveying feelings.)
Which was my first love and which will be my last?
Food has been a relationship of juxtaposing forces, of light and dark, interwoven into the timeline of my life. It’s a bowl of cookie dough, scooped by my little chubby hands with grandma’s help on a bright summer’s day. It’s been a little dirty secret, reserved for midnight binges in the dark, stuffing down self-loathing and sorrowful pity or heartbreak. It’s been the roar of a standing ovation, by guests at the table of my life’s work as a chef. Food has been a quiet bowl of chicken soup left on the stoop of an ailing friend, and the rejoicing sound of a lit, candle-filled birthday cake emerging from the kitchen into a dimmed room. Food has been my enemy, my lover, my heartbreak, my joy, my livelihood, my identity and my relationship continues on in a long novel with an ending I can finally see the beginnings of.
The unspoken fourth in the trilogy of Food, Music & Art – is Writing.
I see myself doing that in my final chapter of my story. Probably a combination of Art and Writing. I don’t know the HOW, only that it will unfold – the way things that are natural seem to unfold. Gently and easily, with doors that open once the first steps are taken. I’ve learned that’s the way life is when you stay open to the possibilities, and this is a vision that is clear and bright and welcoming so I know its right.
5.How has your style of art developed from your first painting to the beautiful mixed media commission piece you have just completed?
Can we see a picture of your very first pour and a picture of your very latest?
How has my style developed from my first painting? Well, a picture speaks a thousand words, doesn’t it. lol. Above left is my very very first pour and my most recent completed pour and of course you can see I have grown as fluid but also just as artist. I think the biggest thing is that I am able to now see my work as a “whole” instead of just a pretty detail here and there. It’s important, that we look at all the pieces of our paintings and ask ourselves if it really works in all the ways a great piece of art should work. I’m no longer satisfied with just a few pretty little bits here and there, I want composition and flow and great movement and colours that play well together and provide interest and dynamic contrast. I want a FEELING to emerge when I look at a piece of my work… and if it doesn’t, I scrape it. I demand more of myself too, as I reach to understand different mediums and substrates and tools. I love fluid art, and I think it is a great jumping off point for myself – to grow into what I hope to become. I see it as a journey, and I’m just starting but I’m excited to see where I will land.
If you could pass on any one piece of advice to you younger self what would it be?
I’ll answer that one because it’s easy, and the answer came effortlessly…as all things that are the truth should. It was the same advice, ironically, that all my elders and mentors were telling me, but I never quite understood it. I would say, “Love yourself. Love yourself fully. Love yourself enough to know your importance…that you actually matter. Love yourself so that you are independent of the bad or good thoughts of others, so that nobody defines you. Love yourself when you look in the mirror and see the beauties of your heart reflecting back to you in every curve, every lump, every round edge. Love yourself when you are vulnerable and too sensitive and misunderstood by many, your sensitivity is a gift. Love yourself even when you were wrong, selfish, or angry, you deserve the same compassion you give others. Love yourself when you are alone because then you never will be. Love your beautiful creative nature – it’s not as common as you imagine it to be. Finally, loving yourself means acceptance, all the parts of you – the best and the worst, the dark and the light, just because you are worthy.
For further information or to purchase any of Heathers Art visit
To contact Heather and for commissions:
We all learn and get inspired from other artists. Gail Burstyn from ‘Life in Splatters’ is one of those artists who inspires us mere mortals by breaking new ground in fluid art. When a swipe doesn’t stop at a ‘swipe’ and becomes a ‘shmear’, a flip cup becomes a thing of real beauty and a flip and drag springs into a mythical creature before your very eyes, you know you are looking at a ground breaking fluid artist.
Funny story (and the absolute truth), whilst taking some banana bread out of the oven, I thought to myself ‘I would love to do a collaboration with Gail’ (but how do I muster up the courage to contact her!!). Well at that precise moment my phone went, and yes it was Gail asking ME to do a collaboration! Fear immediately set in followed by a few sleepless nights (as with all collaborations I’ve done) but I knew that I was about to learn a great deal… why wouldn’t I, even if what I produced was rubbish!
I also persuaded her to answer a few questions (well quite a lot actually), so grab a coffee and gain some insight into someone who inspires us all to stretch that little bit further into finding our own expressiveness in fluid art.
How and when did you burst into fluid art and what was the very first painting that you did?
Late fall 2018 I had a bad spill in the backyard while gardening and broke my tibial Plateau quite badly. Consequently I spent six months in a wheelchair unable to do a great deal of anything. Browsing YouTube in February 2019. I came across a video of acrylic pouring. It was Carol’s Art Room, ‘How to funnel pour with acrylic paint’.
I was mesmerised.. Then I discovered Courtney Hoeschler, then Annemarie Ridderhoff, Karen Durishin, Gina DeLuca, Ann Osborne, Christine Welch, Heather Mader… so many great teachers.
I was hooked. I watched hundreds and hundreds of videos, making notes, studying. I started collecting materials but still too intimidated by the process. I saw that there was an introductory course nearby and went and did my first 2 pours. They were dirty cup pours, the paints mixed by the instructor, that was it.. the fear was gone.. and I set up my pouring space.
I remember my first few weeks of painting, oh how I struggled with consistency. Nothing was working, muddy… nothing like I was seeing on YT. I nearly quit many times, so frustrated.
Then, one day it just worked. I had the magic consistency. I did a flip cup and swiped over it and it was beautiful… to me at least.
I see that nature and landscapes play a large part in your photography, how does this influence your paintings?
I find I am still drawn to the patterns and textures that I would seek out in my photographs of landscapes, plants and abstracts. I often see landscapes, flowers, birds and I find myself using some of the rules of composition, like the Fibonacci spirals that are part of the architecture of nature, my colour choices are also inspired by the beauty we are surrounded by.
You have a distinct style, which I love… how important is it for a fluid artist to find their own identity?
I do believe that it is important to create work that is individual to you, that stands out from others… as uniquely yours. Art is supposed to be original, the individual expression of the artist.
When I started, I needed to learn from others the basic mixing consistencies and techniques. From practising basics like ring pour, dirty poor and simple swipe techniques, I began to experiment more… and began to naturally produce work that is uniquely my own. The more I practiced, the more I learned to have some control over the process. I am thrilled when someone comments: “they knew it was mine before they saw my name”. Your style is a reflection of your design tastes in general.
I have noticed that after I have experimented and create something I love, can I see the resemblance to artists work that I am drawn to. For instance, I have always been drawn to the works of William Morris and his rich tapestries and wallpaper designs. Some of my works that I refer to as tapestry, remind me of his designs.Some of my paintings remind me of cave art and sometimes even my photography background influences composition and colour choices..
I believe it is important to find your own artistic voice.
Your work reminds me of The Art Nouveau period. One of my favourite artists is Alphonse Mucha, who are your favourite artists and how do they influence you?
There are so many artists I admire and whether or not they Inspire my work that’s a tough question. As you know we have very little control over what the paint does but I have managed to be able to work with the paint in such a way to obtain results that resemble elements of nature, Flowers, plants birds… creatures and landscapes.
I am inspired by The Works of William Morris textile and tapestry artist, whose paintings and designs were inspired by the beauty of nature. I am also very fond of the work of Gustav Klimt and of course Vincent van Gogh. I occasionally see my colour choices reflecting some of these artists works.
Do you do any other form of painting? Still life or portraits?
I have never drawn or painted before, and when I tried, I found I had absolutely no talent for it. Imagine my surprise when playing with fluid paint that I can create beautiful flowers, birds and tapestry like pieces. I knit and crochet, created beadwork, cross stitch, needlepoint, traditional rug hooking, designing pieces and dying my own wool, photography, and now painting. It seems that somehow, the paint is doing all the work, I only manipulate it… a happy partnership.
I have never met Cathleen Ozmore in person, I’m in the UK, she is in The USA and our backgrounds are very different. However we both stumbled upon fluid art around the same time and became friends through YouTube, discovering that we both have a great appreciation for Courtney Hoelscher and both became instantly hooked on the ‘swipe’ technique.
It’s my intention over the coming months to interview those artists who have influenced me, delve a little deeper than what you see on screen and find out what makes them tick. Cathleen very kindly agreed, in turn I hope you will be influenced as I was and can identify with her journey through fluid art.
How did you get into fluid art and did you paint before?
I retired from my Landscaping company of 30 years in 2019. I worked very long days. I had a difficult time going from a 60 hour work weeks to having not much to do. I needed some way to express my creative juices. I found a video on YouTube from Courtney Hoelscher. Watched it then watched it again. I was overjoyed with the possibilities. “I can do this” I told myself. I have always been an admirer of Abstract Art. So I started to practice and play and experiment. Each time learning and growing. This was in December of 2019. So many possibilities, I was hooked!
Who and what are your influences?
What: my need for a way to express all those creative juices I had inside me Who: Courtney Hoelscher, Elyse Fournier, most abstract impressionist.
Whats integral to you as an artist?
Making beautiful art my friend. Watching those paints come to life in front of my eyes. The endless possibilities. The first pour I ever did was Christmas 2018. I wanted to make my own Christmas ornaments. I remember pouring the paint on the glass ball and being mesmerised, watching it move and evolve as I twisted that ornament around. I thought “ Oh my” what if I did this on a canvas. That was before I even knew Acrylic Pouring was a thing.
How would you answer those critics that say ‘Fluid Art isn’t real Art’ or ‘there isn’t a great deal of skill needed’?
Well this is a easy but hard question for me. Something that happened last weekend. I stopped into a gallery on a lovely little town near my home. A friend suggested I display my art there. The gallery supports and promotes local artists so I introduced myself to the women behind the counter. I asked her questions about how I go about displaying my art in the lovely gallery. I then showed her several photos of my work, she was so excited and was filled with praise! Then she asked if I was doing brush work or palette knife with my acrylic paints. I smiled and said “sometimes I use a palette knife but mostly it’s acrylic pouring”. She stepped back and looked at me with a surprised look, the look like “I’m not sure that’s real art”! I was then asked to submit my photos for approval. Ten minutes before, she was ready to clear a large space on the wall for my paintings. Yes I am sensitive about it. I am truly not sure why. I have a good friend who I recently moved close to me here in my Happy Place, we met him and his lovely lady for dinner a few weeks ago, she is a talented landscape artist and showed me several photos of her paintings. I did not show her any of mine, on the ride home my Rick asked me why. I was not able to answer. Maybe because it came so easy to me, maybe because I wasn’t schooled as a fine artist. Maybe it’s because Acrylic Pouring has been criticised and considered “Not Real Art” I just don’t know the answer yet.