Drawn to the soft combination of colors, fluid movement, and unique stitching, Deeann Rieves's art has been on my mind for years. So, it was fun when we finally had a chance to connect. Propped up on my kitchen counter, phone to my ear, we immediately connected on life in Nashville, TN (I grew up there and she just moved back) and our conversation naturally flowed from art to home renovation to how best utilize nap time. During our chat, I got a glimpse of how this loving wife and mom to a sweet little girl (plus four cats!) makes time for her work and her family. Deeann trusts that it will unfold as it should –not as a perfect daily balance, but rather the right long-term combination of creative work and a fulfilling life.
Discovering the love for art as a child, Deeann has been encouraged by many teachers and mentors throughout her creative journey. Focusing on art in college allowed Deeann to experiment with a variety of artistic mediums, techniques, and ideas – with each success and challenge - learning to love the PROCESS. Guided by the words of a professor who lectured that an artist cannot just have the end result - they must dive deep into thoughts, emotions, the planning and pondering, the self-doubt and push through it. Deeann is living the process, making brave brushstrokes to start a piece, problem-solving, making mistakes and growing from them. “It’s not just dainty painting with a pretty brush- sometimes it’s using power tools, sanding layers down, crouching over a huge paper piece - artwork can be so physical as well as mental and it’s important to ruminate and enjoy the mental and physical process”.
Taking the mornings slowly with her daughter and a large cup of coffee, Deeann gets most of her work done in the afternoons when her daughter goes down for a nap. In these quiet moments, Deeann has a chance to breathe, to get down to business, and be creative. Utilizing a journal and sketches, Deeann is able to capture the ideas she has in her mind before translating them to a canvas. Small works act as an advisor to the larger pieces she creates – informing the color combinations, layers, and movements that makes each piece unique. Deeann often works on several projects at a time and honoring each day for what it brings whether it is starting a new work or honing the finishing touches.
An astute observer, Deeann finds inspiration in nature. The expanse of the sky against the treetops, the shades of blue alongside the inflated gray clouds are the perfect backdrop for nature’s fingerprints. Strolling through the park picking up leaves, Deeann notices their shape. Some rounded, some jagged, each telling a unique story. Deeann pays close attention to the way the veins stretch from stem to edge, following the infinite lines, the fine details on a tiny leaf. Noticing how each one of these lines takes on a new meaning, a rushing river, a steep mountain range, a pink horizon – Deeann recognizes all these in the minute details of a leaf.
Deeann’s observation is not a one-dimensional experience, she notices the deposits of color and varying texture that make up each little thing. Deeann translates what she sees in nature to the canvas, layering paper, paint, and overlaying it with stitching, creating something truly unique and stunningly beautiful. Each time you look at one of her pieces, you can feel the movement. You can see the expanse of nature. Whether it is a big or small piece of art, each one is dynamic with its own story, movement, and interpretation.
Discovering this process of combining elements to mirror nature's details did not unfold overnight but evolved over time as Deeann followed her own voice and ideas. Practicing, failing, discovering, and succeeding have all been a part of Deeann's journey of learning to love the process. "I am still pushing the boundaries of what this means and evolving as an artist but I consider it such a compliment at shows when people say “I’ve never seen anything like this before!”.
Deeann Rieves's inner beauty shines through the work she creates. I appreciate the depth of conscience, layers of love, and strength of character present in each of her pieces. See below for more our conversation AND buy a piece of Deeann's stunning work for your walls. Check out these works, that are for sale exclusively through ART FOR THE HOME (for a limited time!). Click here to shop.
How has your work evolved over the past couple of years?
A few years back when I wanted to begin working abstract, I could really only wrap my mind around abstract forms in fabric and thread. My work was very fiber oriented for a season and then I began experimenting with stitching on painted papers. I was a painting major in college and always loved collage and layering. I think that’s why I was drawn to fiber art as well because of the tactility it adds. When I began stitching on painted papers, I felt like I found my creative voice and ran with it. I’ve always used mixed media and consider drawing with the embroidery similar to drawing with chalk or pencils in my work. I love the way the stitched lines sit on top of the paint and create delicate linework. Thread appears thin and dainty but is actually strong and woven into the pieces permanently. I think conceptually that is why I am drawn to embroidery as well- delicate but strong- like a ballerina.
What do you do when you are not painting?
Spend time with my daughter- she is 20 months old and the best part of my day every day. We just moved to Nashville, TN and bought a house that we are renovating. So I spend a lot of time on house projects, at Home Depot, and on Pinterest getting ideas for the house. I absolutely love home renovations and we do a lot of it ourselves. My dad helps us do the renovations too so it’s fun to get to spend that time with him now that we live closer to my family.
Have you ever thought about giving up - throwing in the "artistic" towel? What did you do to get yourself back in the game?
You know, there was a season several years ago when I was pretty discouraged. I think we have all been there, right? It was a transition season in life as well as with my work and I was just stuck. My husband, who is a musician and artist himself, was so encouraging during this season and encouraged me to just create for ME. What did I want to make for our house? I experimented, tried new things, kept my hands busy while having an open mind and I eventually was out of the valley and moving somewhere even better with my career.
What is your advice for someone who wants to create art for themselves?
I think the most important thing of all is just to paint and create as much as you can. Experiment and play! I think the only way to find your own creative voice is putting in the time- it is artWORK after all.
My work drastically changed when I started doing shows- not because the shows were some magic answer, but because I had these looming deadlines and needed a ton of art in different sizes and price points so I was just creating, creating, creating!
I heard a story once where a ceramics professor divided his class and told one half of the class they would be graded on quantity- as many bowls and pots they could throw that semester. The other half of the class would be graded on quality- they needed just one perfect bowl, pot, plate, etc. At the end of the semester- the quality students had put SO much pressure on themselves, were frustrated, and their work wasn’t as strong. The students who had just cranked out as much work as possible actually improved their skills and had multiple wonderful/perfect pots bowls, etc.
That story really stuck with me and reminded me of how much my work changed when I just needed MORE art. Don’t get me wrong, obviously quality is important, but putting in the time improves your skills and as a painter- it’s the only way to find your voice and establish your style.
I have drawers and drawers full of works on paper and old paintings that haven’t made the cut in the quality category- and often they are the “in between” pieces that get me to where I am going next. You won't get there by fear, but only by getting your hands moving and just beginning something, anything. That piece may not be the masterpiece you were trying to find/get out, but the next one might be a breakthrough because of the one before it.
Do you collect art? What is a favorite piece of yours?
OF COURSE I DO! I have a lot of work from my friends from art school- we all traded work and I have pieces from Beth Winterburn, Kelly Ventura, Emily Jeffords, Hillary Butler and Britt Bass.
And I have a LOT of artists on my list to collect and I am SO excited because we have lots of empty walls in the new house to fill- at the very top of my list is to have one of Christina Baker’s abstracts- they are breathtaking!
If you had an extra $1000 to spend on anything, what would you do with it?
Besides buying art, I would get a beautiful vintage rug. I LOVE old rugs- all their colors and character woven into a beautiful textile design.
cred: Morgan Blake