Local artist shares her creative spirit
In María Camp’s bedroom-turned-art studio, her creativity finds its arena to flourish – even when it’s at the expense of her living space. “I have a 30-by-30 painting I’m working on right now, and I can fit exactly one in my room. I have to really hold my breath to get by it to get to my closet,” Camp said. Her bedroom is home to her works in progress, where she can be found standing next to her bed with the canvas or other painting surface lying on top of it. “That’s the biggest good surface I have to keep everything all spread out in my bedroom.”
Camp “dabbled” in artistic pursuits during her youth, attending art summer camps at the Bear Creek Education Center in Hodges and taking the occasional art class in school; it wasn’t until 2015 however, that she truly unlocked her creative spirit, when she was invited to a paint party at a friend’s house. The casual atmosphere helped her inspiration flow. “It made it feel more accessible. We had fun, and my painting came out better than I thought it would,” said Camp. That success motivated her to fully commit herself to her love for artistry for the first time. “I just thought, why not?”
For Camp, pursuing her artistic dreams has led her to what she describes as a welcoming community, full of both hobbyists and professional artists who are willing to share their techniques. She frequently turns to YouTube to check out the skills and designs of fellow artists and incorporate their advice and creativity into her own.
“When I’m not actively doing art, I’m pretty much always thinking about it,” Camp said. “Sometimes it’s hard for me to do anything because I get so many ideas, or I’ll be in the middle of one idea and I’ll get 12 more.”
Painting is a primary outlet for her creativity, with a favorite technique being one in which paint is applied directly to a canvas and “swiped” into unique designs with a paper towel. In these abstract pieces, Camp said she also enjoys employing sgraffito, an Italian word that involves scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting color – with a special contour tool or even just using her fingernails.
“Sometimes I’ll just put some yellow paint down and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, I can always change it,” Camp said. “It’s very liberating; it’s very therapeutic and freeing. When you say something with art, there’s not really any other way to express that thought.”
In addition to painting, Camp finds her artist voice in creating poetry, which she sometimes shares on Instagram alongside images of her visual works of art. She also creates digital art, in which she uses a variety of apps to manipulate an image until she has created something entirely new. A typical image of a person or a downtown sight – once it’s been changed to black and white, enhanced with a rainbow palette and had other special effects applied – can result in something completely different. “You don’t even know what it’s going to become when you start out,” said Camp.
A 1998 Russellville High School graduate, Camp majored in Spanish and minored in journalism at the University of North Alabama. Although she has still pursued journalistic opportunities, her art has taken her focus. Camp said she has sold two commissioned poems through her Etsy shop, Happy Anvil Art, and while she is working on ways to market her own art, she is also looking into teaching art lessons – particularly for painting in abstract. “I think this area would be really good for it because I think a lot of people would enjoy it, and a lot of people don’t understand what abstract art is,” Camp said. “They think it’s just throwing paint on a canvas. So I think there’s plenty of potential there.”
Although Camp said she would be happy to create more works of art to sell, she’s also in the business of giving her art away – particularly small works that can be left for others to find in unexpected places, in a movement known as art abandonment.
“You make little bits of art, and you put a note on the back letting people know it’s free, and they can take it if they want to. It’s a way to inject something positive into the world,” Camp said. “It just makes me happy. It feels like something fun. Most of the time you will never know who finds it.” Camp’s art abandonment pieces are done on 2.5-by-3.5-inch artist trading cards.
When she needs a spark of inspiration, Camp might visit a new spot or simply people-watch in a crowded area. She sometimes snaps photos on the sly of people passing by – images she later digitally manipulates into something completely different, with a commitment to people’s privacy – or takes pictures of facial expressions in a television show. “Ideas are not that hard. There are so many things that can be inspiring, just going about our day.”
For the future, Camp said she plans to keep seeking out new opportunities – with an eye toward participating in more art shows and perhaps even pursuing an artist residency – and no matter what, she will keep dreaming big.
“Sometimes you don’t know what you can do until you investigate, so I think it’s really good to be open to what’s out there,” Camp said. “Any time I get a chance, I try to encourage people, if they really are interested in art, not to think ‘Oh, I can’t do it.’ It’s not magic. You just have to start somewhere. Everything starts somewhere. The Mona Lisa wasn’t the first painting Da Vinci ever did.
“You never know when you might paint your Mona Lisa.”
PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER WEBB