Interview with pop surreal artist Plantiebee

Christina Ridgeway (aka Plantiebee) is an oil painter living in southern Sweden. She is a self-taught artist who aims to create visual stories with her work. For her, a painting comes from the heart and tells the tale of all it has been through and seen. It is little pieces of the artist themselves. She hopes to continue sharing the inner workings of her mind and wishes others to find their own meaning within them. Inspired by ancient stories, nature and the female figure - Christina creates a dream-like narrative with symbolism and inner-meaning.
Hello dear Christina, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?
Art has always been a part of my life, it was my one “talent” as a child and I never forgot the support I got from those around me to keep drawing. So I suppose the artist has always been there, but professionally speaking I have been painting since 2011. To be honest, back when I was deciding on my major for college, I didn’t think that fine art WAS something I could do! But in the end, I never got the chance to go to university or pick a major. Art found me again anyway like it always does and I eventually found the wonderful artist community on Facebook and things built up from there.

What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
This is always the pivotal question: Where do you get your inspiration? It comes from everywhere really. I think it is easier to see in works I have done purely for me – they are influenced by old stories, biblical or otherwise, nature, beauty, and also melancholy.

There are so many artists out there today who inspire me, there is so much talent right at your fingertips for you to view and see. It would be impossible to list all the names! Artists from the Pre-Raphaelite and Neoclassical era are some of my favorites.

I think the most important thing for any artist is to find inspiration in anything you come across. Most of the time it’s spontaneous! You never know what will catch your eye.

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
Well, I balance and juggle a lot of things in my life on a daily basis. I have a family, kids, dogs, and I work from home managing a company’s website. During my free time over the day I will start up an audiobook, sit down by my easel and work. I will work evenings, weekends - you wind up working all the time! I think that’s the greatest thing about an artist – they are very hardworking. I usually like to keep a small to-do list for my paintings (especially now as I am working on my solo show) – there is always so much to do it helps keep my goals in check.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperative for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?
I am a self-taught artist. I grew up in the States (I currently live in Sweden) and I wasn’t able to get any financial aid from the government to go to art school, so I wound up just traveling through Europe instead. By the time I began painting again it felt like I was really starting from the beginning.
No, I don’t think it is absolutely imperative that an artist get formal training. Though it might help, it truly depends on how fortunate you are with the teacher you receive!
The world is full of resources for anyone who is dedicated enough to utilize them.
I think for me the hardest thing about not getting a proper degree is that I have no mentor to bounce my questions or ideas off of. It takes me a bit longer to figure out HOW to do something. But eventually – I will.
What fascinates you the most about pop surrealism and lowbrow art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what does surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?
I love pop surrealism – even before I knew what it was and I was painting girls with birds in landscapes and just doing my own thing, I loved the thought of mixing reality with dreamscapes which is essentially what pop surrealism/low brow is.
I don’t know if I am completely 100% pop surrealism, it is so hard to put your own work into a box. But I do paint dream-like states. The inner workings of the mind. I like telling stories using the female figure, with nature being the descriptive undertone.
When I paint work from my heart, I work to tell a story, I hope that the viewer looks at it and creates their own meaning and world. Like my favorite poetry or songs, they have room left open for interpretation. In a sense – I hope the viewer can feel like they are never alone in how they feel, I and the rest of the world have felt that too. My themes may change but essentially it is exploring emotions, good vs. evil, sorrow, identity - brought to life through the experiences I have seen and heard around me.
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?
Being an artist is good for me! When I don’t paint or create art I become a restless unsettled thing. What I love most about being an artist is creating art, pure and simple. Being a creative to me is someone who creates art from their heart (this can be hard to do as a professional artist as you are often ask to do other people’s ideas) and is always on a mission to better improve themselves and their craft.
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?
I generally always want/need something to listen to. Whether it be music, YouTube videos or an audiobook. So when I get ready to paint I turn something on, pour up some Liquin mixed with walnut oil, and tackle whatever it is I need to tackle.

I use a lot of small square shaped brushes as well as very small fine detail brushes. I like the mix between Liquin and walnut oil as it gives a really good consistency to the paint while still being able to dry overnight (most of the time!) and I have been painting on primed Masonite board for years as I really love the flat smooth surface. It is also a lot lighter than wood so it is much easier to ship worldwide – which I frequently do!
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
I am working on my graphite skills this year – back when I created art as a teen I always used dry mediums and never used to paint! I lost a lot of my skill with those mediums so I will be working on that a lot this year after my show. Other things I would love to try are sculpture, ink & watercolors.
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hiding in your studio?
I live in a small house and back when I first started painting again I painted on the living room floor! I have since been upgraded to my own (very cluttered!) corner of our living room with a draft table and easel. Not many odd things happen in my living room sadly! There is a balcony door next to my easel and one time a blackbird flew right into it – I thought it was a bad omen but the amazing painter Christiane Vleugels told me that it was a sign of good things to come! Sure enough, that spring things really took off for me art wise. Nothing is hiding in my studio at the moment sadly, we are renovating so most of my things are in bags and boxes.
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
My biggest challenge is definitely one of the biggest for all artist, at least the majority that I have met! That is battling self-confidence issues. I think it may be a mix between being a “sensitive artist” and social media today – we are all constantly bombarded with our peer’s artwork and it can be really overwhelming. Sometimes you think you will never be good enough. The hardest thing can be to tell yourself to shut up and keep painting! But that’s exactly what you have to do and that’s also the biggest lesson I am finally getting the hang of. Comparing yourself to others will not inspire much in your life but depression, but if you can (because it will happen) use it as fuel to propel yourself forward.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
Lol, oh gosh. I don’t know if it was advice really but I have come across some real meat headed people along the way. I think the thing is to keep your own opinions while listening, but perhaps not absorbing others. People can be so caught up in the rat race of the art world they aren’t really paying attention to what’s happening around them.

Best advice I have ever gotten is when applying to art galleries keep it short and sweet. All the details the gallery may need should be on your website already.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
I dislike how closed off artists can be. I have met a lot of people who are afraid to give advice to starting artists because they might “steal their style”, it can be very segregated like high school and people want to think very highly of themselves while holding onto a lot of insecurities.
Hardest thing being an artist is moving past that, moving past the unfriendly folks and finding the true gems in the art world who will give you a helping hand and of course not getting too down on yourself along the way. Perseverance!

The artist life can be lonely. Its long hours and time away from friends and family. In the beginning I had to be so disconnected while working at an office over the day then painting all night – the best thing that happened to me was when I could start working from home and making my own hours. Only way to counteract that is leaving time for those close to you. It is so important! You can become such a hermit!
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
Oh, I have so many dreams and ideas! I am having a solo show here in Sweden in May and hope to do more locally in the future. I have done a lot of shows in California but would like to try the East Coast in the future. My ultimate goal is to be able to support my family solely through my art, a big goal for many artists! I’d also love to bring Pop Surrealism to the Nordics, it is slowly blooming here but it definitely needs a bit more of a push.
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
My advice to starting artists is don’t give up. No, you won’t be super awesome when you first start. You may not be able to sell for the prices you want to in the beginning. Give things time and let your own voice blossom. There is so much pressure to “find your own style” and “stick out” – but that is extremely difficult when you are just starting. These things should come naturally. Believe in yourself first and foremost. No one else will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first. Gain a thick skin and keep on marching! You can do it!!
Your favorite art or life quote is ...
“If you can’t fly then run,
If you can’t run, then walk,
If you can’t walk then crawl,
But whatever you do,
You have to keep moving forward.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.

What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
I love gaming! I used to be really into MMOs but they really suck your life away. I now play a lot of games on the Playstation 4 in my spare time or I like to read. I guess you can say I am an escapist lol! Always moving into some other reality when I have the chance ;)
Do you have an online portfolio, blog or social medias where we can view your work?
Yes, you can view all of my work on my website and there’s a link to my blog there also: I am active on Facebook and Instagram! Those are the two places I post the most.
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
I have been working on my solo show for the past 6 months Рit will be on display at Slice of Life Gallery in Malm̦, Sweden May 16th! I am really excited to share this collection with everyone, it has a lot of heart and meaning for me and I hope that they touch those who see them.
I’d also love to take the time to say thank you to Oh, So Surreal for giving me the opportunity to be featured. I appreciate the time you take to share artists work!
Thank you dear Christina, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)
By contributor Linda. Mar 2015. Find Oh, So Surreal on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google + or RSS.