Learning Library Segments
Zita RaymondPrimary Use of Medium: Faux Finishing and Fine Art Paintings
Interviewer: Donna Wetegrove
Interview Location:This interview takes place in the studio of Zita Raymond surrounded by her paints, stains and other finishes along with her three friendly and fun-loving dogs.
Interview Date: 9.22.2008
Writer: Dawn Winter
What Type Of Artist Do You See Yourself As?
When speaking of her work as a muralist, Zita instantly called herself a "Bubba Angelo" as she visions her work as half construction and half artist. She made reference to Michaelangelo as he too painted ceilings! Zita comments, work is "physical in what she does". And, yet, another way of putting a term to her work is "Decorative Artist" as her vision is "to change the design" of a space or canvas.
How Did You Get Here?
Zita Raymond earned her Fine Arts Degree from The University of Texas in 1983. Shortly before graduating a professor ominously stated that only 5% of the students would get a job in their degree plan. Her father urged her to get a job in Social Work and she took a test, passed, but there were not any jobs available at that time. She accepted a job dressing manikins and learned to create and apply finishes such as faux finishes and marbling to backdrops. By the time a social work job came available; she was enjoying the creative aspect of this position and eventually worked with this position for 9 years. Eventually, while on a plane trip and visiting with a friend who was in the same business, she was asked to help with some finishes with the Symphony Show House project. This volunteer experience evolved to working into the wee hours of the mornings and applying finishes to nine rooms for 5 weeks. Because of her willingness to do what was needed and making contacts with several designers, she decided to "follow my heart and quit my day job." This was 18 years ago and her career continues to grow as her interests change.
Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?
In speaking about where her inspiration comes from, several thoughts come to mind. This includes the people she meets, the collaborative effort from working with clients and designers and from learning new techniques. Her father's ranch has and remains a constant place of inspiration for her. For Zita, working collaboratively with people and seeing the difference her work makes is her true inspiration. Because she loves what she is doing, the hours and the physical work that goes into making these differences are almost forgotten in the process. The whole process matters for Zita.
How Would You Describe Your Work?
As a "Decorative Painter" or "Decorative Artist", her work entails decorating and enhancing spaces. The spaces include murals, furniture, cabinets, shower doors, walls and ceilings. She applies many different looks to these spaces from creating illusions of wood and stone work, to murals and creating scenes for her clients. With historical buildings, her goal is to replicate the original surfaces of the buildings.
Why Do You Like The Medium?
Zita uses paints and LOVES this medium because "it's fast, it's instant, it's immediate. It immediately changes something. It makes the surface look different quickly". She can transform surfaces such as brass metal to having the appearance of copper. Whole rooms take on a different look in an expedient manner. Paint is easy to handle and easy to transport.
What Brings Your Medium To Life?
About bringing her medium to life, many times, it's a "color, a scene or sometimes I can't even explain it, but a scene will just come out of my head and I'll recall it and paint." She usually doesn't plan ahead and many times one painting will evolve to another and this will result in a series of paintings." Some of her "favorite paintings are completed within 30 minutes" because of the inspiration that she feels from within.
Does The Material Dictate The Design, Or Does Your Design Idea Dictate How The Material/Medium Is Used?
Zita states that the design dictates the medium. For example, if a client wants the look of metal, then she would make her choices of paint that use metallic paint in them. Zita loves the collaborative effort of working with designers and will bring ideas to the effort or will simply respond to what the client and designer wishes for. Essentially, though, it's the collaborative effort that is most important to Zita. Additionally, with her work as an artist working in Fine Arts and painting on canvas, Zita finds "this is a release" for her and will paint whatever inspires her. Usually, it's a landscape and recalls a time when she went through a "sunflower period" after seeing 5 feet tall sunflowers on her father's ranch.
What Tools Are Required In Your Process?
Zita uses a wide variety of tools in her work including candle wax, paint, rags, sponges, brushes, tissue paper, wood grain tools and will occasionally borrow tools from others. It's this sense of team work that Zita loves about her work. Sometimes she even makes her tools to gain a specific effect and recently used chains and buckshot to obtain a certain distressed effect she was going after.
Do You Consider It Functional Art?
"Yes! It's not frivolous, it's timeless and serves a function." She "gives furniture a whole new life and retains its function." Zita emphasized that her work also "affects the way people feel" and this is the most important thing she does.
Please Speak About The Connections In Your Work.
When asked about connections within her work, Zita speaks about the process with the client and the developed relationships with them as being important. Making something better for clients is important to her along with her connection to the canvas when painting.
Please Summarize Your Entire Process.
She has developed many processes in her career as an artist. Running the business is a continual learning process. The method of providing professional and unique services is a process of its own. Zita started out small and originally hired 3 people. The company grew to 14 people including hiring a manager and an accountant. However, she discovered she had little personal time and now works with 5 artists and loves it. She feels this is the best way for her - to work with less people who work collaboratively together. Of course, her three dogs also join in with the camaraderie of the studio and also bring about a certain element of fun to the day as well!
Do You Recommend What You Do As A Career Choice? Why?
When asked about others pursuing this line of work, Zita exclaimed, "I love it, what I do." Nothing about her job "is a cookie cutter process-- each wall and canvas is different. Each client is different and this makes it fun and frustrating too." Zita is quick to point out that "the work is not glamorous and it's physically difficult. It's sometimes grueling and many times is working on job sites" when heat and/or air conditioning is non-existent.
The first two years were difficult with little sleep, "feeling married to the studio" and establishing clientele. Very shortly after a move to a new studio, a car ran into her space and all her work was stolen in the incident. As she had no insurance and hardly any money to continue, she allowed herself to have a good cry. Soon afterwards, everything began to fall into place. She laughingly said to begin this business, one must have "passion and no common sense"!
What Tips Might You Have For Someone New To The Medium? How Best To Develop Their Interest?
Zita's advice to someone considering this medium is to work for a firm like hers, get exposed to the work and use the experience as a training ground. Learn the fun in collaborating and discover what they can offer that is different. Learn how to work with spaces and finishes and experience how this isn't a cookie cutter process. Zita is still learning through experimenting and feels this is part of the fun of what she does.
Zita stressed learning the importance of collaborating with others and that it's up to each person to "come up with new creative ways of doing things and to learn to leave a place better then when you found it."
Please Point Out Any "Green" Aspects Of Your Process And Your Medium.
Zita is working towards using green products more and more including the use of citrus cleaners and eliminating aerosols whenever possible. Zita uses "low VOC or no VOC" (volatile organic compound products) in her process. Zita recycles paint whenever possible by donating extra paint to Habitat for Humanity and to art programs within schools.
Please Talk About Making Multiples Of A Creative Effort As A Part Of Your Business.
Zita markets and offers her specialty finishes although there are certain "more commonly requested" finishes such as tea staining and glazing processes that are always in demand. Zita has and continues to paint on a variety of surfaces with the most unusual being an airplane hanger, but has also painted cars and pants!
Where Do You See Your Creativity Evolving?
"Hmmmmm," replied Zita when asked about her creativity evolving. She has painted 18 years and sees herself using her creative nature in a different way in the next 5 years. What this will be remains to be seen, but as in the past, will continue to follow her heart and it will tell her what she wants to do. She tells others to do the same and said "you'll be glad you did".
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