For the last month, we have been so grateful to feature Guam-raised, Bellingham artist, Ciara Sana, in our gallery space. Inspired by the powerful women in her life, and using a collection of mediums, Ciara’s work is fun, beautiful, and relatable. Read Community Manager, Veronica Foster’s interview with Ciara below, and find Ciara on Instagram @artbyciara.
Veronica Foster: So tell me about when you started drawing and using art to express yourself. What are some of your favorite pieces of inspiration?
Ciara Sana: I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. I used to get into trouble for drawing on walls as a little kid, so I think it’s always been a part of my reality. I started pursuing art as a career and a way to communicate my thoughts and experiences about 6 years ago. I felt like I had a calling, to help others through my expression of vulnerability, to encourage them, and help people feel empowered. I find inspiration from my family, my culture, and other people of color. My art style is heavily influenced by my love for art nouveau, traditional tattoo and some manga from my childhood. I love combining serious portraits and a touch of whimsy.
VF: Why is art important to share with the world, and how do you hope to inspire others?
CS: I feel like art is another form of communication. It’s a way to bridge gaps, where our words fail us. In my younger years, I found it very difficult to convey my thoughts and emotions with words. I would struggle to find the “right word” and had anxiety about sounding “stupid” in front of others. Communicating with my words has always been a struggle for me, and I feel like communicating thoughts and emotions with my art is effortless. I find that art also allows ways for us to connect. We may not agree on the same values, politics, religion, etc...We may not even speak the same language...but we can look at a picture and agree on whether or not we think it’s beautiful, profound, or a masterpiece. I find art is always a way to bring people together. It’s just beautiful. I want everyone to have art. I think it’s a daily reminder of the complexity and beauty of humanity. We all express ourselves differently, and we are all capable of creating amazing things.
VF: I know that showcasing strong women is really important in your work, and I’d love to hear more about some of the female role models in your life.
CS: I could go on about my Grandmothers from Guam. They are such big role models for me. They both were survivors of WW2 in Guam. My grandma Rosalia was 16 at the time and held prisoner at a Japanese Camp. She has taught me so much about what it means to be resilient and to forgive. My grandma Teresita is such a strong woman. I think I get my fireyness from her. Both these ladies made so many sacrifices for their families, and I always think of them when I do my art. I like to channel their grace, love, and determination. It keeps me going when I feel like I’m lost.
VF: I love how many gorgeous colors you use in your digital art, but the fantastic precision of your drawing and mixed media pieces. What is your favorite form?
CS: I love it all. I have illustrated and painted since I was little. Digital art is so new to me, and I was hesitant to try it at first, but it’s opened up a world of color to me. I used to shy away from too much color when I focused mostly on illustrating and painting. It was the fear of commitment, and I was a struggling artist on a budget. Going digital also helps me plan out future painting or mixed media projects. I can quickly test colors, patterns, etc. before committing to anything. I really like to plan. I hate feeling lost or like I wasted time, money or resources. I’m a bit ocd...and if I’m being completely honest, my fine repetitive linework and detail is probably a form of it. I love it though. It makes me feel calm and centered when I can get lost in my details. It’s almost trance-like.
VF: Is “Art by Ciara” your primary business, or do you have any additional side projects that you work on? When did you first start your Etsy account officially?
CS: I officially started my Etsy account about 6 years ago, but actually started paying attention to it and updating it about 5 months ago. My husband is into ecommerce and is the “techy” one in the relationship, so he’s helped me out a TON. He’s definitely helped me see the potential of expanding my audience online. I love one on one interactions with my customers, so I never payed too much attention to my online stores. I’ve made it my priority this year. With that said, my husband and I are starting a brand together. I’m taking a break from making art specifically for “Art by Ciara”, and I’ll be focusing on making more “wearable art”. Our brand will keep the integrity of my style, but it will allow me to make more merchandise and to expand my subject matter. I’m so excited about it! It’s goal is to spread more positivity in the world. I don’t want to give too much away, because I want to keep everyone in suspense!
VF: Your art speaks for itself, but do you have any marketing tips for ladies running their own business?
CS: Yes. Social Media is work, but it’s work that pays off. Put your work out there. Even if you don’t think it’s “good enough” you’ll find your audience sometimes thinks otherwise. You’ll also start to get a clearer vision of who your audience is and what your goals are. Also, don’t give up. If you’ve decided this is your dream, then keep pushing through. I can’t tell you HOW MANY TIMES I was on the verge of giving up, and I would receive an email about an amazing project, or a message about an awesome commission, or a really cool random Social Media shout out.
There are people out there looking for you, your art, and your message. There are people out there looking to relate and looking for people who “get them”. Don’t give up on them, and don’t give up on you.
VF: Anything else you want to add?
CS: I’m SUPER excited about my new brand. I’ll be posting about the progress on my Art by Ciara page, and will continue to do both. This is just another project to be more inclusive with my artwork!
Also, THANK YOU to ANYONE who has supported me. I’ve cried so many happy tears over the years. I never imagined this life for me, and that I would actually be pursuing this career as an artist, WITHOUT a degree even, and I’m just so blown away by the support I’ve been receiving. It motivates me to keep putting out positivity and love out in the world through my art.
In the words of my people from Guam, “si yu’us ma’ase” (Thank you).