Hello readers! I hope you all are having a fantastic day. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with young artist / business woman, Cameo Townsend. A gal with a good heart, a ton of chutzpah, a bit of a potty mouth, and a side of snark, she has big dreams for the future. She is clever, sometimes caustic, and super crafty. She dabbles in many artistic mediums, from knit goods to watercolors.
Beyond her art, she is a wife, a mother, and now an entrepreneur! She recently opened a brick and mortar storefront in Spokane, WA called Sticks & Dreams Gallery and Emporium. A true go-getter, this young lady has a lot going for her, and a lot to offer her community.
Keep reading to learn more about Cameo Townsend and her latest endeavors.
SnS: Hello Cameo 🙂
Cameo: **Gives 2 thumbs up** Hi, I know you can’t see this but there it is.
SnS: LOL no worries, it’ll translate. So please tell us what drew you to art (no pun intended) and how long have you been an artist?
Cameo: I‘ve been doing art since I was a little kid. I wouldn’t call it doing art exactly, but I’ve always loved drawing. One time I took my makeup and drew a picture, and my mom asked me, “Why did you do that?” and I was like, “I don’t know. Because it was fun and I didn’t want to use markers?” I had a creative child-like mind, I guess.
Actually, I’ve been making art since I was a kid. But professionally, only in the last year. I’ve taken some art classes, but I don’t think I’m a good artist. I think I’m better at helping other artists. If that makes any sense.
I like to try making new things though, so I just make a lot of stuff. If I can give it away, most of the time I do. I give it away so I have enough room to make more stuff. So I guess that’s really my answer. I’ve just always liked art, but nothing specifically drew me to it. There are things that have kept me in art though.
SnS: I was going to ask you what medium or genre you prefer, but it sounds like you are a jack of all trades.
Cameo: Kind of, yeah. I don’t really do one thing, but I guess the most consistent thing I do is watercolor. I’ve used acrylics. I’m not amazing with acrylic. I’d like to take some classes in acrylics, or get new hands. You know, just like slip on some robot hands boop be doop. I’ve also worked with oils. I hate working with oils. Oils are the Devil and they should die.
I’ve also done some found art. I really enjoy found art, where you just stick some stuff on a canvas. I actually did one that was all buttons on a galaxy background. Because I’m the queen of galaxies. It sold the same day that I finished it.
SnS: Wow! So you are basically self-taught?
Cameo: Yeah, I’ve taken a couple of classes. I took a drawing class in college, and a mixed media class in high school which was awful. My teacher hated anime’ so she was really mean to me. She hated video games too, so she was really, really mean to me because that was all I drew.
SnS: Isn’t that what most high schoolers draw?
Cameo: **Laughing** Pretty much! But whatever, haters gonna hate. I still draw anime’ and enjoy it.
SnS: Good for you 🙂 So do you have any artists that inspire you, or that you currently admire?
Cameo: Yes, but they are mostly local artists. One of them is my “Aunt” (chosen family member) Isola Olsen who passed away a few years ago. She was an artist who worked in watercolor, acrylics, and oils. She lived here, but mostly showed on the west side of the state, and in Idaho. She did a couple of sessions with me and she was really nice. She kind of solidified my interest in watercolor. She inspired me a lot, and she kind of got me into continuously doing art.
My Grandma Jan, who also passed away, inspired me too. But she wasn’t an artist. She was just always telling me, “You can do good, kid.” She did all that feeling happy stuff.
Denny Carman inspired me. I mean he helped me get my work out there. He’s inspiring, and awesome, and super helpful. I’m always thanking him and I’m sure he’s going to tell me to shut up one day. He’s going to be like, “Are you going to say thank you? Shut up.”
I have a lot of people who inspire me. Connie Janney is one of the people I aspire to be like eventually, because she’s always just doing stuff. She’s always helping people, always doing classes, and she’s so nice! She’s just one of my favorite people. She’s my friend. We have some of her work in my gallery.
My husband is not the typical artist, but he inspires me too. He helps me with EVERYTHING. He’s a blacksmith, and he makes knives and stuff. But lately he hasn’t had the time to make anything because he’s been running me around to art shows and helping me set up shop. I’m hoping he’ll be able to get back to his craft soon.
SnS: Let’s talk about your shop. It’s called Sticks & Dreams, and it’s located at 903 1/2 W. Garland Ave. in Spokane, WA. What made you want to open a store?
Cameo: Honestly, one of the things that made me want to do art, and build a store right now, was having a near death experience. I didn’t see God or anything, but being so close to dying made me realize that life is too short to do something for a living that you don’t enjoy doing.
I also wanted to help out my friends and fellow artists who were needing a place to sell their work. And to be able to offer fun and artistic things at a reasonable price to people who might not otherwise be able to afford them.
SnS: Wow! Smart and altruistic at such a young age. You are definitely a unique woman Cameo. Now watch me segue. . . Speaking of unique, what kind of things can we find in your store, and in what price range?
Cameo: Every bleeping (*edited*) thing. Everything in here is $200 or under, and I literally don’t think we have anything above $150 right now.
All the art is $200 or less, but all the other little things are $2 – $35, for hand-made stuff.
It’s mostly art, prints & originals. We have wood burnings by Richard Flatt. A woman came in here and dropped off doilies and towels. She also made a thing called a soap cozy and I didn’t have any idea what that was. What the heck is a soap cozy? But as soon as she explained it to me I said, sure you can put that in here! We have wands by Miki Murdoch, art by Oksana Tepp, Connie Janey, Deb Harder, Ryker Murdock, Denny Carman, Leslie Adams, Kevin Montgomery.
I have packaged prints of my watercolors and calligraphy, as well as Connie Janney’s works in mandala and collage. We have photos by Ambrelle Coy, and digital art by Sarah Russel, and so many others. Oh and we have buttons from Melissa and Misty at Dizzy Bee, etched glass by Cassie Barber, and knit jellyfish key chains by Georgia at PG & Jelly. We have scented hand soaps, bath bombs, and so much more. It’s just crazy and wonderful.
SnS: What kinds of things are you missing that you might like to have in the store?
Cameo: I like outside-of-the-box things. So if you can bring me something that I don’t already have, most likely I’ll put it in here. I don’t have an exact answer for that though, so if you have something unique and weird, you should bring it in here. I have one artist who is bringing in doll heads, in boxes. They are creepy and I love them.
I have some pottery, but I’d like some more. . .
**hint** This is where you local potters should be thinking, “Gee, I should get on that.”
Generally we are kid friendly, as long as there’s no genitalia. **laughs** Sorry I had to refrain from saying something else. So yeah, no genitalia, but some of our buttons do have the “f” word on them. So parents be aware. Most of them though, are smart and sassy quotes that make me happy.
SnS: That’s great! Okay, so if a crafter or artist wanted to contact you to sell their wares, how would they do that?
Cameo: I like it when you take initiative! Come in and talk to me. You can email or message me, sure. But eventually I am going to want to see you and talk to you. Because if you don’t show me that you want to do it, then it’s not worth my time or yours. That’s one of the biggest things for me.
Sticks and Dreams has pretty much every social media account, but if you want to work with me, come see me.
SnS: Speaking of social media, I’ve been keeping track of your storefront via facebook, and you have a few upcoming events. Tell us about those.
Cameo: Okay, so our first upcoming event is on July 22nd. We are having local artist Sam White ( pictured below) sitting outside our store doing an original painting from 1 – 4. When it’s finished we’ll raffle it off. The kicker to this whole thing is, you have to be present when he finishes the painting to be able to win it.
SnS: So you have to stay on Garland?
Cameo: Yes, pretty much. The whole idea is to get people down here to enjoy this area, and stay a while.
SnS: Great! The Garland district is really growing. It’s exciting to see, and better to share. Now, I understand you are also offering some classes soon?
Cameo: Yes. I am hosting a (non-alcoholic) paint night on July 29th, for 10 – 12 people, with Maria McConnell from Bittersweet Canvas. We’ll be painting a night scene picture (below). The class is $45 / person and we supply everything, including snacks. All you have to bring is yourself, and clothing that is worthy of paint.
We also have another class on Aug. 4th, a crocheting class for amature crocheters who know the basics already. We’ll be making an adorable little manta ray, (pictured below) with Georgia Williams. The class is only $15 / person, but you need to bring your own H hook and yarn. We will provide the stuffing and eyes.
SnS: Wow, you are really going for it! So on top of running the business, you are a wife and you have 2 kids. How are you juggling all of this?
Cameo: I’m not. I’m falling apart backwards and lighting myself on fire.
Seriously though, my 10-year-old step-daughter is pretty self-sufficient. She is happy with her friends and her cell phone. My 2-year-old is really into cars, so that makes life easier. Plus thankfully, we have lots of family to help with him while I’m here. Unfortunately, he left a car in the living room yesterday and I almost tripped over it when I got home. That thing is annoying.
SnS: Just wait till he’s into Legos. The bane of parental feet everywhere.
Cameo: I’m so not ready for that. If that happens I’ll never take off my tennis shoes. I’m going to sleep in my tennis shoes, forever.
Honestly though, I don’t really juggle any of this. I just aggressively multi-task.
SnS: That is an enviable skill. The name of your store is Sticks & Dreams. This tells me that you have a goal in sight, a dream, if you will. Care to share your dream?
Cameo: So, my husband came up with the name. He said the sticks are the brushes and the dreams are the paintings, so that’s been my artist name on all my social media. It’s where I started as an artist, and now it’s turned into this shop.
I guess the dream is to just be able to run. Like, I don’t have to make lots of money, but I want the place to be self-sufficient. If I make only enough money to pay the bills that’s fine. If I make more, that’s awesome. But that’s not really the point of this.
The point is to give local artists an outlet for their work. To get all their art out there, and get people who normally wouldn’t be able to afford art to be able to buy some.
Let’s face it, I’m a cheap-ass. So the whole idea of the store is so that the average person can purchase art, and have something beautiful. That’s why we have so many different tiers of pricing within the $200 or less range. I like being able to sell fun and beautiful items to people who might not be able to afford it otherwise, and I like helping out our local artists. That’s my dream.
SnS: So you are living your dream right now. Do you have a bucket list? If so, have you crossed anything off yet?
Cameo: I don’t really have a bucket list. I mean there are things that I want to do, but none of it is realistic stuff.
SnS: It doesn’t have to be realistic.
Cameo: Okay then. There are places I would want to go. In fact I just want to go. . . everywhere. I’ve only ever been to Idaho and Montana, once on purpose and once on accident. *laughs* My mom is really bad with directions. I just want to go to places outside of WA, ID, and MT. I actually really want to go to NY. And, I’d like to see the Infinity Mirror show.
SnS: I hope you get to do that someday. Last question. If you could host a fantasy dinner and invite anyone living or dead, real or fictional, who would you invite and why?
Cameo: Okay, so this is going to be super cliché because I would want to bring my Grandma Jan back. I didn’t get to see her for a long time, and the last time I called her was on my first day of college. She was fighting cancer and didn’t know who I was because of all the meds. She died of pancreatic cancer before I could see her again. She was a really great person. She wasn’t a great lady at the beginning of her life, but she really turned it around. That’s one of the things I loved most about her.
SnS: Well, I think she’d be proud of the person you are Cameo. You are amazing. Thank you for interviewing with me, and sharing so much with us all.
Spend ten minutes talking with Mr. Shannon Potratz and you will know at least two things about him for certain. One, he is an affable guy. Somewhat self-effacing, he has a good sense of humor and (despite the bad ass pic above) a cool, sweetness about him that makes him easy to talk to. Second, he is passionate about his art, his comic books, and Star Wars.
Spend more time with him and you’ll also find that he is an intelligent, hard-working man. A loyal friend, he is one of those guys who appreciates the people around him, and finds inspiration with them. Genuine and real, keep reading to learn more about this incredible fantasy artist!
SnS – Please tell us, what got you into art? Did you have a mentor?
Shannon – My father was a huge influence on me. As an accomplished (but frustrated) artist himself, he encouraged me to pursue a career in art. Growing up, he never had any encouragement from his dad, who thought art was a “waste of time.” So he spent 40 years in a job he hated. Both my mother and father were insistent that my brother and I find something we love and make that our career.
SnS – What would you call your style of illustration?
Shannon – Fantasy art. Of course, that encompasses a variety of genres from science-fiction to comic books. I’m also currently working on a couple of independent comic projects. Some of the art for them can be seen above, but I really can’t tell you much about them yet.
SnS – What mediums do you work with and what is your favorite?
Shannon – Pencil, pen & ink, Copic marker, acrylic, and digital are my primary mediums. I love the raw energy of simple pencil sketching. I like that sense that everything is always in motion.
SnS – Are you classically trained or self-taught?
Shannon – I’d say a little of both. I picked up a pencil at a very young age (probably around 4 years old). I took every art class I could throughout junior high and high school and received more formal training when I went through the graphic design program at Spokane Falls Community College.
SnS – So many artists and writers that I speak to, tell me that they are never really satisfied with their work. Do you find this to be true?
Shannon – (laughing) Of course. There is always something that can be tweaked.
SnS – Where do you find inspiration to create? (Do you read, jog, snap packing bubbles, maybe slam Monster energy drinks?)
Shannon – My inspiration comes from many different things and often at the most random times. I love movies and reading books and comics. But much of my inspiration comes from interacting with other artists. The creative banter back and forth between creative minds is an invaluable tool. I also periodically have dreams and will wake up in the middle of the night with images in my head. That’s when I have to grab a pencil and paper and quickly jot those ideas down, otherwise I’ll forget, haha.
SnS – Do you have a day job, if so what do you do?
Shannon – I work full-time as a graphic designer for Bassett&brush Design. I also do freelance work for a company called Outland Entertainment.
SnS – Do you have any other hobbies / talents / interests?
Shannon – I mentioned my love of movies, books, and comics. I also love getting outdoors and exploring new places. It’s amazing the wonders you can discover in your own back yard. I’m also a bit of a Star Wars nut and enjoy building costumes and authentic looking movie props. I’m a member of the 501st Legion (a world-wide Star Wars costuming group). I’m currently building my own life-size Han Solo in Carbonite, haha.
Due to the fantasy nature of your illustrations, I have to ask. Do you play any RPG games, LARP, or otherwise geek out?
Shannon – I used to play some table top games. In fact, years ago I collaborated with my close friend, Daniel Davis on a world we called Agyris. We used this as a backdrop for tabletop gaming with our friends. We had fun with that for a while, until the demands of family life took precedence. Daniel has since gone on to create his own company called Steam Crow, having developed a huge fan following, which he calls the Monster Scouts.
SnS – If you could invite any 4 artists (from any genre – musicians, painters, etc.) to picnic with you, who would it be and why?
Shannon – I would love to have a sit-down with Ralph McQuarrie, Frank Frazetta, George Lucas, and Frank Herbert. I’d be WAY in over my head but the discussion would be fascinating and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather learn from about the mysteries of fantasy, science-fiction, technology, myth-making, and the universe.
SnS – Now for the serious question. . . Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?
Shannon – Isn’t it possible to love both? But if I had to pick, it would obviously be Star Wars. Now that’s the universe I want to explore and live in. It straddles the line between fantasy and science-fiction (leaning a little more towards fantasy) and has that gritty realism that seems more immersive to me. From a world-building perspective, Star Wars is unparalleled.
Star Wars defined my childhood. As a kid, I would run down to the local 7-11 to buy Star Wars comic books. I still have the very first comic book I ever bought, Marvel’s Star Wars issue #6. It’s a little beat up, but it is priceless to me. It is framed and hanging in my home. Though Star Wars was my main thing, it introduced me to the world of Marvel. I still have most of my Marvel comics, including Thor #337. The beginning of Walt Simonson’s legendary run, and the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill. I love the cover art on that issue!
SnS – Do you have any causes or charities you support that you’d like to mention here?
Shannon – As a member of the 501st, I’ve done many events that support several charities, including Communities in Schools, and the Wishing Star Foundation, as well as several cancer research organizations.
And finally, please list any websites or galleries where fans (old and new) can find more of your work.