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Brent Crothers


Brent Crothers wants to express something in his work about the world we live in, and creates pieces that are a dialogue between him and the world. Incorporating unappreciated and discarded materials, he transforms them into small communities to create forms, giving the materials new life and their own stories to tell. In this Inspiration interview, Susan Melrath and Brent discuss his path into art and sculpture, the inspiration for his amazing pieces, and more.

Serge Gay Jr.


Serge Gay Jr. is a Grammy nominated Creative Director and Art Director. As a Painter, Illustrator, Graphic Designer, his influences and the story in his work can often be found from the culture sociology of his background and also, his race. In this Inspiration interview you’ll learn about Serge’s background, his path into fine art, his work process and more.

Jen Tough

Understanding Art Galleries

This Inspiration interview is with Bay Area Gallerist Jen Tough. She is the owner of the highly respected Jen Tough Gallery in Benicia, California. Jen brings a high level of creativity to the marketing of art through her inventive Pop Ups, collaborations, artist collective approach to art fairs as well as her beautiful, contemporary gallery exhibitions. This conversation is a fact-finding mission to help you better understand the nuances of approaching galleries, relationship building and progressing your career in the quickly changing art market.

Janet Smedley

All The Parts Make The Whole

For this month’s Inspiration interview, Susan Melrath sits down with Academy member and CVP Alumni, Janet Smedley to discuss her background, her influences, her work and her practice. Janet’s paintings and sculptures are a combination of her many interests and inspirations—a background in architecture and drawing, looms and fibers, patterns and lines, influential writers and spirituality.

Andrew Faulkner

Carving Out Space

In this month’s Inspiration Interview with artist Andrew Faulkner, we learn about how he is making the transition from full-time graphic designer to successful artist, making authentic work that he loves.

Elle Luna

We Are Our Own Best Teacher

In addition to being an artist and designer, Elle Luna is an expert in helping people connect with their inner creative self, and then giving them the tools needed to act on that knowledge. This is a theme that permeates much of this inspiration interview, with Elle and Nick discussing the importance of heeding that inner creative call, regardless of where it leads one. This is a lively discussion that investigates the nature of creativity, preconceived notions of the self and how these can be harmful, and how best to embrace our true creative nature.

Chungliang “Al” Huang

Live Your Dao. Embrace the Artist in You.

Chungliang “Al” Huang is a notable philosopher, dancer, performing artist, and internationally acclaimed taijiquan master and educator. He has collaborated with philosopher Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, and others for his involvement with the Esalen and Omega Institutes. We are proud to bring you this delightful and insightful interview on creativity, expression, expansion, potentiality and more.

Krista Harris

The Non-Thinking Place

We are delighted to bring you this interview with non-objective abstract painter and teacher, Krista Harris. In this interview Krista shares how she has been making art all her life, how she transitioned from representational to abstract, along with many of the important things she teaches students in her workshops.

Micah Crandall-Bear

Landing Zones

Micah Crandall-Bear’s contemporary landscapes are on that unique edge of abstract and realism. Not many people can pull this off or do it well. Enjoy this insightful interview into the inspiration, motivation, process, challenges and perspective of this amazing artist.

Lorna Crane

Making Her Own Mark

Australian artist Lorna Crane is best known for her handmade brushes from materials harvested from nature. These expressive brushes started off as a correspondence between her and fellow CVP alumni and Academy member Allison B Cooke, and the making of them informed her art in a whole new way. Hear more about that and the many other mediums she explores in this delightful interview with this very prolific and inspired artist.

Kerry Schroeder

Following Your Heart

This month, Nicholas interviews Kerry Schroeder, where they discuss her transition from a seemingly very different style of art to what it is today. This interview is about following intuition and our hearts to make authentic work.

Claudia Marseilles

Listening and Looking

Claudia Marseille did not start painting until age 40 due to discouragement from her 7th grade teacher. Born hearing-impaired she became especially observant of the world and the people around her. Learning to lip-read and attune to people’s faces led her to fine-art portrait photography, which ultimately led her to the amazing encaustic paintings she makes now. Listen to the inspiring interview of this artist’s journey and discoveries along the way.

Aaron Nagel

A Portrait in the Making

This month’s Inspiration interview is with Aaron Nagel—a figurative oil painter from Oakland CA who is at the top of his game. At first glance, it would be easy to categorize Aaron Nagel’s work primarily as photorealistic portraiture. While his skills as a draftsman are easily experienced in viewing his work, it’s Nagel’s ability to capture and describe the internal life of his subjects, along side their exterior beauty, that makes his work so powerful. He seeks to describe a visual aesthetic with beauty as the cornerstone of his work, and that is readily apparent in every brushstroke.

Zio Ziegler

The Sum is Greater than the Parts

Zio Ziegler is an American painter and sculptor, born in 1988. He is known for his intricately patterned paintings and his large-scale murals that can be seen in major cities in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Motivated and driven by a comprehensive knowledge of art history, a sensitivity to the pervasiveness of technology and the ubiquity of image making…and a zeal to create, Zio Ziegler’s work is defined by his personal array of colors and recurring motifs.

Guy Mayenobe

The Sum is Greater than the Parts

Initially inspired by a junk yard near his childhood home, Guy Mayenobe makes his intriguing kinetic sculptures from metallic parts, electric motors and found objects. Enjoy this interview with this inspiring and charming artist.

Mark Eanes

The Right Elements in the Right Place

Mark Eanes is a classically trained Bay Area artist. He is a painter, a photographer and a teacher; each of these being part of his practice. No matter what style of art Mark is creating, or what he is teaching, he believes art is always about relationships and and paintings aren’t their parts, but their whole. Enjoy this very inspirational interview with this very talented and studied artist.

Bibby Gignilliat

Becoming an Artist

Bibby Gignilliat is relatively new to art making, having only been at it for about 3 years. Being an artist is something she always wanted to do and after selling her prior business, she now focuses full time on making her art and making art her business. Join us for the inspiring interview to learn 7 unique perspectives from this artist who is fast tracking her career.

Heather Wilcoxon

A Call and Response

Heather Wilcoxon is a multi-media artist—drawing, painting, making films, working in ceramics and more—creating in whatever medium she is drawn to for a period of time. Her work has often featured light-hearted, almost cartoon-like visualization, but never trite. In fact, they are usually interpret very deep or dark subjects. No matter what the medium, there is always an emotional thread that connects her work. Learn about this wonderful artist’s journey, inspiration, approach and process in this insightful discussion with Heather and Nicholas.

Brian Huber

Painting Beyond The Brush

Brian Huber’s work is based on the abstraction of landscapes, architectural elements and the impact of man on the natural world. The rhythmic motion found in most of the paintings springs from blues and jazz music from his youth in New Orleans. In this interview with Nicholas, Brian gives us insights into his compelling and unique work, which resides in a wonderful space between painting and sculpture.

Carl Heyward

Trusting the Process

Carl Heyward is an artist and writer from San Francisco. He has exhibited his mixed-media paintings and artist books internationally and his workshops are highly-attended session of hands-on investigation in painting, collage and printmaking. In this lively interview, Nicholas and Carl discuss mindset and working without a plan.

Eric Zener

Painting In The Deep End

Eric Zener is a highly successful contemporary artist who lives and works in the Bay Area. While much of his work features women in swimming pools, his thoughts run much deeper, as he uses water as a vehicle to tell stories of vulnerability, submergence, joy, nostalgia, birth, chaos and more. This month’s Inspiration is a very informative interview where Nicholas and Eric talk about path, process, metaphor and advice for being a successful artist.

Michael Shemchuk

A Lesson in History

It might surprise some that Michael Shemchuk (known to his friends and students as Shem) is predominately self-taught. For the most part he has gone on intuition and also history. Both a history of his own—learning in vocational school about decorative wall finishing and painting, along with being strongly inspired by historical masters. A sense of history is present in his amazing paintings through discarded paper remnants, layering, digging and discovering what came before.

Silvia Poloto

Following Her Own Lead

As a child artist Silvia Poloto did not have a clue about wanting to be an artist. After earning an undergraduate degree in Engineering and a Masters in Business, she found herself working in Advertising which opened her heart’s eye to being creative and making art. Others immediately saw her innate talent which sparked her inspired and prolific career as an artist. Hear more about her path in this inspiring interview.

Mark Bowles

Keeping at it

Artist Mark Bowles always knew he wanted to be an artist and paint. He also carried a lot of insecurities and questioned himself much of the time. In this inspiring interview, Mark shares his journey and what he has learned along the way to success.

Melissa Chandon

Following what’s inside

With animated, Pop-inspired colors and pared-down compositions, Melissa Chandon’s paintings push everyday scenes toward the brink of imaginative, dynamic abstraction. In this inspiring interview, Melissa shares her learnings of finding your voice and process by going within and how she was guided and influenced by working with the renowned artist Wayne Thiebaud.

Gary Ruddell

Bringing life to art

Even when he began his career as an Illustrator, artist Gary Ruddell has always followed his heart in getting his work out into the world. He happily made illustrations until his personal conversations within compelled him to say things his own way. Enjoy this inspiring interview and conversation with this amazing artist.

Nicholas Wilton

The twists and turns of following one’s creative arc

Nicholas Wilton has been making art since he was 14 years old. In this week’s Inspiration, he will dive into what inspires him, sources for making his art, the materials he uses, etc. This is a rare opportunity to learn what’s behind Nick’s work and where he sees it all going.

Jerry Mclaughlin

Using the guide that’s within

Jerry McLaughlin found success as a photographer, but knew is in heart it was not his path. Once he said aloud that his true North was to be a painter, all roads began to lead forward for him. Finding an art practice that was authentic and personal for Jerry changed everything.

Raquel Baldocchi

Making work we love is the business plan

Raquel Baldocchi’s beautiful, rich paintings seek to present characters from potentially distant eras and locales set into a modern, abstract construct. It has come to be very personal work for her, drawing inspiration from historical portraits, vintage photographs and family memorabilia. Her great aunt made innumerable scrapbooks filled with charming images of flora, fauna, and illustrations of all types of human interaction, which often influence the content of her paintings.

Marti Somers

Inspired by natural beauty and the creative journey.

To witness the work of Marti Somers is to experience lush, raucous explosions of color, animal forms, and brush strokes evocative of California’s own diverse landscape. It is this pure sense of freedom, bold play, and an overall willingness to be expressive without restraint that gives Marti Somers’ work its distinctively joyful tone.

Mitchell Johnson

Paying close attention is how we learn to really see and make context of the world.

Walking the line between representational and abstract, Mitchell Johnson’s paintings can recall a sense of place or emotions about a place, but it’s the arrangement of shapes and colors that we respond to first. Listen in to this interview where he talks about how when we really look at something, we don’t just identify what it is—we can see what it is about and then it can help serve your painting or lead to a painting.

Cold Wax Medium with Rebecca Crowell and Jerry Mclaughlin

An amazing medium for creating subtle, rich depth using layers.

For this month’s inspiration video, we interviewed Rebecca Crowell and Jerry Mclaughlin, two artists who are experts in the medium of cold wax. Spurred by their shared loved of this medium – and after noticing a lack of suitable instructional materials – this pair decided to make their very own book about cold wax.

Adam Wolpert

Paying attention is where the richness, discovery and growth happens.

Adam Wolpert’s varied imagery explores the themes of cycles, relationships and balance, and investigates the subtle distinction between the representational and the abstract. He believes that when we make art or engage it, we remember what it is to be human. In this very engaging conversation, Adam and Nicholas explore how painting something outside of ourselves actually informs us to paint inside of ourselves. Give yourself a treat by spending some time with this absorbing interview on how the process of art can inform our lives.

Russell Chatham

Seeking inspiration from his surroundings

The work of Russell Chatham is difficult to describe in a single word. Inspired by his childhood in the Northern Bay Area and his time in Montana, his subtly beautiful landscapes are at once powerful yet soft, melancholic yet vastly serene. The overall effect is one of a haunting nostalgia, of being drawn into a space that is both familiar while utterly distant. We at the Academy are extremely pleased (and lucky!) to be able to interview this prolific individual.

Joe Brubaker

Seeking inspiration in the human form

One of the first things that strikes one about Joe Brubaker is his prolific output. This is made even more impressive when one considers that although he would characterize himself as a lifelong creative, he would also be the first to tell you his career as an artist didn’t really begin until his late thirties, after he decided to show his work at Marin Open Studios. Take a moment to check out this great interview.

Melinda Tidwell

Do you find inspiration in non-traditional materials?

Our definitions of what it means to be an artist are constantly shifting. The introduction of new media and techniques push the boundaries of art in some exciting new directions. Melinda Tidwell is certainly no exception in this regard, using discarded and recycled books as the raw material for her collage pieces. It truly is a pleasure to speak to this inspiring and creative individual.