Shelby Pizzarro is an illustrator and performer.
Her visual art has been exhibited in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East. Digital and conventional collage art has been licensed for bookmarks, calendars, datebooks, sportswear and accessories. Her client list includes BBC Television & Radio, UK; The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, Glasgow, Scotland; Wild About Animals magazine, UK, Taylors Tea & Coffee, UK, and Syracuse Cultural Workers, New York.
As the Artistic Director of the Egyptian Moon Dance Company, Shelby has had the pleasure of facilitating workshops and performing in the United States, England, and Egypt.
Carrie: Welcome Shelby to Artist Strong! When did you first discover your love of the arts?
The Visual and Performing Arts have always been an essential part of who I am. I can’t remember a time when the Arts weren’t a fundamental part of my life.
I was fortunate to grow up in Brooklyn, New York where so many opportunities were readily available. The diversity of cultures, art, lifestyles…and learning never to take yourself too seriously…set the foundation of who I am today.
My parents were a major influence. My Dad loved Music, especially Jazz. We always had a variety of songs playing in our home. Through my Dad, and his side of the family, I learned a lot about musical styles I probably wouldn’t have explored on my own. I believe this is why I have a love of World Music. Although my Dad died quite a few years ago, it’s comforting to hear a piece of music he liked and know that his memory still lives on.
My Mom adores the Performing and Visual Arts, Fashion Design, and the written word. I wouldn’t be who I am today without her. She made our local library a magical place for me. Before I learned to read my Mom and I would make our daily trip to check out six books. I loved all the illustrations and stories to go with them. The total experience made me want to live the charmed life of an Artist. Libraries are still a safe haven for me….somewhere to go and dream. Advertising also influenced me. Billboards and Ad Copy fascinated me…as it still does today. I find the commercial side of the business irresistible.
My parents were also aware of my affinity for Dance. They enrolled me in a local dancing school at three years old and eventually I attended the June Taylor School of Dance in Manhattan.
Libraries, Museums, Galleries, Art projects, Dance Class and Recitals fill the memories of my youth. It really was the perfect childhood for someone like me. Most importantly, my parents created the environment where the Arts could flourish.
This foundation carried me into adulthood. I graduated from the York Academy of Arts in York, Pennsylvania. I also received further education at the Harrogate School of Arts at Harrogate College, England. Influenced by my interest and residence in the Middle East, my Dance life took a turn. I studied Arabic Dance primarily at the Yorkshire Dance Centre in Leeds, England, at the Josephine Wise Academy of Arabic Dance in London, and with a variety of international teachers in Egypt and here in the U.S..
Carrie: How would you describe your art to Artist Strong readers?
My Visual and Performing Art is a compilation of the places I have lived and the people and ideas that influenced me. My visual work consists of collage, both digital and conventional. I adore the patchwork feel of the media because, as with most people, our lives are filled with an array of experiences…some great, some not so great…but each a learning experience. My Dance life also mirrors this sentiment. No one creates in a vacuum. It is wonderful to collaborate with other artists. Sharing our distinctive view of what inspire us fuels my creativity.
Carrie: You also dance, can you also describe the kind of dancing you enjoy?
I love all dance, but Egyptian Raqs Sharqi is the dance that makes my soul soar. Also known as Belly Dance, I believe it is truly a powerful woman’s dance. I love the Egyptian style due to its balance of playfulness and power.
There are so many sides to the Dance. Socially, the women involved are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Physically, the Dance has a plethora of methods to keep you active and healthy. Emotionally, it is a place to relax and to become immersed deep into the essence of who you are. When I am dancing, I am truly mindful. I am in a space of meditative power and peace. For me, the Egyptian style truly is “the Heart of Belly Dance”™.
Carrie: How does your dancing and artist practice inform one another?
My Dance and Visual Arts really do influence each other. When starting to write new choreography it helps me to think of the movements as lines in a drawing. If I finish with a successful “moving illustration,” then I am pleased. I am a great believer in synchronicity. I am intrigued with the idea that it can lead to incredible “aha” moments. Often a collage will trigger an idea for a dance. Alternatively, my music and choreography can inspire a collage. It is very much a “two way street” and is a great means to keep me artistically challenged
Carrie: What is the Sisterhood of the Muse?
Together with my colleague, Chris Luke, we developed Sisterhood of the Muse as a place of respite and collective creativity. Chris is an en plein air painter and sculptor whose work I respect. Together we enjoy sharing what we find inspiring in a nurturing atmosphere. Sisterhood of the Muse is a lovely place to get a conversation started, to stay motivated and true to our authentic Muse.
Carrie: What is one thing you really want people/creatives to take away from your blog?
My desire is to share what inspires me, entertain those who choose to visit, and perhaps spark the sense of wonder and creativity that dwells in us all. Every life is magical and has a unique story. We just need to be daring enough to follow where our heart leads us…to discover our own path.
Carrie: Can you describe your artistic process to readers? For example, do you follow the same pattern and track when you develop an artwork from idea to product?
I have an organized process…although it is somewhat loosely structured. I have been working commercially for so many years and have found the method I use works well for all of my creative projects. I start by organizing. I like to use folders to consolidate all I need. Everything pertaining to the Art goes into the folder: scribbled notes, paper, job specs, music, and reference materials…anything I think I will need. If it is a digital job, I follow the same method with a folder on my desktop. I suppose the quote from Gustave Flaubert sums it up best: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
Once everything is collected, I just let myself “play.” Everything falls into place quickly and easily when I let the Art or choreography “speak” and just follow the lead. Bob Ross, the painter, believed in the concept of “happy accidents”. Although many of my accidents were not very “happy” they did lead to techniques I wouldn’t have dreamed of without them. When I have finished the piece, I usually step away from it for at least a few hours. I return and then start my revision process. I believe that when you remove yourself, even for a few minutes, you can view the work with a fresh eye. More often than not, I find elements to alter. But isn’t revision part of the fun?
In all, I try to keep my process unrestricted to a certain extent because you never know what will inspire you and help complete your work.
Carrie: What strategies do you use to help yourself when you feel “stuck?”
I first acknowledge that having a “block” and feeling stuck is normal. It happens to all of us from time to time. Rather than trying to force creativity into my art, which never works for me, I step back and delve into my “Play” instinct to allow my Muse to speak. In the words of Carl Jung: “The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.”
I go back to the work I admire. I look to my inspiration from the past. I find this creative space in Art and Advertising history and in the work of dancers I respect. In my studio, I posted motivational sayings and examples of illustrations and Fine Art that help to keep me on track. I also find the physical act of creating, whether it be starting a collage or just getting up and dancing will help to open the line to my Muse and get me through a block. Most of all, the saying “this too shall pass” has helped to move me through my darkest hours.
Carrie: How does your life experience and emotional state feed into your art?
The direction of my Art is due to my life experience…the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been, physically and through reading about locations I would like to visit. Emotion can aid or hinder work. When I am in a good frame of mind, the ideas come quickly…and it seems as if there are so many at once. I recently was under a lot of stress and my work did suffer. I am grateful to have a patient and supportive partner who helped me find my Muse again.
Carrie: What is one creative resource you can’t live without?
I can’t live without Collaboration….online and locally. Being surrounded by creative people nurtures my spirit and allows me to see possibilities I never dreamed imaginable.
Carrie: How do you define Creativity?
Creativity is being present and fearlessly sharing your unique story through the technique that serves your Muse. It is also recognizing the spark in others and constructing an atmosphere where imagination flourishes.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: How do you recognize and listen to your inner muse? I want to know! Talk about it in the comments below.
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