In her studio space, Dana Idlet was painting something extraordinary. As she listened to music and moved her hand across the canvas with minimal effort and easy grace, her brush strokes looked inspired.
"I love getting lost in whatever I'm making, when time disappears and my surroundings fall away. When I wake up again, I feel really energized and happy to have been away for a while. I also get excited when someone buys a painting and is so happy that it's all theirs. Knowing my painting, a piece of myself, will be in a person’s home and enjoyed is really special."
Idlet is holding the sixth art exhibition of her career in November at Fayetteville Underground in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She uses all kinds of mediums and measures to spark her creativity.
"I definitely got turned on to music and art there. Megan Chapman, a Fayetteville Underground artist, gave me a huge amount of music to listen to; I'm still getting through it! I like to listen to music while I paint so it's nice to be turned on to something new. Nature inspires me."
Painting and music have always been a large part of Idlet’s life, so it is fitting that painting is now her occupation. From the time she was six years old she has been splattering, splashing and brushing paint onto an easel. Among the many things that move Idlet to create something new on a blank sheet of white are the hard edges, soft lines and infinite array of colors of nature. The hallmarks of her work are her use of acrylics and cardboard collages to create vibrant images that highlight nature’s beauty. Her work is filled with colorful trees, lightly colored creeks, streams and wild flowers native to the Arkansas land she feels so compelled to recreate on a blank, white canvas.
"I Roam These Hills"
Different things have sparked a fire in the past. And it is definitely a fire. Most recently, it's been noticing these lines or rings in natural things, like tree rings, layers of rock, finger prints, plants and maps. Noticing lines and what they represent has really pointed me in a different direction artistically. I'm haunted by these lines. I love finding rocks, a leaf changing colors or a cicada shell, things like that. I choose my colors from nature, someone practicing or just doing creative things every day it inspires me to work harder.The making of a painter
In a small room, Idlet works hard at her craft while making every effort to get her art seen by the masses. She has shown her art professionally in galleries in Oklahoma and Arkansas since graduating from the University of Tulsa in 2008. In Fayetteville, she is a part of co-op in which young artists maintain the art galleries at Fayetteville Underground in exchange for studio space and four exhibition galleries of their own.
Idlet admits it is not the ideal situation for an artist, though she does enjoy the camaraderie that comes with sharing her work space with like minded individuals and having the setting needed to show her work.
It feels like a dorm room to me, there are 15 working artist studios. The Underground is everyone's art home. I will have a new body of work that no one has seen. I'm using tree rings and fingerprints and thinking about how we have our own personal history of growth, drought, scars and healing. There are drawings of imagined tree rings on paper, and paintings on cross sections of trees, mostly cedar. I am working with cross sections of trees and thinking about time lines and histories. Tree rings are a record of a tree's life; you know when it lost a branch, when it healed itself, when there was growth and drought.
Three years ago, Idlet was playing basketball at the University of Tulsa, where she was a three-year letter winner and a sizable threat in the low post. Her prowess as a defender was apparent when guarding opposing teams’ centers and power forwards. Through her junior year at Tulsa she ranked eighth all-time in blocks for the Golden Hurricane. After taking time to think about her career and how basketball fit into her life, she decided to forgo her senior season.
"It's Well With My Soul"
I think basketball was time consuming throughout high school and college, so in that way it was negative. But I think as an athlete my spacial sense is better. I love painting large physical paintings where I have to really use my body and feel space.
Free of basketball, she committed herself solely to her craft and the journey of finding her form as a full-time artist. However, she still has a fear of failing.
I think the scariest thing is when I doubt myself as an artist, and that can come when I haven't had a new idea in a while, or haven't sold a piece. I hate feeling like a poser or phony person. That feeling always goes away when I am consistently making art. I think a lot of artists go through slumps or lulls, just like athletes or musicians. It's a scary feeling though and I know it hurts me sometimes because some of my work looks like a different artist could have made it. I just cannot imagine doing one type of thing, or using one type of paint/medium. I think I get a lot of inspiration figuring out how to use new media.
Her father’s daughter
Ezra Idlet kept his daughter grounded as a person. He remains her biggest supporter and fan.
I probably get some inspiration to do what I love for a living from my dad. I just got off the phone with him and he was saying that if you love something and put in the effort and care with what you are doing, it will show. I think that is very true, and can be applied to anything. My dad is a full time musician and his band can't be pinned down to one type of music, they are all over the place. I've seen that make it harder on them to succeed, but they keep doing what they love and believe in.
Idlet’s father can speak to his daughter from experience. He worked his way up through the musical ranks as a performing artist. He has been a professional musician since the 70s as a part of the band Trout Fishing in America. The band was nominated for four Grammys and in June 2008 was listed by Performing Songwriter Magazine as one of America’s 100 most influential independent artists of the past 15 years.
Comfortable in her skin
Idlet is clear about what she wants in life and that in itself is admirable. She has set a goal for herself of living life to the fullest using visual art as her way of expressing the joy she feels. She loves to live in that blissful void where her imagination runs wild and her creativity has no bounds.
She says the key to living her life as she does requires that she Be awake and absorb my surroundings, connect with people, get out of my comfort zone, dance, drink beers, slow down, love and appreciate being here. I know that art will always be in my life, no matter what form it takes.