"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."


By on May 31, 2017 in Arts with 3 Comments

By Susan Lagsdin

Here’s an intriguing What-if.

What if hyper-creative fantasy artist Aimee Stewart had been born and raised on “Frontage Road,” “Junction Avenue” or maybe “Industrial Way”? Would her art be more prosaic, her life more normal?

Aimee Stewart is on the cover of The Good Life June 2017

Aimee Stewart is on the cover of The Good Life June 2017

But oh no, she had to go and get herself born and raised on Cashmere’s metaphoric “Flowery Divide,” the orchard-hugging two-lane road that winds its way far to the northwest of town.

Aimee laughed at the supposition. She’s fully aware that her life may seem charmed, a concept that’s so fitting with many of her art themes that it’s worth considering.

First, not only did she grow up in a sweet old farmhouse but it’s still her home, the one she and her husband Larry intend to stay in forever and in which they are currently raising a cute dog and hosting siblings.

It also holds her ever-burgeoning art-making business, one that did not grow slowly over many years but very quickly over very few years, and remains on a steep upward trajectory.

You may remember Aimee from a 2012 article in The Good Life, when she was mostly computer-generating dreamy fantasy illustrations for the jigsaw puzzle market. She still specializes in what her website describes as “lush, eclectic digital painting and photomanipulation.”

But she’s now a top-selling designer of puzzle pictures in the world. (“Yes,” she affirmed, “It’s true… (puzzles are) not a thing of the past at all. It seems people really are sitting around card tables with their friends and family putting puzzles together.”)

In 2013, she switched agents to one with a global reach, and, she said, “My career skyrocketed.”

Contracts for her artwork poured in as her images accumulated and major manufacturers took notice; as a top producer of puzzle art (and now wall art, stationery, calendars, journals, board games, shower curtains, scarves, totes, cross stitch…) she’s familiar with bidding wars and has the luxury of turning down offers.

(Struggling artists, take note: Aimee works really hard. Her success didn’t come easy, it came sooner than expected.)

Something else that counts in the high-paced genre she’s best at: she’s extremely prolific.

Aimee is frank about her creative energy. “Other popular top sellers put out four new items in a year — but I can produce four a week.”

That said, she’s still stunned. “My art has taken on a life of its own; it’s become self-sustaining. This is a dream come true, and it constantly takes me by surprise.”

Aimee is both astonished and humbled by success, and she keeps sight of what’s important. Her marriage and her home are dear to her, and two up-close and personal changes have come with her lucrative new recognition.

What had been the couple’s conservative seven-year plan for financial security as a dynamic duo became a two-year plan. In 2016, Larry retired from his local production management job to become her invaluable tech assistant and marketer, freeing her for artwork in her studio.

And the “new” studio is symbolically a fantasy unto itself.

Aimee moved from a tiny cubby on the edge of the hallway to a large former bedroom overlooking blossoming trees. She says, “it’s a safe, stabilizing place,” a seraglio-like hideaway, replete with jewel-toned fabric walls and draped ceiling, plump floor cushions, soft lamps. A glowing computer screen ties that dream world to the real world.

(Time for another what-if. What if she specialized in tracking Arctic glacial changes? Or was an insurance actuary? What would her studio be? She suggested, “OK — gray paint, lots of Ikea, steel shelves, big windows?”)

Lounging on the studio’s cushy pillows suits her.

Yet, resting on her laurels would not be a comfortable pose for Aimee. She writes about art, she spoke at Norwescon at SeaTac (a pop culture conference like April’s Wencon here), and she’s revising a previously-published children’s book and compiling her second, an illustrated poem entitled Moon Cow, for which she has a publisher.

In June, she’ll take a junket to Los Angeles to learn the intricacies of green screen moving-image art and likely give that a go (think CGI in your favorite sci-fi and fantasy movies).

But her growth doesn’t all result from being “out there.” This spring, in a villa on  the coast of Spain, Aimee experienced the self-described absolute high point of her art life in the company of a dozen hand-picked artists from all over the world. It was a private unworkshop, mentored by author and illustrator Nick Bantock (creator of the Griffin and Sabine series, a best-seller in the early 1990s).

Aimee found herself irreversibly moved, challenged and inspired for 12 very full and emotional days. She was the new kid, personally invited after a standard workshop with Bantock two years ago. Most of the others were long-time returnees, and the fresh perspectives and warm friendships make her eager to return. She said about the week she took off to decompress, “I came back feeling absurdly giddy.”

In everyday life, Aimee is neither absurd (she’s talented and serious) nor giddy (just… happy).

She’s stayed in Cashmere to pursue a dream of making art her way, and remains respectful of the diversity of excellent art throughout the Valley.

In fact, she seemed as excited about her first public art show here — a whole month at Lemolo’s this Spring in Wenatchee — as she was with a possible Milton Bradley deal.

She’s a hometown girl with a world-wide web of influence.

You can see more of Aimee Stewart’s artwork at foxfires.com.

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  2. Really clear site, appreciste itt for this post.

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