Therapy for the Soul - Meet Visual Artist Stacey M. Torres

Written by Artie The Panda

Gazing at Stacey M. Torres’s vivid, whimsical paintings, you might never guess that she battled depression most of her life, and cancer more recently. In fact, it was out of desperation that Stacey, at age 61, started sketching as a means of therapy. Turns out art helps calm her turmoil, and no doubt aficionados of her art have had their spirits lifted, too.

Perfectly imperfect

Stacey is a folk artist specializing in ethnic art, especially women of color. She enjoys taking liberties with human form; for example, her females always feature one eye that’s higher and angled. That’s simply part of her unique perspective, and when critics complain, Stacey has a healthy response: “What people think of me or my art is none of my business.” Let’s all get that printed on a T-shirt!

Color brings her happiness

Acrylic paints and colored markers are her favorite mediums, but she also creates with watercolor pencils. Her subject matter goes beyond females to exotic birds and “fantasy gardens” — all swirling with bold, beautiful shades that reflect her Caribbean roots. Fun fact: Stacey’s work has been featured in season 10 of the CBS show “Criminal Minds.”

See more of Stacey’s work

You can peruse more paintings by this New Castle, Indiana, artist on Facebook, Etsy, or her online portfolio. Check out my Q&A with her below and discover Stacey’s take on an artist’s role in society, along with her favorite artist tool and hue that makes her happiest.

Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with Stacey M. Torres …

1. What is your background; how did you get started?

I studied art over 50 years ago, but never shared my work with the world until six years ago when I had a very personal calling — or need. It began as therapy for myself, but I quickly learned it was helping others as well. So, I've grown into a prolific artist, creating large bodies of work when the passion hits.

2. What role do you think the artist plays in society?

While I do sometimes respond to “calls for artists” that are politically and/or socially based, it is not personally MY calling. Many artists feel that their art speaks for them with today's social issues, and some of their work is tremendously powerful. I, on the other hand, feel my art speaks through me, not for me. So, it's always a very personal thing. I'm at a stage in my life where art is a very peaceful, soothing and comforting form of self-care. People use the term "self care" way too much these days, but it's truly just that for me. I've had collectors tell me they love my garden paintings because it takes them away from the stress and harshness of the world. Well, it does the same for me, and if they feel the same calmness and peace from my work as I do, then I am happy. That is my goal.

3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?

I've learned how to navigate my way through the landmines of critics and opinions of those who have no idea where my art comes from. I am a folk artist. But, I also love creating abstracts and expressionist type works of art. My folk style does not resonate with everyone, and it certainly shouldn't. In the beginning, I was bothered by people who didn't understand how I create, or why I paint short arms on my female landscapes ... or that the left eye is always slightly higher and at an angle than the right. It's really funny, but that's just how I see them, and it does not offend me in the least bit. Thus, I've learned that what people think of me or my art is none of my business. I work in a realm that is pleasing to me, where people — as most of us are — perfectly imperfect. This is how I do what I do when I do what it is that I do. 

4. What ways does your work reflect your personality?

I'm Old School Bohemian, and live and dress in a chaotic array of colors, textures and styles. Color brings me happiness when life feels challenging and difficult. My art reflects that loose expression and vibe.

5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?

I do get them from time to time. Because I have suffered from chronic depression for much of my life, it sometimes drags me down in the worst possible way. What's maddening is that I didn't even know it was depression until I was almost 60. Well, because I love to paint with and surround myself with color, one would think I would immediately turn to my art when I am anxious or depressed. On the contrary, it shuts me down to the point that I freeze, and all my creativity is locked down. Recently, I went through a bout of cancer, and could barely function mentally, physically and emotionally. While I am gratefully in remission, it did take me almost six months to pick my brush up again. I had to make myself do it, and once I started, I threw myself into one of those passionate, madcap marathons painting for days/nights at a time. But, I can't really "overcome" these blocks. I can only come out of them when it's run its course with me.

6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)

Watercolor pencils. They can work for me under any kinds of conditions when needed.

7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?

Currently, I'm doing a series of fantasy gardens, as well as a few exotic birds.

8. What is your favorite paint color name?

Prussian Blue.

All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.

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