Multi-movement contemporary artist
Although in the past, she nearly abandoned her passion for art, Rio Shayne attributes her revival of visual creativity to a combination of occasional psychedelic use, subsequent soul-healing, and renewed faith in herself as both an artist and a human being.
“Love is the meaning of life, and my goal is to express that through my art.” – Rio Shayne
Rio Shayne: Speak from the Soul
(Interview conducted from December 2014 – January 2015)
JB: Rio, I’m thrilled that you agreed to let me interview you. We’ve been friendly on Twitter for some time, but this is our first opportunity to have a meaningful conversation.
RS: Hi Jane! Thank you for choosing me for January’s Artist Spotlight.
JB: It’s my absolute pleasure. 🙂 Obviously, I’m an ardent fan of your art. One of the first components of your style I noticed was your penchant for curves and spirals. Have you always painted this way, or do you attribute your style to a natural evolution of innate artistic sensibility?
RS: I have not always painted using curves and spirals. I definitely attribute my style to a natural evolution of innate artistic sensibility, as you eloquently stated. 🙂
I started painting when I was very young, taking private watercolor classes from a professional artist. I was taught in the style of realism, with the subject being typically a still life or a landscape. During high school I began to experiment and paint more daring and bold subjects, such as nudes and abstracts, with harsh edges and bright colors, and I began to develop my own unique style. I rebelled against norms and rules set by my art teachers, and actually succeeded and won first place in a scholarship contest.
JB: An impressive achievement — congrats!
RS: Thank you. 🙂 Since then, I have become freer with my expression. This is most likely due to rediscovering my love for art after taking psychedelics. They caused me look at the world with wonderment and awe, like I did as a child. My experiences on them reminded me that life is a precious and beautiful gift, and I began to love life and myself again!
My true nature — which I had kept suppressed during my late twenties after not properly dealing with trauma from my past — has awakened. I have found myself, my true self, through my art, and continue to learn something new whenever I create. It is quite therapeutic and cathartic; a healing process every time. So now I just do what comes natural, and I try to let my creations flow out of me. I love using bright and vibrant colors and focus on texture to bring my art to life. I also love to experiment with new styles, which challenges me and helps to develop new skills as an artist.
JB: I applaud your honesty. Obviously, the subject of taking mind-altering as a creativity-enhancer is a subject of some controversy, though a variety of artists have attributed their developing vision to the discovery of psychedelics. Do you still use? If so, what’s the psychedelic that brings you the closest to your true self?
RS: Thank you! Even though it is controversial, I wanted to include it, because it such a pivotal point in my journey as both a human being and an artist. I do continue to use psychedelics on occasion. Once or twice a year. They really help alter my perspective and ground me. Psychedelics force you to face reality and yourself, and it can be frightening and humbling. It is difficult to choose one psychedelic that brings me closest to my true self. I’d have to say DMT, out of the ones I have tried.
JB: I can’t say I’ve ever tried that. What’s it like?
RS: DMT (Dimethyltriptamine) is beautiful, potent, and extremely profound. During my first experience with DMT, I was able to let go of a lot of bitterness and resentments I was holding onto. It made me feel at one with the universe, and I felt at peace. I also saw some mind-blowing visions. I was atheist before DMT, now I am rather spiritual. DMT is so interesting too, because it is produced naturally by the pineal gland in the brain, and exists in every living thing.
JB: I’m glad to hear you’re on your way to spiritual healing!
So DMT brought you closer to your true self…which of your pieces are most reflective of your inner light?
RS: I put pieces of my soul into all of my art. My best works of art (the ones I am most satisfied with) are those that I put more of myself into; ones that I let my soul flow into naturally. The painting that I did during high school of the Cubist Nudes was a major transitional piece for me.
I had begun to experiment with my own style of expression, which required me to put so much of myself into, and that forced me to look deep within myself. That is when I began to be more vulnerable and open with my art. I became more bold and expressive, displaying nudity, using more texture and movement, harsh edges, and black in my paintings.
Several years and many life experiences later, the Cosmic Love painting is a more recent reflection of my inner light.
It represents the love that we are all capable of, since we are the universe experiencing itself. When I meditate or do psychedelics, I often see and feel much beauty and love. I also am forced to look at myself and see what needs to be improved, but it mostly reminds me of what to be grateful for, and that is what I typically want to convey in my art. With this piece I wanted to convey that love is the meaning of life by using bright colors and specks of stardust, and that there is in infinite universe just waiting to be explored, both inward and outward. It is an amazing and wondrous concept that I feel really puts our lives into perspective.
JB: I can feel your sense of wonder through these emotive artworks.
RS: I wanted to include many more of my paintings, and I know I cannot choose them all, but I did want to include this one as well for reflecting my inner light. I call it Life is Beautiful. It has so much raw beauty and emotion and movement and color; it is pure freedom. It represents many things for me, but it is definitely one of my pieces where I was freer to express myself.
JB: I’m more than happy to include this piece – aptly titled, to be sure. The colors are beautiful and illustrate the concept of inner light quite effectively. Switching gears, let’s talk about the dark side of art. Self-expression, so often a panacea for that which ails us, does not always cure every ill of the soul. Can you remember a time in which you felt regretful (whether the feeling was fleeing or permanent) of making yourself vulnerable through art?
RS: Yes, unfortunately I can remember a time when I felt regretful after putting my soul into a piece of art. It was during my time as an undergraduate student majoring in Graphic Design. I was only 18, and it was my first experience in college. The college I was attending at the time had the students display their assignments; we were critiqued, quite heavily. Suffice it to say, I had better grades on designs I spent very little time on, and put none of my soul into. I received poor grades on those I spent hours on, pouring myself into. Granted, the program focused heavily on advertising, minimalism, and sleek composition.
At the time I was just beginning to find my own unique style and expression, and the teachers and their assignments were quite stifling in that regard. I did not get much positive feedback from teachers, and was rewarded less on creativity, technique and innovation, and more on simple use of a computer program. After a year of this, I felt my calling in art fading away. I didn’t want to create art for corporations, or use manipulative tactics in my art to encourage consumerism, which is what they encouraged. I ended up leaving that college and began to explore other interests, because I felt the artistic part of me had been gravely wounded. I did very little art for most of my twenties.
JB: Sad! But at least you’re making up for lost time now.
RS: It pains me to think that I suppressed such a big part of me, for so long. Fortunately I found my way back to it, mostly due to psychedelics, which helped me reawaken my passion and enthusiasm for life. I understand the risk involved in becoming so vulnerable with my art now, and not to let others’ standards of art stifle my creativity.
JB: It’s easier said than done, not allowing others to dictate your artistic expression. I especially appreciate it when artists remain true to themselves. Bravo!
Although it can be a nuisance, self-promotion is a necessary evil if you want to get your name out there and establish a fanbase. What sorts of tactics have you employed to introduce your art to a wider audience?
RS: On a local level, I promote myself by handing out business cards, and I bring up any current shows where they can see my art. I do this with people I already know; friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, etc., and I also talk to shop and gallery owners in the Portland area. I volunteer at a gallery where I have been able to submit my art in a couple of shows. I also sell my art worldwide using Etsy, and I promote my art on the internet via social networking sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ and LinkedIn.
JB: Using social networking to spread the word about your art can prove quite effective.
RS: I love that the internet allows me to share photos of my art with people worldwide. It is awesome to be able to connect to people on a global level, and establish a fanbase this way. Just knowing that people can see and appreciate my art makes me happy. Of course selling my art makes me happy too. Not only does it help me make a living, it means that my art has touched or spoken to someone.
JB: It must be thrilling, connecting with your admirers. What’s the most special message you’ve ever received from a fan?
RS: An admirer told me that I had inspired him to start creating art again. It made me happy that I had affected his life in such a positive way.
JB: What a fantastic compliment! Did he mention a specific piece of yours that inspired him to make that choice?
RS: No he didn’t actually. That makes me wonder now! He told me that he liked my artwork, my use of color and movement, so perhaps it was my collection of art as a whole that had an impact.
JB: Of all your pieces, which one surprised you the most once it was complete? Did you have a moment when you were like, “I did that?! Holy s**t!”
RS: The closest thing I have to that is a painting called Moonlit Tree that I did with a group of friends for a bridal shower. I hadn’t painted in several years, as you know, and during the process of painting this one, I realized I still had “it” in me.
The passion I had kept hidden for so long was finally emerging again. This was shortly after my first experience with psychedelics. It was a landmark to me, as I was reborn as an artist again and began the journey I have been on since. It is special to me because of that, and it surprised me.
JB: Wow! It’s breath-taking. Your friends are very fortunate. Do you make art for your loved ones often?
RS: I do make art for my friends and family for special occasions and celebrations. I don’t make much money, so what I can offer as a gift is a piece of art.
JB: What about commissions?
RS: I do get commissions sometimes, yes. Usually from people who have purchased art from me at a show or gallery.
JB: What has been your most challenging commission to date? Is it harder to get into your zone when others dictate the subject matter of the piece?
RS: Nothing specific comes to mind, which I suppose is fortunate. All of my commissions have been challenging and fun in their own ways. It is definitely more difficult to get into the zone when working on a commission piece. It depends on how much freedom the client gives me as far as the style and subject matter goes. The size and materials can make a difference as well, especially if I am on a deadline.
JB: When you’re working on a piece that comes purely from your own inspiration, do you have a go-to style, or does it differ based on subject? What colors & materials do you use the most frequently?
RS: I suppose I have a go-to style at times, such as the flowing lines, spirals, trees, in an expressionistic manner. But mostly it depends on my mood, or if I want to experiment with something different. I use pencil, colored pencil, ink, pen, and acrylic paint the most often. I love using bright vibrant colors, especially variations of blue, green, pink, and purple. But also black, iridescent, and metallics, such as gold and silver. The black is nice for definition or contrast. The iridescent and metallic add shiny, glowing, whimsical, and sometimes mystical elements that I like.
JB: Being a writer, I’m constantly editing my work, sometimes even years after having written a piece. Do you ever revisit old works to refine the details?
RS: Yes, I do occasionally revisit older works and refine the details. If I absolutely can’t stand a piece, I will paint over it and start over. I do that often. That reminds me of stories of when I was a child. My mother always tells me that when I first began to create art when I as about 2 or 3, that I would meticulously draw or paint something for hours, carefully choosing each color. But then sometimes I would take a black marker or paint and cover it entirely with black. She tells me that I always looked stoic when doing this. I wonder if it was my displeasure with my creation, and the desire to start over? Or perhaps I felt that it was meant to be temporary.
I also duplicate or recreate a piece if I really like it, or if it is popular. It can sometimes help to improve my technique.
JB: Endearing anecdote about the black marker. I can easily imagine how adorable you were as a stoic three-year-old!
The fact that you’re open to improving or repeating a piece is so interesting. Which pieces have you replicated the most frequently?
RS: I have painted several versions of the Illuminated Dandelions, and I am even working on a large commission piece of that one right now, called Illuminated Dandelions III: Sacred Plants. It’s larger, which is a challenge for me at this time because I do not own an easel, nor do I have much space to work in. It has been fun though, working on a larger scale sometimes calls for different techniques and approach. I have also replicated the moon painting, the roses painting, and various tree paintings.
JB: Have you met other artists who replicate their most popular pieces?
RS: I am not sure that I have met other artists who do this. I would imagine so. The reasons that I duplicate my pieces are because of commission requests, because I know they will sell, or because I want to improve upon the first or second. It is fun to play around with creating different versions of one of my original pieces. Sometimes they evolve or transform into something unexpectedly.
JB: You mentioned that Illuminated Dandelions III: Sacred Plants presents a bit of a challenge for you, size-wise – what different techniques have you employed with this larger commission versus previous smaller ones?
RS: For larger pieces like my current commission, I have to use a wider range of brushes. I still need small brushes for fine details, but I also need larger ones to cover more surface area, plus I can play with more textures. I also tend to have to be more physical in order to get a broader brushstroke. Something I enjoy doing is mixing paint directly on the canvas, or wood in this case. In the areas that don’t require meticulous detail, or if I’m not looking for a specific color, I will mix paint on the piece itself. The effect can be quite pleasing.
JB: So you’re cool with replicating pieces to improve upon them or offer a different perspective, but have you ever done a series of artworks that all follow a similar theme?
RS: I have not done a series of artwork with a theme since high school or early college. So nothing recently. I have thought about doing something like that. It could be a fun project!
JB: Indeed. 🙂 Not too long ago on Twitter, I noticed your work was featured in the Big 500 Art Show. How many of your paintings were included?
RS: I am quite proud of the ten 8×8 paintings that I did in December for the Big 500 Art Show at The Peoples Art of Portland Gallery. There were over 500 artists who participated. All artists could submit up to 10 pieces on 8×8 inches wood panels. A portion of each piece sold was donated to the Oregon Food Bank. I sold 8 of my paintings, so I am thrilled! It was an amazing show with so much diversity and expression, and beautiful art! I am honored to have been able to participate in such a wonderful show.
JB: I’m so pleased to hear it was successful. What was the most memorable moment of the occasion?
RS: The most memorable moment of the show was having my friends and family show up to support me. It was a big moment for me, so meant a lot to have them there. It was also touching to learn that I had sold several of my paintings. It always makes me happy when people like my work enough to spend money on it. They liked the bits of my soul I put into that particular piece.
JB: Congrats on the sales! That must have given you a boost. I have to wonder, though…is it ever emotionally difficult parting with pieces of your soul?
RS: It can be emotionally difficult to part with some of my work. I find it easier when I know the people who buy my art. It is more difficult to not be able to pay for things I need, so that is how I justify it. I have to sell my art to survive.
JB: I can imagine earning your keep would take away some of the sting of parting with your beloved creations. 😉 I noticed you’re currently participating in People of Peoples, another art show that started on January 17th, and runs through February 8th at the Peoples Art of Portland – the same location that hosted the Big 500 show. What’s the theme?
RS: The theme for this show is to celebrate the art of the staff who keep the gallery going. The curators, dealers, volunteers, regular artists, everyone who regularly helps out there. We each could submit a few pieces, any size or style we wanted.
It is a magnificent show, full of beautifully diverse art! It is so cool that they have a show like this for the staff. Peoples Art is a family. We like to have a good time and be welcoming and warm.
JB: So in this case, the family who creates art together, stays together. 😉
I like to play with hypothetical situations. As bleak as it may seem, I’ll ask you to envision a world in which you couldn’t use your hands to create art. How would you express your creativity without the aid of your most valuable tools?
RS: If I couldn’t use my hands to create art, I would do theater or dance, or writing. My imagination is a pretty valuable tool as well, but without my hands it would be incredibly challenging. I might experiment using other parts of my body, like my mouth or feet, to create art. If I couldn’t use visual art to express myself, I would find other ways. Fortunately I have many interests, and I love acting, dancing, singing, and writing. Visual art is obviously my preferred method. It is an effective way of translating the workings of my mind.
JB: I hear you about the positive feedback – it’s something artists get so little of, but need so greatly. I’m happy to give you a boost any time. 🙂
I’m also a performing arts enthusiast – have you acted/sang/danced in any recent productions? If not, when was the last time you were on stage?
RS: Sadly, I have not performed in anything recently. The closest I get to that these days is dancing in the front during Zumba class. Growing up I performed in ballet, numerous plays, and played the violin. I took a few acting classes during college and loved them. I have been an extra in productions filmed here in Portland, and played a major role in a couple of independent works; a film called Transit, and danced in a music video for a band I can’t recall.
The last time I performed was about 6 or 7 years ago. There does seem to be a disadvantage for women in performing arts, since women are often valued for their looks more than anything else. It is difficult to deal with unrealistic standards on top of the intensely competitive nature to it. But performing itself is very satisfying. I have always enjoyed participating in it as well as appreciating it as a bystander.
JB: You mentioned looks being vital to a female performing artist’s success…as a female painter, have you run into any double standards?
RS: Yes, I have run into double standards as a female painter. Male painters seem to be featured more in shows, women have to work harder to prove themselves. This is not always the case fortunately. It happened more often when I was a teenager. I was offered a gig to show and sell my art at a gallery and the gallery owner/curator blatantly hit on me. It put me in an uncomfortable position, and I was disgusted and scared off. For a while when I struggled as an artist later I had regretted not taking him up on the offer.
Now, I look back and I am glad I didn’t go through with it. Of course you have to compromise some things in this world, especially in the arts, but if it feels wrong in your gut, don’t do it. It is important to follow and trust your intuition.
JB: Ugh, that gives me the creeps – the fact that he hit on you. What a pig!
RS: Yeah, that guy creeped me out too. He made me very uncomfortable, even touched me inappropriately, put his hand on my leg, etc. Definitely a red flag.
JB: As red as they come!
Self-doubt, though commonplace in the creative world, can prove to be an artist’s worst enemy. How do you manage yours?
RS: My battle with self-doubt has improved, mostly due to meditation and psychedelics. I have good days and bad days. I manage self-doubt through meditation, reflection, listening to Alan Watts (Zen Buddhist Philosopher) and Terence McKenna (Counterculture & Psychedelic Guru), and reading Mastery by Robert Greene. Mastery really emphasizes that part of becoming a master is not to have it easy, but instead to struggle and fail and make mistakes. That way you can learn, improve and grow and continue at your craft until you are a master of it. The book also says that anyone can be a master if they choose to.
JB: I appreciate that sentiment – it’s easier to give up than it is to keep trying, but learning from one’s mistakes is how one grows. On that note, how do you nourish your faith in yourself?
RS: Sometimes I remind myself of what I have accomplished, the adversities I have faced and how I am now stronger because of them. I do my best to have trust and faith in myself, and most importantly, to love myself. I also find that visualizing what I desire helps me. When all else fails, I talk with my partner Danny. He knows me better than myself sometimes. He knows what to say to make me believe in myself. “Believe in the fact that I believe in you,” and, “Life is what you make it.”
JB: You’re quite fortunate to have such an understanding partner. 🙂
RS: He reminds me to never create art with the sole purpose of making money. Do it because it makes you happy, and the money will follow. Do it for yourself, because if you spend your life trying to please others, you will surely fail. Life is all about choices. One chooses to be happy and confident. You just have to remind yourself sometimes, and that if it was worth it, it wouldn’t be easy.
JB: True that.
RS: Meditation really helps because when I look inside myself, my imagination, my heart, and my soul speak to me. I feel the universe inside of me and it is amazing! This reminds me of how beautiful the world is and the wonderful things each and every one of us is capable of. That’s what happens when you quiet the mind, your soul speaks.
JB: Your words are uplifting, inspiring, and hopeful – the writer in you has come out to play for this occasion. 🙂 It’s been a true honor having this conversation – I feel as if I’ve glimpsed inside the very essence of your being; and what I see is radiantly beautiful.
RS: I am so honored and flattered by your words. Often when I create art, I put the essence of my being into it, it is a spiritual experience for me. To me that is what passion is. Love is the meaning of life, and my goal is to express that through my art. The fact that you find it beautiful brings me much happiness!
JB: I’m good for a boost anytime you need one. 🙂
RS: When you asked to interview me, you boosted my confidence (and reputation), which has helped me in so many ways! Everyone needs encouragement and positive feedback from time to time. It is especially meaningful when it comes from people we admire, such as yourself.
JB: *happy dance* I’m flattered!
RS: I like to return the favor, because the world needs more kindness and love. I would like to add that with power, comes great responsibility, and being an artist means having power. The power to influence others. One of my goals in life is to positively influence as many people as I can. I aspire to spread awareness, kindness, love and compassion. The internet is such an amazing tool for this. Think of how many people’s lives you can touch, and all of the connections you can make, that would be impossible without! I hope that readers of this interview, by gaining insight into my crazy head will be inspired to do what makes them truly happy!
JB: Thanking you for this occasion to delve into the essence of who you are won’t properly express my appreciation for your art, or your existence as a unique human; there are no words for that.
RS: This has been such an amazing opportunity, because I am always trying to improve and grow, and your questions required self-reflection on my part, and visits to my past. Through our conversation, I have gained a deeper understanding of myself both as an artist and a human being. Thank you for helping me to grow and to believe in myself more, and to potentially inspire others!
JB: You’re very welcome. 🙂 Best of luck with the People of People’s Art Show – my gut tells me you’re going to be a smashing success.
Interview conducted by Jane Bled.
Rio Shayne lives in Portland, Oregon, where she was born and raised. Rio creates works of art predominantly in the mediums of painting and drawing. During her time at the Arts & Communication Magnet Academy, she won an art contest for her paintings, which resulted in a scholarship. She has been in art shows at the Goodfoot Pub and Lounge and the People’s Art of Portland Gallery. Rio is known for her use of vibrant colors and rich textures. Her art is influenced by psychedelics, expressionism, impressionism, abstract, and contemporary.
Rio is a bitcoin enthusiast: she is passionate about it as both a new technology, and as a digital currency that is revolutionizing how the world trades.
As always, thank you for your time and attention.