BY SHANEDRA J. SMITH | STAFF WRITER
SEPTEMBER 20, 2022
That one Obama painting sparked my interest in doing more portrait tribute pieces. It was the start of everything, because I took that piece and also put it on t-shirts, now I have a full clothing line and print production company. That painting kind of reopened my creative door,” she shared.
Unnoticed to her, the art bug was still active in her as she still drew pictures here and there for her teammates in college. “
There is always something to do, especially trying to balance both sides.
A lot of her art is driven off of current and cultural events. “Sometimes I consider myself to be an artivist, which is a play off the word activist; I’ve used art to express some thoughts I have about things that are going on, or getting out a message.”
Thousands of browns, blacks and blues swarm together to create unique shapes and patches in one of Chelsea VanHook’s first paintings of Barack Obama in 2008. Appearing almost abstract, the painting radiates a beauty and skill unmatched from any other artist; a skill that took VanHook years to develop, and would bring her to create her own space where she paints for a living — Defined Arts Studios.
Originally hailing from the small town of Waco, Texas, VanHook transferred to the big city of Houston when she attended college. Art was still fresh on her mind, as she studied communications and media production, but minored in studio arts. Her creativity started drifting, as she begun to drift away from art. “After school, I went and I worked in corporate America for five years, and then decided that I wanted to get back into art, because I kind of let it go for a while. And that’s when I started Defined Arts,” she shared. It was around 2008 when Barack Obama was elected president when she decided to get back into painting, and the paintings she did for a friend helped her to see her raw talent and get back into art. “I discovered that I had more art skills,” she told blkpreneurship.com, “and my friend had asked me to do some paintings for his house. So I did those two for him. It was kind of like a remake of some old work he had, and the paintings were so good; he was just impressed by them. And then I decided, ‘maybe I should start by painting'”. As the Obama painting is her first painting, VanHook holds this portrait dear, citing it as a new experience for her, and truly a very popular photo in her collection, and the start of a new routine for her. “That one Obama painting sparked my interest in doing more portrait tribute pieces. It was the start of everything, because I took that piece and also put it on t-shirts. Now, I have a full clothing line and print production company. That painting kind of reopened my creative door,” she shared.”
Art was always something VanHook was interested in since middle school, which makes her career as an artist so full of passion and excitement. Taking art classes and being encouraged by her art teachers, she started off drawing and then developed into entering art contests and even won first place a few times. “In high school I even said I wanted to be an artist and start this art studio, but I never started it until after college,” she shared. Unnoticed to her, the art bug was still active in her as she still drew pictures here and there for her teammates in college. “When I was drawing those portraits, I was still somebody who was still much so into art, but the art wasn’t a major part of my life like it is now,” she said.
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She planned the conception of her studio for two years, and then began to operate it in 2010, but didn’t become full time until 2014. She contributes working at her corporate America job as a guide to showing her how to adequately run her studio. “I think just working there, I learned a lot about business in general. I learned a lot about processes, as well as a lot about marketing because I worked in marketing,” she stated. She eventually went back to school to earn a master’s in business. Some things she is still learning now are on building a community and getting more exposure from people from meetings and art shows. “With everything being on social media and with the recent pandemic,” she began to share, “as an artist, you’d do lots of shows. But a lot of that stopped for a while, and it’s just now picking back up where you can go out and do events.”
When it comes to creativity and managing her time well between her studio and the different roles she has as a mother, she is responsible for her business 100% of the time. “I don’t think you ever really just get out of the work. I mean, it’s nonstop. I think sometimes I wake up and go straight to the computer. It was always something to do, especially trying to balance both sides. Even recently, the print side has been so busy that I haven’t done as much art as I would like,” she told blkpreneurship.com. She admits she’s still trying to figure out how to plan out all of her different roles, and what works for her is working and planning events and important projects months in advance. “I plan to devote more time to art as much as I can. I still have a lot of stuff in inventory as far as art and my site, I have a lot of things on there. And I manage my online store. So it’s just balancing what needs priority at this time, because there’s always something to do, balancing both sides,” she voiced.
VanHook gets her inspiration for paintings from music, as this is evident in her portraits. “I try to have a notebook next to me to write down all of my creative ideas, because my brain is always going nonstop,” she told blkpreneurship.com. A lot of her art is driven off of cultural events; such as pro black statements, such as her Unapologetic painting, on sale now at her store. A lot of her art is driven off of current and cultural events. “Sometimes I consider myself to be an artivist, which is a play off the word activist; I’ve used art to express some thoughts I have about things that are going on, or getting out a message,” she shared. When people look at her art, she wants them to look at her work and say, ‘oh, I know that’s defined arts’ which is part of the meaning of the name define. “It’s not saying that you define yourself,” she explained. “It’s just saying that when you look at my work, you know that that’s my work.”
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