Thursday, April 28, 2016

Grenada Soul Adventurer: Christina Cornier PART 2

This is a continuation of my interview with Christina, a 33 year old artist from Chicago who followed her bliss in Grenada and became the woman and artist she always knew she was. Click here for part 1.

What was most frustrating about that time when you were not really making art? Can you articulate it, were there specific thoughts or were you just angry and did not know why?

I knew it was because I was not making enough art. But I got trapped in this cycle of feeling that I couldn't quite because of the financial stability it afforded me. So I knew I could pay the bills but I was miserable. Painting is like therapy for me. I need it. I start feeling really agitated when I have not worked on anything in a while.

I know that feeling. You start to resent yourself for not making it a priority. When we are angry at ourselves we get angry at other people too. 

Ha! Yes!I try to be kind to myself these days though and not beat myself up or let myself get angry if I didn't use my time wisely for making art.

That is a healthy practice

I try, it's hard though!

You can’t get to where you want to be while resisting where you are at…I have another quote! Wait for it!!
I'm excited for it!

When did you come to Grenada?
January 2014

Did you start on your art straight away? Did you know you wanted to dedicate your time to it while you were here…was that the plan?                                                      
That was the plan. For years I had been planning how to leave my job and leap into painting full-time but never had the courage to do it because of the financial security thing I mentioned earlier. I mostly supported David and I when we were first married, and I had so much debt. When David told me he wanted to go to SGU  we planned together that this would be the perfect time for me to take that leap into full-time artist. We blew through all of our savings during the two years we were there, but, it was completely worth it because it changed our lives for the better.

I think it is amazing that you both supported each other like that, in the end you both got what you desired in Grenada, that is a partnership. 
It's true. I went to Grenada for David but discovered myself there and found in it (Grenada) a new home. 

Apart from having the time in Grenada how did you approach your art differently?
I learned to schedule my week in advance. I like the idea of being moved by inspiration and working when the mood hits, but for me that doesn't work. I have to have dedicated time set out to be in my studio/workspace. Once I'm there in the space and have time to create, the inspiration comes and I'm super productive.

Yes! There is this idea out there that artists work when inspiration hits and that it is all very romantic
Maybe that works for some people but not me

It is good to hear that it can be approached in a structured way like other work.
I learned how to work that way watching David study for medical school. He had to be so structured with his time and got so much done. 

Once you start the work do you get into the “zone”?
I can usually always find the zone. Even on days that are not as productive I still feel good just have worked at least a little

How did you and David end up choosing Grenada?
He (David) had a friend that went to SGU and had a really positive experience. I really wanted to live somewhere warm and beautiful where I could be near the ocean and nature so when I did my research on Grenada I fell in love with it. It was the only school he applied to.

Aside from the intention to dedicate most of your time to your art before you came to Grenada, what else about being here inspired you, and, ultimately caused you to flourish as an artist? I am a firm believer that environment has a huge role to play in success.
Like I mentioned earlier being near the sea was a HUGE deal. And green mountains and colorful houses and the sun shining everyday. I felt like crying out of joy everyday when I looked around me. That kind of beauty, that feeling, played a huge role in my art-making.

You have, in part,  credited your evolution into a full time artist to finding like minded people. Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Yeah, I get really inspired by other people. So finding others who live their lives passionately is like fuel for me. I love talking to interesting people. It was tough right when I moved to Grenada because David was in school and I knew NO ONE. I ended up spending a lot of time and energy with people that I met though the school, other SOs (Significant Others), who were miserable in Grenada and that really brought me down. I had to make the decision to break from them and seek out people that would make me feel inspired.

Yes! It is all about the energy you surround yourself with. Who did you find and how did you find them?
I found Jamie and Amber (owners of Conservation Kayak) because I went on a kayak trip and later reached out to them and I met Carly through volunteering at the Queen Elizabeth Orphanage

You also mentioned you met Asher and Susan Mains, when did you meet them?
I went to Asher's art opening in July 2014 and introduced myself to them. I was awe-struck by them.

What about Susan and Asher had you awe-struck?
I had done research about what was going on in the art community in Grenada prior to moving there and had discovered both of them. I loved their work and had been following them on Facebook and had it as a goal to meet them. Their work was different but very complimentary. I loved how they both used color and texture in their paintings. I visited Art and Soul several times to see their work and to hopefully meet Susan but it wasn't until Asher's solo show about seven months later that our paths finally crossed.

That is so interesting, you literally planned to meet them in pursuit of your dream to make being an artist the focus in your day to day.
Yeah! Mostly I wanted to learn from them and surround myself around other artists to build a community. I intended on participating in some of the open call group shows that the Arts Council and Art and Soul regularly put together but I had no idea that my relationship with Susan would lead to two solo shows and representation in her gallery. It was beyond what I had imagined.

Your story is giving me life!
I'm so glad! It's funny that now looking back on it, it is really amazing how it all happened. It was a lot of work though. The structure we talked about before in my art making was also due to my feeling that I had to keep producing work in order to prove myself. Sort of like I wanted to be taken seriously and play with the big kids so I worked harder than I ever had before.

How did you feel once you committed to art full time?
I felt like I was finally living the life I was meant to live. I can get up in the morning and work on a painting all day without feeling the same exhaustion after working an 8 hour day at a desk job. I've been the happiest I have ever been since making the switch to full time artist.

What started happening in your life? 
Once I made the switch my stress level went down. I had always thought that I was an anxious person but really I was just unhappy. I would have panic attacks all the time and would feel incredibly emotionally unstable, especially when I was working too much. About a year into living in Grenada I commented to David how I hadn't had a single panic attack since moving there and quickly made the connection to it being since I had made the transition to full time artist.

Did you participate in exhibits before you came to Grenada?
I participated in a number of shows right after finishing college in 2007. I was part of group shows in several galleries around Chicago and even had a solo show at an alternative artist live/work/show space called the Flat Iron in Chicago. After a couple years of doing these shows I realized I was just showing the same work over and over again to the same supportive people so it was time for me to take a break from exhibiting until I made new work. Then I got so busy with my desk job that the new work was never made... until I moved to Grenada.

What did it feel like doing your first solo exhibit in Grenada?
It felt like a dream come true. I had done so much research, prior to moving to Grenada, on what was happening in the art scene with the Arts Council and Susan and Asher and Susan Mains Gallery and I wanted so badly to be part of it. 
To be recognized by Susan and given the opportunity to show in her gallery made me feel like what I was doing had value. I also had such an outpouring of support from the rest of the art community in Grenada, from Daniela and Rene and Chris and Lilo from Art Fabrik. So many people showed up for the opening filled with positive energy and love and support, it was really wonderful. 

Did you feel nervous? If so, why or why not?
Definitely. Exhibiting my paintings can feel like posting pages from my diary on the wall for everyone to see. It makes me feel so vulnerable. But people respond positively to that because they can relate.
I am learning to have more confidence with what I want to say in my work. 
I can also have a hard time talking about my paintings. Having an exhibit I knew I would have to make a speech and be involved in conversations with many people about the subject of my work which can be hard to talk about. When I was younger I used to say "I paint because I don't know how to talk about what I am feeling". But talking about work is really important and when you don't you can isolate people who want to engage. 
I was so nervous about making a speech that for my first opening at Susan Mains Gallery I asked Susan if I could not make a speech. She laughed and said no, this would be good practice for something that was important and I needed to become comfortable doing it. I now try to do a lot of writing about what I am thinking about when I paint and when I know I need to make a speech I practice first with David at home.

Now that you have had these experiences, and you have returned home, what has changed for you? 
I know for sure that I want to keep the momentum going that I created in Grenada of committing 100% to my art. I had contemplated going back into the spa industry so that I would have guaranteed income every month, but I feel like that would potentially be closing the door on this thing that is working and that I love. Currently I have been making money by painting portraits for people and I have been working on illustrations and cover art for several children's books. I would like to continue using my art skills to make a living. 

Any plans for the future with art ?                                                                                         I am keeping up my relationship with Susan and the gallery and I plan on returning to Grenada at least once a year to bring more work and hopefully participate in more shows. I would also really love to hook up with another gallery once I have settled in New York. The ultimate goal is to be self-supporting through my art and to surround myself within a community of like-minded individuals who keep me engaged and participating in the art world.

Find Christina on instagram or check out her website Shoot her an e-mail if you want to commission a piece or are interested in buying any of her pieces.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Grenada Soul Adventurer: Christina Cornier PART 1

“Why do we have to listen to our hearts?" the boy asked "Because, wherever your heart is. that is where you will find your treasure" - The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho


Christina Cornier 

33. Artist.Chicago

I met Christina in December of 2015. I was walking past Art and Soul gallery in the Spiceland Mall with Baby N and a friend when I saw Asher Mains and some other artists sitting in the dimly lit gallery, it looked like they were having a meeting. I waved eagerly so as to catch his attention so that he could meet the freshly hatched Baby N. I was let into the gallery and greeted warmly by Susan (the gallery owner and Asher's mom), who introduced me to to  Christina. They were meeting over cocoa tea to discuss her upcoming solo exhibit "Gaze". I took Christina's card intiuitively knowing that one day I would interview her, I was feeling her vibe.

As fate would have it Christina and I met again at the going away dinner of mutual friends. At that dinner we planned to have dinner with her and her husband when her father, one of the drummers of eclectic international  band: Funkadesi, and her step mom, the ever inspiring Michelle, were in Grenada. 

Over sushi we discussed the journey of how she blossomed into the person and artist she knew she was when she came to Grenada. For 11 years, the university educated artist worked as a spa manager in Chicago.  That conversation at dinner  solidified my first instinct, this woman had a story that I wanted to hear and I think the Grenada Soul Adventurer community would enjoy it too. I know you guys are suckers for a good hero's tale. 

Unfortunately an in person interview was not in the cards as I was going to Germany the next day and she was returning to the United States for good during my three week travels. Fortunately we live in the age of instant communication.  I approached her online and asked whether she wanted to do the interview through the inter-webs, she agreed and this is what we chatted about. 

When did you start making art?                                                                                          My parents say it was when I was really little, like 2. My dad had a job as a graphic designer, so I saw him working at a drafting table and insisted they buy me one too

Did they buy it?                                                                                                                  Yeah! They set up a tiny yellow plastic art desk next to his for me to draw on.

Oh that is so sweet! Did you end up sitting side by side drawing?
I think so... I'm pretty sure a photo of that exists somewhere.

Do you identify as an artist…like when people ask “what do you do”? 
Yes. But it took me a really long time to say that with confidence because I wasn't making money at it. I managed a spa in Chicago for 11 years so I used to tell people that... and then I would pause and say "oh but what I really want to do is paint”. It took a really long time to feel able to have "I'm an artist" be the first thing I say. Like even when I have to fill out on paperwork what my occupation is I have to remind myself that it's ok to write that.

Do you remember when you started actually owning the title "Artist"? Was it in Grenada? 
It was definitely in Grenada. Grenada gave me confidence and I had the space to create my art there without the distraction of the full time job that had tied me down. Also, being represented by Susan Mains' gallery and having people buy my work gave it a value that I knew it had, but, apparently was seeking from others as well.

What do you create? What is your Art?
I feel I make art as a feminist statement. I'm really interested in representing women in ways that challenge how they are traditionally depicted in art and in the media.

Just like in your last exhibit “Gaze” at Susan Mains’ Gallery
Exactly. When I look back at my paintings, even as far back as high school, women and representation have always been my main themes.

Have you had an obvious feminist influence from friends, family or teachers or did it happen organically?                                                                                                            
My mom is a feminist and was definitely a strong influence on me. I also have a huge network of "aunts" who are not blood relatives but friends of my parents who helped raise me... all smart, creative women. My mom worked at the Art Institute of Chicago when I was really little and taught me about feminist arts like Judy Chicago and the Guerilla Girls who I thought were so cool, ”feminist artists".

That is amazing, I want my daughter to have that sort of strong feminine (whatever that means to the relevant individual) tribe of women that she can look up to. I think it is important to consciously build confidence in young girls.                                   
Absolutely. I hope for that too if I have a daughter one day

What inspires you?                                                                                                               
I'm inspired by people, seeing different people's unique beauty. I also get really inspired watching different styles of dance. Several of my friends are dancers so I grew up going to lots of different styles of dance shows. I always get amazing ideas for paintings after watching people dance.

That is interesting, inspiration from different creative disciplines, but I totally get it.

Totally! That's why I thought the art program Asher  did recently was so interesting... there were all different sorts of artist working together and critiquing and inspiring one another.I believe it was a Master of Fine Arts program that is open to artists of all disciplines. I remember him talking about a dj and a tight-rope-walker were also in his program.

Are you working now that you are back in the states?

Yeah, I'm actually back at the spa that I used to manage!

BUT just until the end of April

You said that you did that for 11 years and identified as the manager of a spa, is art still primary in you life like how it was in Grenada?

Art is definitely primary. The way I felt in Grenada was the way I had always wanted to feel. Like I was finally able to be the person I was meant to be. I used to be angry all the time and resentful of the job for taking up all my time. A year into living in Grenada David (my husband) even mentioned that he noticed I was never angry anymore.

There is this Gandhi quote, let me google it… “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony”

Ah! That's so good! I love it


Watch out for Part 2 of this interview!

In the meantime find Christina on instagram or check out her website Shoot her an e-mail if you want to commission a piece or are interested in buying any of her existing pieces.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Grenada Soul Adventurer Kitchen: No Bake Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake

If you have been following me on Instagram (if you don't you should go do that now....welcome back) you would have seen me posting pictures of one of my latest culinary obsessions, raw vegan sweet treats. I have experimented with brownies and now I have graduated to raw (for the most part) vegan cheesecake cake. 

It all started one Sunday when my friend Dawnelle and I wanted to make a raw vegan cheesecake that did not include cashews. Neither of us have nut allergies, but, the price of cashews in Grenada is almost prohibitive. I refused to buy them! There we were with two cans of coconut milk, some bananas and dates and google hoping to make raw vegan magic.   We chanced upon this recipe which I ended up modifying to suit my chocolaty needs. 

These vegan and for the most part raw desserts are very trendy but also slightly mysterious.
How to make a raw cheesecake without eggs?
How to sweeten without sugar?
What is this sorcery and why have we not been doing it all along?


1 cup Peanuts or Almonds (raw or roasted)
1 1/2 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 cup Coconut Cream
1 Banana
2 Large Pitted Dates
2-3 tbsp Cocoa Powder
Sprinkle of Course Sea Salt



To make the crust blend peanuts or almonds in a food processor with coconut oil. I found adding dates when using strictly almonds helped to make the crust more sticky.

Cheesecake Filling  

Blend coconut cream*,  pitted dates, banana and cocoa powered together and pour over crust and chill in the freezer overnight or until the filling stiffens to the point where the cake can be cut. Sprinkle some corse sea salt over the top for that yummy contrast in flavours (if you are into it).

That is it. It was that easy!

I was very pleased with the outcome, it was pretty much guilt free and I did not miss any of the processed ingredients we usually use for traditional cheesecakes. Yes the flavour is not the same but I cannot complain one bit about the result.

Let me know if you tried this recipe and whether the raw vegan dessert trend is all it is cracked up to be over on Intagram and Pinterest. Tag me in your pictures on Instagram! Let us keep this beautiful Grenada Soul Adventurer community blooming!

* To get coconut cream let your can(s) of coconut milk chill overnight without being moved. The next day you just scoop the cream which has separated and floated to the top into your blender (You are welcome...I just save you a google search).