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Conversations with Courtney C. Trowman

Today we’d like to introduce you to Courtney C. Trowman.

Hi Courtney, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I’m Courtney (aka CC Bella Collage) and making “weird” art is one of my greatest teachers and passions. I came to my art in my 20s while living in Los Angeles as a dancer. I had an inherent need for expression and a passion for art, but without the skill to draw or paint well. I’d seen a show at LACMA that featured Robert Rauschenberg, and I quickly became fascinated with his assemblage work and felt encouraged to uncover my own style of collage. I had already been picking up odd bits and pieces that I’d found on the streets, like keys, playing cards, cassette tapes, and lost toys, etc.

My first attempt was a series of collages that through these random items, spelled LOVE. It brought me a similar yet different kind of joy from my dance and I just kept going. I tested new techniques each time, but always incorporated my “trash to treasure” finds. When I moved to Savannah from LA in 2016, after two years living in England (also a creative hiatus), I was so inspired by the thriving art scene here that the ideas immediately began flowing again.

I (nervously) started showing my work publicly for the first time in 2018. I’m so grateful for the exposure at Sulfur Studios, a month-long residency last August at the Savannah JEA, Roots Up Gallery, and the Corkhouse Gallery. My work has certainly come a long way since my LA days and is constantly evolving because I continue to follow my curiosity’s lead, playing and experimenting as I go.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Does anyone have a completely easy path? I think my biggest challenge and obstacle has always just been ME, getting in my own way. It can be easy to get stuck in my head and let the inner critic in there call the shots.

Especially with society’s heavy presence on social media, the “compare and despair” effect is real, and really dangerous. It can become a deeply rooted weed in your brain if you are not careful. When I hear that inner critic scolding me for not being able to paint realistic landscapes or portraits, I ground myself in the joy I feel from creating art in my unique style.

Also, like many other people, I am consistently juggling to keep a solid work-life (and art) balance. I have a very full-time job, so my days are 8-5 and then sometimes my art-filled evenings are 5-8. Even if it’s just a short stint, I aim to make time for my art every day because it is such a profound form of self-care. I am learning so much more about myself through my creative process.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
I mostly create upcycled mixed media 3D collages. I use the term collage loosely since I have put my own spin on it. It falls somewhere on the spectrum between 2D collage and 3D assemblage. I’ve begun incorporating epoxy resin into my pieces, giving them more multidimensional layers. I also love photography and will weave that into pieces from time to time, sometimes in a collage or alone and sealed in resin or encaustic wax.

Inspired by my scavenging tendencies and to reduce my carbon footprint, most of my collage work consists of found materials and upcycled/recycled items. For example, I have used an old cupboard door as a canvas, Styrofoam egg carton pieces as flower petals, broken shells in a flower bouquet, an old rope for tree branches, etc. When I do need new supplies, like paint, I try and get as much as possible from Starlandia Supply.

While sometimes inconvenient for prospective buyers, I like that because of the uniquely upcycled materials, it’s very difficult to replicate a piece. Each time it’s an organic and individualized process. So, while it may not be an exact re-creation of something they liked that sold, I can tailor something similar/new specifically for that client.

Risk-taking is a topic that people have widely differing views on – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
I think taking risks is important, it’s how we grow, regardless of the outcome. Some of the best experiences in my life were because I took a leap of faith, big and small. I’ve quit one career for another, I’ve moved across the country a couple of times and across the pond, and I’ve traveled the world alone.

Those big risks are scary, and yet the small ones can be equally nerve-wracking. Like when I submitted for my first group show, it was so personal and terrifying to put myself out there to either be ‘accepted’ or ‘rejected.’

In my art practice, I try and take new risks all the time in the hopes of learning a new technique or creating one! I’m learning to balance my perfectionism with non-attachment when I’m testing out something new. I try to view it purely as an experiment, and then the risk becomes a little less scary and a bit more fun!

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