Pierre Guidetti, Co-Founder and President of Savoir-Faire, a division of MacPherson’s, met Cinnamon Cooney, also known as “The Art Sherpa,” some years ago through a mutual friend and artist in Houston, TX, Daniel Elliot. The Savoir Faire team was immediately taken with her infectious positivity. There was an instant bond upon hearing her mission, to make art easy and accessible to all.
Cinnamon has hosted more than 1,000 Videos on YouTube and Facebook, and all for FREE to her community of over 600,000 students. She has used her platform to create events such as Acrylic April®, which provides access to free content daily throughout the month, as well as a follow along guide of prompts.
Cinnamon’s desire and ability to spread the joy of creativity is truly something to be reckoned with. We were delighted to be able to have this conversation with our dear friend.
How did you come to be known as the Art Sherpa? How did you get started?
I am the third generation of artists in my family and I’ve been creating art my entire life. I was teaching art at a popular paint and sip, and most of my students were first-time painters who believed that completing a painting would be difficult. In one particular class, I was trying to explain the process of art as an analogy of summiting a mountain. The summit of the mountain; the finished painting, would not be visible from the base. As a beginner, knowing how to traverse the mountain, what steps to take, and what steps to avoid, can be overwhelming. I assured them that I was going to be their guide on this art journey. The goal was not to paint like me but to paint like themselves and that my role was as a helper, a guide; their Art Sherpa. It was a breakthrough moment for those students and understanding how to relate to me as their teacher, and the name stuck.
What motivates you most about helping people create?
The number one thing I can do to help the world be a better, more inclusive, beautiful place is to help people find their inner voice and tap into their imagination. In the modern world there’s a great deal of noise trying to get everyone’s attention. With so many voices and messages telling us what to think, and what to do, and what to be, it’s harder than ever for people to hear their own inner voice, much less find their compass. When people are able to create, they’re able to hear that true inner voice. We have heard the saying, and we know it’s the truth, that “Art changes people, and people change the world.” I personally believe that giving more people a chance to find their own creative voice and tap into their own imagination adds color, dimension, and depth to the world.
What are your favorite materials to use? Why?
I love traditional media like acrylic and watercolor. They are friendly for beginners with an open learning curve. Acrylic is really the best. It’s the media that mimics all other media. Beyond that it has so many faces. Thick heavy body to fluid high-flow inks. There are so many mediums that you can play with that allow you to paint on nearly every surface.
I love Sennelier and have been really excited about their Abstract Acrylic Line
over the last couple years. It lets my students start out on a budget, get a great result and upgrade to a pro level when they’re ready. It’s fun when a company is invested in its history, its pigments, and stands behind the products that it makes and when it likes to take risks, but is invested in its history. It gives me opportunities to take risks with them. I love talking to other artists about products and always share that I value my relationship with Sennelier products.
I am at my core a working artist and have invested a lot of time and energy in understanding the tools available to me to perform my craft. I don’t make decisions lightly and only recommend products that inspire me. Pigments must feel vibrant and lush to me; that matters to me, as much as it does to the first time painter who wants the best value for her dollar. I also believe the old adage that you are known by the company you keep. The reputation of the products we work with make such a huge difference. I have to trust that the company I recommended to my student will treat that student with the same respect as they would a current master artist of today’s world.
When considering products for either my personal use, or as a recommendation for my community, I seek manufacturers who have history, heritage and a story behind them that is unbroken, as well as product quality.
For me, I feel like there’s an ecosystem here: the makers of art materials and their stories; the retailers and local resources that distribute those magic items; the students who discover all the opportunities to live their life fully in color. I can’t think of a time in history where we have needed art more. Needed each other more.
Fabriano just launched the 1264 Pads, which is a pretty big deal for us. As a dear friend, your feedback is alway invaluable, do you have any thoughts on the new line?
I sincerely believe that looking to the future needs of artists is a critical part of the role of creative art material manufacturers. Like many other industries, we are already seeing changes in how things are produced with a regard to green sensibility; sustainability is something I personally think about a lot more as I see the world changing. I’m really excited about these Fabriano 1264 Pads. First of all, Fabriano is another of my favorite products and what is really cool, is that this paper is made from wood pulp using hydropower in Italy. Additionally, they are very high quality, and yet come with an economical price tag. The Pads have the look and feel that you would expect from a Fabriano paper and it’s wonderful to be able to buy something that’s nice on your conscience, your wallet, and still gives you great performance.
One of the first things I advise new artists to do when they ask me how to make their art better is I suggest improving the quality of the art materials they use. This can be difficult when price is a barrier, especially now.
I love when I see new economy professional quality surfaces come on the market because I see firsthand how that availability encourages new artists to explore better materials. As they see better results, they are less self-critical and more self confident in their ability. They expand those wings of flight and help fulfill my purpose in doing what I do.
What’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve ever received?
Just make art. Make it for the sheer joy of it. “Keep painting; keep creating.” Growth happens through iteration; the painting I do tomorrow is built on the shoulders of the painting I do today. It’s very easy to get caught up in a trap of comparison and self-examination in regards to talent and worth, which is a distraction. Start thinking of your creative process as the goal, and the work you produce almost as a byproduct. There’s a personal journey within each creative art piece. And that is where the value is: in our creative process.
What was the first thing you ever created?
I’m very blessed to have grown up in art. My mother is an artist; her mother was an artist; my high chair was in my mother’s art studio. The first piece that I remember is a chicken. My mother was so excited about this chicken. This is the first time I understood that the things I made had real world value to the people around me. Her reaction gave me such a sense of pride and self-worth. She even sent the image away to have it turned into stationery. She wrote three or four letters a week and all week long I could see her writing her letters on my chicken. I think this single act meant more to the artist I am today than anything else that has happened since. I think of this whenever I’m working with an adult or a child, it’s so important to see value in their art because that’s the first chance they get to reflect that mirror inward.
How has your work developed or changed?
In the past, my artwork was entirely an inward journey; a very deep, self-explorative space. But now, my artwork is about a silent conversation with an invisible community of artists of all levels, from all over the world.
The other thing that has really changed for me is that I now see the outcome of my painting is much more than just about the outcome. My most successful painting isn’t necessarily the most popular video I have, it’s the one that gets students most excited about painting another painting. I consider a project successful when it has resonance in the global community.
What are you most proud of?
What I’m most proud of that I’ve done is a yearly challenge called Acrylic April®. As you probably can imagine, the number one question I get is, “How can I be a better painter.” My answer is to create something every single day. Years ago, I used a daily painting personal challenge to kick me back into high gear and get my artistic voice back. If you’ve done one of these challenges where you make art every day, you can attest that. Here are some of the stages:
- The motivated stage.
- The, “why did I choose to do something that ruined my life” stage.
- The, “I don’t know why I ever believed I could paint or create art” stage.
- The “I can’t do it, but I told everybody I was doing it.” stage.
- The internal breakthrough where you start to see something new in your art process stage.
- And finally, the completion stage, where you realize that you had more in you than you ever realized.
From April 1st to April 30th, I do a daily painting with my students. When I started it in 2019, it seemed like an insane idea. I broadcast via live stream every day on my channel, and we went through that daily painting journey together. From that first group, we’ve had people who are currently on their thousandth personal painting. Some people just never stopped painting daily. It is amazing. Other community members from that first year opened up art studios. They transformed their lives.
In 2020, the world fell into crisis and Acrylic April fell right at the surge of the pandemic. A short daily painting project took on another level of community as the world disconnected. Acrylic April 2020 was how so many of us just found our way through the storm. So many turned to whatever they could grasp to maintain mental health while disconnected from family, work, and other pursuits. After April, my channel continued on during the pandemic and I’m preparing for Acrylic April 2021 with more, more, and more to share with my community and I’m so looking forward to seeing their growth transformations.