"Many of the things that I find myself doing - writing a song, making up a recipe, creating a story, drawing pictures, taking photos, filming a silly movie with the kids - leads to unintentional creative practices."
Steph Budge is hesitant to say she is an artist. But as she read in the interview with Laura Brown, anyone can claim the title of artist and that is a beautiful thing! The funny thing is that I personally have always considered Steph an artist. I have admired her work as a musican and most recently I have been addicted to her visual art, checking in on her Instagram account daily!
Steph played in a number of bands over the past twenty years. Bands I have loved! She has recently turned her focus to drawing and painting. While she works mainly with pencil and watercolor, she is now also exploring digital illustration using Procreate.
Steph lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota with her two young sons and works full-time as an editor.
Enjoy the interview. Steph is amazing! Admire on!
Jes: How would you describe your creative/artistic practice?
Steph: My creative practice is a crucial component to my overall health and happiness. I have a daily craving to bring something to life that has not previously existed. The creative process itself feels joyful and rewarding. Many of the things that I find myself doing - writing a song, making up a recipe, creating a story, drawing pictures, taking photos, filming a silly movie with the kids - leads to unintentional creative practices.
For many years, I played in rock/punk bands - which are obviously collaborative efforts. When my children were born, I transitioned into solo creative endeavors due to the time constraints that naturally occur for new parents. Right now, I am mostly drawing and painting. I am also slowly starting to work on music again. I would love to do some creative writing in the near future as well.
So much of what I know of being an artist came from being involved in local music communities - and I am not even a musician! Maybe it’s the values of punk and independent music that has shaped my outlook on creativity and expression. For example, I think I am a collaborative artist because of the community building components I learned through punk rock. Have you had a similar experience with being involved in punk and the music community? Has it influenced your overall creativity?
Yes for sure! I have spent the majority of my life with people in the local community who are constantly creating. Like yourself, not everyone in the community is a musician - a lot of people play music, but some are visual artists, screenprinters, woodworkers, painters, some write poetry or short stories, some take photos, write jokes, or direct time traveling plays in the basement of a bar. It leads to a comfortable cozy feeling that anyone can create things while not knowing exactly what they are doing. People can try new things without having the fear of being perfect or refined. Perhaps because the community is typically not a group of trained professionals, it feels like anyone can teach themselves, either learn things on their own or from their peers that are experienced. I am lucky to have a community that really supports each other in their artistic endeavors. I participated in my first art show/sale this past summer - I was invited by someone who I met playing music and my table was next to a person I met playing music. The camaraderie is really special to me and I am very thankful for the community.
Are there particular interests that you have when it comes to making music? Do you have a preference over what themes or sounds your bands explore?
My interests have changed over the years. For many years, I wanted to create angry, aggressive, and heavy music. I played in several rock and roll guitar/bass/drum three-piece groups with loud amps and shouty vocals. While I still enjoy listening to that style of music, I am not interested in creating it at the moment.
Lately, I have wanted to increase my piano skills and go back to writing electronic pop music like one of my old groups called Finger Pressure.
You come from a very creative family. Have you always been involved in the arts?
Yes to a certain degree. My sisters and I were encouraged to play piano, listen to music, daydream, read lots of books, write stories, and draw. My mom took me to a used music store to buy my first acoustic guitar when I was fourteen and drove me to a weird musical flea market to buy my first electric bass guitar when I was fifteen. However, my parents started our family when they were both pursuing artistic careers and it was financially difficult for them. Because they found it difficult, they were understandably not as encouraging when my sisters and I wanted to pursue creative careers as well. While I did not study art or music in school, I always played music during my free time. I love playing music and making art and I cannot imagine I will ever stop. But it is also difficult to refer to myself as a “musician” or an “artist” since neither have ever been my part of my jobs, career, or studies.
I know you are a mother of two (very cute) boys. There’s this horrible myth that artists, especially women, can’t be parents while also maintaining a career. So many women have been debunking this myth. What’s been your approach with parenting and being an artist?
It is definitely a different world maintaining a creative practice as a parent. In some ways, it is almost easier because my free time is defined and usually short, so I am extra excited to have the chance to work on something creative. It is easier to stick to a schedule. Sometimes I feel the most productive that I have ever felt. The hard parts are feeling too tired to work on anything. Or feeling a certain amount of guilt when I take a night to draw rather than do laundry or clean under the couch. There is always something that needs to be cleaned!
The kids themselves are a great source of inspiration. Since kids are always drawing or painting or making up stories, a parent’s mind can easily slip into a creative place. Sometimes we will sit down at the piano and I will try to learn a song and they participate as well. It is a lot of fun.
Lately, you have been making visual art under the moniker Tootooalso. Your drawings and paintings are colorful, playful, and cheerful. Animals tend to be your subjects. What has inspired this line of art for you?
I have always drawn in a very cartoon-like style. I enjoy drawing animals and plants because they are universal and inclusive. Creating a colorful, playful, and cheerful world is a bit of an escape from real life. Recently I have wanted to create cute, jolly, and pastel drawings. When my sisters and I were young, my dad sculpted a set of alien creatures. I remember him getting really into creating the different characters’ personalities, backstories, and their universe. I can see that same path happening to me at any moment!
Where can we find Tootooalso online? Do you sell your work at events?
I am on Instagram as @tootooalso and I have a small number of works on Redbubble. I also have an Etsy shop but I haven’t set it up very well yet. I am new to selling visual art and I am still brainstorming the best way to go about it.
Are you currently playing in any bands right now? If so, where can we find your music online? Do you have any upcoming shows we should know about?
I am not playing in any bands right now. I am tentatively calling my new project Side Text and I have an Instagram account @sidetext but nothing booked or online yet!
Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks for considering me an artist and bringing artists together in the community. All the interviews in this series have been inspiring and very enjoyable to read!
All images courtesy of the artist.
Artists I Admire is a series of interviews with artists I think highly of.