Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Fairbanks.
Hi Amanda, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
As a kid, I was always doodling. When I was 9 or 10 my mom allowed me to send in one of those Art Instruction School tests from the back of magazines. The booklets came in the mail and I completed the assignments and returned them. I learned some through that, and then in high school, I was very involved in art, even winning an Art Award at graduation. The story really dies down for a bit after that. I always kept a tote of art supplies but didn’t give much focus our attention to it for years. Instead, I went the scholarly route and realized I had a need to secure a future that would allow me to live independently of others and fuel my dream of one day having an art studio in the woods.
I attended Western Michigan University and I studied Occupational Therapy. I graduated with honors and started my career while living in Chicago. Being an OT was a gift, I felt a purpose in helping people to improve their situations and function better in life. There is an art to practicing in a medical environment and I found a lot of joy in that. I started to paint again after establishing a home and career. It was painting in my spare time, as a hobby, and for my own enjoyment.
More and more my friends were requesting commissioned work so I was figuring out new styles and techniques along with that. My typical style includes abstract and surreal landscapes, daydreams, distorted perceptions, colorful blends, and natural elements. A focus on all the magic that connects the tangible and not. Abax Art was born when I decided to post some of my works on Instagram. I felt that I could get some outsider perspective and see how people, who were not my friends and family, would receive my art. I trialed a lot of different names for the account, AmandaFairbanksArt was pretty long, Amanda Art just absolutely no, and Fairbanks Art seemed like it would be confusing with Fairbanks Alaska. Using a name that felt more like a screen name or business name felt comforting too.
Things have incrementally grown from there. In 2018, I had some Llama paintings displayed at Art Prize in Grand Rapids, MI at The Lantern Cafe. I have been able to feature various collections at Mayan Buzz Cafe, Founders Brewery, The Stray Cafe, and Rockford Brewery.
I was inspired to start painting pet portraits to raise money for a Flint-based non-profit that helps stray animals, called Project hope. It was a success and the following year I repeated the fundraiser for a family who needed wheelchair-accessible in their home updates for their little girl. At that time, I was still employed as an OT full time and had a steady income, so I was able to give healthy profits to people who needed it and that has been one of my most proud accomplishments so far.
In 2020, I was given an opportunity to paint publicly in Grand Rapids through an initiative by Lions & Rabbits called Windows GR. I painted two boarded-up windows after protests and riots in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. I thought I was getting a chance to showcase my voice and skills, but what I really got was a connection to Grand Rapids artists and stories. It was truly pivotal. Since that time, I have also worked with Lions & Rabbits on a Storm drain painting project to bring environmental awareness, and have canvas paintings featured in their gallery, Rosebud Venue.
Another unforeseen catapult in my art career has been my involvement with Art Battle. I applied for the competition not thinking I would ever be accepted. In January 2022 I battled with some amazing talent in Grand Rapids and I actually won the event. For those not familiar with Art Battle, it is a round of 20 minutes where 6 artists paint with a blank canvas. Audience votes determine the winner. After winning in Grand Rapids, I competed in Art Battle Chicago for the Midwest Regionals. I was picking my jaw off the floor when they announced that I made it to the finals in that competition. There was incredible talent in that room. I felt underprepared as I painted in that final round and I truly learned to stop underestimating myself. Again, I was able to connect and continue to connect with artists. I watch them grow, I get feedback, and I absolutely love that I am finding a community there.
Presently, I am live painting every other Tuesday at a cafe called The Stray in Grand Rapids. We have been talking about offering some creating events and classes, so stay tuned for that. My studio is in my home, and I have transitioned from working full-time an ot to painting. I am taking opportunities as they come and seeking out new ones that grab my attention and get the images flowing in my brain. This is a good spot to be.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
In many ways, I feel like I am just now finding the road. For many gaps of time, I have been wandering and exploring, finding paths and leaving them. It was only in the past few years that I started to imagine what life as an artist would mean for me, what it might look like, and weighing out priorities towards it.
During my 5 years in OT school, I was completely focused on the program. Years later when I did start to paint again and gain momentum, my husband and I found out I was pregnant. We were incredibly happy however I did experience a complete creative block and exhaustion for the entire pregnancy and first year.
I had doubts that I would continue to create for others and felt my paints would return to the tote in the closet. Through the support of my husband, Corey, I have been able to push through that block and thrive.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Nature, Creatures, Cosmos, Furry Faces, Dream Spaces, and Exotic Places have all been words I’ve used to describe my work. I create an eclectic and ever-changing flow of art.
Primarily I work with acrylic paints and have recently started to dive into digital works as well. Most people know me for my landscapes, in both realistic and surreal styles. Often, they highlight an animal or object to help give a story. Some of my most recognizable and meaningful paintings have been that of the Raincoat kids. I have used little kids in yellow raincoats in paintings from high school to know to express emotion and perspective on life that I may not have the words for.
Another series that has been acknowledged is Cosmic Cabins. I create worlds using a pouring technique and many layers. I have created many for my own personal enjoyment as well as commissioned cabins for other people. The process involves using a questionnaire to help me understand the expectations and personality of the recipient and so far, people have loved them.
Is there a quality that you most attribute to your success?
A never-ending curiosity and commitment to being my authentic self.
I am a person who, like many others, is judged before someone gets to know me. Too much time in life is spent trying to fit an expectation someone else has for you or your life. Owning who you are and asking for forgiveness in place of permission can be a powerful thing.
I keep an open mind and open ears always.
- Murals pricing starts at $300
- Cosmic Cabin Commissions $400 for 16x20inch
- Pet Portraits $75
- Other paintings and commissions were determined case by case
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: @abanx.art