Stefanie Bales is a contemporary fine artist and educator, whose novel point of view is demonstrated in her cerebral landscape paintings. Her whimsical typologies are often inspired by the Southern California landscape, but many are interpretations of geographies that are much less specific. While each of her works has its own narrative, each is meant to intuit idioms of the collective subconscious. With each piece, she starts with one inspiration and then responds intuitively to color, texture, and form. This lends to the merging of both realist and surrealist qualities, often creating secondary contradictions or illusions in figure, form, and atmosphere. Each work reveals some sort of visual or contextual phenomenon, illustrating the way time moves in our dream state- fluidly but without sequence or connectivity. The conversation is meant to exist in that space where our waking lives and lucid dreams collide.
Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Stefanie moved to San Diego after graduating Cum Laude with a BFA degree in painting from the honors program at the University of Delaware. After a year working at a La Jolla based Art Deco company, she returned to school to pursue her Masters degree, studying educational psychology and art therapy. Her time working with students with neuropsychological disorders incidentally inspired her to begin exploring the visual representation of human consciousness, evident in her most recent bodies of work.
Stefanie’s work is in numerous private collections across the country and internationally, and has been published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel, Creative Quarterly Magazine, San Diego Citybeat, UT-TV, and KUSI’s good morning San Diego. She is active in the local creative community, and is a participating member of AIGA, San Diego Made, Creative Mornings, and the Yellow Collective. Stefanie has been teaching Art and Design classes at Platt College for nearly a decade, and resides in Little Italy with her husband and 2 year old son.
AFA: Tell us about your unique process. We’ve never seen anything like it!
STEFANIE: “My work is rather intuitive as I start with one inspiration and respond instinctively to color, texture, and form. I don’t have a visual map or frame of reference that I follow, which allows for a certain freedom to just let each painting evolve as I work. I spent years experimenting with an ink transfer process until I was able to hone the technique into something that was really individual to my work and aesthetic. My method is similar to collage work, but instead of cut and paste, I’m transferring bits of texture and imagery amidst the painted areas. This lends to an overall visual that plays upon both hyper-realism and surrealism, and in some way pays homage to impressionism with regard to its focus on the role of light and time. My aim is that the viewer sees the work as a whole, and it isn’t until further investigation that the incongruities that give it its ‘dream-like’ qualities are noticed.”
AFA: If you were written about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?
STEFANIE: “This is a tough one! I had no idea where to start, so I asked some friends to answer for me. I got the followings responses: (I have really nice friends..)
‘Full-time artist, part-time superhero.’
‘The secret to being creative, talented and tall, and how you can have it all’
‘Those who can, teach. A San Diego artist inspires galleries and classrooms alike’
‘San Diego’s tallest female artist takes painting to new heights'”
AFA: What is a skill you would like to learn and why?
STEFANIE: “Being fluent in another language would definitely expand my potential for communication in more ways than one. I took 6 years of Latin!?”
AFA: What do you enjoy most about living in Little Italy?
STEFANIE: “I’ve lived in Little Italy with my husband for over 9 years and we really hope to never leave! We appreciate the family-friendly vibe of the neighborhood and the accessibility of downtown living. We love being able to walk by the water, play at the park, go shopping and to museums, and partake in the fabulous culinary offerings of the neighborhood without ever having to get in the car (we’ve always just shared one). Raising my 2-year-old in the city has been amazing…the Little Italy community is really supportive and involved in a way that I don’t think is typical of a lot of urban areas. It’s impossible to leave the house and not run into a familiar face. Little Italy definitely feels like home.”
AFA: What are the last 3 charges on your credit card?
STEFANIE: “An Amazon Fresh delivery, a silk dress from ‘Flannel’ in Venice Beach that I couldn’t leave without, and breakfast/coffee from Influx Cafe- on repeat.”
AFA: How do you want to be remembered as an artist?
STEFANIE: “In regards to my craft, my attempt is to bring the viewer to a place where he/she experiences something that is timeless and meaningful. I love when someone says to me that my landscapes/subjects feel familiar, because since they’re made-up. I know I’ve created something that truly speaks.
As a person, I’d hope to be remembered as someone who valued inclusion over competition, as I truly believe that as creatives we can all learn something from one another.”
AFA: Where would you go in a time machine?
STEFANIE: “So many places! I’m pretty into historical philosophy and would love to have been witness to the cultural evolutions that occurred throughout the Enlightenment. I also think it’d be amazing to have lived in France during the late 1800’s amongst the artists (though nearly exclusively male..) who emerged during the era of Impressionism. Finally, it would be amazing to have traversed through Europe in the 20’s along with Hemingway’s cohorts, but primarily because of their fashion sense and all of the fabulous speakeasies they frequented.”
AFA: What do you find is the most rewarding aspect of teaching young adults?
STEFANIE: “There are so many things I love about teaching, but I think the most rewarding is when a student tells me how I’ve impacted their perception of themselves and their potential. That gift is priceless.”
AFA: What was the last gift you gave someone?
STEFANIE: “I gave a bottle of Rose Veuve Clicquot to my friend for her birthday. #cheers”
AFA: Where do you draw inspiration for your magical, dreamy pieces (the multiple suns, the ethereal feeling, etc)?
STEFANIE: “I’ve always been really interested in documenting light and atmosphere. I’m very much inspired by color relationships, especially those derived from the sun. I observe the world in intricate ways and am constantly in awe of the beauty of both our natural and built environment.
Beauty is a subjective perception and one that is often considered to be trite in an artistic conversation, but I can’t help but feel the need to share my witness.
I’m also really moved by language, music and poetry. I aspire to create what I’ve nomered ‘pictorial conversations’ that elevate communication beyond prose.
Finally, I’m inspired by the idea that there are universal experiences that all humans share, and am constantly exploring the visual idioms that are a part of our collective (sub)conscious.
I think my painting ‘The Sun Also Rises
‘ best represents the synthesis of all of these inspirations in one work.”