Art created by Amber Stanton offers the viewer an organic, surrealistic, softly refined and highly enchanting experience. Within her words of advice and throughout her works of art, Amber radiates a natural truth. I have known Amber since elementary school, which makes sharing this interview extra special. Enjoy the conversation below, and check out more of her unique point of view here or in galleries like New York City’s Signet and 191 Chrystie as well as Connecticut’s Tse Tse, Cate Charles, and Yale University.
Where does the inspiration for your art come from?
Night dreams and day dreams. Also I’ve used a Jungian process called active imagination. Often I combine images from all of these. Sometimes I draw from life and combine that too.
Do you recall your first drawing or painting?
Aside from young childhood works I would say my first completed painting was a landscape when I was 12 years old, acrylic on canvas. It was from the perspective of being within a thick grove of trees looking out through a small opening to a sunny meadow. My mom showed me some techniques which really helped capture the sun shining through the leaves, creating shimmering splashes of light. I was so happy painting it. I played a Led Zeppelin song, “No Quarter,” on repeat nearly the whole time I worked on it. I still play music today that helps me focus and create my own little world. I think this was my first conscious experience of being in the zone, alone in my room completely enveloped in this other world.
Do you have formal training?
Yes. My father, my mother, and some family friends were the first people to teach me traditional drawing, illustration, oil painting, and figurative and landscape techniques. Then I had two years of college at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut. At that time their curriculum focused on techniques associated with the early European Renaissance. It was representational real life drawing and painting of figures and landscapes, not from photos. I completed my degree at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. There wasn’t much formal training, but it turned out to be a great education in contemporary art. I got the best of both worlds from these two schools.
What has influenced your work?
Transformative healing processes mainly through dreams and spiritual experiences. For example, I had a traumatic life altering experience when I was 13. The result was a strong determination to paint and create art every day, and to practice drawing and improve my skills to the best of my ability. I became so focused I sacrificed whatever I had to. It was like my life depended on it. Even today if I don’t make art I don’t feel very well mentally, emotionally or spiritually. However, I’ve always had a natural inclination to make art. As early as 3 years old I could sit for hours making art.
Have any artists influenced your work?
I loved both my parents’ art. I remember sitting on the floor in my mom’s studio painting while she would paint on her easel, and looking through my dad’s Stantoons books and trying to draw the women like him. My mom used to bring me to the Met quite often, and I always admired the 18th and 19th century oil paintings. The Pre-Raphealites, Golden Age Dutch paintings, and Surrealists were and still are the most interesting to me. I also admire contemporary artists Neo Rauch, Julie Heffernan, and Timothy Cummings. Frida Kahlo holds a special place in my heart; I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and her work and can relate to her motivations.
If you could look at one piece of art each day, what would it be?
“Water in the Desert” or “Giving Anacardium to Herself.” They’re on my website. They are my favorite works.
Your father was erotic artist, Eric Stanton, a co-creator of Spider-Man. Growing up, were you aware of his art and impact?
I was more aware of his impact as I got older. I wrote an essay about his contribution to Spider-Man that was recently published in “The Creativity of Ditko,” by Craig Yoe. This essay has received some accolades and is highly controversial in the comic art world. My father’s work deserves the respect and admiration it receives, but I must say it was challenging in many ways growing up with such hyper-sexual images. It’s complicated to explain. On the one hand I am very proud of him and his legacy, his unique identity and the wonderful quality of his work. He did something different with his life, and he did it well. He was also a very good father and provider. His main focus was to make his family happy, and I deeply appreciate that. On the other hand, being exposed to such sexually charged images at such a young age was quite a heavy load to carry, especially as I matured and became more aware of how different my family was from the culture and society we lived in. I always felt like an alien, like I somehow did not fit in—but not just because of my dad’s work, I think many things contributed to this feeling. The nice thing about growing older is that I’m more accepting and even proud of the ways that I am different, and it is easier for me to see the ways that I am the same as others. So I no longer feel like such an alien, but I still feel like an individual.
How did your Dad impact your natural inclination to create art?
As a child I was daddy’s little girl. He worked at home so I got to be with him often. He always encouraged me to make art. I remember when I got my first job at a deli, my father got mad and told me I was wasting my time and should stay home and make art. I took his advice and quit that job within the first week. As I mentioned before, when I was 13 I became more prolific, and my father was very supportive. He bought me everything I needed, and we transformed the guest room into a professional studio. My studio was across the hall from his, and my mom used to complain that all she could hear was our electric pencil sharpeners going all day.
My mom also impacted my natural inclination to create art. She was a landscape painter and a lover of nature. To this day I admire her work and her courage and freedom in the way she paints. My love for nature is reflected in my work, and must come from her because my dad was, as he used to say, “a sidewalk man.”
Your paintings are feminine, surrealist, raw, enchanting, erotic and truthful. Do you have a favorite series?
Thank you! I basically have two bodies of work. There’s “Walk in the Woods” and then there’s everything else, which is all of my art from dreams and active imagination. I prefer the latter because these works are more complex and encompass all five realms: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and soul-sexual. They express more of me, and I learn about myself from them.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been working on watercolors for a change. My recent works are looking more peaceful somehow.
What is a challenge when it comes to creating art?
Sometimes there is doubt. But I always face the doubt and keep going. Creating a painting is like a journey for me. In the beginning I’m usually excited, eager, and optimistic. In the middle I sometimes face doubt and wonder what the hell was I thinking? Then in the end I fall in love with my work, and I am happy I didn’t quit. My painting becomes my friend in the end, it is like we’ve been through thick and thin together.
When you aren’t painting or drawing, what are you doing?
Hiking, biking, learning to play guitar, doing yoga or meditation, spending time with my sweetheart. I’m also going to hairdressing school. I hope it’s going to provide me with a good income working just a few days a week and leave at least three days a week to paint. I don’t have a trust fund or someone to support me, and I like the idea of having a part time job that puts me in touch with all kinds of people. I also need to stay grounded and in the real world.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
Well, I’m one myself. My advice is: don’t ever let it go. Other things in life will always come up and may interfere, but no matter what, you must keep creating. Always make time. Make it a priority. Be sure to be true to yourself. Create from your own self or your own impressions. Don’t steal other artists’ ideas. You will be most happy and feel the most rewarded if you have created something from your own imagination. Enjoy yourself. Be playful. Be willing to make ‘bad’ work or make a mess, because it may take you in a new direction or teach you something. Always sketch or keep a log of all your ideas. If it’s your idea, it’s worth making. When you’re feeling doubt or self-criticism just keep going, and if that doesn’t work, close your eyes and go inside and imagine a face, person or animal who has the voice of the doubt or criticism you are hearing. Have a conversation with him or her and see what you can discover. If you are procrastinating or ‘not in the mood’ for whatever reason, just sit down and work anyhow. You will find yourself in the mood in no time. It’s worth it. It’s worth it. It’s worth it. Creating art is the greatest gift you can give yourself and it lasts a lifetime.
What will never go out of style?
I think Coco Chanel said it best: “Fashion fades, style remains the same.”
Photos c/o Amber Stanton
Note: This interview has been edited.