Who are you?
I am Amy Guion Clay, a visual artist and traveler based in Boulder, CO.
What do you do?
Many things! I’m insatiably curious, and all of my life and work is about the Epic Quest, being an explorer - whether in the studio or out in the world. I’m always seeking out ways to expand beyond my world as a creative. I’m mostly an abstract painter, do various kinds of printmaking, and even do short hand painted animations. I’ve also written a book about my residency travels, and regularly write on my blog.
What’s a typical day in the life of you look like? How do you organize your day?
When I’m at home in Boulder, I am weirdly routine in my morning habits. I wake up and start journaling, meditate to clear space in the yakkity yak of my active mind, and then eat the exact same granola breakfast I’ve been having for as long as I can remember! In the summer, I ride my bike or hike (I need time in nature everyday), and then get to the studio by about 10ish.
I’m at my most creative in the mornings so I paint for a few hours, then spend the afternoons with admin - applications, blog, marketing updates etc. I also do part-time clothing design work for various companies which helps support my lifestyle.
In the evenings I often connect with friends, or wind down with a good Netflix binge like everyone else. I’m not very creative in the evenings, so I try to do non-challenging things after dinner.
You have completed many artist residencies all over the world. What motivated you to start taking part in these experiences? How have they benefited your career as a creative?
I’ve always been a big traveler and I love to just take off for epic adventures. For example, I was a fashion designer in NYC in my 20’s, rising through the corporate ranks, and then cashed it all in for a one way ticket to travel the world, much of it by bicycle. That trip lasted about a year and a half and completely changed my life.
Through my 30’s and 40’s I was raising family. Even though I was anchored, I still had strong longings to travel again. I went to a lecture by some friends who did an artist residency in Ireland that blew my mind and led me down the rabbit hole of researching residencies. I had always wanted to combine art and travel in some way and this was my ticket! So when my son was launched in the world, it was my time to be free again in the world. I planned a one year trip of back to back residencies. I became hooked while on the road, and I continued on with the residencies for another 3 years (with a few breaks in between). Since returning to Boulder, I’ve been doing one or two residencies a year.
And…I’m just getting ready to head out again for another year of residencies starting this November (2019). I love going to remote and northern places, so my first stop is in Newfoundland. So excited to be back on the road!
As far as benefiting my career, my art residency travels have become so inextricably combined with my life that I can’t imagine my life without them. They change my work every time I go somewhere new. I don’t see how they can’t? And also it gives me a way to travel and create in a deeper, more connected way with a vast global community of artists!
By the way, I’ve been asked so much about my artist residency experiences, that I created a short online course on my website that covers everything you need to know! Your readers can check it out on my website: https://www.amyclay.com/learn
What are some of your struggles?
Time and money - like most of us! I’m fortunate that my part time freelance design work allows me to work anywhere in the world, so I have income while I’m traveling. This has afforded me long periods of time away.
I also struggle with focus. There are so many ideas, so many projects, that get me excited. I just love exploring many different creative paths. I even wrote a screenplay for a film idea that came to me suddenly, out of the blue! I storyboarded the whole film with the idea that I would one day direct it. (It’s now resting on the back burner).
I appreciate some artists who are very consistent with their work, who rarely waver. But I am restless by nature, and get bored easily. Even though my work has a definite signature, I can be all over the map at times. I can’t just crank out the same thing over and over. I’d probably have a bigger “career” if I did, but that’s not what this is all about.
What are some of your goals?
My immediate goal is to finish fleshing out my year of traveling to artist residencies in 2020, and seeing what new work and experiences evolve. I’m very interested in working in a larger scale, possibly doing public art murals when I return to the U.S.I also have a big exhibition idea that I am developing for the work I’ll be doing while on the road. I hope to show in small contemporary art museums in the U.S. and abroad for 2021 and beyond. Some of these shows might include the work of a wonderful clay sculptor I know as well. I’m less interested in just showing a collection of paintings. What has been a long dream of mine is to create an exhibition that is an immersive experience about the mythical journey. Stay tuned!
What do you do to relax and wind down?
I love to be in nature - biking, hiking, and sitting on a rock by the creek just listening to the murmurings of the water. Meditating, doing yoga at home, la la la. And then indulging in British period drama/romances - love them! I also write obsessively - it helps me to sort out my inner thoughts and usually leads to regular ideas, resolutions, insights.
My friendships are a very important part of my life, and my close friends and I meet up weekly for various things - hikes, tea, happy hour. Even though I never seem to have enough time on my own, I need to be with my people too.My grown son lives far away, so when I get to spend time with him, that’s my greatest joy!
If you could give your 18-year old self advice, what would you say?
That’s such a big question! I actually really respect my little 18 year old self - she was so full of big dreams, many of which came true. From an early age I always followed what I wanted to do - first as a fashion designer, then as an artist, a mother, and also as a traveler. I moved with the longings of my heart, even when they took me down challenging paths. I never shied away from big changes, in fact, they were catalysts for adventures!
So i guess I’d tell her to trust herself even more. And not to stay so long in situations that aren’t working, whether it was a job, or a relationship, or whatever. I would also advise her to not hold others responsible for her happiness, and that her deeper spiritual path is to find self worth and love from within. Sometimes those are painful lessons but ultimately, the most important ones.
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