Courtney Oquist stands out from a crowd. Her paintings are both illustrative and intimate, and have the sort of warm familiarity that might have you wondering if you saw her work as a child. As a person, she’s entirely the type of artist you might look up to. She’s a maker and an educator, and we were thrilled to interview her for our “Maker” series.
Please introduce yourself. who are you? where did you grow up? where do you live?
Hello! My name is Courtney Oquist and I am an artist and art instructor currently living near the Bolsa Chica wetlands in Huntington Beach. I went to school for art and have an MFA in Visual Art from UC Riverside and a BFA in Drawing and Painting from Cal State Long Beach. I was born and raised in Huntington Beach but moved to Long Beach and Riverside for school. Now I’m back in Huntington Beach with my boyfriend and cat, Lily.
what do you make or do?
I am primarily a painter, and specialized in oil painting in school, but I work and experiment in a variety of media, including acrylics, watercolors, jewelry, silkscreen and wood. I have an etsy shop where I sell paintings, prints, cards, necklaces, rings, earrings, baby onesies, tote bags, mousepads–all with my art on them. I’m always adding new things to my shop and really enjoy the process of evolving my art.
where can we find your creations?
My shop on etsy of course and for those who would like to take classes: I teach all ages at the Huntington Beach Art Center. I also have a blog: www.courtneyoquist.com and am on instagram, facebook and twitter.
how long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
Since graduating from school in 2010, I have managed to make being an artist a full-time job between teaching art classes and running my etsy shop. I also like doing craft shows a lot, especially Patchwork Show, and even started the website www.craftunity.com, which gathers and lists craft shows by state. I have been making art forever, since I was a kid, but getting degrees and really immersing myself into my work has transformed me from a hobbyist to a self-employed artist. I also am comfortable embracing the ebb and flow and lack of certainty that being a self-employed artist often brings with it. I love coming up with new ideas, trying things out, and am definitely a self-starter, given I’ve had my cup of joe.
when you’re not making things, what do you do?
I love to make other things! I play piano and guitar, garden and love to cook. I also have a food blog/website: www.artistscookbook.com with some recipes. From time to time I take on sewing projects, or make furniture and being a SoCal resident me and the boyfriend love heading to Disneyland for some stroller dodging and lobster nachos. I love eating out and trying new restaurants. I also love barbecuing at home with friends. Food is a big thing.
is creativity a luxury or a necessity for you? tell us more about why it’s a necessity or a luxury or even both for you.
Creating really is a necessity. I am hard wired to make things. I would rather sit at home and make things, convincing myself it’s cheaper that way, when probably with all the materials it ends up costing more than if I bought it. But perhaps it’s the satisfaction I get that is priceless. Knowing I made it myself. I get a high from making things. I also like transforming things, and try to see potential in objects.
what obstacles have you had to overcome to lead a creative life? did someone tell you artists never make money or did you struggle to learn the skills you use to create?
Luckily my parents were always emotionally supportive from the get-go. My parents were unconventional, and also self-employed. Money can present itself as an obstacle but I have really adapted and learned how to get far on very little. Luckily schools offer financial aid and where I went for graduate school offered me so much in terms of Student Teaching and Fellowships. Not that I don’t have student loans, but we don’t really think about that. Numbers are just made up right?
what inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
Trust yourself man! People can be so self-deprecating. Give yourself license, freedom, forgiveness, permission. Yes you can! is all I have to say. I also really wouldn’t worry what other people think or say. If you are happy with your work and your creations, then that is the most important thing. As a teacher I can give suggestions or offer ideas, but I always ask, “Are you happy with it?” Because that is ultimately more important.