Interview with Mosaic Muralist :: Renée Howard
Back in November 2015, I had the pleasure of learning about mosaic muralist, Renée Howard. My Arts & Education Committee of the Greater Valley Glen Council was vetting artists for a public art project. Renée was one of the contenders whose concept we had the pleasure of reviewing. Although her mosaic design was unable to be accepted due to project stipulations, I was so impressed with her work, I kept her contact information.
Fast forward to a year later…..my studio’s landscape gardener had just finished giving the Zen Garden a much needed facelift. While perusing the freshly trimmed bamboo and new plantings, I happened to glance at the back steps. Their stark plainness reminded me of a blank canvas.
Images of painted stairs I had recently seen on Instagram came to mind. This triggered my memory of Renée Howard and her mosaic murals. I reached out to her inquiring about a possible stair mosaic project, hoping she would consider doing a small scale piece. She graciously took the time to meet me at the studio to see the stairs in question. Lucky for me, she accepted the commission. After deciding on a palette, Renée ordered the materials and scheduled the November 12 & 13, 2016 installation. This was my first time commissioning a mosaic muralist. Very exciting!
On Saturday, November 12, 2016 I arrived at the studio delighted to find Renée installing the mural, accompanied by her lovable Bernese Mountain dog, Dudley.
From beginning to end, the mosaic mural took two full days plus a return date to apply the protective coating. It’s a treat to let the eye travel over the colors and images from side to side. I love how she included piano keys and paint brushes as a nod to the subjects I teach at my studio. Very clever. It’s received rave reviews by my students as well.
In honor of the studio’s new mural, I felt it appropriate to feature its mosaic muralist, Renée Howard on the school’s blog. I hope you enjoy the interview.
How long have you been creating mosaic murals? Do you have a name for your style of murals?
I started in the backyard of my house in 2007, covering an entire side of a three-car garage. I created the Zen Garden, a sanctuary with a copper pipe fountain, a tile-and-concrete sofa, and a wine bottle wall. I call it the mosaic art of memorabilia, ceramics, and found objects
Where are your current installations, so my students can see them?
There is one in the alley next to the corner of Vanowen and Ranchito in Van Nuys. There is also one at the Color Lounge Salon at 113 Naomi in Burbank – right off of Olive. Some of my private installations are on my website www.pastichegardens.com.
What is your process? Do you sketch out a design first or design as you work?
I don’t sketch anything. I have a general idea in my mind regarding color, geometry, and individual pieces. Then it all just happens as I work and as people bring me things to incorporate into the wall.
At what age did you realize you were an art spirit?
As far back as I can remember, I liked taking the things at hand and making other things out of them. My Barbie dollhouses made in bookshelves were recycled interior design magic or nightmares—depending on your sensibilities.
Did anyone try to talk you out of fulfilling your dream as an artist? If so, how did you handle it?
The only one who tried to talk me out of it was myself. I got it in my mind that making a living was more important, so I developed my left brain and only used my right brain for party planning. My Halloween parties were legendary.
How do you promote your work? Do you have a gallery rep or PR person that helps get the word out?
I’m a terrible promoter and my work is so hard to categorize. I do have social media set up and I do have a friend and colleague named Waltona Manion, who can write a mean press release.
Other than that, I leave it up to fate. I still own two other businesses—so my time spent on these projects is limited.
How did you become acquainted with that gallery or PR person? Did you seek them out or did they find you?
I worked for Waltona doing PR for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians pretty intensely for 8 years. Waltona and I are now good friends.
What tasks does a gallery or PR person handle on your behalf?
In my case, she helps me out when I finish a project, writing up a press release and sending it out to some of her contacts.
Art can touch people’s lives, bringing happiness and hope. For example, my art school partners with CoachArt to provide free art classes for families impacted by childhood chronic illness. Is there a charity you are fond of or support, that you might like my readers to learn more about?
I have a few that I work with, but one of my favorites is donorschoose.org. You can go to their website and find a classroom that needs sports equipment, books, or art supplies. You can search by subject, location, or high poverty schools that need extra help. You can do one-time donations or setup a monthly donation. It’s so fun to see the pictures of the kids when their request is financed and they are using the items you have helped provide them.
In closing, do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or process that you find inspiring or helpful when faced with a creative block, that you would like to share with my readers?
There’s something that has been floating around in my mind for the last couple of decades that I keep returning to:
Fear seems to be one of the things that holds people back from moving towards their bliss. Meditating on getting past that fear is a constant goal of mine.
Thank you for your gracious time and allowing me to interview you for my readers. We are honored with your work and wish you all the best.
Renee Howard is a business owner and jack-of-all-trades living in the Los Angeles area. She has spent the last 17 years running It’s No Problem, a business consulting and event logistics company. She also has spent the last 10 years as president of the BBA Talent Agency, representing over 1,000 actors and models working in television, movies, and commercials. In 2007, after realizing she needed to start supporting her artistic side, she began the process of re-imagining her backyard with recycled items, mosaics, and found objects. Once she got started, she became obsessed with doing more. She took over a 27-foot back wall facing an alley from one of her employees, and helped a family friend in creating a kitchen backsplash showing off her travel memories. She has recently completed a beauty salon façade and is in talks with the city of Los Angeles about an education-themed wall outside an elementary school in Arleta. An avid dog lover, her pup-assistant Dudley has helped her with all her projects. Renee is married to actor/musician Steve and is mom to Chrystie, a VP at Willis Towers Watson (and is her soulmate artistically), Laura, a designer at Kenmark Optical, and Spencer, a filmmaker, editor, and voice actor. Also, a Grenee (grandma) to Alex, newly graduated from the New School in NY, and Tobie, a musician and roller derby star.
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