Thinking outside the canvas is one way to describe Abbi Custis. Her work is bright, unconventional and inspiring. In this spotlight we learn more about Abbi and how she unleashes her creative spirit through expressive artwork.
Your Circle Series is very engaging! Can you tell us why you are drawn to circles?
Circles encompass life. Spiritually they connect us. Artistically, they engage us. Circles evoke a sense of infinity and endless possibility. They represent and embody fun and play. In art, they are the beginning and cornerstone of many pieces.
Circles ignite imagination and invite the opportunity to play. Circles evoke potential and possibility. Circles create allure of exploration, curiosity and wonder. Circles are happy and cultivate joy and fun.
Circles symbolically allow space for the mind, body and spirit to merge through their synergy and continuity. Like the breath - they are ever flowing and rhythmic.
Circles create a juxtaposition as they are open and expansive yet safe and contained all at the same time. Subconsciously, as the viewer, we feel this energetically when noticing circles.
Circles allow for conversation and connection. From the simplicity of circle time, as a child to a current circle of friends, to a circle in the community, to the interconnectedness of all things, circles are ever present.
Bright colors are prolific in your work. If you were a color which one would you be and why?
I absolutely adore this question! I often get asked what is my favorite color, however I have never been asked what color would I be! I go straight to the color white. As white to me holds so much potential and possibility. As cliche as it sounds the potential of a white wall or a white canvas excites me beyond measure. Not only that, white is incorporated in all of my pieces. White adds light. Symbolic to life, when it shines a little light on something it often softens and goes a long way. Similar to my work, when I add a little white paint to a spot that feels unfinished or lack luster - suddenly the piece takes on new form.
We love that you are known to find inspiration at the hardware store. Can you give us an example of what has sparked an idea while strolling the aisles?
I've never been the kind of artist that just uses a paintbrush. Watching my dad as a young child use power tools was always fascinating, and it became clear to me that they could be a tool into themselves to help me develop my art and morph what I create into something more visually stimulating than just a canvas.
A lot of your pieces have a coastal vibe to them. Is this due to your Eastern Shore roots?
I grew up on the eastern shore - went to the beach, lived in the coastal life, and I am inspired by my roots - my experience and my play in this atmosphere. It comes through in my work because it's so much of who I am. From clamming off a small fishing boat my grandfather named The Pancake, to spending summers in Ocean City on the boardwalk, the water and beach bring me such joy.
You are a mom to three boys. Do they/motherhood have any influence in your work?
The boys inspire me because I see things through their eyes and it's like seeing something for the first time. Seeing how they are experiencing things and how they look at the world guides my work and my energy. After many years of in the corporate event planning world, I started painting again when I was pregnant with my oldest son. He will soon be 12!
When he was a baby/toddler I would bring him to my very tiny studio. He would play in the paint in such an uninhibited manner with no strings attached. It was freeing to watch. It was motivating and inspiring. He wasn't worried about what people thought. He wasn't worried about the outcome, he was in the moment. He was present with the paint, he was present with himself, he embodied presence when playing in paint and it was magical to witness. He was content. He was and continues to be my teacher.
As the boy's tribe grew so did the teachers! Some of my fondest memories of the earlier years with so many babies were the times I just let them play and paint and make a mess. Most found me to be crazy for allowing them to get so immersed in the paint and the experience but I did not care about the judgment they were at ease and they were full of joy and through that experience I noticed that I was too.
It was those moments in the early days of motherhood where we could all let go of worry and we could just play and be free. These are things I have continued to practice as they grow. It has now taken on a new form as they love being little contributors to my business and to my ideas. They often make comments about my work. Just recently one of my sons was beautifully lost in one of my paintings and was sharing with me what he saw through the abstract movements and shapes…. And that’s just it for me – that is the whole idea behind art… To get lost though the experience find something new. Those moments have stayed with me throughout the years.
Everyone takes away something different from art. That being said, what is something you hope your art evokes in others?
My hope is the viewer is able to sense and tap into a place of connection within themselves and through that moment they are able to touch their own imagination. I hope that my art evokes a sense of place and wonder of possibility, a sense of energy, and a sense of play and a sense of exploration.
I would like for the viewer to have an experience with the art beyond the physical structure …the experience of JOY.
You have not only created beautiful artwork on traditional canvas but way beyond - creating stunning countertops, custom furniture, backsplashes and more! What is something you hope to create in the future that you haven't done yet?
I'm ready to think big. I'm ready to think about installations that can be in more public places where people can see my art more broadly and experience what I'm trying to convey. I want my art to be multi dimensional, and use more tactile so it is not just a visual.