Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Feature Artist: Stephanie Rubiano

Stephanie Jones Rubiano is a native Austinite who graduated magna cum laude from Texas A&M at Galveston with a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology.  She worked as an environmental scientist for a major drilling company in Houston, TX for five years after that.  Therefore, it stands to reason that she has now chosen art as her career path. She is a mixed-media artist who enjoys using antique photographs, real butterfly wings and a variety of uncommon objects in her work.  Stephanie teaches workshops at national art retreats such as ArtFest and Art & Soul and has had work in past mediums shown in galleries and boutiques across the United States.  She is an emerging artist on the art festival scene.  In October of 2008 she participated in her first nationally-ranked art festival, the Bayou City Art Festival in Houston, TX, and placed 2nd overall out of 300 national artists.  Her work has graced the covers of magazines and books as well as been the subject of articles and how-to projects.  She can be contacted through her website at

I had the pleasure of meeting Stephanie briefly at Studio Crescendoh and I was enamored by her exquisite art work.  I am so honored to have her here today to tell us more about how she developed such original ideas as well as how we too can continue to learn and develop our own artistic identities.  So let's get started....

How did you go from working as an environmental scientist for an oil company to being a full time artist?

I worked as an environmental scientist in Houston until I married in 1999.  Then my husband and I moved to the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas.  There wasn’t a whole lot for me to do, job-wise, so I began to work on art projects to fill my time.  My first art retreat was in 1999 and that opened up a whole new world to me.  I began to take whatever classes and workshops that I could.  I went through rubber stamping, to book arts, to polymer clay, to jewelry and finally ended up pooling all of that information into mixed media projects.  I love mixed media because I do get to use all that I have learned over the years, distilled and synthesized into my own process and projects.  I began to teach and found that I loved it!  I have also been fortunate enough to achieve a level of work that juries into art festivals.  With the support of my husband and family, I took the leap into being a full-time artist in the spring of 2010.  It hasn’t been an easy road, but it certainly hasn’t been boring!

You go into great detail on your website about your unique and amazing technique of using antique photographs, text from books as well as real butterfly wings. How did you discover this style of art?

I went to visit a friend of mine, a very talented artist named Jeanne Stregles, in the spring of 2004 for an art weekend.  At the time, she was adhering photocopies to MDF board and cutting them out with an old jigsaw.  She would then add paper wings and crowns to accent her image.  I made a few pieces that weekend, but really didn’t like working with the power tools (bad incident with a Dremel when I was 17).  On my way back home (a very boring drive between Dallas and Austin!), I started to think about how I could change the project so I would be more comfortable with it.  I had recently taken a jewelry workshop and learned how to use a jeweler’s saw.  I tried adhering the images to balsa wood (curled up after the adhesive dried) and then birch plywood, cutting them out with a jeweler’s saw.  It worked like a dream and that became the basis for my work.  I then thought that the paper wings were nice, but what would real butterfly wings look like?  Then, it was trying to figure out how the wings would be protected.  I am a huge Joseph Cornell and Lynn Whipple fan, both of who use shadowboxes, so I decided to give that a try.  I always tell my students that they only see the finished project.  They don’t see the days or months it can take to develop an idea, leap-frogging around, trying different combinations of materials, etc.  My boxes today look very different from the ones I started making back in 2005, so even now, I am constantly changing and trying to improve my work.  I don’t like to be stagnant.

You have been published many times and your work has been in galleries and boutiques and now you are also teaching classes. Can you offer some advice to artists that aspire to have their art and approach recognized in this way?

I would recommend to budding artists that they just keep putting themselves and their art out there.  It can be a very difficult thing because our art tends to be personal and therefore an extension of ourselves.  Answer calls for art in magazines, keep an eye on publishing sites to see if new books are coming out that need art, attend classes and art retreats to build up networking.  You never know whom you will sit down beside…they could be writing a book, or know a gallery owner, etc.  You will get rejected.  I still do.  It hurts, but not everyone is going to like what you do.  The sooner you accept that, the better off you will be.  As long as you enjoy what you are doing, keep doing it and things will happen.  It has taken me seven years to get to this point and there are still so many things that I would like to get involved in or hope will happen.  It is a never-ending process, in my opinion.  Enjoy the journey!

Speaking of teaching, I know you have offered classes on your unique techniques that many budding artists have enjoyed. Recently it was brought to your attention that someone was teaching a class that appears to mirror yours in many ways. What have you learned from this experience that could help other artists?

When it comes to teaching art workshops, I feel very fortunate that I get to do it as part of my job.  I love teaching, sharing ideas with others, and feeling the energy that seems to build up in a room as everyone creates.  As I said earlier, many of my projects take a long time to figure out and put some polish on.  They don’t happen overnight and a lot of hard work and time is involved.  Teaching is part of my livelihood and I don’t mind sharing.  However, students need to realize that just because they pay for a class, it does NOT give them the right to take that information and teach it themselves.  To profit from someone else’s hard work is just wrong.  It is an issue that I have seen come up more times than I care to count over the past 10 years that I have been teaching.  I have recently had it happen to me and I have to say the first feeling I had was one of betrayal.  I have worked so hard and for someone to think it was okay to take my work and use it in that way, well, it raised a lot of bad feelings.  I plan on contacting the woman and asking her to stop teaching my class.  I do put a copyright symbol at the bottom of my class hand-outs to let people know that I consider the material my intellectual property.  I suppose the best advice I can give is that if you are considering teaching and the class is someone else’s or very similar to theirs, always ask first.  And if it feels wrong, it probably is.  There will always be those who don’t think in this manner or take the time to consider their actions, so this will continue to be a problem.  The most we can do is educate and hope that word spreads.

I love taking classes and learning new techniques to add to my tool bag, but I often worry that my art will begin to look too much like the instructor's. What advice can you offer to budding artists who discover a technique they love during a class they are taking and they want to continue to use that technique and sell the artwork they make using the technique they were taught?

When I take a class, many times my finished work does look like the instructor’s.  That is how we learn.  You keep working with the techniques that you have learned, becoming more proficient over time, and I think that starts to lend itself to you finding your own artistic voice.  Techniques learned in class are a wonderful way to get your own creative juices flowing.  Once you feel you have mastered something, it is much easier to make that leap and bring in your own ideas.  Sometimes I have a hard time sleeping because I have so many “What if’s?” churning around in my brain.  I feel that this is a huge part of the artistic process-to question the limits of what you are working on, to ask yourself what would happen if you tried something new with the technique you already know, to take things a step further, out of your comfort zone.  There will be some spectacular failures (as my studio trashcan can attest to!), but there will be those successes that make all of the effort worthwhile.  Do not do yourself a disservice by copying another artist’s work.  Everyone can make something their own. And again, I encourage my students to take what they learn and if they can sell it, great!  Just make sure it is their own work…because like teaching someone else’s class material, it is just wrong to profit from someone else’s artwork.

How has art promoted health and wellness in your life?

Living this creative life has made me happier than I have ever been!  That in itself helps promote wellness.  I rarely get sick anymore and I do think that there is something to the whole mind/body connection philosophy.   I don’t make it to the gym as often as I should because it is hard for me to take time for myself when I have deadlines, family “stuff”, etc.  I divorced in 2007 and during that time is when I really needed art to help combat all of the destructive energies that were whirling around in my life.  I came through that time stronger and more focused on what I needed to do to be happy.  I have since remarried to a wonderful and supportive man who “gets” what I do and why it makes me happy.  I am able to be a mom to my 7 year-old daughter and really take part in her life.  Yes, the security of a weekly paycheck is gone, but I feel fairly rich overall!  Being able to give some of that back when I teach is what keeps me in the classroom. 

And lastly, what do you know to be true??

What do I know to be true?  Hmmm….I believe that treating others as you want to be treated is an integral part of living well.  It is very easy to get bogged down in negative thoughts and situations, but if you believe in yourself (and it does all start with you), then you can manage most anything.  I know I sound like a cliché at this point, but having gone through such a destructive and negative situation in my life really showed me how much I needed to get things straight in my own head before I could even think about taking a positive part in others’ lives.  I also believe in the healing power of art.  Taking the time to create is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and others.

Thank you so much Stephanie for sharing the wisdom you have gained from the experiences you have gone through.  I really feel like I gained a better understanding of how to continue to develop my artistic identity by taking classes, practicing and then asking myself, "How could I do this another way?" and then practicing some more.  So, I'm off to practice right now.....

To learn more about Stephanie please visit her here:
Website at: 

Leave some love in the comments if you are so inclined and have a great weekend!!!
Be Well.


  1. I am really enjoying your featured artists. Thank you for the introduction. Stephanie's work is beautiful! :)

  2. Thank you for introducing to me this wonderful artist. I too worry about being a "copy cat" but love learning new techniques. This post has been really helpful and enlightening.

  3. Love your interviews! Was not familiar with Stephanie's work--
    what an amazing artist!

  4. I have enjoyed Stephanie's work since I first saw it many years ago, and all I can say is that her work is of such high caliber that those darn 'copycats' haven't a prayer. Keep it up Stephanie, you are a gifted and forward-thinking artist!
    Harmony, I am really enjoying your Friday features!

  5. Fascinating interview, Harmony. One I will read over again. Many thanks to Stephanie for her insights that she has shared with us.