|Issue Date||March/April 2017|
|Credits||Interview by My Art Resources. Photography by Daniel Garcia.|
Pangaean Studios, Russell Powell: Hand Stamp Painting
Artist and elementary school teacher Russell Powell, founder of Pangaean Studios, has spent thousands of hours perfecting his signature handstamp method to create art. Beautifully detailed black and white paintings are created on the palm of his hand and then stamped onto a piece of paper, creating a one-of-a-kind monoprint. Although mostly known for this technique, he also creates large scale works as an accomplished oil painter.
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
There has always been a part of me that’s wanted to be an artist. There was a time when I would create a few pieces a year, and I was never truly happy with the work. The past two years have been different—I can’t stop painting, it’s all I want to do. I think I’m painting from a different place now. I try to create pieces that I am proud of. If others appreciate it or if it can raise awareness for anything, then there is a whole other level of connection and purpose, and that makes the pieces even more special to me.
What inspires and motivates you?
I am inspired and motivated by my students. I teach K2 and first and second grade, and the children’s imagination and ideas inspire me day in and day out. I love how carefree they are and how they see the magic in things. When I’m painting, I sometimes find that I’m giving myself the same advice I’d given my students a few hours prior: “You can do it, you just have to keep pushing.” And I’ll remember how that child put their head down and accomplished what they wanted after struggling through the uncertainty. The children are a daily reminder for me that we live on a magical planet surrounded by magical things with magical people. They have inspired me every day for 16 years, and I truly live an incredibly creative life because of them.
How would you describe your subject matter?
I often paint things that I find beautiful or meaningful to me. I know that’s a large spectrum, but it usually involves portraits of people that have a story in their eyes. Sometimes with nature or wild animals incorporated.
What are your biggest challenges in creating your art?
If I had to pinpoint something, it would be bringing the human spirit out through the eyes of my subjects. There have been times when pieces can be a bit mannequin-like—I strive to bring the
pieces to life.
You contribute your art to different charities. Can you share more about that?
Recently I have been creating pieces, and donating all of the money to the water protectors and documentary efforts taking place on the front lines of Standing Rock. I will be continuing that project as long as needed. Make Love Not Scars is an organization in India that raises awareness for acid attack victims. I created a handstamp piece of one of the survivors that was
then enlarged and now hangs in their clinic. I have also worked with the Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts, which teams up with local artists in order to raise money for youth programs. Using my art to help others is really important to me, and I hope to continue doing what I can to contribute.
What message would you like a person to leave with after spending time with your art?
That there is a strong connection with everything—nature, animals, and people. We are all connected and we need to take care of each other.