The arts community generates more than $153 million in total economic activity in the Pikes Peak region, enriching lives with original, made-in-Colorado-Springs works.
It’s a community that Christine Flores has already joined, although she’s still in school.
Flores’ drawings in graphite, ink and marker on paper tell stories and illustrate moments from her personal life in a whimsical, “cartoony” style. They often incorporate multiple images, lists, related and seemingly unrelated items, and documentation.
Subjects range from simple objects — a hat, a favorite pair of boots, a hand holding a hot dog — to complex, dense compositions like “Mini Mouse Club House,” a rendering of a room brimming with stuff, as if the artist wanted to pile up all her beloved everyday items in one place.
In Flores’ world, a backpack isn’t just a backpack: It’s an item worthy of a portrait illustrating its features, including a pocket “for sweet dreams.”
Flores’ first solo show was at Ladyfingers Letterpress. She also has exhibited in a group show at the Kreuser Gallery and at Art 111, the Modbo and the Gallery Below.
Her work will appear in the upcoming Colorado Springs Art Book Fair on Nov. 1 and 2 at the Downtown GOCA gallery.
Art has always been a part of her life, but Flores, 27, didn’t start to show her work publicly until she was in her early 20s. A native of Colorado Springs, she was on track to become a doctor, but after earning a degree in biology from UCCS, she reconsidered and went back to school to study the visual and performing arts. She’ll graduate with her second bachelor’s degree next spring.
Meanwhile, she’s working part time at the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art, participating in local shows and posting her work on Instagram (@Christinewiththehair).
Flores spoke with the Business Journal about her career trajectory, the local arts community and what it takes to be a working artist.
It sounds like you had a bit of a struggle between following your muse and what your parents wanted you to do.
It was kind of a struggle at first. When I was in high school, I really loved theater — that was, at that point, my main form of creative expression, and I wanted to go to college for theater so badly. But my family convinced me that it wasn’t a practical choice, and I said, ‘Yes, you’re right. I guess I’ll be a doctor.’ …
My family really saw me as maybe excelling in the sciences. And, you know, it’s kind of like that stereotype of Asian families where it’s like, we all have to be doctors or nurses or engineers. That’s what my family saw for me, and so I thought that I was going to go to medical school and be a doctor.
And then after I graduated, it was a slow process of figuring out what I wanted to do. … I just found myself really occupying my time with art. I got some small jobs working with local artists, and I was volunteering a lot with Concrete Couch and really immersing myself with people who were working in the arts, and eventually I decided to pursue it academically.
And it wasn’t until I started making friends with people in the Colorado Springs arts community that I was like, ‘You know, I should just do it.’ … I also know that there’s luck and opportunity involved. But a lot of it is just being in that mindset of, this is what I want, and this is what I have to do to get it.
How do you navigate art as a career? It sounds like it could be a difficult path.
It is a difficult path to choose. Some people do get lucky and they’re able to make a living off of making art. But a lot of us have to choose other avenues. And that’s not to say that we’re not making art, but it’s just that it’s not our main source of income. …
I have ideas of what I would like to do. I’m less of a fine artist, and I consider myself more an illustrator and designer. So ideally, I would like to do that as part of my career, whether it’s freelance or working for a company, but I also really love the behind-the-scenes part of the art world. That is really exciting for me as well. [Owning a gallery] is something that I have fantasized about. I can definitely see myself as maybe a curator someday. …
Careerwise, I guess my plan A is to be a teacher. That’s sort of always been the plan, whether I would be teaching life sciences or art, I wanted to be in the position of instructor.
What do you think it takes for artists to become self-sustaining?
I can only really speculate at this point. But definitely, I imagine a lot of dedication. It’s not like, yes, I’m an artist, and I paint and I frolic. It’s a lot of work. Like I’ve been asked to participate in shows, and I’ve been commissioned to make things, and it’s not just fun all the time. A lot of it is having to sit down and be in the mindset of, ‘This is what I’m doing as a job,’ … and also putting yourself out there. You have to expose yourself to the community, make friends with artists and gallery owners and with people who buy art.
Let’s talk about your work. What kind of themes do you like to explore?
Mostly, like friendship and love. A lot of my work is also a little bit narrative in the sense that it’s derived from certain stories in my life that I want to represent somehow, visually.
… I self-identify as Filipino-American, and sometimes I do use my artistic platform to tell those stories of what it’s like to be a Filipino-American woman. Every once in a while I feel the push to do that, because my ethnic identity is a huge part of how I navigate the world.
You recently got into zines. Is that a continuing interest?
Yeah, definitely. I do love to make zines. I like them because they’re a relatively accessible and democratic form of artwork. They don’t have to cost a lot of money to make. … I feel like I am a storyteller in some ways, and zines are a good medium to do that.
Do you sell your work online?
I don’t have a specific platform for selling my artwork. I am on Instagram, and that is a place where people can see my art, and I have had people approach me over Instagram asking if they could buy pieces. I feel like Instagram has become a really great platform for people not only to show their work, but to connect with other artists and other people who want to show your work or want to buy. It’s a great platform for that.
What commissions have you had so far?
I’ve had a couple of commissions to draw people’s pets. People love having portraits of their pets, and I love drawing portraits of people’s pets. Part of what I love to do with art is, you know, it’s a form of loving something. If I see something that I really love, my heart is just like, ‘I have to draw a picture of this, I need to capture it.’ And part of how I love things is by drawing them. And so it’s so nice when people approach me and are like, ‘Hey, I’d really love if you’d draw my dog.’
How about graphic design?
That is something that I am highly interested in. I took a graphic design class, and so much of it aligned with the way that my brain works. I have that side of me that’s free and organic and playful. But then there’s part of my brain that’s very structured, and wants patterns and minimalism. That’s a part of my brain that’s really design-oriented. And I really like the aspects of graphic design where it’s trying to use the least amount of visual information while communicating everything that it needs to say. So I would love to be able to design for companies or people who want something expressed that way.
What do you like about the arts community here?
I feel like it’s changing a lot. In the past few years, I’m seeing a lot more art on the streets in public, or events, pop-ups and things like that. It’s really exciting to see but also be a part of it as well. And I like that our community here isn’t exclusive, like they don’t turn their nose up at you. Everyone is really supportive of one another.
What would you tell other young people who have a talent for art but are not sure if they want to pursue it?
Well, the first thing that I would ask them is, what’s stopping them? And I feel like most of us will answer by saying, ‘It was just not practical, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it.’ My response to that would be, ‘You can do it.’ It’s just a lot of hard work. … So it’s a matter of saying, ‘This is what I want.’ And so that would be my next question: ‘Is this really what you want?’ And if the answer is yes, then the follow-up is, ‘Are you willing to work to do that?’ If I wanted to be a doctor, for example, then I would have to do work to get to that point. It’s just a different type of work.