Artist Interview: Cindi Zimmerman

[I met  artist Cindi Zimmerman through an art group on Facebook because she shared some paintings and I fell in love immediately. I had to have them and finally convinced her I really wanted to buy them. We hit it off immediately and she kindly let me interview her for this blog. She also introduced me to Art On The Creeks, my first art fair in 6 or 7 years. I hope you all enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.]

Cindi Zimmerman

Photo Credit: Chris Albertson Photography

Artist Statement:

Cindi Zimmerman creates both figurative and abstract acrylic and mixed media paintings influenced by personal relationships, poetry, music and mood.  The canvas is her place for imagination and freedom, often favoring her fingers over a paintbrush to merge rich colors with elements of intuition, symbolism, emotion, and whimsy. Her preferred approach is to create multiple layers of random marks without intention, allowing the canvas to take on a life of its own until the chaos evokes a message that begs to be painted.


Is there a moment/s or trigger/s that has had a pivotal impact on your work? If so, what was it/were they?

About a year into painting, I started studying abstract art. The work of other abstract artists intrigued me, but when I tried to create my own, my type-A personality wasn’t satisfied with merely splattering paint and calling it art. I needed to understand what made a “good” abstract. So I studied the abstracts that appealed to me and started to recognize that although they were “abstract”, I could still identify composition, balance, form, color, lines, shapes and focal points. Hmmm….all things present in other forms of art, but…but…but…how could I start with a completely blank canvas and create something that was completely void of “a figure” to which all of the other art fundamentals could be applied? Thinking about it seriously hurt my brain. Then, as if the universe recognized my angst, it sent me a flyer for an “Intuitive Abstract Painting Workshop” to be taught by Paula Jones. SIGN. ME. UP. I had no idea what “intuitive” meant in the context of art, but I was about to find out.


Of course before the workshop took place I started questioning is “intuitive art” really “a thing”?  Google served up some information, but what I can tell you is that for me, it’s definitely a thing. It’s about tapping into my own personal stories, emotions and moods and then setting them free on canvas in a very personal, non-judgmental way. It’s about getting out of my head and into my heart when I create. It’s about finding joy, bravery, and unconventional wisdom that can lead to interesting and brilliant things that my left brain doesn’t have room for. Things that nobody has to know or understand the meaning of to appreciate the art that comes out of it. To making what is unconscious, conscious.  That workshop with Paula Jones unlocked the door for me. And as I went into deeper discovery mode, Flora Bowley and her “Bloom True” Brave Intuitive Painting program flung that door wide open and gave me permission to run through it with wild abandon. Now I take great pleasure in making layers and layers of random marks that sometimes remain abstract and other times leads to figurative pieces, but through a process that allows me to play first and get fussy later (but only if I choose to).


What part of creating makes you feel joyful? What part makes your heart sing?

The early layers of a painting where, for me, there are no rules. And I adore the moments when I use my fingers instead of a paintbrush. It brings out the child in me…the messier, the better!


What is integral to your work?

Courage, trust and ongoing learning. It sounds silly, but with every piece I create, I have to dig deep for the courage to let my ideas and emotions flow freely, trust that it will lead to something meaningful to me, and realize that I’ll learn something new with everything I create…albeit art lessons or life lessons.


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What is your favorite work of art by another artist?

I don’t know that it’s necessarily my “favorite” work of art, but one that holds special meaning to me is Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.  When I was in my early 20s I moved from Kansas (where I was born and raised) to Arizona. I was slightly homesick and my boyfriend (at that time) bought me the print. The sunflower is Kansas’ state flower.  The print has since kept a prominent spot in every place I’ve lived and is always a reminder that there’s no place like home.

Is there a moment that made you feel like a “real” artist?

Every time I sign a painting!


Which famous artist do you think is over-rated and why?

While I identify with some artists more so than others, I appreciate all of them and try to ignore the “rating” of it all. I like what I like and I don’t allow the establishment to influence that, but I do try to learn why famous art and artists are held in high esteem, and there’s usually significant value in there somewhere that I can respect.

Name 3 artists you’d like to be compared to or at least mentioned with in the same sentence. Why those 3?

I work hard not to compare my work to the work of others, lest I’d feel very inferior. However, I would be honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as…

  • Bob Peak (my late uncle and world-renowned artist/illustrator) – merely for the blood relation and that maybe, just maybe, I got an ounce of his creative passion through the gene pool
  • Flora Bowley – for being able to recognize the creative in us all, and getting there through many, many fascinating layers or random marks
  • Tania Knudsen (professional artist and founder of Studio 7 and Art on the Creeks) – for carrying the love of art beyond the canvas, lifting others up, and finding a way to make a difference for other artists


What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

My two favorite pieces of advice…

  • “It’s just paint!” – Judi Harrison – It’s a reminder not to take the art too seriously, that every mistake can be corrected, and to experiment until you’re satisfied.
  • “Make bold commitments while staying open to change.” – Flora Bowley – It’s now my mantra on every canvas I paint. Sometimes unplanned elements become the most interesting part of a painting.


What is the best piece of advice you have to share?

If you have a creative urge, act on it. It’s never too late in life…and regardless of what you create or how “good” it is, it’s good for your soul. Please do it.


What is your dream project?

Just showing up to my easel and creating freely is a dream come true. Seriously, it’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done.


Do you have an artistic soul-mate? If so, who and why?

Can’t say that I do. Never thought about it actually…but collaborating with the right person would be exciting.


What piece of yours are you most proud of and why? (If you can provide an image that would be very helpful)

My very first painting makes me the most proud. Not because it’s a masterpiece or a great work of art, but because I was brave enough to try. It’s a mixed media piece with acrylic, crayon, silver fiber and silver embossed collage. It’s titled “True Blue” and was inspired by the Shel Silverstein poem, “Masks”.

Anything else you want people to know about you or your work?

Since you specifically asked about my abstract “comfort food” series….I’m officially calling the series “Soul Food”.  Let me explain…


Growing up in a large family (I’m the youngest of 9 children), meals were the one thing that pulled us all together. We didn’t have a lot of money, but our table was always overflowing and we were well nourished. To this day, our family get-togethers center around a huge feast. My mother can magically whip up dinner for 20 at a moment’s notice without going to the grocery store, and with just a little more planning, she feeds our immediate family of 50 until everyone is stuffed. She’s not a gourmet chef, more of a get-‘er-done kind of gal who can stretch a few potatoes and some sausage to feed a small army.


I didn’t inherit mom’s passion for cooking or baking and, ironically, I’ve dined at a table for one most of my adult life, so when I do get one of mom’s home-cooked meals I appreciate every bite. Needless to say, certain foods summon up fond memories for me. Not just the flavors or the aromas, but the love and laughter that has accompanied so many holiday dinners, impromptu meals and even midnight snacks in mom’s kitchen. Her special way of doctoring up a can of Campbell’s soup could cure any illness. She knew just the right ratio of peanut butter to jelly to get me through a rough school day. And her homemade cinnamon rolls have soothed many a broken heart.


So, as I pondered painting more intuitive abstracts, it occurred to me that I could tap into those wonderful emotions that have been inspired by food throughout my life. My intent is that the abstracts won’t necessarily look like the food they were inspired by, but more so that they’ll envelope the feelings and experiences that accompanied them. I’m challenging myself to let go of what something looks like, painting from my soul (and my stomach!) rather than from my eyes.  With any luck, it will translate into something aesthetically pleasing left open to interpretation, just something that feeds the viewer’s soul with only hints of the real subject matter (maybe the colors, maybe the shapes, maybe the textures…but not all of it in every piece, lest they’d start to border on realism rather than abstract).


The full series will be exhibited at Art on the Creeks in October 2016 and also available on my website.


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What has been the most amazing moment of your art career so far?

Being part of the Art on the Creeks planning committee in 2015 was incredible. Nine months of hard work culminated in an event that celebrated artists, inspired and engaged the community, and truly embodied a spirit of sharing and giving back like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The positive energy that flowed through the courtyard that day was sensational, and I’m so excited to now be gearing up for our 5th annual event on Oct 1, 2016!

Do you do workshops?

I attend them, but I don’t teach them.


Explain what you do in 100 words:

I daydream a lot, and the images from my daydreams are usually what find their way into my paintings. I’m often inspired by lyrics or poetry or even my own personal wishes and hopes. Sometimes it all turns into something figurative, other times it remains abstract, but either way, my imagination usually runs wild and builds a story with marks and symbols and is usually punctuated with lots of color and texture. My favorite figurative works would probably be categorized as “whimsical”, but there’s a wide range of emotion behind everything I paint. If I can’t articulate something with words, I try to express it visually on canvas.

Leaning To The Right, 14" x 18", mixed media on watercolor paper, ©CindiZimmerman
What themes do you pursue in your work? 

Personal stories, poetry, music, mood, intuition, symbolism, emotion, and whimsy.


See more of Cindi’s work on her website

About Elisha

Elisha Dasenbrock is an award winning, international watercolor artist. She paints with a limited palette on claybord. Dasenbrock graduated from the American Academy of Art in 2009 and has been painting professionally ever since.