We had the good fortune of connecting with Heidi Horchler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heidi, what is the most important factor behind your success?
Connection is my driving force. My favorite thing is to see someone stop in front of one of my paintings and take a moment to stare. They might ask me a few questions like “Watercolor, right?” or “How did you come up with this idea?” Some of my favorite comments are in the realm of interpretation: “It reminds me of a Lava Lamp,” or “I see two people standing next to a hill.” I LOVE finding out what people see in their minds as they look at my work. But the main thing is that something about that piece made them stop. They stopped, took a closer look, and pondered.
I have a note from one of my earliest art courses that says: “There are 3 stages of seeing: Sensation, Perception, and Cognition. Once the viewer comes to a conclusion, they walk away. If you can suspend cognition, you prolong this moment.” (Robert You) Now, while I don’t always have this exact intention in the forefront of my art making process, I do always want to make a piece that makes someone stop and take a moment to soak it all in: the brushstrokes; the texture of the paper or canvas; the pencil lines that didn’t get erased; or the text in a carefully placed piece of collage. And, to be honest, it’s lost on most viewers. Many people who walk past my work keep walking without stopping. But for the 20 people who don’t stop, the ONE person who does makes it all worthwhile.
To illustrate this idea, several years ago, I was working a job as “the magazine lady” at a local grocery store. I was the one who took down all the old magazines, and put up the new ones, twice a week. For Halloween I decided to dress up. My costume was the character Jennifer Aniston plays in “Office Space,” the waitress Joanna. Her outfit was similar to the old-school TGIFriday’s uniforms, a rugby shirt with suspenders and buttons. The buttons played a pivotal part in her scenes (“I don’t want to talk about my flair”). I had been a waitress before and had what I needed, so I thought I was being pretty clever and dressed the part. I spent the day rearranging magazines in my Joanna character and waited for someone to comment. Nobody got the joke — except for two people; one of the checkers, and one customer. But not only did these two people get the joke, they LOVED it. Their humorous reactions and back-and-forth of favorite lines from the movie made up for all the other people who just thought I had gotten another job waiting tables. That’s the connection I’m talking about.
Not all art is for everyone, especially abstract art. But for the ones who get it, who make that connection – that’s the secret sauce. That’s what you want. As I continue in my exploration and plan for new collections, I try to keep these ideas in mind: to make art that is interesting, beautiful, and engaging. If I’m successful it will also create that invisible line between viewer and object: the connection.
Tell us about your art!
My art tends to be vivid & lively, with an aspect of movement. Most of my work is abstract, non-representational, but I also incorporate imagery like animals, plants and lettering. I love bright, bold colors, but I’m learning to appreciate taking it down a notch. My process is intuitive and explorational, sometimes grounded in geometric structure, other times loose and flowing. The most satisfying part of it to me is watching the colors flow from my brush to the paper or canvas. With watercolor, you’re guiding paint with the brush, allowing pigment to pool and settle with the water. Acrylic paint is soothing to watch brushstrokes appear and colors mix on the canvas as you swoop your brush along the surface. Painting is definitely a time of therapeutic relaxation.
This year I was able to fulfill an art goal that I’d set over a year ago: to paint a mural. I’m honored to be among the artists selected for this year’s Phoenix Mural Fest. Founder Danielle Foushée and festival director, Alexia Bednarz organized over 70 artists to create murals on historic Phoenix neighborhood walls facing the Grand Canal between 3rd – 15th Avenues. Not only do public art projects like this help shine a light on local artists, but it helps beautify neighborhoods and creates interest for visitors to the area, which in turn supports local business. That’s why I’m so proud to be a part of it, and I hope this will be the first of many murals to come!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
As much as I enjoy making art, I love bringing out creativity in others. A certified art teacher, I enjoy my gig as the online art enrichment teacher for my friend’s 6th grade class in L.A., and here at home I’ll be hosting more workshops as covid restrictions ease. My favorite thing is when students who’ve attended my workshops continue their artistic journey on their own. I still get photos of “Look what I made!” from those who’ve found their creative spark. I love it!
One of the things that drives creativity is curiosity. Many of the lessons I’ve learned as an artist come from simply wondering, “How is that made?” and learning as I go. I love watching videos where a person shows HOW they did something. The combination of being an inherently curious person, coupled with being a teacher, led me to make my own videos — to share my own process in order to help others learn. Now, I will say that I have no education in digital media or video editing, so just like everything else, my YouTube channel is a work in progress! But I enjoy filming my artistic process, and encouraging others to try their own hand at art making. My most recent video is a vlog about how I made my mural. (“Vlog,” or video log, comes from the term “blog,” short for web log).
As I go along on this journey, I hope that for those who purchase my art, it brings joy and color to your corner of the world. For those who are curious about art, I hope I am able to give you the gentle nudge you need to realize that you — or anyone — can make art. For inspiration, follow me on social @heidhorch, read my blog, sign up for my newsletter, or subscribe to my YouTube channel. I welcome any questions you may have about how to get started, materials, and technique.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We would go hiking at one of the many trails surrounding the valley so our visitors can enjoy the desert beauty that’s all around us, and definitely watch a few of our gorgeous sunsets. Then we’d go to a local brewery like Four Peaks or State 48. For coffee and something sweet Squarz Bakery in Scottsdale or Tempe. For cocktails we’d try 36 Below or Jade Bar at the Sanctuary. And a killer dinner would have to be Flint, Maple & Ash, Fat Ox, or Francine. For something fun, the Phoenix Art Museum or Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art are top of the list, the MIM, or a walk along the grand canal to show them my mural, along with all the other amazing mural art of the Phoenix Mural Fest! Day trips might include fishing at Bartlett Lake, or taking a drive to the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, exploring the White Mountains, visiting Meteor Crater, or of course the Grand Canyon! It is not to be missed. Our state has so much to offer, we could explore it for years!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This Shoutout is for all the teachers! Those who share their knowledge and process so that others may find their own way. The art professors at Scottsdale Community College, Paradise Vally Community College, The Herberger Institute at ASU, and my mentor teachers: Nancy Schulz, Becky McEnany, and Hedy McGee.