Tool trunks found on the side of the road, discarded cigar boxes, old metal pitchers – most people look at these things and see junk; Finger Lakes artist Amy Colburn looks at them and sees art. Everything has a surface on which she can paint.
Similarly, when others see an unpainted room as four bare walls, Amy sees a big blank canvas, or in the case of a certain child’s bedroom, an underwater fantasy.
Amy began her career as a freelance illustrator after she earned her degree in fine arts, majoring in visual communication design, from the University of Dayton. She worked for art studios, design firms and advertising agencies in the Rochester area, and created promotional pieces and commissioned portraits in her own studio.
Eventually, Amy got tired of painting on boards and canvases, and she decided to combine her love of illustration with her love of antiques. “At first I started painting on old trunks, chairs, rolling pins and other things people were going to throw away,” Amy said. “Once my friends and family got wind of that, they started asking me to paint other surfaces like cabinet doors, mailboxes and furniture.”
From there, painting murals seemed like a natural progression, so she decided to take the plunge. “I remember I was so nervous when I painted my first mural, but I thought, ‘It’s just paint. I can always paint right over it if it really looks awful!’” Amy said.
The major factor that sets murals apart from traditional framed work is obviously scale, but now, after having painted dozens of murals in homes and businesses, Amy is comfortable with the process. Inspiration for her work sometimes comes from the most unlikely sources, so Amy always carries a camera. “My family gets embarrassed because I’ll be driving along and just have to stop and take a photo of something that I find irresistible,” Amy said. The Finger Lakes region is full of inspiration, and Amy believes it’s one of the most gorgeous and culturally rich areas in the country.
In addition to collecting her own ideas, clients will often come to her with magazine clippings, greeting cards, a menu from a vacation spot or photos that hold sentimental value for them. “I really like the diversity of being able to personalize my work for each client,” she said. “Each mural presents a host of unique challenges, and that makes me grow exponentially as an artist.”
Amy has painted murals of trains and swing sets in children’s bedrooms, trees and faux tiles in bathrooms, a jungle scene in a pediatrician’s examining room, and a tropical scene in a restaurant. She has painted floors, ceilings and all kinds of furnishings in between. She truly believes that any surface can be painted. Amy welcomes the challenges, and she does not intend to stop her work any time soon. “I will keep painting until I’ve run out of blank surfaces!” she said.
See more of Amy’s work at AmyColburn.com.
by Stacy Majewicz