When Brittani Gothard sits down to create art, there's not a pen or a paintbrush in sight.
Scissors and tweezers, on the other hand ...
"I couldn't live without these in my art," she said with a laugh, the tweezers held aloft as she momentarily tweezed empty air.
She also has paper, lots and lots of paper, filling wooden storage boxes on the work table in her airy front-room studio, and more in flat plastic boxes stacked four deep on the floor.
"All forms of paper are used," she said. "It all depends on the texture I want to achieve."
As she spoke, the attractive 26-year-old Californian's friendly dog, a Goldendoodle named Rusty, sat calmly on the floor, its rust-colored hair a soft mass of thick curly locks. A Type 1 diabetic, Gothard is training the dog as a service animal, one that paws at her when it senses she needs to attend to her blood sugar.
"I have never loved an animal so much," she said, giving her dog a warm hug.
But she also loves art, and what she makes with those scissors, tweezers, some paper punches and paper is striking.
Propped against the windows in her studio, a series of fine framed pictures made by cutting forms from paper show children riding bikes, skipping through a garden, playing basketball, learning to read and more. All of them illustrate a new children's book about overcoming obstacles that she has recently published with Laurie Lunsford. The book is called, "It's a Piece of Cake."
An excellent measure of Gothard's substantial talent might be that, while Lunsford is an artist herself, upon seeing her friend's collage-like pictures, she insisted on illustrating the book with them.
"It's amazing," Lunsford said of Gothard's work. "It's very, very unique."
A mother of two boys, Weston and Kavin, whose husband, Levi, is a Marine, the Los Angeles native moved here to be near his family when he served in Afghanistan. A cosmetologist, back home she had worked with models and also styled wardrobes.
"I was never able to have an office job," she recalled. "I always had to keep busy. I always liked to be creative, and hair did that for me."
Meanwhile, she was the daughter and granddaughter of two very "crafty," meaning craft-loving, women. Entirely self-taught, she flirted with painting, but found her true talent and interest in collage making, and even had pieces in galleries back in L.A. Upon moving here and meeting Lunsford, her goal of illustrating a children's book was quickly realized.
The allure of her collage pictures?
"I just think it's not commonly seen," Gothard said. "There's so much texture and color. Laurie couldn't see her illustrations being anything else."
Before working on the book, she also did and still does make paper collage portraits sold through her small business, Brittani Rose Paper, on ETSY. Showing off one she made of herself and her husband on their wedding day, it was nothing less than charming, revealing everything from the pleats in his pants and the tufts of gray hair at his temples to the delicate rose tattoo on her left arm.
“Every portrait I do, not one is the same. My thing is detail. I want it to represent each person. I create their family out of paper. I have conversations with them to really get specific details of what they want.”
In illustrating "It's a Piece of Cake," she sketched out her ideas, then set to the difficult work of making them.
"One page would take me about a week," Gothard said. "I was working 11-hour days on them. There's so much. The cutting is ridiculous. I have so much paper, I probably could open up a store."
As much as she has accomplished in her relatively short stay here, she and Levi will soon relocate back to her family and her California home, a move she is happily anticipating. Still, she is appreciative of her time here, and the collaboration with Lunsford it afforded her.
"She let me spread my wings and do what I wanted with it," she said, gratefully.
- The Star Press