Location: Beltsville, MD
Bio: Calisma is a self-taught artist from Cameroon whose family moved to the States when she was 13 years old. Adjusting to her new environment proved to be a nightmare, as she always found herself trying to fit in. Who doesn’t? After years of schooling, including obtaining her degree in Exercise and Sports Science, she has finally found where she belongs - in art. Calisma feels at home with art. The smile her art puts on people’s faces and the emotions it brings out of them are what keeps her afloat. Join her in this never-ending journey. Calisma welcomes you!
Describe your experience as a current artist.
At the moment, I could say I’m doing art partially full time. Recently my Sisters, mother and I made a huge investment! We opened an African Restaurant “Miya Lounge” where my work currently hangs. This space will be used as both a gallery art space to host artist pop up shops and a Restaurant. I host paint parties there and I also paint live at times. Our “Why” is “Uniting Cultures and Families through and creating new memories and bringing back old ones through African Cuisine and Art”
I have been painting seriously/professionally since late 2015. After I graduated College in 2015, I was doing art full time. Painting on the streets of DC nearly 7 days a week, attending pop up shops etc. The in 2017 I decided to get a job as a Technical Support Agent because life I realized that I still needed to build my work portfolio as well. So then I started working my 6am- 2:30 pm shift and painting on the street right after work which was a one hour drive from my job. My purpose is to free my mind, take what I am feeling and transforming it into an image or a painting in the hopes of it touching someone else’s live.
What was your occupation/education prior to becoming an artist?
I went to school for Exercise Science at first and wanted to be a Physical Therapist. However, now I am in I.T., manage the Restaurant, and teach paint classes while also finding time to paint. I pray that soon enough I can just paint and manage our Restaurant.
Funny thing is I have always loved art; I used to sketch in pencil when I was in high school, and in college I sketched in class. I never “pursued it per say but I fully fell in love after taking this sculpture class at Bowie High School (my favorite class). The only reason why I ended up not going to school for art was because, my family would have seen this as a joke. Quite honestly I didn’t think one could make a living off of art either. A couple of months after graduation in 2015 from Frostburg State university, I still had this feeling deep down that I wasn’t living in my calling. So late that year I decided to gift myself an early Christmas gift. I decided to invest in myself as I’ve always done but this time in something I had no experience in. I went to the art store and purchase water color paint and paper. Ah mane, when they rang my items up, I said to myself “This stuff is expensive”. But I had to do it, because it was the only thing I hadn’t fully experienced. If I never invested in it I would have never known how good I was because pencils weren’t doing it for me anymore.
So, one day my sister had posted this eye painting I did on in water color on an Optometrists Facebook page, and One Doctor agreed to purchase it. That day I knew that I could make a living from art. I became a full time street artist in 2016! I was painting on canvas in the sun and rain 5-7 days a week and I was so happy doing it. In 2017 I got a job which occupied my time.
What was your biggest obstacle in pursuing art and how did you overcome it?
An obstacle I faced was knowing my worth in art and as an artist. Keep in mind that it does not matter how good your work is, if you are selling it for $10 people will buy just the same as if you were selling it for $500. You as an artist have to determine where you fall unapologetically. As creatives we often doubt our worth because we are afraid of how other will feel about what we say we are worth. We also tend to sell short and a scared to say “I understand that you don’t have the money to buy this for $1000 but I appreciate your feedback and love for my work”. It is also Okay to sell your work for $10 as long as you are okay with it but other should not determine nor discourage you if you do choose to set your prices high.
Describe your biggest milestone achieved since pursuing your art.
Scenario: One day I had my art out on the street painting and a couple asked me how much my painting was. I priced one at $400 and the other at $250.
Her boyfriend: Let me get both for $500
Me: No, (ahhhhhh I couldn’t believe I did this but it was truly the biggest test of self-worth I had experienced)
For one, the way he offered the $500 it was like I needed the money more than he needed my art and I never want to feel that way especially since I’ve been through it before. I’m only going to discount my work on my own terms. A couple of weeks later, I sold that one painting for $400 to an amazing woman who actually cried when she saw it and that moment right there is what I want every time.
How does your personal style and identity translate into your artwork?
I don’t think thank I have explored all there is to explore about art to be able to say that I have a style yet. I want to actually take classes to learn how to do more back ground like street, or fields, the human anatomy like figure drawing and also shadows. There are so many Ideas in my head that I have not yet been able to paint because I don’t fully have a grasp on certain techniques being that I am self-taught.
What makes your art unique?
I am not afraid to step out of my comfort zone and try new styles. I do abstract, portraits, motion art etc. My favorite technique is using a palette knife. I learned about the palette knife in 2016 but after experimenting with it and seeing the crazy textures I could make with it I fell in love with my palette knife.
How do you maintain your mental health and inspiration?
I never feel like I have creative block because I have so many ideas my main issue is the fear of the painting not coming out the way that I picture it in my head. The answer to that is that I watch a lot of videos to pick up different skills.
Also, I try not to push myself to paint when I don’t feel like it. I want it to be natural and not forced so this way I can give it my all. But the way my IG page @simplycalisma is set up I do make it a point to post art after every other post and that pushes me to at least paint on my iPad. When you set goals it definitely helps you to get things done
What is some advice or tips you would give to a fellow BGWP interested in furthering their art goals and/or owning her own business?
Just like any other career goal, art can be a career and because no one gets to tell you what to do, it is very easy to fall off and stray away. If you want it bad enough you have to hold your self accountable just like your boss will at your 9-5. Start eliminating happy hours and using that time to paint. If you are someone who goes out, or to the gym and you claim that these things are taking up your time, start to cut back on doing those thing and focus on art or any career you want to focus on.
You have to make sacrifices, hold yourself accountable by giving yourself daily or weekly tasks, saying to yourself “okay, by the end of this month I want to paint 5 pieces and I want to sell 10 prints”. Then you ask yourself again “what do I need to do in order to be able to sell 10 prints and paint 5 pieces of art?” Slowly you will start to make your own schedule and you will start to see yourself achieving these goals you never thought were possible.
What is next for you?
I will be hosting more paint parties at Miya Lounge in Beltsville, MD. I will also be planning an art show soon and on October 31st, I’m hosting my Halloween Paint Party! To get updated and more information, please follow my Instagram.
What does being a "black girl who paints" means to you?
It means painting what I want and expressing myself freely with no doubt nor regrets.