Introducing: Vicki Boatright (aka BZTAT)

Artist BZTAT at work on a new creation.

Artist BZTAT at work on a new creation.

Artist Vicki Boatright, known as “BZTAT” (pronounced bee-zee-tat), is an accomplished artist with several public art projects to her credit. An avid pet lover, she specializes in whimsical drawings, paintings and prints of cats, dogs and other companion animals. She creates colorful customized pet portraits, which are unique in their original contemporary style. Vicki also creates murals and other artworks that address a variety of themes. BZTAT Studios is located in the trendy Canton, OH arts district. She also has a gallery at Embrace Pet Insurance in Beachwood, OH.

In addition to her studio website at http://bztat.com, Vicki has used social media to develop a worldwide audience for her artwork. Other artists have come to her for guidance in using social media to develop personal branding and niche marketing through social media.

Vicki holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree and a Master of Arts Degree in the visual arts from Marshall University in Huntington, WV and a Masters Degree in counseling from Marshall University. Until her recent retirement, she was a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and has since put those skills to work as an art instructor for youth.

Vicki has completed a number of public and private art commissions in addition to a large body of work that follows her own vision. Her work encompasses a variety of styles and media however clear themes are evident throughout her work. She is known for her vivid colorations, utilizing painting, drawing, assemblage/collage, and digital media to create interesting works of art.

Vicki signs her artwork BZTAT in homage to a feline companion of that name, who was an artistic inspiration to her for 19 years. We spoke with Vicki about her experiences in the art field:

When and how did you first decide to pursue art?

Vicki Boatright: Art has always been a part of my life; the thought of not pursuing it in some fashion, never occurred to me. Creating artwork is something that I am compelled to do, and it has always been that way. That said, I have made specific choices in my life to pursue art in certain ways.

Three Westies, by BZTAT

Three Westies, by BZTAT

When I entered college for my undergraduate degree, I chose to pursue an art degree. I began as a commercial art major but I moved away from the commercial path in my junior year. I graduated with a double major in Painting and Printmaking. I then went on to get a Master’s Degree in Painting and Printmaking.

After college, I quickly learned that making a career as a fine artist was not financially viable at the time (late 80’s) unless you were extremely lucky or willing to make incredibly austere sacrifices. I was neither, so I returned to college and earned a second Master’s Degree in Counseling. I practiced as a professional Clinical Counselor for 20 years, and continued to pursue my art in my free time.

Juniper, by BZTAT

Juniper, by BZTAT

The advent of internet tools and social media platforms in recent years has increased the possibilities for artists to self promote and sell their artwork. As I began to tire of the counseling profession, my interest in a professional career as an artist grew. I am now working exclusively as an artist and no longer rely on a separate career to support myself.

Whose artwork inspires you?

VB: I am inspired by a variety of artwork. The work of Henri Matisse and other so called “Fauves” in the early 20th century inspired my interest in color; Rembrandt inspired my interest in light and sensitivity to subject. Perhaps the greatest influence to my work, however, would be the raw creativity of children and individuals affected by mental illness or other challenges. I love the freshness and raw expressive quality of “Outsider” art, which is a genre of work created by self taught individuals facing emotional and mental challenges.

You do art in a wide variety of media. Do you have a favorite?

VB: My primary media is acrylic paint on wood or canvas. I enjoy drawing with marker and Prismacolor Pencil too, and I love experimenting with collage and assemblage too.

Is there something artistic that you haven’t done yet that you want to try?

Peace Dove Diversity Hands

Peace Dove Diversity Hands, by BZTAT

VB: I would like to do some sculptural work, either by reclaiming existing objects and transforming them into artistic objects, or by designing, casting and painting objects in fiberglass or aluminum. I would like to make some massive sized objects as public art pieces.

Outside of others’ artwork, what do you find inspiring?

VB: Music is very inspiring to me, as are other forms of performing and literary arts. Animals inspire me, and I am fascinated with capturing the essence of the human-animal bond. Current events and the evolution of the human experience inspire me as well.

You’ve been a trendsetter in online marketing and communication with your fans. What do you find exciting in the digital arena right now?

Cat and Dog Mural, by BZTAT

Cat and Dog Mural, by BZTAT

VB: In the past, artists had to go through self-appointed gatekeepers to sell their artwork. Digital and online tools have opened up so many other methods for artists to take charge of their own careers, and it is very exciting. I find it exciting to interact with people who enjoy my work, and I enjoy allowing people into my process through digital methods.

If a young person came to you expressing interest in making art a career, what advice would you give them? How about an older person?

VB: I would express caution to both, to be quite frank. Despite new tools and new means for accessing collectors, it is still a very tough career path to take. I would encourage anyone considering a career as an artist to also take business and entrepreneurship courses. You must consider yourself as a businessperson in addition to being an artist if you intend to live from the sales of your artwork.

Besides your studio, where else do you like to work on your art?

Girl with Pug, by BZTAT

Girl with Pug, by BZTAT

VB: I like to have a professional studio where I can focus on my work and separate myself from other distractions. I have been without that for several months and it has not worked out so well, so I am in the process of opening a studio in a larger gallery. I also enjoy creating on location for events and activities where I create out in public and interact with those in the environment. I have been on scissor lifts for public art pieces, and there is a certain rush to painting a couple of stories up!

Oddball question time: If you determined the Nielsen ratings, what would be the number one show?

VB: I would bring back “Pushing Daisies”, “Ugly Betty” and “Northern Exposure”.

Finally, if there was one huge art work that you could do, and time and money was no object, what would you do?

VB: There are many projects of this nature swimming around in my head. The one I would most like to do though is the one that I have yet to envision. It would likely involve painting a large building with bright colored imagery (Cats would be included in the imagery somehow) and then choreographing a multimedia experience with music, light projection, and other performance elements.

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