The Piece That Changed My Life: Courtnee Papastathis (Mixed Media Artist, United States)

The Piece That Changed My Life: Courtnee Papastathis (Mixed Media Artist, United States)


I would like to submit my mixed media project, “Life in a box” as the piece that changed my life. Throughout my life, art has generally been a way to cope through sorrow and pain, a force of coping that I’ve allowed to pass through me when it was needed but was unable to focus or be consistent with. Only in recent years, after turning away from a tech career and accepting the depth of my artistic roots, have I experimented with attempting to harness my skills in fair weather conditions, and begun to think about marketing and creating art for the purpose of selling it (which has opened up a whole other can of worms, I tell you what.)

Life in a Box was the first passing art project IDEA that I had, rather than an urge, or a feeling that I pointed at materials and allowed to evolve, that I took action toward bringing into the world. I took a shitty day, turned it around into expression in pictures, and then thought “You know, I could go farther than just uploading these to my facebook as neat abstract photos.”

Asking for money to enable the project was a big step for me. Like many people, I have mixed feelings regarding asking for and accepting financial support. Life in a Box was an excellent example of my practicing the art of receiving. It was also the first fundraising activity I’ve spearheaded in which a complete stranger happened by my project and donated. This moment of validation and acceptance was a significant milestone in my artistic life.

The project itself then grew into the centerpiece of another milestone – my first serious art show. Or rather, the first showing of my art in which I took myself seriously as an artist – my show at Poco Wine Room this last July.

I decided to hand stretch all the canvases for Life in a Box, and in turn invested in learning how to do that — a skill I did not have before the project that I continue to utilize in my work today, and which has allowed me to offer prints of my work for more affordable prices than the original pieces.

In searching for a printing solution for the base photographs, I discovered a create space on Capitol Hill that awakened my dormant geek. The experience of printing and stretching Life in a Box there caused me to subtly refine my process of creating art, such as revisiting how I use brush strokes and finding more efficient ways to work. I laser cut the labels for my pieces in the show out of acrylic, as well as designing them and cutting them with the laser myself.

I was even inspired to cut vinyl lettering to place on the wall for the show, a professional touch I had not previously done, and a bar for the venue which no one has yet to meet since.

Life in a Box spawned my first steps into the shoes of a pro. The art piece was incredibly well received, and all but one of the canvases are sold. I had not expected some iPhone photos and some drops flicked onto canvases to make such an impact on my life or the fans of my work, but they certainly did.

It was my decision to listen to that voice in me that said “It would be really cool if..” and do something about it that made all of these things happen. I could not have done that without courage, and an understanding of myself and my relationship with art that I hadn’t had in previous situations in my life. It was progress, through and through.

Were I to give artistic advice, I still think it would be what I wrote in this blog entry, which came about during a particularly stressful and frustrating time wrangling the Life in a Box/Poco project. – Just keep going.


See more of Courtnee’s work on her website.

Note: This is part of a project announced to Nonsense Society members to share the piece that “Changed Their Life.” If you’d like to share your work and thoughts in future projects and experiments please sign up for updates.