Story by Sohpia Perun.
With her bold red locks, Cedar Covington pours her life experiences into her art, creating pieces full of color and positive affirmations. Heavily inspired by nature, film, music, and R&B and soul, Covington combines multiple mediums to form her mixed media creations.
Being open to many mediums, Covington will give almost anything a try. She uses any kind of paint whether it be watercolor, acrylic, oil, or spray paint. Other mediums she has used include embroidery, linoleum blocks, paper collage, paint pens, markers, and gouache. Acrylic paint and paper collages are her favorite to work with as you can see when flipping through pages of her art journal.
“I wanted the sound when you open it to crackle and crisp. I wanted it to be overflowing like about to rip apart and it has ripped apart multiple times and I had to super glue the pages back in,” said Covington.
Much of Covington’s art comes from times of her life that bring her the most discomfort. Her art journal, for one, began after a heartbreak. Although these moments do come from uncomfortable moments of her life, Covington seeks comfort in discomfort.
She also mentioned some experiences that remind her of her childhood as someone who grew up with a single mother. “I think when you’re afraid of something like when I don’t want to watch a certain movie, what discomfort am I afraid is that that’s going to make me feel and then pick at that discomfort until I figure out what is actually wrong,” Covington said. “I don’t want to watch a movie about heartbreak. What discomfort am I avoiding to feel? I don’t want to feel the feeling of being heartbroken again and feel that fear of abandonment. Watching a movie like Glass Castle, a movie about a dad who’s not present, like what discord am I trying not to feel? Try to feel that like really, really feel it and then turn it into something.”
Spending her early years off the grid on Palomar Mountain with her family gave Covington an upbringing where they had a generator for electricity, two movies on VHS, and where her mother changed her diapers by candlelight. This lifestyle had Covington eagerly turning to the outdoors and to art as a release. After the Poomacha Fire in 2007, Covington and her family lived in apartments and condos. The Poomacha Fire at Palomar Mountain State Park burned down 138 homes and more than 49,000 acres total, according to parks.ca.gov. As a low-income family moving from close quarters to close quarters, Covington’s physical space was limited but her creativity roamed free.
“As a child, I felt out of control of my circumstances. With the kind of childhood I grew up in, there is not much you can do about it. I think a true hobby or interest is something that takes you away from reality for a little bit. And makes you travel without actually having to leave,” said Covington.
Her mother, Sabrina, shares a similar point of view, acknowledging that art was something her daughter turned to. “Cedar did not have the easiest childhood and art was the perfect outlet,” Sabrina said. “Living with an artist makes every day fun. Art truly lights Cedar up and it makes her happy in the purest way.”
Having to navigate a difficult paternal relationship at a young age caused Covington to come to terms with people in her life as well. “With my father, it’s just one of those things where I wasn’t aware of a lot of the bad things that happened in my childhood,” she said. “I just knew it was bad and then when I grew up and I became fifteen or sixteen I became aware of all the bad things that happened when I was younger and that therefore I had to cut off that relationship.”
Covington’s religious upbringing also had her questioning things she was taught and experienced growing up. Although Covington says that religion can be beautiful as a child and gave her morals and values, she strongly disagreed with what was being taught about sexual purity.
“I am a very confrontational person. I am not sure if that was because of my childhood or because I was always meant to be like that, but I’m very confrontational. I don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics. I seek comfort in being uncomfortable because I have always felt a little uncomfortable I think,” said Covington.
As Covington moved on from Catholic school and began attending a charter school and public school, she still rejected the norms. She pointed out that the people who were typically praised were high achieving scholars and athletes which left her an outcast amongst her peers again.
In addition to being a graphic design student at Palomar, Covington puts her art up on display at galleries, coffee shops, and sells her art at local shops such as Day Dream in Escondido. As a business-minded person, she tries to price her pieces accordingly while also making them as accessible as possible. Covington has worked jobs outside of being an artist, but she suggests that every artist save money and take some time off to act on their inspiration.
“I think being very anti nine-to-five and shaming people for having a nine-to-five is classist. People have to work, people have to feed their families and not everyone got a college education. I do agree that I don’t want a nine-to-five. When I would go into work, I felt like someone put a plug into me and drained all of my battery and was completely dead, no feelings just completely numb and then if I paint all day I am exhausted but I’m energized,” said Covington.
According to arts.gov, it is 3.6 times as likely for an artist to be self-employed as compared to other workers. Although Covington acknowledges the practicality of a day job, it can stifle the creativity of the artist. With this, however, comes the backlash of how artists will make a living, but Covington discourages these attitudes about artists.
“People would always say how are you going to make money? That is the number one question. You have to figure that out that’s important, but also the same people who discourage artists from pursuing a career in art or don’t see the purpose or the need for it are the same people that consume music film. People consume art every single day,” she said.
Making her art accessible to people is something important to her. However, with a business-mindset, she ensures that she receives the compensation she worked for. With just under a third of artists getting compensation for the art, according to artradarjournal.com, Covington seems to be ahead of the curve. She also admits that the business side of it all can be discouraging when something does not sell, but she reassures herself with the thought that the right person will see it at the right time. She also sees this as an area of growth in her art.
“I think my art right now is a little too on the nose and I want to make it more murky and weirder. I think I am transitioning into making art for other people into making art for myself. I’m creative, but I have a business mindset. I’m always thinking about what people would buy and what people would want. The art journal helped me make stuff that was really unhinged and really weird for absolutely no reason. Even if no one would even want it or look at it, it’s for me. I started to realize that people do like my art more when I don’t think about other people,” said Covington.
As Covington said, letting go of shame and people’s perception of you is key while making art to sell. She also advises everybody to evaluate how you want to be heard and how to express that to the world.
“Everybody wants to feel heard. Whether an introvert and extrovert, an artist and athlete, whatever you want to be, everybody wants to feel heard,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, even if you never talk. You want to feel validated in some way and to say that you don’t is a lie and the minute you realize that you can find your power and realize what you want people to hear from you. How you want people to feel and what do you want them to take away from their experience with you.”
While Covington is transitioning from creating art for other people to creating art for herself, she reminisces on what her art has done for her.
“I now have memorialized that moment. Now looking back at my art journal, my first couple entries that I made last year around May, I was in such a different mindset. It’s almost like listening to a song during a certain period of time and it takes you back. I really remember that moment now that I am listening to that song smelling that scent, or eating that food or whatever it is. Looking at that art is like putting myself in that moment,” said Covington.
Covington will be transferring from Palomar to ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena where she will be studying creative direction which will offer her a mix of advertising and marketing, and creativity. With the past that Covington carries and her creations to come, Covington will surely create art to be marveled upon by the masses.