Why do artists love Wicker Park? Local artist Cynthia Prokop gave us her perspective.

Wicker Park Artist Cynthia Prokop: “Art IS a Time Machine”

Cynthia Prokop - Artist FeatureOne of the best things about the community art project is the connection it creates between Pritzker and the artists that live and work in our community.  It exposes us to neighbors we may never have met, and in addition, it allows them to see firsthand all the incredible things happening inside our school.

Cynthia Prokop is a Wicker Park resident, artist, and contributor to this year’s Time Machine community art project (CAP).  Her piece, Time Stops, is on display at Elevenzees on Division St, until Friday night where it will be up for auction at the CAP party.

Cynthia has been a strong supporter of the CAP this year, and even attended our Festival of the Arts.  We recently talked to Cynthia about her work, her creative process, her advice for young artists, and how one of her collectors also owns a Picasso*:

Please tell us about yourself as an artist, your work, your inspiration, your process:

“.. I started out as an English major. Being an artist came into my life slowly and quietly.  I moved from New Orleans to Chicago.  I worked in an office.  I worked in my former in-laws art store on Saturdays.  I sat in my kitchen on cold winter days and painted quiet little water colors.  The kitchen had yellow walls and high ceilings and lots of light. These days I sit in a coffee house on winter mornings with a sketch book and a pouch full of colored pencils. After staring intensely… moving the pencil across paper…  the work becomes more real than the room, more real than the waking mundane days.  I love the feeling of paper under my hand. I love the unlimited potential of a blank sketchbook.

Doing is inspiration. Sitting down to do the work everyday, whether you feel like it or not, is inspiration.  Thoughts will intrude.  Ones like ‘this isn’t any good, why are you doing this’. That’s just noise.  Keep the pencil moving.  Then you stand back for a moment. You are rewarded with what you have made.  I find myself looking at the world around me with an eye for my time when I have a paint brush or pencil in my hand. Standing awkwardly as the El train moved,  I pulled out a small sketchbook to draw an interesting nose.  When I look at a face the lines are shorthand for a thoughts made manifest.”

What lessons have you learned in The Arts that apply to life regardless of your creative career path?

One of my biggest lessons from Art ‘you don’t walk the dog, the dog walks you’.  You start off with an idea in mind but something else happens.  Obstruction is redirection. What results is better.  It happens with such frequency that I get really excited when things mess up.  All right! Here comes the really good stuff!

Discipline and daily practice….oh yeah.  When you see any worthy accomplishment you are seeing the end result.  The real drama is all the parts that go into making something happen. You are not seeing the times a writer got up at 5am to work on a novel , day after day after day. You are not seeing the artist who is working two part time jobs. You are not seeing musicians in a cold wet tour bus driving to a small town for a show in front of 10 people. Overnight success means you have been working at it for years.

Battling fear…Most of us think we are the only person in the room with a racing heart or sweaty palms.  Knowing that fear and resistance are out there but not letting it keep you from acting on what you set your heart on doing.  If you don’t express your unique creative contribution, out of all the billions of people on this planet, IT WILL NOT HAPPEN.  Working past fear is worth it. “

Your advice for young artists?
“Just keep the pencil moving…”

As an artist in Wicker Park how do you connect with the community, and the creative community?

“The encouragement… opportunity to exhibit… people around you with ideas for projects, tools and techniques… There is a lot of cross pollination from …music…theater…poetry. Even the window display of the Wicker Park retail community is as much art as commerce. My painting, “Time Stops” is on display at Elevenzees at 1901 Division. I have known the owner, Patti Johnson, since 2004. Our early conversations came about because I loved the colorful look of the store’s spacious front window. Her store has a delicious sense of warmth. She carries a well thought out array a creature comforts/gift items .I have been a fan of her perfume items. The team from A.N. Pritzker School chose my painting to be placed in her store. She looked at the back of the painting, saw my name and exclaimed “That’s MY Cindy!” When I dropped by we had a giggle fest!

The Time Machine project has been so exciting. Art IS a Time Machine. When you paint a portrait, even an abstract one like mine tend to be, you can freeze the past, project the future or document a progression of time. Making Art is making time stop for a moment while we catch our breath.

Over the years I have had wonderful opportunities to exhibit in the neighborhood…Vegan Gallery, Dispatch Gallery, First Friday show at the Flat Iron Building…Kiz (a dress store on Division)…Cafe Ballou and Cippolina. I’ve attended events where several of my collectors have been in the same room. One collector bought a painting from me when he was walking down Hoyne with his dog named Picasso (*yeah, yeah…I have a collector that owns a Picasso…).

One of the most satisfying art commissions was one I did for a couple that was getting married. After I delivered the work I got teary realizing that long after I am gone the piece would be on the wall for their children and grandchildren. Studying their joyous faces for hours…being witness to the love in their life filled my own heart.”



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