By Savanah Mandeville

In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert says this of creativity: “Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.”

She explains that to be creative, we must first embrace curiosity, down time and fun. It’s then we can truly be “in the zone.”

Anderson, Missouri-based painter Gretchen Sharples lives creatively everyday. Even in her leisure time, she’s always cultivating something new.

“I’ve always been pretty creative and have gone down a lot of different creative avenues,” she said. “For fun, I’m an obsessive decorator. I’m always painting something in my house, so I’m decorating all the time. I love to cook. I love to garden. We have a koi pond out front and lots of flower beds around it, so I’m always gardening. I love taking walks in the woods and to forage for mushrooms and foliage, as well.”

Gretchen was also a hair stylist for many years, which is an art in its own right.

In the fine arts sense of the word, Gretchen is a painter and mixed media artist. When Gretchen first began to dabble in paint about 11 years ago, she embraced curiosity in order to try something new.

I just thought I wanted to dip my toes in and give it a try,” she said. “My husband bought me painting lessons at a college in Springfield. I learned the basics and have been working on my technique ever since. I have sold pieces while participating in the Art Walk in Springfield and while displaying work in coffee shops and through my Etsy store, Magpie Mountain Studios, as well as doing commissions.”

Today, Gretchen works mostly in acrylics but isn’t afraid to throw the kitchen sink at a project. She uses chalk, colored pencil, charcoal pencils, scraps of paper — she has even used vintage book covers and old family photos.

“It’s kind of hard to explain where my inspiration comes from,” she said. “I think whenever you’re an artist or creative person, you have a need to create. Sometimes, you sit down with the need, and the medium you’re using guides you. For instance, if I’m doing a mixed-media piece, and I have a piece of paper in front of me with a certain pattern on it, it’ll lead me to a character or vibe or aesthetic.”

One of her favorite subjects to paint is replica, but she often draws inspiration from her day-to-day life. She loves spending time outside in the 30-acre woods in the Ozark Mountains where she lives with her husband, Will. Many of her pieces depict the flora and fauna of her home replete with hovering butterflies and dragonflies. Much of her work has a vintage element with eclectic, mixed patterns and textures, rich jewel tones, black and white photography, antique-style detailing and a smattering of kitsch.

“Art can be a very nostalgic thing for me. I like bringing the past to life or creating a fantasy that transports me while I’m engulfed in a project or perhaps transports the viewer to another time.”

To illustrate, a mixed media piece titled “A Seat in Time” features a black-and-white photograph of her grandparents sitting in her vibrant modern-day living room. Her compassion for others comes through, as well, in pieces like “Fly Girl Fly,” which offers an empowering message for women.

“I think the message I’m trying to convey is just to be kind,” she said. “Cherish your family, be kind to strangers, and, maybe most importantly, be kind to yourself.”