joining the Air Force to earn money for college, Amy Buchheit
ended up serving in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, earning several
awards and renewing her love for marine life. Now, while residing
with her husband in Vancouver, Wash., Amy has a long to-do list
that includes working toward a bachelor's degree in fine arts,
traveling to Kauai, Germany, Honduras and Australia, and learning
scuba so she can dive and discuss art with one of her favorite
From sea to see
Inspired by Australian Aborigine art and creation myths, Amy Buchheit's
abstracts focus on color, shape and texture.
"According to these myths, known as Dreamtime," she
said, "the creator beings those who created man, the
land and everything else on Earth were believed to have
come from the sea.
"This, along with the fact that I've had an
interest in sea creatures since high school, create a strong pull
for me to create marine-inspired art."
Amy's other abstracts, done in the same style, are
also based on the spirit of the Dreamtime. More often than not,
they're an expression of the spirit itself, or of the powerful
forces of creation. Her painting, "Life Force," is an
"From the center of the piece and in the midst of what may
at first appear to be chaos, distinctive shapes appear,"
she said. "The line that moves throughout the piece is painted
in a deep crimson, representing the life's blood of all living
"The dot patterns found in this and all my
current work is representative of the molecules that are in all
matter. Thus, this piece is one that is visually recreating the
idea of creation."
Hours for the taking
With planning, prep work and an average of 10 layers of paint
before the dots are added, it takes Amy approximately 100
hours to complete each piece. "Life Force" took 180
"After choosing a canvas size, I use sketch
paper to map out the design," she said, "first placing
key elements, then adding a background that connects the defining
lines of each shape and carries the eye throughout the work.
"This can be accomplished by using a technique
where I scribble lines on the page and then pull out shapes by
erasing extraneous lines. Another way is by drawing in abstract
shapes that fit the theme of the piece."
Once complete, she creates a grid over the sketch
and another on the canvas itself. She then transfers the image
from the sketch to the canvas by redrawing the image, section
Deciding on colors can take several hours. A single
change on the palette can make or break the completed work.
Amy was drawn to the art and beliefs of the Australian Aborigines
while taking an art history class.
"I had to do a paper on the art of ancient
cultures," she said, "and was intrigued and fascinated
by these people, the oldest continuous culture in the world.
"I'm inspired by their rich sense of history
and how spirituality permeates their being. I'm also drawn to
their use of dot painting as a means to create a visual vibration
and interest within the work. Their use of flat shape, pointillism
and natural elements is very influential in my work."
Color, texture and movement also inspire Amy's current
style. A bit of fantasy and whimsy sometimes sneak in as well.
The big pond
Amy's favorite artists are Wyland, Patrick Nagel and Marc Chagall
she believes they all influence her work to some degree.
"Wyland is influential because of his marine
art, which I am favoring as a subject for my abstracted realism
or realized abstraction, however you want to look at it,"
"I'm drawn to Patrick Nagel because of the
flat shapes he favored, and Chagall because of his flat shapes
and scattered subject matter."
Amy's art has been used on T-shirts, flyers, posters
and a yearbook cover. It's also been published in magazines and
written about in local newspapers.
Her painting "Sushi, Anyone?" made its
New York debut last month at the Limner Gallery, while "Autumn
Dreaming" was exhibited in a juried show at Soho20 Chelsea
"I'm really excited by the opportunity to exhibit
in Manhattan," she said. "I recently made a commitment
to break into the New York art scene and am thrilled to have received
an opportunity so quickly!"
At your service
Amy's creative talent surfaced early; at only 18 months she drew
"Although the lines didn't all connect and
it wasn't perfect realism, dad said you could tell what it was
supposed to be," she said. "Unfortunately, the drawing
was destroyed in his last move."
By age three, Amy had announced that she was going
to be an artist when she grew up. She began taking art classes
in junior high and high school.
Amy wanted to head straight to college but kept
bumping into the realities of living on her own, as well as not
qualifying for financial aid. Unable to find employment outside
the fast-food industry in Spokane, Wash., Amy moved to Sandpoint,
Idaho, where she still ended up working as a waitress.
"The restaurant closed within three months
and we didn't receive our final paycheck," she said. "Broke,
but with a job lined up waiting tables, I moved to Portland for
the first time.
"After eight more months of waitressing, I
asked myself, 'Is this what I want to do with my life? What DO
I want to do?' I knew the answer to the first was NO, so I decided
to join the Air Force for four years to gain some job skills and
earn money for college."
One temporary-duty assignment took Amy to Honduras.
While there, she went on a four-day leave to the island of Roatan.
"It's a beautiful, tropical island," she
said. "I went sea kayaking and snorkeling for the first time,
and swam with dolphins an experience I'll never forget!
It helped to reaffirm my interest in all things aquatic."
While in the military, Amy stopped producing art,
settling for crafts and painting ceramics.
"I had more or less given up on being a 'real'
artist, having heard so many times 'you can't make a living doing
After a divorce and a trip to Alaska, Amy was again seized by
the urge to create and to be an artist. She showed some
of the work she'd created over the years and was hooked.
"It was clear that I would not be happy doing
anything else," she said.
"So in '97 I started working on my bachelor
of fine arts degree. Unfortunately, I also started getting ill
and was so sick by the spring of 2000 that my doctor told me I
needed to take a hiatus from school."
Amy took a break from college, but not from art;
she taught herself how to paint with acrylics.
"I worked on developing a style and started
showing again. I could do this on my own schedule, when I felt
well enough," she said. "I've been showing my work ever
"Although my path took many twists and turns,
I'm thrilled to finally be doing what I love!"
Avenue of dreams
Amy's dream is to become well known and make a living with her
art. She took a big step toward that goal with her recent shows
in New York. Internationally she's aiming for Japan, Paris and
Amy's also dedicated to helping people realize that
they, too, are creative.
"Nothing inspires me more than working with
a person who says, 'I can't do it,' and then having them
recognize that not only can they do it, but they can do
a good job!
"I intend to continue making a difference for
others in this way," she said, "though I'm not clear
what avenue it will take."