The Military Induced Evolution of Stephannie Maskowski

How did you become an artist?

Childhood

I grew up in Mid-Missouri and have been an artist since the first time someone gave me a crayon. Art was always my favorite class in grade school and I spent a lot of time there, especially in high school. I carried this with me, like a tiny seed, in my pocket until years later after I met my husband and became a military spouse. It was during our time over-seas that I rediscovered my passion for art expression. I began taking college courses and one of my classes was Photography, this was that spark that grew into a business and that eventually led to a career in art.

Photography Business

I spent five years working as a photographer in two countries, until deciding it was time to finish my bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Closing my business was a tough decision full of heartache and sadness, but it was time to move on partly because of an upcoming PCS. One of the biggest draw-backs to being a military spouse is having to re-establish yourself after every move. This makes a career more complicated, especially in a client-based face-to-face field.

Art Ease

After moving back to Missouri with my family, I met a fellow artist who convinced me to go to Art Ease; A Regional Convening on Arts & the Military in Kansas City, MO. This is that place that I found my calling and a great deal of inspiration. I learned how veterans were using art mediums to cope and heal from a multitude of mental health problems. I decided to take my psychology degree and my passion for art and combine them into a healing force to help others, and myself, address and work through the invisible sickness that often goes ignored and under-estimated.

Art Therapy

I started adding art classes (ceramics, fiber arts, and sculpture) to round out my artistic skills and find a medium that best suited me and help me obtain a masters in Art Therapy. This is an ongoing process and I am still working to become a licensed Art Therapist. I can honestly say, I have loved the journey and all the wonderful people I have met (military and civilian) along the way. I have spent time painting and drawing, weaving and sewing, and molding, sculpting, and building.

My home has become my gallery, filled with my many creations and those I have encouraged my son to make along-side me. I also began working in a mental health hospital, taking what I have learned so far and giving people with severe mental health problems an outlet and mode of expression for when there are no words to describe what is being felt. I have seen art therapy in action and know that this is where I am supposed to be.

How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work — creatively, logistically, or otherwise?

If I hadn’t been for the opportunities and restriction the military lifestyle provided, I wouldn’t have been forced to get creative with my career, experience other cultures, or meet those people who helped me along the way. It has been nearly 20 years we have lived this lifestyle and it is coming to an end. I feel like I have gained a lot of strength and the ability to adapt in any situation, preparing me for the next phase of life. All throughout this journey, art has been my coping companion, leading the way.

How do you cultivate your creativity?

My creativity comes from a lot of places; dreams, day-dreams, music, nature, media, and my vivid imagination. I get these ideas in my head and they become over-whelming until I do something with them. I keep a little black book of ideas and notes that I write everything down in. I also spend a lot of time day-dreaming or meditating. I find that traveling and new experiences are the best ways to stir up creativity. It gives me chance to see the world from a different view point.

What’s next for you?

The next phase for me is graduate school and continuing to practice applying art in therapeutic settings. Hopeful, this work will lead to working with more veterans and individuals who are seeking expressive therapies. I don’t think I will ever stop creating my own art either because it is an ongoing journey of self-discovery that brings endless joy. I have become very fond of working in ceramics and plan to continue exploring this area by renting out studio space with a kiln.

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