Air Force Spouse Amra Graff goes with the flow in her military life and with her artwork. Amra creates organic, emotive art pieces that reflect the fluidity of the transformations we go through with each PCS and each new experience.
Find Amara on Instagram/Facebook/Tiktok: @Amras.Artistry
MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and where you are today.
Amra: I grew up in a military family (Army) with two brothers and my sister. My dad retired in Colorado, and that’s where I call home. I love to create things and enjoy working with my hands. I’ve been blessed with very talented parents who shared their skills with me and encouraged me to find my own. My mother taught me how to sew, knit, and crochet, which was a challenge because I’m the only lefty in my family. My dad is a very talented artist, and I’ve followed in his footsteps with many of the hobbies I’ve tried; woodworking and technical drafting are just a few. Although my journey into painting and drawing is recent, I’ve kept creating through the years; baby showers are a great chance to create unique blankets for friends.
My husband and I have been married for almost 13 years. He joined the Air Force six months after we got married, and it’s been quite an adventure ever since! We’ve lived in California, Texas, Alaska, Maryland, and currently live in Germany. Along the way, we’ve welcomed Sparta, our mini-Australian Shepherd, and two children. Being in the military has given me the chance to travel to new places and have experiences I likely wouldn’t have otherwise. While being in Germany during a pandemic hasn’t been the bees-knees, I’ve been able to experience a bit of the country and appreciate many things here.
MilspoFAN: How did you become a painter?
Amra: Chance and Youtube. It was October of 2020, and I was looking on Youtube for videos on how to distress paper for Halloween apothecary bottles. On the right side of the screen where it shows recommended videos, there was a video of a pour-painting artist, Rinske Douna. It caught my attention and as I watched the video, I couldn’t stop watching! She chose colors that coordinated well, and the way the colors flowed across the canvas and blended into each other mesmerized me. I binged all that night on video after video. As I watched I had the thought, I can totally do this! I have struggled with drawing, and it never came out the way I wanted. So, because pour-painting didn’t require drawing, I thought it was perfect for me!
Pour-painting in a nutshell: you mix paints with a liquid medium (water, glue, name-brand pouring medium) to make your paints very fluid. There are a lot of techniques out there, but my favorite is the Dutch-Pour. You lay down a base layer over the entire canvas and then lay down colors (usually in a line on top of/next to each other) and then use a blow-dryer to move the paints over the canvas.
I couldn’t stop and haven’t ever since! My husband has been incredibly supportive of this venture, and I now have an upstairs studio! I think occupying the kitchen table for days at a time likely had something to do with that.
MilspoFAN: Describe for us your creative work and the aesthetic of your painting?
Amra: I think my favorite piece describes my aesthetic. I use this piece on my business card; it has 3-4 different blue hues, gold, and vibrant pink. The colors blend into each other and create deep, rich purples. The colors also stand out on their own. Bits of cyan blue, peek out from the deep phthalo blue. Pink also stands out on its own, adding a bit of ‘wildness’ to the piece.
Although the colors may seem ‘neutral’ or ‘everyday’ colors, I like to add something extra to my pieces. I add depth by using a range of hues, metallics, and vibrant colors that bring out a bit of contrast in the art. Using a blow-dryer, I move and blend the paints into new and different colors and fanciful shapes. The whirls and swirls of the paint keep your eye moving and always looking for what’s next.
MilspoFAN: How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as a painter- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?
Amra: I feel it’s too soon to tell, but I have some ideas. Logistically, finding specific supplies can sometimes be an issue. I live off-base and due to specific agreements between the US and Germany, I cannot use my overseas military address to ship any supplies for my business. I must use my off-base address. Which means any materials I can’t find in Germany, I have to import. Shipping my supplies when we PCS has inherent risks.
Creatively, I’ve had the chance to live, literally, coast-to-coast and across the ocean. While writing this I had an idea for another flag piece, Maryland! Having the opportunity to live in so many places provides innumerable areas from which to draw inspiration.
MilspoFAN: How do you cultivate your creativity?
Amra: I’ve learned with this art form that I can’t always create ‘literal’ things. I’ve had to creatively think of ways to turn something literal into an abstract pour-painting. My ‘New Glory’ piece is the perfect example. I wanted to make a 4th of July tribute piece, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Making a literal flag is tricky because of the fluidity of the paints. The experiments I tried always resulted in purple messes because the colors would mix when I used my blow-dryer. I could have gone without the blow-dryer, but I wanted to use that specific technique. While pondering how I could make this work, it came to me! It feels almost silly that I didn’t think of it before; separate the colors. It is one of my favorite pieces and turned out far better than I could have imagined!
MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Amra: This is always a difficult question because military life is so unpredictable. I hope that wherever we move, I can find employment as a nurse and continue my artist’s journey. In the meantime, I plan on offering more virtual classes and procuring a vendor spot in the base exchange.
MilspoFAN: What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to other artists?
Amra: Practice makes progress. Yes, you’re going to hate feeling like you’ve wasted all that material, hating how it looks, wishing you were better right now, and afraid that you never will be. But each of those pieces that you hate teaches you; whether it’s what to do/not to do, you learn. Eventually, you don’t make as many of those pieces you hate. And those pieces you love encourage you to keep creating.