Behind every beautiful thing built by man there is a beautiful idea, and behind every beautiful idea there is a beautiful inspiration, and behind every beautiful inspiration there is a magical glance of the artistic mind to the world!—Mehmet Murat Ildan

The artistic process is incredibly personal. While the physical tools an artist uses to create their work — brushes, trowels, and sculptor’s tools — are an integral part of creating work, so too is the mind and spirit of the person wielding the tools.

Artists Jennifer Vranes, Gedion Nyanhongo and Trevor Swanson shared their personal histories that influence their work and how the tools they use to complete their pieces have evolved over the years.

All three artists come from artistic families. Jennifer’s mother has three siblings who are artists. Gedion followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Trevor’s great-grandfather was an artist, a trait that skipped a generation but expressed itself again with his uncles.

Jennifer first fell in love with art in high school. After an art teacher took interest in some of her informal doodles, she took her first art class in high school and later went on to study art in college.

“That high school teacher affected the rest of the trajectory of what my career became later,” she said. “I dedicate everything I make to him.”

Gedion and Trevor share similar early roadblocks to following a creative path. Gedion’s father encouraged him to pick a “practical career” so he settled on an auto mechanic, but quickly learned it was not for him. And Trevor studied finance in school, crediting his hesitation to live an artist’s life with the first-hand knowledge of the financial challenges that can come with it. 

Luckily, Trevor, along with the two other panelists, have been able to disprove that! And they credit much of their success as artists with their use of and connection with the physical tools they use to create their work.

Trevor has an extensive brush collection (we’re talking hundreds), each of which he uses to create a very specific effect. 

“You find what works to follow your vision. Find whatever it takes to get to that point,” he said.

Jennifer, on the other hand, used to work with brushes in her early career, but a visit to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam changed her interests. She was inspired by the texture and color and in awe of how Van Gogh introduced such depth to his work. She began painting primarily with different styles of palette knives, applying the paint to the canvas in thick, satisfying layers through flicks of the wrist.

Where Jennifer and Trevor use their tools to add, Gedion uses his to subtract –– and once he does, there’s no turning back.

His process begins with selecting the correct stone. Gedion is in tune with each stone and allows it to speak to him to tell him what it wants to be. From there, he uses hand-chiseling tools to remove pieces until the story emerges. 

While these three artists speak different visual languages, they all share a passion for the creative process and a willingness to experiment with new ways of working that allow them to express their vision best.

See the full replay below. 


Jennifer Vranes

Gedion Nyanhongo

Trevor Swanson