On December 7th at the Saxby’s Coffee Shop on 34th and Lancaster Ave. my good friend and artist extraordinaire, Cynthia Cain Bilbow will be doing her Solo Art Show from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. I will be there to support her and maybe purchase one of her beautiful drawings.
Cynthia and I worked together at the Academy of Natural Sciences before I retired and although I thought I knew everything there was to know about this amazing young woman, there was so much I didn’t know. It was time for Steampunk Granny to do an interview.
Granny: Thank you Cynthia for taking the time from your busy schedule to chat with me and I’ll start off with my first question. How did you get involved with art? What was the moment that you knew?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: My brother and I use to have coloring contests. He would tell me, “If you can color better than me, I’ll let you watch TV.” He used to bribe me. It was my brother who influenced me because he was an artist, once upon a time.
Granny: Was your brother older than you?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: Yes, he is eleven years older than me. Once I started drawing, I actually got better than him, but I hadn’t realized that it was my gift until I entered into a contest. I was around seven years old and won a mini scholarship for two hundred dollars, which I used at an art supply store. It showed me that I could draw. It was something that I could do and I took it further. Art is therapy for me.
Granny: How do you use art as your therapy?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: When you grow up in a house where there is verbal abuse and your parents don’t really get along, art was my way to go down the rabbit hole.
Granny: I’m guessing that you didn’t receive much support for our art.
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: No. I didn’t get any support from my parents when I was younger. The support from my mother didn’t happen until I was about thirteen or fourteen. My father never supported my art. He always said that it was better to be a doctor than it was to be an artist. He is still that way.
Granny: Despite the lack of support from home, you didn’t listen. You kept going.
Granny: Did you receive support for your art in school?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: I did receive support from school. My first elementary school teacher to push me to do art was June Washington and my first art teacher to encourage me was Linda Keels from the George Worton Pepper Middle School in Southwest Philly, but they’re closed, now.
Granny: Didn’t you also go to Moore’s College?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: I went to Moore’s College when I was twenty-four. I was there as a part-time student and also worked part-time in the education department. I had a mentor while at Moore. His name is Moe Brooker. He is like a father to me and gave me my first teaching position and I am forever grateful to him.
Granny: Where else did you go to further your art?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: I left Moore when I became a single mom and I didn’t return to Art College until around five or six years later. I then went to Community College of Philadelphia for their art department. I completed CCP’s program in the spring of 2015. I’m now currently applying for Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Granny: So excited for you. When will you hear from them?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: They’ve already given me approval and a scholarship, but I appealed it for a full scholarship. Right now, I am competing for a full scholarship.
Granny: I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: Thank you.
Granny: How hard is it balancing work, children and your art? Aren’t you also teaching classes?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: Yes, I’m teaching art at five different schools, Monday to Thursday, but because it’s part-time this allows me to be a full-time artist, full-time wife, and a full-time mom to a two-year-old and an eleven-year-old. I have so many job descriptions, but it’s the same job.
Granny: I know that feeling. Have any of your children inherited your artistic talents?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: Both of them have. McKenzie definitely does and Madison likes to tag along because she has fun being messy.
Granny: Your brother has certainly passed down this gift to you. Do you still see your brother?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: I do, but he hasn’t done any art in maybe thirty years.
Granny: Is he proud of what you’re doing, especially, because he started you down this path?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: Yes, he is very proud of me. I give my brother most of the credit because if it wasn’t for him...I probably would have recognized my talent at a later age, but it was he who brought it out in me.
Granny: Beautiful. Tell my readers more about your upcoming art show on December 7th at Saxby?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: I’ll be showing a series of art that are done in water color. There is a piece called “The Giving Tree” which is a four to five piece series of my rendition of a book called “The Giving Tree.” This piece is dedicated to my late baby that I had miscarried.
Granny: I remember when it happened. It was only last year.
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: Yes, it was last year. I illustrated two faces; one younger and one older. The little nook inside the faces is the baby. This is dedicated to our baby. The most recent piece is called “A Peacock Never Asks.”
I dedicated this piece to women because we always look validation on if we are beautiful and a peacock doesn’t ask if it is beautiful. It just is. I focused on the cockiness the peacock has when it walks around. I illustrated it as a woman instead of it being a male peacock.
I also have pieces done in charcoal that cover periods in my life; when I felt unwanted and pieces when I felt loved. It’s the many emotions of an artist. This is pretty much what the show is about. It’s not one thing, but many emotions.
Granny: What is the name of your art show?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: I haven’t titled my show, but if I had to, then I think it would be, “The Many Emotions of an Artist.”
Granny: You also do sculpturing?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: Yes, I work the wheel. I do pottery; bowls and vases
Granny: Will any of your sculptures be in the show?Cynthia Cain Bilbow: I will only have a couple of pieces during the show, but it won’t be there after the show. The pieces that I have during the show will be for sale. I also designed a coffee mug wrap, and the coffee mugs will be on sale for the show.
Granny: What advice would you give to upcoming artists who may or may not have support from their family, especially since you didn’t receive support when you were young?
Cynthia Cain Bilbow: The first thing I would tell them is: don’t be afraid of your talent because there will come a time when you’re not going to be sure which way is up. When you realize which way is up, don’t look back. Keep on doing what you love. Don’t do everything someone else wants you to do. Do what makes you happy. If you can get up every day and, be proud of you and your work, then that is everything.
Granny: Thank you so much for your time, Cynthia.
Cynthia Cain Bilbow will be having her show on December 7th. Mark it down on your calendar and come out for a wonderful night of art. I’ll be there.