Meet the Artist: Aubrie Sell Williams

I got my start with art early, as our Step One students do.  My dad has always worked for architectural firms, and he would bring home big 4-foot blueprints. I would sit in the middle of them and draw. When I got too big for that, my parents let me paint their shed with giant murals. I was very lucky to have so much encouragement to make art in a big way.

Currently, I do a lot of landscape painting and watercolor. My work is very meditative and I like the feel of the flowing paint. I tend to paint landscapes, which feels politicized to me right now because of climate change. Themes of environment and care run through my personal practice, and come into my Step One work also. Big outdoor paintings like our “Choose Love” painting and the big outdoor peace sign were made after some difficult grown-up situations in the national news. Those brought up feelings for both me and the kids, so we made those big feelings into art together.

I think it’s really important for kids to make art with their whole bodies; I’m an advocate of big brushes and big canvases for painting outside. It feels good to make a big mark sometimes! And it gives them gross motor experience as well as an opportunity for self-expression. I had a teacher in college who said “Don’t draw with your wrist, draw with your arm” and I always think about that with the kids. Doing work with big energy keeps kids (and adults) from being stuck in that trap of “I can’t do it!” You don’t want to over-controI.

Aubrie makes prints with students in Room 5.

I also do a lot of projects with kids where you go through steps, such as making prints or doing papier-mache. I’m a firm believer in process-oriented art for children. When they do paper-mache, they tear the paper, add the paste: they make every part of the project. It teaches them skills and they take a lot of pride in what they’ve done because they’ve accomplished every step of the process. 

It’s interesting, because my work is small-scale now: prior to working at Step One, I only made big paintings, but I don’t currently have enough space. So doing that big work with the kids gives me that full-body movement I also crave.I feel so lucky to combine my love for art with my work in the classroom. It enriches my practice, I learn from it, and I get to share an important part of myself with the kids.