An Interview with Artist Terry Sitz


Terry Sitz is a fellow forum user who also incorporates text into her vibrant yoga-inspired, collage-based work. Getting to know about her work has been like a breath of fresh air and makes me miss the little tastes of yoga I've enjoyed in the past. And learning about why she creates, and the open, earnest way in which she talks about making art, really resonates with me.

Q: Do you make art intuitively, with a hardcore plan, or somewhere in between? 

One of the things I enjoy most about making art is that it is a VERY unconscious journey for me and I learn a lot about myself in the process.  It is very freeing and empowering at the same time.  When I trust my unconscious, I do some of my best art.  So, I start with a rough idea of what I want to create--maybe a sketch, or a poem or struggle that is stuck in my head.  I will often do some very loose sketches…and then ideas come to me when I am not focused on the art-- in a dream, or when I am walking my dogs. Sometimes during a yoga class, I'll be gazing at the ceiling between postures and I start imagining colors that I will use in my work--it's all very fluid.

One of my most recent creations, "Emerging Spirit," started out as me interpreting a poem that touched my heart, but when I sat down to draw--I was very resistant in actually drawing in relation to the poem.  Instead, I began a spontaneous drawing and  I wasn't sure what it was about.   A few days later, I was talking to my husband about the artwork and suddenly,  I burst out crying.  What a surprise.  As I talked, I realized I was drawing about a very painful and yet important struggle of how to mother when your children are young adults…This understanding that my unconscious offered through my art was huge.  The energy flowed and I was alive in the artwork.  It emerged so freely. So in this very detailed answer…my work is completely an unconscious and self explorative process and out of that experience is growth and a wonderful sense of exhilaration.  I feel full when I finish a piece.

Q: What's the one thing you'd like people who aren't familiar with you/your work to know about you? 

When you look at my art, you see me… at my most primal level.   I grew up in a family where secrets were a way of life.  Only recently have I freed myself from those constraints and when I did, art has just danced out of my soul and with it: bold colors, strong people (mostly women at this point), lots of vulnerability.   My art is a window (opened wide) into where I am at the exact moment of each creation.  Sometimes it's the joy of doing yoga, sometimes it's synchronicity, sometimes it's my husband's voice gently guiding me through a tough moment.  And often there is a bit of poetry (these days Rumi) that resonates with my work. 

In the past, I would try to create work that others would like, want to hang on the wall, approve of, etc.  My work was very flat and there was little energy in it.  And then at some point, I just decided to drop the veil and put myself out.  It wasn't the most natural thing for me--but now that I have gone down that path, it is tremendously freeing and it isn't just about my way of creating art, but a way that I am choosing to live.   I am trying to be very present in my life.  Being present has made a huge difference in my art and life.  And it is such a challenge.

Q: Who is your biggest influence and why?  

From a purely artistic standpoint,  I  admire anyone who puts themselves out there--artist, musician, dancer, actor…but as artists, I have always admired Matisse, Picasso and Modigliani.  I like how they broke the rules in ways that were so much against the grain of what was acceptable for their generation. And they all shared the joy in reinterpreting the female form.   I could see  myself as one of les Fauves--if women could have been.   

That said,  when I think of people who have had an influence, I would say my father had a huge influence--he was an engineer who constantly corrected my work to the point that I could not get his negative voice out of my head.   The result:  my art was stiff.  It took decades, but I was able to quiet that negative voice.  And while it's not the journey that I think I would have asked for, having started from that place required me to hear my own very strong voice and become fiercely comfortable with it.  Had he not pushed me so negatively, I think the strength that I now express in my work may have been missing.  I had to find the push back--balancing the strength and yet maintaining my softness.

Q: Yoga is reflected in your work. What role has that played in your art?

I started practicing yoga three years ago as a huge skeptic.  I thought it would improve my spine strength and flexibility.  The biggest surprise is that it really got in my head.  I became a much a more flexible and present person.  I started taking bigger risks in my life and it flowed into my art.  

There is power in learning  to let go of anxiety and to focus on what is starring back at you.  For me that lesson was born in the yoga studio.  When I began to do that, I was able to feel things in a deeper and richer way.  I began noticing the the small pleasures and beauty that surrounded me.  Since I have brought that mindfulness into my life, it has helped me be a more joyful person.  That's reflected hugely in my art.  Some of my work has been born from the joy I felt after practicing, some of the work depicts postures from yoga and some of it is just more free because I am more free. I am convinced that yoga can bring that kind of fullness and creativity to everyone, if they are willing to try--and they can bring it to their writing, their accounting, their parenting, their relationships…it sounds like I drank the Kool-aid, but when your find a very simple source for joy, you want to share it.

Q: What challenges does the DC area present for local artists? 

I have to admit, I am a total newbie to the DC art scene. I have been a closet artist for decades--friends encouraging me to put myself out, but  I stayed hidden.  So it's only this year that I have gone all in. My daughter, who is an aspiring film maker, talked me into doing Artomatic with her and I feel like the Dick Van Dyke episode where Laura opens the inflatable raft--once it's out of the box, it's out of the box.  I jumped in with both feet.  Artomatic was a wonderful experience--from there I was invited to do a solo reception at Bikram Yoga Bethesda.  The owner, John and I, jumped into putting together a really tight show and we had a turnout of more than 150 who stayed most of the night.  I had produced archival pigment prints with Old Town Editions--outstanding printmakers--and had a really great response and also included some of my blog writings in the show.

So long answer to say, I don't know enough to really speak about the local art scene, except to say that you must have lots of energy and a good plan to get yourself out to the greater community.  There are so many talented artists in DC and my challenge now is gaining a foothold/finding the right venues for my work.  I have a marketing background so I understand some of what is required, but there the art world still has it's mysteries for me.  

I would like the opportunity to meet more artists.  Art can be such a solitary existence and those connections are important and I need to find the places to do that and make the time.  

Q: A lot of artists have that one piece in their studio that they would never ever sell. Tell us about yours.

My favorite, nfs piece is Surrender (above).  I have it hanging in my sunroom near my dining table and visible from my kitchen.  It's the piece of a woman lounging nude, but snuggled under a blanket, starring outward.  Kind of exposed, yet hidden (sound familiar?). She looks straight at me--through me--and has a look on her face that is both vulnerable and confident.  The word "surrender" scrolls down her back.  When I look at her, I feel peace--and it reminds me to let go of the angst that I can grind through during my day… I feel that every time I look at her.  I created prints of the piece and I have heard the same feedback from several of the people that purchased it.  So, Surrender will stay with me.
Thank you, Terry, for sharing insights into your process and for making art that radiates beauty and energy! Visit to see more pieces (including my favorite, Restless Spirit). I have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving holiday, and it's connecting with artists like Terry that make my own artistic journey fulfilling.