Fashion has always served as a space of experimentation for artist Courtney Neumann, who goes under the artist name Flow and Root. When exploring styles, Neumann gains a deeper sense of self as she discovers what patterns, textures and looks truly feel like her. An inner dialogue — one she has had since she was a teen — asking, “why am I making this?” continues to pop up throughout her creative process, ensuring that she continues to make art with meaning rather than following a trend.
Flow and Root offers prints, cards, sneakers and even an illustration collection titled “#CyclicalBeingSeries” which honors four elements —air, fire, water and earth— and the goddesses that individuals can find in them. Neumann’s work has allowed her to discover who she is, learn how to heal, and understand the duality that lives within her.
303 Magazine: Tell me about your journey with art and its relation to fashion. Did you always have a passion for either growing up?
Courtney Neumann: I was very artistic as a little girl, and I always loved to doodle abstract shapes in my notebook. I was the kid in class, sitting in the back row, doodling and getting lost in my own imagination. I lost my creative curiosity for a while as I got older and rediscovered my love for art about two years ago as a way to soothe anxiety.
Fashion has always served as a space of experimentation for me. As I explore styles, I gain a deeper sense of self when I discover what patterns, textures and look truly feel like me. Especially as a teen, I had to ask myself “am I wearing this to fit in, or do I actually like this?” This inner dialogue shows up in my relationship with my art; I have to ask myself “why am I making this?” And make sure I’m creating art with meaning, not following a trend.
303: Describe Flow and Root and its style for those who don’t know.
CN: Flow and Root is my artist name; I’m a self-taught illustrator and fine artist. My art is playful, empowering, and radiates with metallic details. My artwork typically includes bright pops of color with tiny black lines and detailing, and always, gold detailing. You can find my art in public spaces (my first large-scale mural is in Rino,) on t-shirts, sneakers, stickers and scattered throughout local shops.
303: What interests you most about art and design?
CN: I’ve found who I am and who I want to be in this world through art and design. It’s wild how much truth shows up as colors, textures and shapes manifest from my inner world out onto my canvas. I’ve discovered my deepest shadows and my brightest light. As a viewer and maker of art, I am mesmerized by the impact a visual can make on a human being’s perception of the world. It’s like in one second, you see artwork, and all of a sudden your reality is completely turned upside down. It’s magical.
303: Why was it important for you to have an art or design-based career? What does art mean to you?
CN: Much of my body of work is derived from the natural duality within the human experience. Like, the desire to belong and a desire to be individually unique. And, feeling all the feels: joy, the depression, the grief, the hope, the beauty, the pain. Through my art, I’ve awakened the sense of duality that lives within me, and in my awakening, I’ve experienced so much healing. Creating art started as, and continues to be, the most important facet of my healing journey. I wouldn’t be here without it!
303: You mentioned you’ve done custom apparel designs and have been thinking of getting back into tees. Tell me a bit more about that.
CN: I collaborated with a local yoga studio, Big Power Yoga, to create custom apparel that the community loved. It was the first art project where I was like, okay, I can do this artist thing! It will always be a really special project to me. Laura, the owner of BPY, and I have collaborated on multiple projects since, including two murals and another round of custom apparel.
And, I’m launching my own colorful apparel line, to include tees, masks, and cozy merch for fall, which I am so excited to release! I’m a tee, jeans, and sneakers kind of girl so getting to design someone’s favorite shirt means a lot!
303: Tell me more about the Cyclical Being Series and Personalized Goddess Portraits.
CN: Both offerings are designed to empower women to love and honor all parts of her. Women commission me to do ‘Personalized Goddess Portraits’ which are custom stylized portraits that glow with metallics and energy from the elements.
My Cyclical Being Series is inspired by the natural cycles women move through physically, emotionally, energetically. Each design aligns with an element (air, fire, water, earth), and the full collection is designed to empower women to honor and celebrate the darkest parts of her. This collection manifested from a desire to understand my body at a deeper, more spiritual level.
303: Would you say that your artwork tends to represent a lot of our own style? If so, how so?
CN: Pops of color. With a side of black and gold details. This very much describes both my art and my style. It was pointed out to me recently that all the women I paint are accessorized with gold earrings, like the ones I wear. I suppose that detail is a way for me to show through each of the Goddesses I paint!
303: Tell me something you discovered about art or the creative industry that you didn’t know before owning your own business.
CN: Anything is possible when you get out of your own way! Earlier this year I made a commitment to release limiting beliefs about my career and my art. And since then, I’ve taken on bigger projects than I ever thought possible — like my 600-square-foot mural. And, I have made more connections through my art than I could’ve ever imagined. It’s a beautiful space I’m in, and I feel grateful for all the incredible people in the artist community I’ve met along the way.
303: What have you found to be the biggest challenge of being in this industry?
CN: Vulnerability. It sometimes feels like I’ve made the choice to be in the most vulnerable line of work, well, ever. My art is filled with messages on mental health, authentic-living, and shadow selves, and when I share it with the world, I’m letting the world see all of me. There is no hiding.
I will say, though, I feel like vulnerability is where I belong. I’ve been complimented on my willingness to be vulnerable, and in turn, I’ve seen customers and friends step into their vulnerability too. I feel honored to be a role model for anyone that is ready to show as themselves.
303: What do you hope for the future of Flow and Root?
CN: I hope for a future of abundance, connection, and impact. I see a future with more public art, gallery shows, collaborations, large-scale paintings, sneakers and tees. I aspire to get my art into the lives of as many humans as possible!
All photography provided by Peter Kowalchuk, Chase Neff and Lila Rivas Toman