We caught up with Paige Poppe, the artist who painted the delightful murals in the cabins at Parsons Leadership Center, to talk about her art and being a Girl Scout.
GS: Where did you find your inspiration for the murals in the Parsons cabins?
PP: Knowing that Girl Scouts and campers would be opening these doors, being surprised to find art behind them, and enjoying them for years to come really inspired me! I wanted each painting to be unique, colorful, and really spark the imagination of the girls. I kept this in mind for each painting, which helped them become bold and memorable.
Each mural began with ideas from me and from the team at Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council. For some murals the team had a vision for the piece, such as the STEM Activity Center, and for other murals I was inspired by the cabin’s name or the Arizona landscape. Each mural began with a sketch that I created with watercolor and pencil, or with digital drawing on an iPad. After the team reviewed the sketch, I would hear their feedback and adjust the sketches or create a new sketch, so we had clear visual direction for each mural.
Then it was time to start painting! For most of the murals I was able to freehand them, so I would jump right in with my paint and start creating. But some did require a lot of planning in advance, with extensive measuring, leveling, and taping so it would look just right. Since I was painting multiple murals at the same time, I would work on one for a while, and when that one was drying I would pop into another cabin and paint in there. This was great because I was able to see the murals with fresh eyes each time I would come in and see what I needed to add to the piece for balance and composition.
GS: Tell me about the designs you created for the cabins the girls named and funded through the cookie proceeds.
PP: For the desert cabins, I was able to pull from my own artwork and the surrounding South Mountain desert for inspiration. This trio of cabins are named “Sonoran,” “Monsoon,” and “Chuckwalla.” I wanted each cabin to be a desert scene full of flora and fauna, so they would all relate to each other, but also wanted them to stand out. The Monsoon Cabin is inspired by the plants and animals that thrive during monsoon season in the Sonoran Desert. Monsoon season made me think of cool-toned colors, so this became the inspiration for the color palette in greens, blues, and purples, with hints of yellows for contrast. The Sonoran Cabin also incorporates plants and animals that thrive in the Sonoran Desert, but I pulled from my vibrant color palette that appears in most of my personal artwork. For the Chuckwalla Cabin, we wanted to highlight the lizard that the cabin was named after, so I painted a bunch of them basking in the sun in a neutral desert scene full of rich browns, reds, and oranges, with thriving green plant life.
GS: Weren’t you a Girl Scout in this council?
PP: Yes, I was a Girl Scout from about 1999 through 2005. I attended camp at South Mountain in my first year as a Girl Scout, back when it was known as Camp Sombrero! Even though I was only 7- or 8-years-old, I remember it so well as a VERY fun part of my summer. I remember having the realization that the Girl Scout organization was something much larger than my small troop. It gave me an understanding that troops were strong individually, but together were part of something bigger, with so much impact throughout the state and country. Looking back, I also realize how many values I was learning while having fun.
GS: Did Girl Scouts aid in your career development?
PP: In my neighborhood I became known as the Girl Scout, and my neighbors were always super kind with their cookie orders. I would hit the pavement with my parents and grandma and deliver everyone’s orders in a red wagon I pulled around. I think practicing entrepreneurship in the Girl Scouts gave me a sense of pride, ownership, and responsibility from an early age. I enjoyed being known for this! And now in my career as an artist, my business is really rooted in building and maintaining relationships, just like I learned to do back then.
GS: What has been the hardest part about your career?
PP: The hardest part is I’m often doing things for the first time and teach myself most new tasks. But this can be fun too! I like a challenge and it’s exciting to learn new skills.
My academic degree is a Bachelor of Architecture, so I didn’t have all the art and business skills that I use daily now. To overcome these challenges, I remind myself that there is a wealth of information available on the Internet, or from friends who may have already gone through these challenges. Thinking of challenges as something to grow from, rather than stop me, has really helped my perspective when approaching problems.
GS: What advice would you give to current Girl Scouts who want to be artists?
PP: Create art often, have unwavering belief in yourself, and share your artwork as often as possible! When I was younger I dreamed of being an artist, but never knew how it could be a career. That’s why I attended architecture school. It was incredibly valuable and challenging in the best way, but I thought I needed to pursue my creativity through a different career path. I’m so glad I found my way back to art and having design skills from my years in architecture school is very helpful!
My career as an artist has become incredibly fulfilling. Not only do I get to share my art with others, I get to enjoy my local community at events and shops, build relationships, collaborate, and work with wonderful organizations like the Girl Scouts!