The Spotlight – Featured Artist Series – Artist Stories and Artwork

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Rick Inman thank you for sharing your story and work with us, while allowing us to share with our readers.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Rick Inman a photographer from Central Illinois.

My goal is to share the moment in time when I release the shutter with the audience.  I hope the photographs evoke a memory, a feeling, a story for the viewers.  When this happens we share a small part of what makes art special.

I have recently restarted taking photographs.  Close Up/Macro and Nature photography are where I get the most happiness when shooting.  Most of my portfolio is made up of shots from right here in Central Illinois.  The horticulture garden at ICC, Starved Rock, and the Rock Island trail are just a few of the local areas that offer great opportunities for photography.  A future goal is to be able to take other photographers to some of the areas I visit regularly and share my knowledge of the venues with them.

Ultimately, we want the viewer to connect emotionally with what they are seeing, like we did when creating our art.  Please enjoy the images, they are a few of my favorites

Rick Inman Contact Information





Chelsie Tamms thank you for sharing your story and work with us, while allowing us to share with our readers. You are an inspiration!

Chelsie Tamms lettering artist, designer and owner of Lettering Works based out of Chicago.

Artist Biography:

Chelsie Tamms is a lettering artist and designer based out of Chicago. She is the owner of Lettering Works, a branding studio that connects businesses to their audience through creativity and strategy. With over 10 years of practice of lettering and design, Chelsie is passionate about craft and intention. 

Contact information:

All photos by Violet and Ivy Photography • Coloring Pages from 20 Days of Coloring • Plant Sticker Collection • Chicago Style Stickers • Art Print • Business Card Design • Peoria Postcards • 100 Days of Peoria Book

Kristina Bohan thank you for sharing your story, incredible artwork and for allowing us to publish all you have shared.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Kristina Bohan an artist from Central Illinois.

As an artist Kristina Bohan  tries to pack as much color as she can into each creation, trying to avoid the use of black or white. Kristina tries to pick animals that would make people happy entertain them, or envoke some other type of emotion. Kristina  likes to paint on nontraditional canvases  like antique ceiling tile, licences plates, hub caps, street signs and other recycled materials she can find. “I love recycling  something  that was just going to sit and waste away; bring it back into the light and make it beautiful  again”. 
Kristina Bohan  like to highlight the stone while using wiring wrapping it self to help calm her inner thoughts and anxieties. Kristina  uses her wire wrapping as a kind of brainstorming  for her other art. She often starts her studio time with a wire wrap to get the anxieties  of the day away and the creative juices flowing. 
Instagram: naturesdoorkreations Facebook: @kahartist Etsy: naturesdoorkreations3097125421


The Happy Mileur’s would like to take the spotlight for January 2020, to thank all the talented, contributing Artists of 2019 and to welcome the incoming talented, contributing Artists of 2020!

You bring the heart and soul to this site and you are the reason it was created.
Thank you for sharing your stories and your work with us.

Cheers! To a very prosperous, productive, and creative New Year!!

Splash of colors with text Happy 2020 image by Tracey McAllister

Tracey McAllister

Tracey McAllister thank you for sharing your story, incredible artwork and for allowing us to publish all you have shared.

Tracey McAllister

Our Spotlight this month turns to Tracey McAllister a Creative from New York, NY.

Get to know a little more about me.
Watch my video!

Video by Tracey McAllister

Tracey McAllister’s Story – In Her Own Words

I am a Native New Yorker currently living in Central Illinois. I remember my very first night in Peoria, IL. It was September 5, 2014. It was First Friday, but I didn’t know that. I thought all that excitement, on Main Street, was just for me. I have been in love with Peoria, IL ever since.

I call myself a “Creative”, and that’s only if someone asks. I involve myself in all aspects of creating. I write, create music, shoot photography, and create art, to name a few. I just go in and have fun creating, no rhyme nor reason, and If I or someone else likes what comes out of my process, that’s just the cherry on top!

I currently travel across the United States working as a UX/UI Front End Web Developer. I can spend a couple of months to a few years with one assignment. One of the first things I do, when arriving in a new city, is to look for the local art community. Being new to a city is tough sometimes. Creating and being around people to eat, think, and breathe the arts, has become my go-to for alleviating stress, anxiety, and loneliness.

Wanna contact Tracey McAllister? Drop a line via Email or Stop by her website

Jessica Ball

Jessica Ball thank you for sharing your story, incredible artwork and for allowing us to publish all you have shared.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Jessica Ball an artist from Central Illinois.

Jessica Ball is a local Central Illinois artist. She has taught a wide variety of art classes and curated over forty art exhibits in her five years as owner of The Art Garage Studio and Gallery, Peoria Illinois. Now Jessica is an active member of local art organizations and shows her work in area exhibits. 

“In my most recent paintings you will see that I play with layers of color and texture. By embracing the relevance of the spontaneous and impulsive in art, I am able to express more deeply my personal experiences and emotions.”

Contact: Jessica Ball Art

Jessica’s work will be featured in the following exhibits this November with Citywide Celebration of Women in the Arts.

Under Over and Above

A Three Woman Show: 

Bingham, Coates, and Ball

Studios On Sheridan

929 N. Sheridan Rd. Peoria IL 61606

Opening Reception 

November 1, 5-9pm

Show runs through Nov. 30

CIAO Womens’ Exhibit

Peoria Public Library Main Branch

107 NE Monroe, Lower Level

Opening Reception

Nov. 2, 3:00pm-5:00pm

Viewing hours 

Monday – Saturday


Joshua Hawkins

Joshua Hawkins thank you for sharing your story, incredible artwork and for allowing us to publish all you have shared.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Joshua Hawkins a Painter from Illinois.

Joshua Hawkins Story – In His Own Words

At a young age I was always influenced by the passion my family shared through art. Growing up I was always drawn toward more fantasy elements and just odd things. My imagination could just branch off. As of a few years ago, I decided to really dive into the art scene through inspiration of local artists and First Friday events. I started off painting in oils and switched to acrylics because I liked the faster drying time. I enjoy painting twisted imagery and letting the people decide what it means to me and them. I do get a kick out of that. My art has been described as pleasantly disturbed. Through my artwork I hope that I can comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

Trish Williams

Trish Williams thank you for sharing your story, beautiful artwork and for allowing us to publish all you have shared.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Trish Williams a Fiber Artist from Illinois.

Trish Williams – Bio – In Her Own Words

I am an Illinois fiber artist/quilter who was born and educated in the city of Chicago.  I began exploring fiber arts for the walls approximately 25 years ago although I have sewn all my life.  I began my love affair with the cloth at age of 5 at the knees of my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. I have exhibited both nationally and internationally.  My works has been commissioned both publicly and privately and can be seen in numerous publications.

Contact Information for Trish:

Suzette Boulais

Suzette Boulais thank you for sharing your story, your fantastic work and for allowing us to publish all you have shared.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Suzette Boulais, a painter from Illinois, that specializes in abstract.

Take Five Q & A with Suzette Boulais
.What’s your background in art?

   I don’t have any formal background in art. I didn’t study it in high school or college and so am a bit of a late bloomer. I was raised in a household with two very artistic brothers, however, one who received a scholarship to attend Indianapolis’ Herron School of Art and so I have been surrounded by art for much of my life. I was well into my 40s when I decided to experiment with art and pursue it on my own. Right from the start, with my very first painting, (which I still keep for sentimental purposes) I could see my style was leaning toward the contemporary and abstract and so have followed this path ever since.

2. What does your art aim to say?

   My art aims to communicate universal, abstract concepts like peace, hope and serenity, and by doing so, offer a sense of calm to the viewer. My paintings are often abstract landscapes that use light to reflect hope, as light for me is always a spiritual, not just physical dimension of my work. With a strong interest in graphic design and a love of symbolism, my paintings are in many ways symbolic graphic designs set to color and paint. When I paint a circle, for example, I’m using it as a symbol to represent the unity of life. The sun and moon are symbols for the light of God. Birds in my paintings reflect the spiritual journey throughout our lives and water reflects the symbolic, unconscious life force.

3. Who is your biggest art influence?

   My biggest influence to date is abstract expressionist Mark Rothko. I find his work with basic color schemes simple, yet sublime. On my best days when I feel my own colors and shapes are working together in harmonious ways, I hope my paintings express a small element of the sublime, too.

4. How have you developed your career?

   I can’t say that I have developed a career in art. What I have developed is an avocation in art. Creating art is my joy, my passion, my therapy, my prayer, my meditation, my contemplation, my connection to Source and my soulful expression. Creating art for me coincides perfectly with the Joseph Campbell quote, “Follow your bliss.” It’s my joy and my bliss to enter the quiet and private sanctuary of my art room and see how each and every piece of art takes on a creative life all its own.

5. How do you seek out opportunities?

   As a member of CIAO (Central Illinois Artist Organization) I like being aware of various opportunities to show my work along with the works of fellow CIAO artists. I have also found that promoting my art on Facebook and using my art as a backdrop to my Facebook Thoughts That Soar series where I put quotes to art, is a great way showcase some of my work. Facebook has also come in handy when making community connections when I do callouts to businesses or organizations to see if they might be interested in showing my work at their facilities. After a recent public callout I made on Facebook about some of larger pieces that were available for display, for instance, I received word from Methodist College that they would like to hang these pieces in the waiting room areas at their main campus. I was thrilled about this opportunity because it is gives the College an opportunity to support local artists by displaying our work. And we artists have an opportunity to show our art in a public setting where someone can see it and make a possible purchase. And what artist doesn’t appreciate an art purchase? I certainly do. I’ve yet to get over the thrill when someone likes one of my paintings enough to buy it. 
   And finally, while speaking of opportunities, I’m delighted that my two friends and art colleagues, Rebecca Draland-Doyle and Jaci Willis and I will have an opportunity to present a combined art exhibit at Studios on Sheridan that opens on the First Friday of August 2020. It’s follow-up to a combined exhibit we held there several years ago and so we are over the moon about coming back to Studios on Sheridan again!

Duffy Armstrong Farrell thank you for sharing your story, beautiful artwork and for allowing us to publish all you have shared.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Duffy Armstrong a multi media artist from Illinois.

Duffy’s Story – In Her Own Words

Drawing Photography Printing Painting

I grew up in the Chicago area. Music was my first “love.” I played piano and studied classical music for five years through the Sherwood School of Music until I was 12 and discovered I was unable to perform in front of a large audience. My focus shifted to visual art. I received a BFA from Bradley University, focusing on drawing, printmaking and photography. Minor White, while a visiting artist at Bradley, critiqued my first two-person show. To this day his encouragement and inspiration influence me. Others who have significantly and personally guided my art are Kim Mosley, Dow Mitchell, Nita Sunderland, Art Sinsabaugh, Luther Smith and Francois Deschamps. It’s only now, in these later years, that I have returned to making art. My daughter is grown and successful. My professions – museum education, gallery directing, corporate sales, financial advisement, marketing, public relations and fundraising – no longer consume my time. My work? Query what you see. Think. Talk. Have fun. Learn. I like landscapes, the figure and abstract or intuitive images. That said, I make human marks that can be interpreted anyway you like.


Duffy Armstrong Farrell Art, LLC/ Member of CIAO/ Studio at Contemporary Art Center of Peoria/ Exhibit A Gallery, Peoria Heights, Illinois

Here’s “Self Portrait” that I did the other night for fun.  My paternal grandfather used to hold the record for the largest Northern Pike. He taught us to fish.

Self Portrait

Our Spotlight this month turns to Julie Towe a multi media artist from Iowa and my Auntie.

Julie Towe’s Story – In Her Words

Julie enjoys many genres of art including crochet, wood burning, flower arranging and painting. She and I speak often, critique each other’s work and share creative brainstorming. We are trilled to share her story and several of her works of art with all of you.

Creating and crafting is a way to relax and unwind for me. Sometimes I start with an idea and other times I let whatever I’m working on create itself as I go along. Of course, there’s a lot of undoing, rearranging and fluffing. But that’s what makes it fun.

I learned crochet from my sister. My mother, bless her, tried to teach me but I couldn’t learn sitting next to her. We were both right handers. My sister is a lefty and it was easier to sit across from her and follow along.

Once I had children of my own I picked it up again and made them hats for winter and “spirit wigs” for home games during school days.

Then my grand babies came along and I’ve been going strong with hats, mittens, dolls, blankets and scarves.

I’ve done several craft shows over the years, but I mostly make coffee sleeve cozies for a shop near me. They saw my daughter’s coffee cozy and it’s been a partnership ever since. Four years now! My daughters and their friends are some of my best customers.

My best friend and neighbor also create wreaths, wood signs and wood ornaments to sell. We have a blast laughing, talking and creating. We love re-purposing old used items into beautiful treasures.

Julie Towe

Me&T CraftNanas

Tom’s Story – Thank you to Thomas Pries for giving us consent to publish his story.

Our Spotlight this month turns to Thomas Pries. He is a jeweler and a painter.

Thomas Pries Story – In His Words

My first inspiration is Mother Nature & her constantly changing display of color, texture, & abstract composition. I once lived in an apartment that had a very large rectangular frame around the sky. This frame was created by two walls and an outdoor ceiling (so to speak) that covered the adjoining back stairwells of three apartments. When sitting under this high ceiling of sorts, the sky looked like a huge framed painting that was “ever changing, never repeating, yet always balanced, Abstract Painting.” It was fascinating to study God’s daily brush strokes that evolved & changed by the minute or even by the second. And as I said, each frame, although it was often moving/changing in the blink of the eye was just as balanced, beautiful, intriguing as the next whether it had one perfectly placed cloud that quietly moved into another perfect position, or a beyond dramatic array of clouds & light that again moved constantly into an endless number of beautiful compositions. It was this “Frame” that taught me, or rather helped me understand composition in a new or greater way. The frame did as it’s named suggested, it framed a small piece of the sky’s action & allowed me to watch what Mother Nature was illustrating in a more understandable confined space. I miss this “Frame.”

Thomas received his Bachelor’s Degree at Illinois State University, where he credits professors Naomi W. Towner, Ed Neimi, and Joel Myers (to name just a few) as great influences and inspirations in his lifetime pursuit of art development. In Chicago, the Robert Daskal Co. employed Thomas as Art Director/Production Manager. Robert Daskal sold hand painted silk ties and scarves nation wide to Norstroms, Marshall Fields, and countless boutiques.

Painting on silk is considered one of Thomas’s greatest joys, lessons, and expressions of design, line, and color. Co-designing a hand painted silk evening dress with world renowned photographer Victor Skrebneski is considered by Thomas as a highlight of his career. Thomas also now works with sterling silver, crystals, and semi-precious stones to create jewelry.

Please see The Spotlight Gallery for unique and original works created by Thomas Pries. If you are interested in purchasing a piece of Thomas Pries artwork he can be contacted on Facebook or by email: & his blog is

Our Spotlight this month turns to Heather Mileur. She is a multi-media artist.

Heather’s Story – In Her Words

I developed my love of fiber and crochet sitting at my Grandma’s feet. She would crochet granny squares to create afghans for her grandchildren and to me it was magical to watch her begin with this strand of yarn and create this beautiful block. She taught me the basics with a “G” hook and her scraps of yarn. I would sit on the floor in front of her and mimic her stitches. Over time i was able to crochet on my own, but I loved sitting with her and crocheting together.

My Grandma also taught me about beads and buttons. Weekends were spent at Grandma’s with my parents, my sister, Mom’s siblings and their children. It was magical to be there with everyone. Grandma had this butter bowl full of beads and buttons. The favorite of the beads sparkled with fine glitter and had island scenes. My cousins and I would sit on the floor and string the buttons and beads to make jewelry. The rule was we had to share and we could not make a permanent piece. We carefully created our pieces and when play was over we took apart our jewelry and placed everything back into the bowl. Each time we created we made something new and different.

My Aunt Julie taught me cross stitch and embroidery. I spent summer time with her and we created for hours a day. She also taught me to sew by hand. If we were not working on cross stitch or embroidery we crocheted. We still crochet together on weekends spent at her home. Aunt Julie and I also brainstorm on ideas and send pictures of current work for critiques. She and I have sent “girl weekends” creating and sharing time and taken vacation together.

Mom introduced me to calligraphy and gifted me my first quill, ink and parchment. I loved it so much I used all the parchment within two weeks time. The book she gave me showed how to hold the quill and to write several different types of font. Mom’s handwriting was beautiful and artistic. I enjoyed watching her write and listening to the stories she wrote as a hobby.

A few years ago I was given the opportunity to learn sculpting from Preston Jackson. He had offered a class in sculpting so I messaged and was accepted to come and sit in on the meeting before classes began. I met Nikole and Eric Cooney at this class. The couple had decided not to participate and I was invited to be in the 12 week course. We learned how to create a low to mid rise relief with water based clay, a four foot figure sculpture and a mask. It was challenging, interesting and a great learning experience. I still sculpt to this day, I enjoy the feel of the clay and fresh clay on a board with infinite possibilities.

Jewelry became an interest of mine around eight years ago. I wanted to use wire and glass beads. My hands worked the way they did years before when my cousins and I strung beads and buttons on thread. It was relaxing and enjoyable. The skill is self taught and I have purchased a few books to help this skill set grow. My favorite is still bracelets and I love crystals and beads with sparkle.

I also dabble in photography and truly enjoy taking road trips with my husband to take pictures. We enjoy stopping along the way when we see points of interest and capturing the moments on our cameras. Many times I create sculptures from photos I have taken.

My creations are generally based on memory or memories. For instance, I may create a bracelet with many strands of beads that remind me of creations made with my cousins. In clay I create moments with my children and grandchildren, other times things we have talked about I put into the clay. Fiber art is my own patterns, I do not always know how it will turn out I am only creating what I feel at the time. I guess you could say it is about my emotions at that time.

Our Spotlight this months turns to Kevin Mileur a Photographer from Central Illinois

Kevin’s Story- In His Words

I got my love of photography from my mother, Louise Mileur, who always had her camera to record our lives growing up and our adventures. During my time in the Marine Corps, I rekindled my love of photography by buying my 1st 35 mm camera. I learned thru trial an error and lots of money, buying film and having them processed to find out how to take pictures. I never had any formal training for photography. Once I arrived in Hawaii I bought my 1st Canon 35 mm film camera, and a couple of different lenses and filters. I spent the next few years learning more about how to take pictures that I found interesting. My taste in photography ranges a wide variety of interest, I take pictures of what catches my eye, it might be wildlife, nature, people or things.

My belief is that God creates the picture, I just take them. I do not do any Photoshop on my work, I don’t believe I can improve on what God has given the eyes to see.

After leaving the service, I entered the work force again at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, then the Murphysboro Police Department where I did a lot of photography of crime and accident scenes. Not the prettiest scenes to see but learned to view where even the smallest details were important. After several years working in police work, I changed careers to work at United States Penitentiary Marion Illinois, where again I used my skills to photograph crimes scenes. After spending my adult life seeing the ugly side of life I knew I have to change. I bought my 1st digital Canon camera and set out to see something besides the ugly side of life. I retired in 2012 and set out to find beauty and peace. I found that exploring nature with my camera, showed the beauty around us everyday. I could take pictures of things we all take for granted. I took a picture at my brothers home and when my sister-in-law saw it she exclaimed how beautiful it was and asked where did I find such a picture. When i told her it was at the end of her driveway and she drove by it several times a day, I realized how much beauty we all miss in our everyday lives. I tried showing the world the beauty I find with my camera, wither it’s a bird on wing, a sunrise or sunset, a bug on the ground or a leaf on a tree, there is beauty to fill the soul. I enjoy going to events and photographing the people while they experience life. I am not much on posed pictures, but want to capture real life.

I love sharing my work to the world, hoping that others can find joy, hope, peace thru the pictures I take, to see the worlds true beauty that I see everyday now.

Kevin out on a photo shoot in Lacon, Illinois
December 2018 – Kevin posing with two of his beautiful pieces while on exhibit at Studios on Sheridan in Peoria, Illinois