The Utah Arts Festival is almost here (June 23-26). I'm sure the art bug has already bitten many of you. But why wait to see some great art? Here is my interview with artist Candace Jean Anderson whose first solo art show, Reflections: A Menagerie of New Work by Candace Jean starts at Blonde Grizzly on Friday night.

You may have seen her affordable, eclectic collection ranging from art cards to picture rings at craft fairs and art shows. She loves the Victorian era and nature, like me, which is probably why I love her work so much!

Please tell the reader a little about yourself:

"I'm Candace. Terribly shy, pocket-sized, Salt Lake born and raised. Seven-and-a-half years into mom-hood and adoring it. I eat too many cookies and use semicolons where they don't belong."

You draw inspiration from children's fairy tales and describe some of your artwork as cutesy. Do you plan to illustrate for children's books? What are your future plans?

"I still fall for fairy tales, and I have heard people describe my art as cutesy, yes. That's part of my goal behind Apricot Ink, a sputtering of random characters I stick on greeting cards. My concentration is given mostly to 'the girls' and other pieces in a similar style that I'm hoping to steer away from the 'aww' factor though. Give them more raw emotion and depth. I'm trying. Can' say that it's really working however, people still 'aww' my work, which I'll take as a compliment.

"As far as children's books go? Deep down, I wish to get picked up by a good publishing house one day. I started making my own 'children's books' in elementary school and to this day have a filing cabinet full of notes and folders, drawings, doodles and narrative that all want to be books when they grow up. It's just a matter of me putting more focus on one story and finishing it rather than skipping about like I do, and then just push it; see what happens."

How would you describe your artwork overall?

"I see a pretty lighthearted consistency in my work. I've got some fascination with realistic detail but toss a stylistic approach on everything. I pick up on the realities of my subject matter and then exaggerate and or simplify it, especially in my illustrated people. It's all a mix of true life stuff and the imagined."

You are self-taught. Do you prefer self-teaching over classroom lecture, and why?

"There is definitely something about rolling up your sleeves, digging in and getting dirty by making your own true experience of art; discovering your style with no influence or guidance. Then again, having an instructor that knows the ropes could open you up to ideas you may never have considered when sorting out technique on your own.

"I grew up in a creative family and was constantly allotted 'art time,' so I basically figured out drawing and painting on my own by just doing it. The highest level of art 'class' I completed was AP Art in high school. I do recall witnessing teacher/student head-butting when it came to execution or what-have-you, because the teacher thought it should be one way while the student figured they should be free to create as they pleased, which is a potential classroom hang-up. I also know of a few art school dropouts that make a fine living on their art, no lectures necessary.

"Honestly I've always wanted to take a formal painting class. I never have. I make this stuff up as I go. I suppose the end product works, but I'm hoping some seasoned instructor could learn me a thing or two."

Do you believe you are born with artistic talent or can it be learned?

"Ooh trick question. Art is subjective. While one person may say an abstract painting is not made with any talent, another person may digest the piece and sincerely marvel at the application of color. I'll go ahead and say genetics are probably greatly involved as I've seen varying degrees of artistic talent and capabilities in my family (and of course others). Nothing stopping a body from putting paint to canvas in their own way, with or without instruction, and believing it is talent though. Expression and opinion of that expression vary person to person."

What mediums do you prefer?

"All of them. Any of it. There are still some I'm aching to try and others I want to be better at. If I had to pick one or die, I'd say whatever could get me smooth color transition without much fuss. Vague much? I get that from my mom. The indecisiveness is my dad. The subject change is solely my fault."

What is it about the Victorian era that captivates you?

"Oh, that whole era is enchanting. Everything was so rich, thick, full. Life then was incredibly hands-on and hand-made. Correspondence, clothing, furniture, everything - all so intricate and refined! I can't get enough of their individual appearance and style. The Victorians had a hunger for discovery and I suppose I relate to that. Incredible things were invented - the telephone, gasoline engines, the phonograph, light bulbs, telegraph systems, etc, and incredible people were making their mark: Edison, Audubon, Dickens, Darwin. The Industrial Revolution! The first World's Fair! Natural History and the study of science were dear and increasingly important to Victorian gentlemen, and I'm partial to those subjects, too. I adore the whole lot."

You say you love flora and fauna. Is nature what inspires you? What inspires you and what about it motivates you to paint/sketch it?

"I think the best way to explain my fascination with the natural world is when I was young, all I wanted was to be IN it. I was happiest when outside, and I still need that. Get a particular something about nature to catch my attention, and I revert to four-year-oldom. 'How does it do that?' Being enveloped by something so colossal (nature as a whole) day-to-day that can be individually broken down into microscopic cells just kills me. And it all functions, knows exactly what to do - growth, metamorphosis, repopulation - and does it perfectly year after year forever.

"The surface things we see as well, like behavior, the infinite textures, perfect patterns and color, make my imagination wild with ideas. It's a rolling, snowball effect on my thoughts and pictures just come out."

How did you get started in art shows?

"I'd been stockpiling art and design magazines for years and swooning over artists that 'made it' the ones that had their art on those pages and in those galleries, and I wished to be there, too. I still do, but I had this dream sometime in 2006 about me making odd little cards and selling them at shops. As I baked cookies the next day for a downtown coffee shop where I worked, I hashed out my dream with my fellow employee and best friend, who told me, 'So do that. Make cards and sell them here, on this counter.' So, I did.

"Each card originally was hand-painted and sat in a little box for sale near the register at that coffee shop. They did surprisingly well, which made me think to package some up, strap my son in his stroller, and walk some cards over to the Women's Art Center. I talked to the curator about selling them on consignment. She wholeheartedly welcomed the idea. That sparked a dormant drive in me to make art again and led to my discovering local craft markets and landing new invitations/opportunities."

Are there any other shows/events planned in the future for your artwork?

"Yes! Please plan on hangin' with me at Cathedral Tattoo in downtown SLC for my 'Teeny Tiny Royalty Show' in November of this year. I've also applied for some local art/handmade markets, and hope to announce acceptance to those soon. Beyond that, there are murmurings, and I've got my own big dreams I'm trying to make happen over here. Stay tuned!"

The reception will be Friday, June 17 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m at Blonde Grizzly Gallery, 15 E. 400 South, SLC. The show runs from April 17 to July 8. Click here for more info.