A few months ago, I went to a Connecting Cool event in Georgetown with a few friends that changed my life. A random Sunday excursion into the city allowed to me to cross paths with one of Scolla's old friends. Diligently working on her live painting, she was gracious enough to stop and take time to greet us and make us feel welcome in what seemed to be a crowded corridor. A casual meeting that I normally wouldn't really think too deeply about. I went on about my business and proceeded to send emails to those who impressed me or I wanted to connect with and write about. As we began to correspond back and forth, it was at this point that I realized I was on to something. How does an artist of this caliber slip past everyone and never get written about? Anyways, as we began to chat to organize the elements of this interview, the stories she told me began to inspire and uplift me personally. I don't think I've ever talked that candidly to one of my "creative" peers except maybe my business partners and she was willing to listen to it all. As her story unfolded in our conversation, I realized rather quickly that this was a story that absolutely had to be told and especially to the women because I'm sure they would find the same inspirational elements in her that I did. I could go on further, but then this interview wouldn't serve its purpose. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Rebekkah Williamson better known as Sweetz.
How Did You Start Painting?
2014 was a really hard year for me. I walked away from an abusive relationship and struggled to raise my son all alone. I was also in the middle of a lawsuit so I couldn't really speak to anyone about what was going on, making it even harder to get through it. I was in a really really dark place and needed an outlet. It was either do something creative, or probably become addicted to drugs and or alcohol. But I actually was so broke I didn't have money for painting supplies, I barely had money to feed myself some days. I made a gofundme and used the little bit of money I raised to buy like paint in just the primary colors and the cheapest brushes and just started painting. I was never planning on selling anything but I got lucky and sold my first painting for $100 the day I posted it to instagram. I turned around and used that money to buy more paint and supplies.
So getting paid for your craft now is like an added bonus now huh, because of the honest place that it started from?
It's a blessing that I can do something I love, that brings me peace and make money from it. But that was never the goal. At one point, I got off track and the money was coming in fast so I was taking commission after commission & started losing myself, my creativity, to the money. I no longer take commissions that don't inspire me, no matter how much money it is. I prefer to stay true to myself and my original purpose, to find peace.
I hear you went to art school, but did not want to paint, what were you interested in back then?
I actually wanted to be a fashion designer from the age of 4 until about high school. In high school, I bounced around in different career goals but they all were something artistic. I graduated high school a year early, and ended up getting pregnant. Being a teen mom, I was told constantly that being an artist [of any sort] wouldn't pay the bills. So I let go of those dreams.
Would you say your success with your work came quickly or it was a steady buildup over time? What are you doing to sustain it?
Definitely quickly, I started painting in October of 2014. I don't like to brag at all and try to remain humble but some of the accomplishments i have made this past year, most artist don't achieve for YEARS. I'm extremely blessed to have this much success so far and never did I think I would have my artwork hanging in homes across the country already. I'm constantly creating, from the hours of 10 pm after my son is sleep until 3 am when my eyes can't stay open anymore.
Recently you've worked with Matt Talley of Connecting Cool and collaborated with Trillectro for SAD (Single Awareness Day) Mix cover art, how did these wonderful opportunities come about?
You ever heard the saying "work so hard they can't ignore you"? That's what I do. I try to consistently post work on Instagram, so frequently it annoys people. So no surprise here but instagram blessed me with both of these opportunities. Someone tagged me in a post Matt had posted looking for an artist for a Connecting Cool event, I emailed him some of my work and it was only up from there. As far as working with Trillectro, man I still don't even know how Modi found me or why he picked me out of the tons of amazing artists he knows. But I am so thankful. I remember leaving the nail salon and getting an email notification. The email started with "My name is Modi and I'm a fan of your artwork", yo I almost cried. Like seriously. Because I knew who Modi was way before he knew who I was. It's a blessing to have your idols become your peers.
Talk about your relationship with The Cove, it's been really beautiful watching that relationship develop. How did that come to be and how did you know they were the right folks to work with.
Well, The Cove was actually a pop-up shop for the clothing line "Marijuana and Bullshit". To be honest I don't really know what exactly made me click so hard with them. But I trust the universe and I think like attracts like. I went from not knowing the owners of M&B at all before my exhibit, to talking to these guys pretty much everyday. I try to surround myself with people who inspire me. People who motivate me. People who have common goals, even if the aesthetic is different. The team knew nothing about me, but believed in me and supported me from day one. Whether it was opening the doors of the cove for me to paint while I was homeless, listening to me complain about fuckboys in my life, helping me refocus and learn to manage my money, or actually buying many pieces of my art, they showed nothing but love to me. For that, I have nothing but love for them. They really are great guys, and I think a lot of people don't realize how much they did in such little time. From hosting two art galleries, three different concerts for local artist, and being the printing shop for a few local brands (I'm probably not supposed to tell you that). The Cove became a space for creatives to connect. It was also a home to some of us. Being homeless is no joke, and some of us go so hard for our dreams that we risk it all. It's a bittersweet feeling to say bye to the cove, because I personally have a lot of memories there and its where great friendships were formed. But I can tell you that this was just the beginning for those guys and its only up from here!
This is really random, but how old are you?
Just an observation, but you seem to have a lot of "life experience" for such a young age.
Yeah, most people are shocked to hear that I'm only 21. I've been told my maturity and ambition makes people think I'm way older. I don't really party (unless its a business move) or do the things 21 year olds do, I'm focused on being the best mother and woman possible.
You definitely never hide the fact you were a young mother, and that's a beautiful thing.
Thank you. You're right, I've never hid it. Ever. My son is my greatest blessing. A lot of people say you can't do this or do that because you're a mom. No, just because I have a child doesn't mean my life is over, it just means its a new way of living. In the beginning I gave up my dreams and goals for myself because that's what I was made to believe that you needed to do as a mother. Now I know different. It may be a bit more difficult to achieve some things but its definitely still possible. I try to show this to the world as often as I can, that yes, I'm a teen mom, a single teen mom, who is still successful. Because at one point I was that young girl being told to give up my dreams because they weren't going to pay the bills and feed my child.
Apparently, your studio is sacred ground?
Yup. Off limits. Nobody has ever been in my studio while I'm painting, unless they are family and even then I usually kick them out. My studio is my like my own little world and I'm sensitive about letting other people in it.
I hear you don't really like to do like to do live art, but that's how I met you ironically.
Ironically, this is correct. I don't prefer to do live art. I'm a private person emotionally, and a lot of my artwork is my emotions flowing through my brushes. I don't like people asking questions. I really wish people could just appreciate art instead of trying to understand the artists mind. So I do live paintings because usually I'm not the only artist and its cool to be around other creatives that inspire me. But the questions thing is highly annoying. You don't look at a rose and ask it why its petals are shaped this way instead of that way, so don't ask me why I did what I did to MY artwork.