For Raven Roxanne McCutchen ’10, there was never a question that she was going to be an artist. McCutchen grew up lending a hand in her parents’ craft gallery, The Zoo Gallery, in Grayton Beach, Fla.
“My joke is that my first words were, ‘Hi, how can I help you?”
Today, McCutchen is helping children and art lovers through her work. She is a painter first, but is also creative director and co-founder of children’s publishing house Lil Bit Lit.
McCutchen graduated from Auburn University with a BFA in painting. With Auburn graduates Roxie Wilson ’75 and Chris Wilson ’77 for parents — her dad was the Auburn placekicker in the legendary “Punt Bama Punt” game — this was no surprise.
While family tradition may have brought McCutchen to Auburn, Auburn brought great memories and inspiration to McCutchen through the many friends she made and people she encountered. It didn’t hurt to have her brother, Baxter Wilson ’08, by her side in the art department, either.
“What I loved most about Auburn was that it gave a lot of space to discover yourself. You had all of these different people to pull inspiration from.”
Nearly four years after graduating, she started painting professionally. McCutchen draws her inspiration from personal experiences and finds beauty in the imperfection of all aspects of life, including nature and love.
She moved from one coastal city to another, now living in artistic Charleston, S.C. with her husband, Thomas, and their rescue dog, Willie.
Brainstorming ideas for her and Thomas’s wedding announcements after getting engaged, McCutchen came up with the idea behind the “Nest” Series.
“I started drawings these bird nests, and I liked that it was messy and imperfect because I felt like that was kind of our story.”
The “Nest” series has been just one of McCutchen’s projects for the last five years. In the beginning, she would go into the studio every day, pick three colors she felt drawn to and get to work. “The afternoon is when I primarily paint most,” she said, “It’s a sacred space for me.”
Soon after releasing the “Nest Series,” McCutchen began receiving photos from parents of their children drawing the nests. Those unexpected photos sparked the idea to create her 2019 children’s book, “A Raven’s Nest.”
“My book was about connecting yourself to emotions and creating a safe space.”
McCutchen’s ultimate hope for “A Raven’s Nest” was to provide a productive way for children to address, feel and work through different emotions. She certainly didn’t expect to embark on a book tour with home decor brand Serena & Lily, but she welcomed the challenge.
During the book tour, McCutchen got to sit down and connect with children by drawing with them and doing an art project based on “A Raven’s Nest.” “The kids just got it, which was such a breath of fresh air,” she said.
Along with writing her book, McCutchen and a few local Charleston moms co-founded Lil Bit Lit, an art-forward children’s publishing house with a mission to inspire connectedness through books.
“I was aware that this market was hard to find,” said McCutchen. “Having these beautiful books made by artists that I really admire just sounded like a really fun and interesting project to work on. There are so many artists that I find fascinating and I would love for my child to be imprinted by them.”
Lil Bit Lit is very excited to find new artists with beautiful ideas for children, and hopes to grow their library in an authentic way, much like McCutchen has with her own work.
“I paint what I know, and the thing I know most is myself.”
Another success in McCutchen’s career has been her Instagram, where she shares the intimate stories behind her work with her 31,000 loyal followers.
“Growing up in the gallery, what I learned was that people want a story. That’s the greatest tool of Instagram, giving the artist the voice to connect to people that are interested in what they’re making.”
McCutchen thinks of her success with Instagram as a mix between luck and timing. “I really just try to be honest about my work and conscious of the story I’m telling,” she said.
Her new series, the “Bird Series,” will be released on her website June 27, 2019. This series was inspired by the significance of birds in her life, and focuses on relationships.
For once in her life, McCutchen doesn’t have a plan for the immediate future. Right now, she is simply giving herself space to discover what’s next. But one space she still misses is Auburn, with the wisdom of the professors and kindness of its students.
“In a way, it’s like a little nest — there’s so much security and warmth at Auburn.”