Cosmetologist creates abstract art

Favors ‘trash polka’ and modern styles

T-R PHOTO BY SARA JORDAN-HEINTZ Marshalltown artist Angel Vaughan creates abstract paintings filled with rectangular and circular shapes, often using the color gray. She operates Hair Junkie Salon, where some of her paintings are displayed. She is inspired by trash polka and modern art styles.

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series profiling artists in Marshalltown and the surrounding area, discovering what inspires and propels their creativity.

“I’ve never really introduced myself as an artist before,” said Angel Vaughan. “I don’t sell my work, and I’ve only given it as birthday gifts to friends.”

But Vaughan, a native of Jefferson, Ia., has always possessed creative flair in one form or another. She’s worked in interior design, has flipped houses, and she builds wooden shelves and racks as “functional art.” She also enjoys graphic design. By day, she operates Hair Junkie salon in Marshalltown, having worked in the field of cosmetology for the last 18 years.

“Cosmetology is kind of an art. You can visualize and create a lot in this industry,” she said.

In her spare time, she makes abstract paintings, an interest she has been cultivating for two years.

“I’ve always liked art, but I got more serious about it when I was going through a divorce,” the artist said. “For me, I wanted a positive outlet. I was looking for something that would be calming and relaxing.”

Vaughan, who is self-taught, works primarily with acrylic paint and water colors, experimenting with techniques to give her pieces a textured, grunge look.

“I think I’m mostly drawn to modern art, and trash polka (a style of tattoo art that combines realistic images with smudge designs to create a chaotic look),” she said. “I like to splatter paint and use sponges. I take a water bottle and add paint to it, then spray the canvas to diffuse color. I use a dropper bottle if I want to really be particular.”

She enjoys the work of artists Stephen Fishwick, Steve Baier, Anthony Fenner, as well as Vincent van Gogh.

Vaughan keeps blank canvases in her home, so she’s prepared when the creative urge hits, which is usually after spending time in nature or viewing art at shows or in museums. She likes to paint in the evenings so she can be alone and uninterrupted, with music playing softly in the background.

Vaughan’s favorite color is gray, and she finds herself reaching for that hue of paint for nearly all of her creations.

“There’s typically always gray [in my artwork]. It’s an easy color to play up or down. It’s a classic and very versatile,” she said. “I also like to work with red and black.”

The artist noted how she is drawn to rectangular shapes. She also likes to throw in circles. Using household items such as bowls and bottle caps, Vaughan traces the desired patterns. If the painting has lines, she creates those first, lets the paint dry, then uses her spray bottle or dropper, and adds the other shapes. She sometimes takes cardboard or metal and shapes them into words with positive connotations such as: vision, inspire, dream and love, and affixes them to the canvases. She said her mood will shape the direction of the artwork.

While some of her paintings stand alone, many are done as sets of three or four canvases, which can then be arranged in whatever order seems appropriate.

“They also don’t have to hang on a wall together; you can put them all over a room,” she said. “I just move them around until I like how it is displayed.”

As a mother to three boys, Vaughan encourages creativity to blossom in her home. She noted how her son Gavin is the most artistically inclined of her children.

“He mimics how I create art, but his works are more colorful,” the artist said.

Vaughan’s long-term goal is to continue to experiment with different media, branching out into incorporating fabrics and gauze into her paintings.

“I want more people to get involved in Marshalltown’s art community,” she said. “I’m naturally an introvert, but I want to get more involved too.”

She plans to enroll in painting classes through the Central Iowa Art Association (CIAA), and hopes to grow as an artist, eventually developing skills so she can lead amateur art classes of her own.

“I feel like it’s kind of healing when you do art and share a positive message to anymore you can reach that likes your art. It’s been very therapeutic. Anytime there’s been trauma or a major shift in my life, art has been there,” Vaughan concluded.

To see examples of her work, find her on Instagram at:, or on Facebook at:

If you know someone willing to share what inspires him/her to be an artist, contact this writer at the information provided.