All creatives from visual artists to writers to musicians go through down periods of being unmotivated or uninspired -- myself included. I honestly feel it is a natural part of the cycle of someone who has the desire to create art. Even though natural, it is nonetheless frustrating and depleting for the individual at the time. These low periods can be triggered from all kinds of sources -- both internal and external. From everyday stress and fatigue to larger life events and/or life changes can lead to these dips in motivation. I have learned over the years to accept these creative lulls and let go of the fear associated with them. The fear that comes from not knowing when it will pass and when you will once again feel inspired to create. I accept them as ambiguous, but merely temporary. Because even though you may not physically be working, your artistic mind is always creating in the background. It is constantly recording and documenting all that inspires you. I even think these periods can be extremely healthy. Inadvertently, they force you to pause, step back, evaluate yourself and your work, and most importantly -- evolve! Because growth and truly being present in this world is possibly the best artistic expression we can hope for.
These past few weeks and months have given the female community at large numerous issues to discuss, reflect on, and debate about. The current political discourse has left me disheartened and a little bit baffled. I think this is true for many of us. This has led me to pause and take stock of what it means to be a woman and I wanted to highlight one of my personal role models in this post. One that embodies not only what it means to be an artist, but also a wife, mother, and daughter -- the embodiment of a modern woman. The artist is Margaret Kilgallen.
She was a San Francisco artist that gained notoriety in the late 90s with a handful of other talented artists that started what is now referred to as the neo-folk movement. Even though I am a huge fan of her work, always inspired by her creativity and linework, it is not the primary reason I wanted to write about her. It is Margaret, the person, that embodies all that I hope to be as a woman today and is truly my personal heroin. Margaret was a huge supporter of the art community as a whole, and an especially vocal advocate for females. Her work was inspired by women in history that broke boundaries, worked hard, and were pioneers in their own sense. Every one from banjo players to swimmers to dancers were depicted in her body of work.
I wanted to share a few of Margaret's words that resonate with me.. she says "I especially hope to inspire young women because I often feel like so much emphasis is put on how beautiful you are or how thin you are and not a lot of emphasis is put on what you can do and how smart you are. I'd like to change the emphasis of what is important when looking at a woman." Art is my personal voice as a woman, but every woman has their own story to tell and unique voice to express. Art was Margaret's voice as well. Let us continue this strong tradition of confident woman willing to break boundaries and set an example for the young generation to come.
I recently did an online workshop focusing on the topic of galleries. I know not everyone could join me for the talk, so I wanted to share one of the main points I focused on in the workshop. It springs from a question I am asked often, and it is a good one... Why should an artist seek out gallery representation?
It is true that galleries take a significant commission, typically 50% give or take. But I personally feel that the best galleries fully earn their piece of the pie. For an artist to get a finished piece of work from their studio and into a client's hands is a very difficult task to say the least. Galleries handle the heavy lifting of sales and marketing, commissions, framing, and shipping to the end customer.
But the most important role in the partnership between artist and gallery is the valuable trust factor that they have established and maintained with their clients, designers, collectors, and individuals alike. They trust the galleries taste and quality, that in turn generate repeat business from their client base. As an individual artist, generating that level of repeat business is a big challenge. The additional burden of marketing, selling, etc not only takes away from studio time, but requires a completely different set of skills that must be acquired and developed over time.
Last, but certainly not least, the relationship between the artist and gallery must be symbiotic in order to achieve success. You work hard doing what you do best and they work hard doing what they do best. We must always remember that the goal is the same -- creating, promoting, and selling work to those who appreciate and support the art community.
The holiday season is now upon us. Along with all the emotions, both good and bad, associated with it. This time of year can bring such joy, warmth, and happiness.. but also strong feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and stress. The Christmas season has always evoked some or all of these emotions for me personally, and also forces me to reflect on the past year as it comes to a close an the new one begins. I decided to write this post inspired by these reflections and a a beautiful sentiment discussed by my friend Susannah Bleasby on a recent podcast.
She discusses her journey in becoming an artist and all the different paths that led her to where she is today. She poses to the audience to think about five people that have altered, steered, and impacted your life in one way or another. Sometimes these people are little more than acquaintances and other times they are close friends or family. In any case, they have helped you discover and carve out this journey of your life.
In honor of the holiday season, when so many of us get distracted and overburdened, I encourage everyone to remember and honor those five people. And thank them. By returning to our past and understanding and embracing it, I think it clears our mind and souls to be open and welcome for new opportunities in the New Year. Happy Holidays and New Year to all of you!
At the beginning of the year, I had a strong urge to start reaching out to fellow creators to talk about possible avenues for collaborating together. Somewhat to my surprise, I must admit, the response was overwhelmingly positive. But then I realized that they were like me and wanted to challenge themselves working in a new artistic field -- bouncing ideas off of one another is not only fun, but is generally a helpful and inspiring exercise. It can facilitate the production of new ideas and directions in your own personal work. Never a bad thing. I love painting and drawing, but I am sincerely interested in exploring all art forms as well as having the opportunity to learn from someone else who has mastered their craft. I found it liberating to step outside of my comfort zone to try something new while keeping my overall aesthetics present in the work. As an artist, I think it is essential to not only be knowledgable and appreciate your own chosen field, but also that of others. To nurture, cultivate, and show solidarity within the art community as a whole is essential to the future development of the arts. I encourage the practice of collaborating with fellow artisans as a step towards personal growth and discovery. Never a bad thing.
Over the past few weeks, the same topic keeps resurfacing amongst my circle of artist friend -- copying. Certainly not a new subject, but i'm slightly embarrassed to admit, not one i've given much thought to until about a year ago. Fellow artist and art blogger Bianca Bello made a very valid point recently that most every artist at some point has copied another. It is part of a natural process of finding and developing your own voice and path as an individual creative. In most art schools and universities this is even a common exercise, to copy the style of another artist. In an effort to learn from it and to see how the artists' techniques were achieved.
I unfortunately feel that the innocence of this common practice has taken a disturbing turn for the worse since the birth of social media. One needs only to peruse the feeds of Instagram to get the feeling they are seeing the same artist over and over -- originality has become a scarcity. It certainly saddens me to see how social media has begun to dilute the art world, stealing away the most essential thing for an artist -- their originality. I will concede the subject seems quite simple. In fact, it is very complicated with many shades of gray. I also certainly do not know how to stop or influence this modern day issue. Other than push oneself, stay true to your vision, and continue to try to create work that is as original as you are.
"...Follow your own private muse. The key is to reveal our quirks and flaws, not to hide them, and to listen to the inner self, the voice inside." -- Sol Lewitt
I wanted to write about a recent post done by the very talented artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon. She wrote about several existential questions that had recently been on her mind brought on by the life event of turning 50. She posed several often asked internal questions about life and its evasive and sought-after meaning. She also asked several important questions most, if not all, artists ponder and reflect on. The one question in particular that resonated with me was "How much do I care what other people think about my work?" and then she followed with "How much do I care if they like it?"
As a professional creative, this thought is always on one's mind. It even unfortunately often times steers our color palettes, size choice, materials, etc. All in an effort to make likable art, therefore buyable art. If you ever started to create work that did not fall into these categories other means of income would become necessary. This fact, while it is the reality, also seems quite troubling especially when it comes to expressing oneself and being creative.
I have been trying to refocus after our recent move, gathering ideas and imagery in preparation to start a new body of work for this Fall. This season I have really wanted to push myself in new ways and create work that is interesting to make and important to me. Yet going forward I cannot help but have that self-doubting question lingering in my mind - "Will they like it?" I know all artists throughout the ages have had these thoughts. Yet they continue to create art that matters to them and satisfies a deeper part of their soul. I will do the same in a very sincere effort to hear and listen to my own voice, the only one that matters. Hope you'll "like" it.
I have learned over the years that there are two very distinct sides to being an artist. Often you are required to paint or create work that you are completely unattached to and unemotional about. On the other hand, there is a side to art that is most important and most relevant to us. It's the very personal side of our work that is what compels and motivates us to keep working, creating, and sharing our unique visual voice. Both of these sides of being an artist are acceptable when compartmentalized, but when the lines blur has always been an internal struggle for me.
I'm sure most artists would love to have the sort of career in which you paint what you please with supportive galleries and collectors that consistently nurture and validate your work. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. If you have chosen to make art for a living, then we all must find whatever methods and paths necessary to do so. These days, with the domination of social media and other venues to showcase your art, it is easier but certainly not easy.
I decided to write on this topic because I feel all artists -- whether actors, writers, or visual artists -- have moments when they ask themselves the question "Am I compromising my artistic integrity?" Ultimately, the decision is left up to the artist. I respect and whatever an artist decides to do, because in the end, it is about the supporting the vitality of the artistic community at large and pushing their own career forward. That requires commitment, courage, and sometimes compromise.
I have been lucky enough to call Asheville home for the past three years. We moved here not knowing a soul, but were immediately touched and surprised at how warm and welcoming everyone was. A sharp contrast from the cold aloofness that comes from living in larger cities. I truly felt right away a sense of support, community, and love. At the time of our move, my son was only a year old and having that sense of fellowship and support for our family was a lifesaver. The stress of being a first time mother can be so overwhelming and, not only I, but my son will be forever grateful to the kind souls that have crossed our paths here. My family and I will be moving very soon back to Atlanta, Georgia. I am excited about many aspects of this move, but also quite sad to leave Asheville behind. A bigger city will offer a lot more opportunity for myself and family, but I will truly miss the breathtaking nature, weather, and above all the sincere and wonderful friends I have made here. Looking bravely and optimistically toward our future, but leaving a piece of my heart in this beautiful town called Asheville.
I had a previous relationship with a fellow artist. We worked for the same fine arts publishing company. Of course, we both wanted to breakthrough as successful artists in our own right. Personally, however, time seemed in endless supply when I was in my 20s. That is where the two of us differed greatly. Every day, all day, the only subject in his thoughts was art. It was a singular focus for him. I was baffled by this intense level of commitment. For me, art would always be there and I had too many other things I felt like I needed to do. I truly felt like I wouldn't be able to accomplish all that I wanted to in 100 lifetimes. Things small and large such as learning to knit, cook, and reading new books to larger goals such as running a marathon, traveling, learning another language, and thinking about starting a family of my own. I must say my art career took a backseat during this time. I have been reflecting on this part of my life since a friend recently asked me where my ideas and inspiration originate from. I realized a lot of my ideas have stemmed from all of these non art-related experiences that didn't have any connection to art but are nonetheless present in my all of my work today. So, I do not regret the delay well into my 30s before finally getting focused on my personal artwork. Now, when I wake up, I understand exactly what my ex-boyfriend's passions for art was all about. Oh.. sidebar, I did run a marathon, traveled, learned to speak French, and have a beautiful family. Zero regrets!
I recently read a really poignant article that struck a chord with me. It was written by Debora Spar on the unrealistic goals that continuously pile up on women in today's world. Her point is that the demanding expectation on a woman today is "to be successful at home and work, sexy and sophisticated, perfectly coiffed, and eternally young." I think most of us are trying to achieve this unattainable perfection without even realizing it. I am sometimes a victim of this myself and wonder why I have feelings of underlying guilt and resentment. As women born of this generation, we know no other way. It's simply how a successful/happy woman is expected to be. All the pre-feminist responsibilities have now been folded into these new standards of work, money, success, and beauty. A double whammy. This post is not focused on art, but I thought it was an important subject. I have been working hard these past few years to create a career as an artist while still trying to maintain "perfection" in other areas of my life...and failing. In accepting that this idealistic myth of perfection is unattainable, I feel the breath coming back into my lungs. My life is not flawless, but it is mine. "Because if the goal of life is perfection, then we all, by definition, are destined to fail. That cannot -- must not -- be the plot."
I recently received an email from a follower asking me some questions related to Instagram. The questions were thought provoking, and they made me reflect on how important and relevant social and digital media have become. Below is our informal interview. If you're so inclined, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic! Look forward to seeing your comments.
1. Do you think that instagram is a new kind of interactive gallery?
Yes! For artists and creatives from all backgrounds, I feel like it is the perfect channel and format to put your work and creative process on display. You can exchange with and support other creative people while also being inspired yourself. And it’s an international audience, all wrapped up in a no-cost platform. It has been a huge help for me, allowing me to connect not only with other artists, but also galleries, companies, and designers.
2. How much do you think about how your instagram feed looks visually?
The material I use for instagram is typically what I am currently working on in the moment. As artists, we are lucky in that sense to have such a huge and constant visual library. Stylistically, I am very particular about how the work is presented and photographed. I think that is a given. If you spend time creating something, you want it to be presented in the best way possible to the viewer. I also tend to share along certain themes, my sketchbook being a major one. These are typically ideas and things that are inspiring me on the day. I think this keeps the feed consistent and turns into a more cohesive body of work.
3. Do you consider yourself a curator of your own online space
I do, and appreciate the opportunity to be in control of how my own “virtual gallery” is presented to the outside world. Instagram is my primary online space and, as mentioned above, each individual post and the collective feed are important to the overall visual story.
4. Do you think the future of getting your work “out there” is digital?
It has helped me tremendously, but I think supporters and people that are buying artwork still value the personal connection that one has when standing in front of a piece of work. Especially being a painter, much of the texture and nuance of a piece can get lost in a purely digital format. So, I still consider traditional galleries as serving an important purpose in the career of any artist. However, as a channel for finding and connecting with your audience, digital marketing cannot be ignored. It is a great tool and has allowed me to reach and connect with people that I never would have reached otherwise.
5. Lastly, do you have any advice for young artists trying to get into galleries.
In the last several years, more and more galleries are supporting young and emerging artists. There goal is to promote and support the sale of work that is more affordable and I think that has been a huge help for talented young artists coming into the market. Also, I would say never be shy or intimidated to share your work and get it in front of galleries. Lastly, it is definitely cliché, but persistence is a key element to success. If you persist, the hard work will pay off.
A professor once told me that you haven't really painted until you've done at least 100 paintings. So true. As I've mentioned before, I have been painting since a very young age. My mother put me in oil and acrylic painting classes around the age of 8. I knew and felt even then the immediate love for the medium and have never been bored or lost desire to learn as much as I can. Paint, unlike other mediums, often has a mind of its own. One might think or wish to be in control, but often it is the exact opposite. As artists, we are the ones reacting to what the paint has decided to do. Even realistic painters often spend a lifetime trying to perfect and control this chosen medium. It is an obsession for all painters, I believe, to create that perfect and harmonious moment when both paint and the artist do what they do best. Unlike anything I know, painting has the potential to express and become almost every emotion possible: love, hate, joy, anger, lust, frustration, bliss, betrayal, and... peace. You can add your own to the list.
I've noticed a big change in myself and my level of motivation since my son was born. But not until recently when I was writing a friend and saw the words on the screen, did I really start thinking more about it and questioning why. I remember moments nursing my son and daydreaming about being in the studio wanting to finish a design I had in my head or to work on backgrounds for a new painting. I also remember feeling very guilty about those thoughts and instead tried to be more present in the moment. Then a year later when I mentioned this to a fellow artist and mother, she gave me some sage advice. That parents should always continue to do what they love and are passionate about. Your children will see this and respect you for it. And most likely follow the same example in their own lives. Nowadays, I let my son come in the studio with me or play on his own for a while so I can finish my work. Although very hard, I think my family is like most...always seeking balance.