hot pink blossoms, Berkeley, CA, Olympus Epic
Kristine Mays asked to interview me this week for a school project and I decided it would be fun to post my answers below:
Survival Skills And The Artist
1. When did you begin thinking of yourself as an artist?
When I was a kid I drew, painted, and danced my little heart out. I’ve always thought of myself as an artist or creative person.
2.. When did you begin producing artwork? What was your initial medium?
Everything I do now (making jewelry, drawing, painting, taking photos) I have literally been doing my whole life. This is how I know I am on the right track!
3. What are some of the non-art related jobs you have had that have allowed you to exercise your creativity?
Selling clothing at a boutique in San Francisco. Since we worked on commission and I hated the pressure and focus of that, I played a game with myself each day. My intention was to have fun with each person that walked through the door…this made for creative ways of approaching people when they came in, creative ways to have them feel comfortable, and made for more fun and collaboration with my co-workers. (Things can get pretty catty with a team of girls working on commission!)
Once, a man and his wife walked in the door and even though they were dressed conservatively I suddenly had a vision of the man in the most outrageous lime green vinyl jacket we had in the store. I walked up to them with the jacket and said, “This might sound crazy but I’m a wee bit psychic and I see you walking out of the store wearing this jacket. Isn’t that weird?!” They laughed and agreed to try it on. He looked amazing in it and I commented that it made him look like a rock star. They giggled and said they’d like to buy it.
A few weeks later, I was looking through Spin magazine. The very man I had helped was pictured… He was in the band Garbage, and was in fact a rock star.
4. Do you find it difficult to balance making art and being a mom? How do you work with the complexities of this?
So far, I find balance by working with the tiniest of slices of time. It’s amazing what you can get accomplished in 45 minutes when you’re a mom! I also prioritize my creative work over things like doing the laundry, checking my email, or other chores. Those things can wait; they always eventually get done. But your creative work? It takes commitment. It is easy to say you don’t have time for it… if you don’t give yourself that gift, no one else will.
5. Have you hated your work before? If so, please tell me about that experience.
Luckily, I haven’t ever hated my work. The first few years were difficult financially and there were times when I felt really lonely and afraid. Every day I had to recommit to my work and my dream. It was tempting to give in to the voices that said, “This is NEVER going to work! Are you crazy?” I felt like quitting a lot of the time… Looking back, I SO honor myself and the courage I had at that time to keep going in the face of very little money and success. It is one of the things I am most proud of.
6. By your own definition, what does it mean to be an artist?
I’ve always had an aversion to saying that I am an artist… It somehow sounds pretentious to me. I suppose I don’t believe it is an exclusive thing. I believe that everyone is an artist in their own way. I prefer to say that I am a creative person or that I am somethihng specific like a painter or a photographer.
If I had to define it, I would say that it is about finding our unique voice. We all have a voice that is meant to say something special. It is a practice, a discipline, and a lifelong pursuit to get out of our own way and let that voice come through.
7. Do you have any advice for working artists? I always like to say “Follow the Fun” as a general rule. Whatever calls to you as fun will likely lead to the most joy, creativity and ultimately success. We often hold unconscious beliefs that work should be hard or boring or, you know, like work. People are always saying things like, “They don’t call it work for nuthin! or, It’s a job!” I encourage you to create a job that you would truly do for free. Don’t paint with oils when you really want to use crayon & glitter; don’t shoot weddings when what you really love is to photograph dogs. When you choose to be a working artist you are bravely taking a leap of faith in the name of doing work you love. Make it your dream job, for real. I believe this is the key to true success and fulfillment in your work.
My other tidbit of advice to any creative person is to take your tools with you. If you are a photographer, carry your camera with you all the time. Take photos on your lunch break. Take photos of your co-workers. If you like to draw, keep a sketchbook in your purse. Draw the people on the bus during your commute. Draw your baby while they nap. If you’re a writer, definitely have a notebook in your purse. Or index cards. This is a great way of getting down little ideas and thoughts and scenes. Don’t wait to “be creative” for when you get home or you “have the time.” Ha!. Make it a way of life. It is who you are anyway.
Photo tip: I have been shooting a lot of photos with my little Olympus Epic film camera. It takes incredible photos and is only about $75. I adore this camera. (Don’t get the zoom version of this camera however; the optics are not as sharp.)