Artist Interview – some insights into this Canadian Artist

About a month ago, a UBCO fine arts university student asked me via email for an interview. The following are her questions and my answers….

Have you been living in Kelowna for long? since Dec 2001.

Where were you living before now?
In Medicine Hat area, Alberta for a short time, in the military before that where I have lived all over Canada and did a peacekeeping tour of the middle east.

Because of your studio in the Rotary Arts Centre, you must spend most of your time there. Do you like being in the middle of downtown Kelowna?
When the studio was just mine (for eight years) I did spend a lot of my time there. I liked the studio, but too many people came in and interrupted my work – I would be painting, and they would just walk in and start talking like I was not doing anything. That was frustrating.  Yes, I like being in the middle of Kelowna, but I would be fine anywhere. It is 10 minutes from my home, and I live on the other side of the lake.

What influences your work? What inspires you?

Whatever I am going through at the moment. I do a lot of compression and expansion poses (crouching and then the opposite, arms flung wide). New colour relationships, or rather, new relationships to me. Sometimes what I read – I read a lot of Joseph Campbell, and he has cultural concepts that I really enjoy. I don’t like orange and I don’t like yellow. I don’t know why. I’ve used the same palette pretty much since 2005.

Do you like to work in your studio all the time or do you enjoy working outside in more spontaneous areas?
I like in the studio most – I don’t do bugs. Sometimes I will do small paintings while listening to the tv – it distracts my left brain so my right one can work.

Whats your favourite medium?
Absolute favourite is charcoal and then graphite and pastel. Then oil, sculpture is still pretty new, but I enjoy that too. Acrylic is okay, but I don’t like the plastic-y look that it can have without the mediums.

What is your favourite thing to focus on in your art?
Drama and mystery, joy and laughter. I get that by the attitude and placement of body and colours and lines. Formal elements are still a big part of my work.

You are an organizer of Livessence. Was this your idea?

Yes. I was in an FCA meeting one night and overheard some people talking about having a life drawing session downtown, because the university was so far away (OUC at the time). Since I was missing life drawing too, I decided to create the class, and see who was interested. I initiated and managed two classes a week by myself  (about 15 attendees each time) for about two years, and then asked if any of the attendees would be interested in incorporating as a non-profit. The answer was yes, and here we are. (Livessence Website which I also manage)

Do you like the artistic community in the Okanagan?

It’s okay. Lots of little clicks in the community but I suspect it is like that anywhere. I am fairly involved with the community because I feel that there are a few people here that could do really good things if they only believed in themselves more. I know what that is like, not believing in oneself, so I try to help out when I can. I don’t look for anything in return, because my reward is seeing them expand and grow, this is not something that can be hidden. That’s good enough for me, and means I am making a difference.

Do you enjoy working with nudes?

Yes, I see the figurative form as a way to communicate life, experience and energy in a visual sense.

Have you been creating art to sustain your living or do you have something else to support you?

I have a goal each month to bring in x amount of $. Sometimes I reach it sometimes I don’t. My husband also works, but we need my income too.

Do you make art for a gallery or for public to make your profits?  Do you find that your creative ideas suffer because of the production of art to earn money?
I have always made work for myself. If someone else likes it too, enough to buy it, then I consider myself lucky. Because I have been self-driven, I’ve done almost 4000 works in the past 8 years – over 1000 I have sold. I feel that if I do work for myself without the taint of being done for money, it will always be pure. That is important to me. The same reason why I will not do reproductions, to keep the art unique and itself.

Do you have your own private collection of your work?
Yes, I have some favourite pieces that I will not offer for sale or for tremendously high amounts.

Do you travel at all for inspiration?
If I had more $$ I would. All travels are inspirational, though the farther away, the more inspiration can be found. 😉

Did you go to school to learn skills in the arts or did you learn them on your own throughout the years?
I went to life school for life skills first before going to university for the degree. Let me explain: Kicked out of U of C when I was 17, tried a number of low mind jobs, then joined the military. Best thing I ever did. Was trained, got to travel around the world, learned some tremendous things, including time management and self discipline. That 20 years made me grow as a person, and this translates, I believe, in to my work. University in 98 part time when I left the military. Went thru a nervous breakdown due to the loss of identity, a severe depression and I truly believe it was the drawing class that pulled me back to some small sense of sanity. In late 2009, I felt I was out of it.

When did you begin to look into the artistic field and when did you decide to persue being a professional artist?
I closed the door after being kicked out of U of C. My gpa was .5 and I felt I was a failure in terms of being an artist, and that it would never happen. Joined the military. Always did some sort of painting during that time, whether with thread in cross stitch, or pottery. In 91, I took a night course in Ottawa in oil painting. I still have the works, they are quite bad. In 95, my husband and I went to Hawaii, and when we came back I was compelled to do a drawing of a postcard I bought. One of the Captains saw it on my desk and said “what are you doing here?” That made me start to think again. Two years later, events lined up to allow me to leave and pursue art in university full time. Graduated in 2001 with BFA Great Distinction, I think my gpa was 3.97 or something like that. Moved to Kelowna, applied for a studio at the RCA within three months of getting here. The RCA was not built yet, but was close, and I was in the office every week asking if they had made up their minds yet, and if I made the cut. I think they said yes just so I would stop bugging them. Eight years later, here we are.

When were you established as a professional artist?
2004 when I decided to take the leap from a job at the 9-1-1 Call Centre to pursue my art career full time. That was scarey but I did it. Within two years I was making more than 60K. Still paying off the student loan though.

Have you had many exhibits?
Yes, many. Most have been at the RCA or in coffee shops, some have been in commercial galleries or shows that I have made up myself. The thing with exhibits, is that you can control how much you do or don’t do. If there is a show idea that you would like to do, but isn’t happening, then put it on yourself. That’s what happened with the Okanagan Erotic Art Show. Three of us got together and said we wanted to do it, so we did.

Do you enjoy working with university students?

I never really have.

If you had one piece of wisdom to pass on to students struggling with art and the “real world”, what would you tell them?
Learn self-discipline, time management, and tell anyone who says you can’t do “something” to screw off. Don’t take no for an answer. If you can think it, you can do it. Find your own solutions to problems. Make your own rules. Take responsibility for your life, your work and your thoughts. Read (really read with comprehension!) Sir Ralf Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance. Do not avoid struggling as there is nothing wrong with it, it is the heart of creative thinking. Face your shadow and your demons, they are a rich treasure of understanding and inspiration. Okay I guess that’s more than one.

Comments and or questions are always welcome.