As an artist, there are certain questions people are always curious to know.
When author Genevieve Parker Hill recently asked to interview me for her upcoming book, I was thrilled.
She’s currently writing about artists and writers who make a living from their creative work. What follows is an excerpt from her interview which will be featured in her book.
Was there a point in your life when you made a decision or commitment to pursue your art as a career?
While I was growing up, my Dad was in the Canadian military. Our family spent a total of six years in Europe with NATO. Living in France and Germany in my teen years gave me a uniquely valuable experience. There was no art in our house, but my parents enjoyed traveling and we visited nearly all the museums in Europe. Art and history were everywhere and I fell madly in love with all of it.
It sounds like a cliché, but at 13 years old I met ‘Mona Lisa’ at the Louvre and was awestruck. This was before line-ups, velvet ropes and bulletproof glass so I was able to get within inches of this amazing painting.
The ‘Mona Lisa’ is much smaller that you’d expect, (30 x 21 inches) but alive and full of hypnotic energy. Experiencing it in person was the moment I decided to become an artist. For some strange reason, it filled me with a burning desire to create art that could connect people to their subconscious feelings.
However, my parents encouraged me to be practical. I studied business and marketing instead of fine art, but kept painting and taking university art courses on the side.
By 39 years of age, I had built a very successful career in Toronto as a video and documentary film producer. But I was burnt out and aching to paint full-time. Even though everyone thought I’d lost my mind, I decided to take the plunge.
My business partner took over and I moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada for its lower cost of living. Also Windsor is on the Michigan border across from Detroit, and I wanted easy access to a US market. I bought a derelict deli and renovated it as a living / studio and gallery space.
With my savings as my only backup, I gave myself 2 years to make at least $12,000 / year from my art. For the first 5 years I worked literally 12 hours every day, 6 days a week. I was determined not to have to go back to a real job. Thankfully, 20 years later, I’m still painting full-time.
Do you have a spiritual practice that keeps your creative life fueled?
I have been meditating and visualizing at least 30 – 60 minutes most days for the past 38 years. It’s amazing how contemplation can empty the garbage that accumulates day to day in our minds.
How have mentorship or having strong models played a role in your artistic and career growth?
Although I always yearned for a mentor, there was never anyone to help me through the crazy maze of the art world n the beginning. Twenty years ago when I began painting full time, my business / marketing approach to an art career was definitely not the norm. There were no books, career workshops or internet coaches to help navigate a career. Today, information is everywhere. You just need to look.
It was so personally vital to make my art career successful that I simply tried things as I went along. It was a “sink or swim” mentality that drove me to succeed. Failure was not an option. There was no safety net financially and I did not want to go back to a job.
In the beginning I read lots of biographies about great artists and the lives of successful people both historical and current. Those who overcame huge obstacles to follow their passions always inspired me the most.
Are there any habits you’ve had to develop to create more space or time to do your art?
I’ve always treated my art career as my job. That means, I get up and go to work. When creative inspiration eludes me, I work on the business and marketing side of things. My usual routine is 10 am to 6 pm at least five days a week.
The other thing that’s always been important to me is having a dedicated studio space, no matter how cramped. When I’m painting in the studio, my computer and cell phone are turned off and the door is shut otherwise it’s too easy to get distracted.
How do you get inspired?
Just about anything beautiful and out of the ordinary grabs my attention. In general the energetic buzz of color and the intricate patterns of nature move me in ways I can’t quite explain.
My interests run wide and deep. Everything from history to quantum physics, interior design to microbiology fascinates me. As a lifelong learner, books and photography are two of my special passions.
Random sketches, photographs and ideas accumulate. Eventually it all gels together to form a clear direction and it’s time to paint.
What are you currently working on?
Lately I’ve been playing with the idea of ‘Random Access Memories’, juxtaposing the usual meaning of computer RAM with personal memory.
I want to introduce drawings and layered imagery into my abstract paintings for the first time.
The actual process is in the preparation stage as I sort through years of sketchbooks and photographs, journaling memories and scanning drawings.
To find out more about Author, Genevieve Parker Hill Visit www.packinglust.com