Thursday, January 12, 2012

behind the scenes {no. 1}

hundertwasser quote. typed out on a french receipt that i found in an antique dictionary
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how'd you get to where you are today? 

i've been thinking a lot about this question lately, in fact, ever since the book came out it's one that's come up more and more.  so, for behind the scenes {no. 1}, i thought i'd tackle it.  i thought it was time to take a quick look back at that path, notice the steps i took, and ones i didn't, what i thought about and what i didn't, and how i can learn from the past to create my path to the future. 

confession: up until very recently, i honestly didn't really think too long about things such as plans or goals when it came to my art career.  really.  i never sat down, wrote out my business plan and checked things off my list.  yes, there were times i made important choices, but i usually just followed my intuition and did what i thought was right for me at the time. i probably shouldn't admit to this, but it's the truth, and since this is the first of my whole behind the scenes thing, i thought i'd best start off with the truth.  

so, in fact, this is not where i planned to be, because it wasn't planned (!), yet i'm so happy with how i got here.  somewhere along the line, i threw out the compass and followed my own path.  

my art has always been that thing that i did, that thing i couldn't stop doing, but it was never, until the past year or so, that thing that i analyzed, over-thought, or planned about.  yes, i would sell my work and make money, which was sort of the icing on the cake, or the cherry on the sundae, or whatever the saying is, for me, it was just extra.  it was the making and the doing that mattered most.  i just painted.  i applied to shows (with slides!!), day to day, month to month and slowly but surely more and more opportunities would come my way.  i didn't do anything "special", i just went to my studio, and painted.  when i wasn't painting, i poked around, sought out inspiration, scribbled in my sketchbooks, cut up books, tacked things up on the wall, made messes and made my art.  but here's the thing, i did this, and have been doing this, for over 10 years now.  without thinking about the all-important what/when/how/who, i would just paint, day after day, for hours on end.  hours and hours in the spent in my studio.  i'd forget to eat, i'd play joanie mitchell's blue album over and over, i'd work on 6 paintings all at once, and then when i'd get tired,  i'd step back and smile at what i'd accomplished.  first thing the next day, i'd return to do it all over again.  in my studio, i didn't have internet, i didn't even a computer until a few years ago (gasp!), and of course, for more than half of those past 10 years i didn't even know what a blog was. but, i did have my studio.  that was the constant.  my studio, a rented space outside of my home, was my haven. i had everything i needed to make art, and make a lot of it.  at first, i did have a mentor who encouraged me to sell my art.  she taught me the business side of being an artist.  and let me tell you, when i had my first show back in may of 2000 and sold almost every piece, i knew that there was something to this whole thing of being an Artist.  from there, i knew i could do what i loved and make a living at it as some point in the future. there was no turning back.  but, as i look back now,  i wonder if that's the point when i should have written a plan, the map for how to do it.  instead, i was much more interested in cutting up maps, living in the moment, and not worrying about what would come next.  
over those years, i had a variety of other jobs to pay the bills. i was part-owner of a couple of different galleries. i helped jury shows for the galleries and learned what other jurors might be looking for in my own work.  i worked in a museum, i worked as an art framer.  those jobs were extremely helpful when it came to my own work. i nannied and worked in galleries by day and painted by night.  i painted by day and waited tables at night.  

whatever worked, that's what i did.  but i always made room for painting.  it was what came first, even if i wasn't making any money from it.  that didn't matter to me, i just needed to paint.  as i look back now, i think that i probably should have thought more about the how of it all, how i would make a living selling my art, but instead, i took every oppourtunity that came my way and plunged blissfully ahead. 

today, it seems that all the pieces of the puzzle ended up fitting together to make a whole, but at the time, there were doubt-filled days when i just didn't know how i was going to make it. 
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perhaps that's where i'll stop for today, there's so much more to the story, and that will come on a future wednesday.  (yes, it will really be wednesday)  

i wonder if you have any more questions for me?  if so, leave them in the comments and i'll be sure to respond.  

ps: you may have noticed that i'm just running a day behind this week!  i'll be back on track next week for sure :)


  1. I love how natural the process has been for you. Doing what you are passionate about and keeping the focus on that is so important, and often neglected for the business aspect. Thank you for sharing your story...You are such a wonderful inspiration Sarah!

  2. "day after day, for hours on end. hours and hours in the spent in my studio. i'd forget to eat, i'd play joanie mitchell's blue album over and over, i'd work on 6 paintings all at once, and then when i'd get tired, i'd step back and smile at what i'd accomplished. first thing the next day, i'd return to do it all over again. in my studio, i didn't have internet, i didn't even a computer until a few years ago"

    I live this life. I wake up late, I get in the studio late, but I am up until the wee hours of the morning drinking beer and jamming. I usually listen to everything I own and forget to eat dinner and check emails or phone calls. I still don't own a computer, I started my blog on my iPhone and continue to. I don't have a plan for my career but I know exactly what I want to do.

    I read your blog all the time, even the old entries. You have been quite an influence on me I am wondering what art books do you have in your studio? Art always inspires, but is there anything/anyone else you find yourself going back to before working or when you get stuck? I think you do a wonderful job on the blog. You seem to have a good head on your shoulders, and I am sure whatever you decide will work out and I wish you the best of luck. Hell, I am proud of you to be so positive these many blogs are so negative these days, so good job on keeping yours uplifting and inspiring.

  3. Thank You for sharing:O) I love reading about other artist:O)And Im always a day behind or two. Have an awesome week!

  4. i love hearing and learning the "behind the scenes." thanks for sharing and can't wait for the next installment. xo

  5. I am loving these posts Sarah, it's really good to hear how other people did and are doing it. I am starting on this journey so much later than i wanted to so i love reading posts like this as it's really inspiring to follow my heart too x

  6. Lovely and filled with truth of your beginnings. I connect deeply, as I am both a Hunderwasser and Joanie Mitchell fan, and an artist too. Thanks so much, and I am looking forward to more.
    x, Val
    PS. I ordered your calendar, and just received it. Such a nice gift to receive from you, with your lovely handwriting. I knew in a glance it was from you :o)

  7. What is your advice for moms with little ones who want to create but are too busy changing diapers and pumping milk and picking up toys, etc. etc.? In Maslow's hierarchy, creating is a higher level order than say, bathing or washing underwear and I can barely manage to brush my teeth (gross but true) much less feel the spirit to create. Any key tips on how to balance and carve out time for self? And, more importantly, where can we purchase your original artworks?

  8. At what point did you get a business license? How do you keep track of what work you have on hand and the price? How did you first start setting your prices?

  9. oh this is wonderful! If I only would make really space for painting. When will I stop to procrastinate?
    Your story is really very inspiring, thank you so very much for sharing.

  10. Sarah, I have just discovered your blog. I am an artist as well. A mother first now, but an artist still the same. I have a studio in my home & an etsy shop online, I love how open you are with sharing info on how you are making it all work. It is inspiring to me. I have had 3 kids in the last 4 years & so the creative process is just now coming back to me. I am trying to find my groove again. Thanks for inspiring! can't wait to hear more.

  11. I loved reading about your journey and love you work. Thank you so much for the candid glimpse into you, your passion, and your determination.

  12. dear sarah,
    i have been lurking here at your blog, for some time now. i am an artist too, at the beginning of my mixed-media journey and i can't tell you just how much your 'behind the scenes' story has helped encourage me this week. wow, you had worries over bills too? you had different jobs too? you thought of quitting too? i am juggling all of this, but having come to my work late in life, i find myself also juggling motherhood at the same is so hard sometimes.

    anyhow, thank you again for sharing. i'll be back!


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