an interview by series host Brainard Carey, author of Making It in the Art World with Caroll Michels, career coach, artist-advocate, and author of How to Survive & Prosper as An Artist. I'm pleased to find the series—an earlier interview is with Sarah Thornton whose book, Seven Days in the Art World, is the subject of last week's Thoughtful Thursday.
I am a fan of Caroll's book and and worked with her on a Spirit Books exhibition at Regis College in Weston, MA in 2005. In addition to press releases, contacts, and all the nitty gritty stuff, she helped me to address my reluctance to present myself (the old who do you think you are? syndrome).
In the interview, Caroll talks about her start in the field and the challenges that artists face to "survive and prosper." She talked about the need for artists to have stamina. When questioned about where that stamina comes, she found it difficult to say exactly. I have been thinking lately about what makes me keep going and have a few thoughts. By now, making art is my life and I keep plugging along through ups and downs because that is what I do. I think my path could be easier if I did things differently, but I come from a long line of stubborn people.
It is when I think about my start in the world of visual art through calligraphy that I get some clues as to why I stuck it out. I never attended art school and am primarily self-taught. My initial love of calligraphy came from my love of words. By the time I finished my degree in English literature, I was so tired of analyzing texts. A chance request from a high school friend to letter in her friend's wedding album brought out my old set of Speedball pen and nibs. I was unemployed and dove in deep. I was no budding genius (see photo below),
but I was transported into a new world where I could allow my love of the words to spill out even if the letters themselves were awkward and halting. As I learned more, I came to love the letters as well and worked to train both my eye and my hand.
What kept me going was that love—for the physical act of writing and the excitement of learning to see. I think to keep going the work has to always be the reward. The goal can't be attention, acceptance, what Caroll called validation. It has to be the work itself.