Full Time Artist, Here to Stay
By Sarah Tacoma
28 Jun 2012
What's your profession? Please describe it.
As a visual artist, I spend my days doing all sorts of art related things. I'm constantly looking at light, the way it falls through the leaves and dances on the grass. One of many cameras is always within arm's length where I jump to snap that photo in a moment as it may lead to something great.
My art studio is a block away from my home in Cannington, Ontario. That is where I transform my printed photographs into mixed media art. After gluing the print to a wood panel, I begin the delicate, nerve-racking and therapeutic process of scraping into it, sanding parts of it off and painting into other areas. At some point, the scraping, sanding and painting suddenly stops. The image is exactly where I want it. At this point I begin the slow process of melting down beeswax, chunk by chunk in an old sauce pot. When its beautifully melted and smelling sweetly, I brush it over the image with quick fluid movements. Scraping the wax down, re-heating and applying more wax has become a dance I crave to begin again every time a new piece is finished.
Where do you do this?
My studio is located at #2 Cameron Street E. in Cannington, Ontario. Its a block from my home and about an hour and half from Toronto where I sell most of my work. Its also conveniently located across the street from my favorite cafe so during drying and melting times, I'm often grabbing a tea and ginger cookie.
The space is set up with a wet and a dry area. I have one large table with cutting mats, rulers, my computer and a small stack of prints. The other large table has a metal trough I constructed out of aluminum sheeting which has a 2" lip all around the edge... this is where things get messy. Above the work counters are shelves of buckets filled with art supplies of every variety, along with magazines, my art journals and anything inspirational. Aside from that, there is a sales counter i build from an old door. I keep my studio open to the public whenever I'm working and the sales counter provides that barrier between a small show area and my working space. A lovely antique cash register sits atop the counter and rings delightfully whenever a sale is made.
Do you enjoy what you do?
I can't imagine my life without my camera or a roll of film falling out of my purse every time I reach for my wallet. I absolutely love what I do and am doing it because of that love. It has been such a huge priority in my life that it was a smooth ride to get to where I am, leaving behind things that mattered less.
Downtown Toronto is where I thought I would make my mark, living in Kennsington Market, roaming the art shops and frequenting the galleries of Queen St. West. The cost of living in the city, along with its social pressures, restaurants on every corner and high rent didn't allow me the time or financial freedom to fully peruse my artistic desires. I worked at art supply shops, photo labs and commercial photography gigs to pay the bills all the while dreaming an artists' life.
When the opportunity arose to move to a quaint artsy town, I looked at all I loved about city living and realized I love art more. With the cost of living a mere fraction of what it was, I could now afford to fully dedicate myself to art.
When you were young, what did you want to "be" when you grew up?
When I was young I wanted to be a whole range of things, from a vet to an anthropologist. Being an artist was not on my radar (because I never knew it was an option!) until one fateful afternoon when I was twelve. On a family vacation on the east coast, my parents to me to a gallery. I vividly remember walking into a large room and there in front of me hung a huge painting of a naked woman standing on her head. Her large breasts were falling in her face and her mane of pubic hair was dead center on the canvas. I walked up to it and saw by the title that it was a self portrait. I thought that this woman must feel so liberated and free to paint herself like this and suddenly I craved that feeling of freedom.
It wasn't until my teenage years that I picked up a camera and found it was where I could best express myself. It was wonderful. I perused fine arts and then photography in college, knowing full well I wanted to be an artist, not knowing exactly what form that artwork would take.
Do you feel stuck doing what you are doing?
I don't ever feel stuck doing what I am doing. Sometimes i feel that the pressure of selling my work can influence the work itself and in that situation I try to step back and re-evaluate. In those moments I feel stuck creating work for the client rather than for myself although I'm getting better at identifying and shaking off those thoughts, getting back to my original inspiration.
What are the most and least satisfying parts of your job?
Its incredibly satisfying having an image in my mind of what I want to create and having it turn out exactly or better than imagined. Its also incredibly satisfying and humbling whenever a piece of my work sells, from the small work to the large work, it all feels incredible.
The least satisfying part of my work is feeling the pressure of an upcoming show. Feeling rushed but trying to work slowly, feeling stressed but not letting it affect the work.
How do you combine photography with your job?
Photography is the base of all of my work. It is primarily the photo you see in the end. The scratches and the paint only subtly change the original photograph and the beeswax adds a dreamlike veil to the whole thing. My photographs are sometimes taken with my digital camera though mostly with any one of my old film cameras. When I send in a roll, it can have frames from different trips, different places and even different years as there are so many cameras I cycle through and I don't shoot many frames at once.
I often hear that photography isn't "art", or that I'm not an "artist", I'm a photographer. I believe I'm both and I believe photography is most definately art. Some people paint, some draw or sculpt and some take pictures. A camera can be a tool through which you create a whole new world.