Category Archives: Life of Art Interview

Life of Art interview: Claire Skinner

Today, I’ve got an interview from Claire Skinner, whose photography and persistence are both quite impressive.

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now?

My name is Claire Skinner and I run Rocklawn Arts which exists solely online for now. I’m a sci-fi loving geek who got into photography as a kid so that the clouds in my paintings would be more realistic.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I’m a photographer who also likes to write, create digital designs, build kinetic sculptures, and design furniture. From photography, I’ve learned that most people don’t look at things carefully or pay attention to the whole scene in front of them, so it’s a good thing I do. Earlier this summer, my dad remarked, “You’re making me see stuff I didn’t even know was there,” about photographs of the garden he works in daily.
Circle With Fire Escape
Where do you find inspiration?

Most everywhere: plants in my backyard, art books, CreativeLive, architecture, visiting new places, looking at shadow patterns. Just holding a camera most always gives my inspiration a boost.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

I’m working out a procedure for keeping up with archiving, evaluating, and post-processing my photographs as I take them, but there is an avalanche of backlog still to address. Breaking the process into small steps makes it more manageable.

I also keep track of what I work on and post it each week in my Life of Art SitRep series to keep me accountable and help reduce procrastination.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

When I don’t feel like shooting, it helps to go for a walk, visit somewhere new, or learn something. I also pursue other artistic endeavors to get my creativity flowing via different avenues. Sometimes it’s just nice to take a break though.

What does success look like to you?

Greater exposure for my photography. A studio and workshop, the ability to financially sustain the space and tools needed to pursue all of my creative impulses.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

Through September 10, 2011, I’m donating 50% of my proceeds from Rocklawn Arts on Zazzle to 50 for 50, Colleen Wainwright‘s amazing fundraiser for WriteGirl: a nonprofit for teen girls with a 10-year-long, 100% success rate of sending their seniors to college.

My photographs and designs are available on a wide variety of cool gifts: cards, printspostage, mugs, magnets, iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch cases, Keds sneakers, and other delightful sundries.

You can get free standard shipping (details at my shop), so buy a postcard or something and help me help Colleen raise $50,000 for WriteGirl.

Please help spread the word!

Rocklawn Arts on Zazzle.
Rocklawn Arts on RedBubble.
@RocklawnArts and @claireofRA
on Twitter.
Taller Than Average Tales

Life of Art interview: Gemma Irish

Thinky and sassy and pretty all rolled into one.

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now?

I am a playwright, and possibly an actress, and also a Director Assistant at a giant corporation during the day, which allows me to pay my rent, have health insurance, and put money towards my eventual retirement. I’ve worked out a sweet deal with my boss where I work long days Monday – Thursday, and then have every Friday off to stay home and write.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I am not an every-day writer. On Fridays, I write for long, concentrated periods of time and go really deep into what I’m doing. On not-Fridays, my writing looks more like verbal scrapbooking – collecting thoughts, ideas, inspiration, new words, weird wikipedia articles, etc.

What I am trying to learn from my practice is patience. You can’t rush the creative process. A play takes as long as it takes to emerge from the messy jumble of ideas – I just have to sit back and try not to control the process. Man, I love to try and control the process.

Where do you find inspiration?

The newspaper. The internet. I love watching people on the bus and trying to decide where they are headed. I know this sounds crazy, but I actually love seeing bad plays because I like to try and understand why they weren’t successful. I love a good trainwreck.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

Talking to other artists about their process has been really helpful to me – oh, you mean you go through the over-obvious first draft, too? And sometimes you feel lonely when you are working on something? Me too!

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

I take long walks. When I lived in Brooklyn I used to set out across the Williamsburg Bridge and just walk uptown until I felt sane and happy again. Sometimes that was ten blocks, sometimes it was fifty.

What does success look like to you?

I struggle with this – I want people to think I’m cool. I know that’s pathetic, but that’s often what I think success means. But that is not what success means! Success has to do with connecting with other human beings – if my play goes deep, gets honest, makes you connect to something in your own life, which then makes you feel connected to the human existence, that’s success.

I will also say that I hope someday someone besides me produces my work.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

I don’t think we choose art, I think it chooses us. Also you can’t lie when you make art – it keeps me honest. I appreciate that.

Life of Art: Elisabeth Donato

In this interview with Elisabeth Donato, we learn more about how someone can have a creative life even if s/he doesn’t identify as an “artist” in any particular way. Useful lesson, I think.

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? 

My name is Elisabeth Donato; I was born in northern France, on September 4, 1952, but I have lived in the United States since 1975. I worked in business for 14 years, and then decided to switch careers, and got a PhD in French Literature. I am now an Associate Professor of French at Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

Ocean smiles are the best kind.

I do not define myself at all as a writer, even though I have been writing “creative” pieces (short poems and essays) for the past 10 years or so. I kept a blog, which I took very seriously, from June 2004, to July 2010. I do not have a “writing routine.” I usually get cracking on the spur of the moment on a new creative piece, and it may take me months to complete it, because my job takes up most of my free time during the academic year.

What I have learned from writing creatively is that it is very difficult and requires a lot of discipline, quiet time, and concentration. I have also learned that it is extremely cathartic but also dangerous. Words have the power to heal but also to hurt people very deeply. One also learns tons about oneself through writing creatively. Finally, I have learned to fear the trappings of narcissism – I tend to write way too much about myself, and I really want to move away from that.

I also learned that my relationships with writing in French and writing in English are very different – and my writing “voice” is not the same in French as it is in English (I write mostly in English.)

Where do you find inspiration?

By paying attention to what goes on around me, by observing people and my environment. I also read a lot, both books (I prefer non-fiction) and articles and essays online.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

I remove myself from the piece that I was trying to write, leave it aside for a while, or throw it away altogether. I spend a lot of time cogitating about my creative writing, most often in bed, at night. I also keep a small Moleskine notebook in which I constantly take notes about what I observe, and jot down ideas for essays or poems, so as to keep the creative juices flowing.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

Because writing is not my primary avocation – it is more of a “hobby” for me, I never really feel “artistically depleted.” However, I’d like to create a new blog that wouldn’t be a “personal” one, and I have found myself unable to come up with a decent concept for it. Maybe this is a symptom of artistic depletion…

What does success look like to you?

Well, the ultimate success related to my writing would be to have a collection of my essays published. But the first success on that front would be to complete a collection of essays, of course! It would also be nice if it were somewhat successful commercially.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

Most of my relatives, friends, colleagues, and students do not know that I write, and I’d like them to be aware of that aspect of my life. I had a few pieces published, over the years, in my university’s literary journal, and it was nice to get some recognition that way. I’d like people to discover, through my creative work, my perspective on the world, on life and times, and to realize that I have some writing talent and a decent sense of humor.

Life of Art: Scot Moore

Wow – interview three already? Now we’re cookin’ with gas! Please welcome Scot Moore to château Voix!

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? Please include what do you do to keep food in your belly and a roof over your head.

Scot Moore.  For me, the physical “here” is Minneapolis.  The metaphorical “here” is… progressing.  I work a customer service job in the financial industry to pay bills and have benefits.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

This is serious business, people.

I’m a writer and an actor.  As I’m currently on hiatus from acting, though, I prefer to focus on the writing.  I’ve learned I have a voice and something to say.  I’ve also learned to invest in a decent wrist brace.

Where do you find inspiration?

Most commonly, I find inspiration in the things that piss me off.  I’ve learned that taking those issues head-on results in mediocre material, though, so I’ve also been inspired by people like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert who are able to see these things through satire.  Moderating the approach to the material (taking your own viewpoint out of the equation) consistently results in a better product.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

It depends.  My preferred method is to ruminate on the issue until the solution presents itself.  However, in the instances where it doesn’t or when I’m on a deadline I simply go with the first logical solution and see where it takes me.  Many times, just having a solution out there leads me to a better one.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

I do something else for a while.  I’ll pull out my guitar and practice for a few days or so, which benefits me in multiple ways.  I get better at guitar and my brain is forced back into a learning mode.  I also will take a few days off and just refuse to think about it.

What does success look like to you?

Feedback.  I mean, ideally, success would look like a bestseller and $1M, but for now it’s feedback.  I like when people are interested enough to provide feedback.  When I get consistent feedback that something is coming across as something other than I intended, I’m truly grateful to those who provided it to me.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

I take the work seriously, but not myself.  I’ll spend all night trying to pound out the right words, but if I can’t take feedback and listen to others, my material can only be so good.  If I take myself too seriously and don’t leave room for improvement then I’ll miss opportunities to make it better.  Also, I’m a Scorpio and like long walks around the lakes.

**

Many thanks to Scot for his answers. His website is http://www.scotmoore.net/ and he’s directing a show for Freshwater Theater!  The Book of Liz opens on September 10.

Are you creative? Curious about what the Voix blog is up to? Would you like to answer a few questions about your Life of Art? Visit this post and leave a comment, you can jump in the sandbox with the rest of us.

Life of Art: Sharon Zimmerman

Interview two in the Life of Art series graciously provided by Sharon Zimmerman, jewelry designer.

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? Please include what
do you do to keep food in your belly and a roof over your head.

I am Sharon Zimmerman, a jewelry designer. Here is San Francisco. What do I do to keep a roof over my head and food in my belly?  I make a ton of jewelry.  Up until 5 months ago, I was employed, but unfulfilled.  I hit a point where it was a scarier life choice to stay where I was at than it was to take a giant leap into the unknown.  And so I leapt, and it has been OK…so far.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

silver leafy ear-dangle-y goodness!

My creative practice is primarily in metalsmithing – i.e. making jewelry out of sterling silver, 14 karat and 18 karat gold. Though if you had asked me this question over the years, you would receive a different answer.  At age 8, I would have said acting, at age 16, I would have said writing, at age 21, I would have said music, at age 27, I would have said food.  More than any practice, metalsmithing has taught me patience and precision, though the design process encourages a certain looseness and messiness. I have also learned not to say no to an idea, though to some ideas I have had to say “not now”.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere! Though I am most drawn to architecture and architectural elements; any beautifully designed structure can make me cry.  I also love schematic drawings and working out geometric problems (using Pi to find circumference of a circle, figuring out the surface area of an isoceles triangle, forming a trilateral pyramid from a flat sheet of silver).  Funny for the girl who got a D in high school Geometry, but I do find it interesting that I was drawn to an artistic medium in which I use geometry on a daily basis. (ed. Woah. Math and Art? AWESOME.)

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

I don’t view barriers as a mysterious force holding me back, but rather as a problem that is simply in need of a solution. If I come up against a design problem, I just try new things over and over until I find the solution that works and is artistically satisfying. One of the most challenging aspects is that my art will be worn, so there are some practical limitations of what I can do.  Clasps have to be both easy to use and secure, rough parts can catch on clothing, everyone’s wrists are different sizes, etc, but I also want the design to be thorough, creative, pleasing and lovely.  Though the process can at times be frustrating, I find the end results so rewarding that I find that it is worth it to push on through. I don’t know that I use a single method, though I will sketch a piece over and over until I like the results or I’ll try making it one way, but I am always willing to take it apart if I don’t like it.  I also try not to say no to any idea that I might have.  Ideas that have seemed a little out there to me have been some of my more popular pieces.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

Sleep, yoga, tea, socializing, though not necessarily in that order.  Also, changing up my routine can be a good way to shake out all of the cobwebs.  This week for instance, I got up at 5:30am to go out to Fort Funston to walk on the beach with a good friend and her Pit Bull/Marshmallow mix.  I came home totally rejuvenated and re-did my logo and banner on Etsy and I also worked on my display for an upcoming art fair.

What does success look like to you?

I’ll let you know when I find it.  I think that it probably involves having enough money to travel at whim, but not necessarily enough to buy property in San Francisco.

What do you want people to know about you and your work? 

I think that this is where I pull out the soapbox from underneath my seat, place it atop my high horse and stand gingerly upon it: (ed. Yay! I love me some soapboxin.)

The price is the price for a reason; I didn’t arrive at my prices arbitrarily. While I am happy to work out a payment schedule with you, please don’t assume that I can easily give you a discount.   We as consumers have demanded, and successfully gotten, lower prices on all kinds of products over the years-food is cheaper, lumber is cheaper, textiles are cheaper, etc. But this has all come at an incredibly awful human cost.  Yes, you got a great deal on that $12 t-shirt, but the Cambodian woman who assembled it for you made less that day than what you would spent on a cup of coffee.  Your gold ring from India? Cheaper than American jewelry, but the guy who made it works without eye protection or ventilation to protect him from the metal dust and chemicals associated with jewelry-making. Also, the drive for cheaper goods has meant the long-term loss of jobs in our own country. I am not saying that you always have to make the responsible choice when you buy, but I am asking you to think more deeply about it.  If you really love something that I have made, then I want you to have it.  But I also have rent to pay and food to eat.  You can pay me in installments.  I don’t mind.  But if price is your only factor in making your purchase decisions, then you might as well be buying cheap plastic jewelry from the mall.  Go do that, come back to me in ten years and tell me if you still love it and wear it everyday.

*Leaps from high horse and neatly tucks soapbox away*

THE END

**

Thanks a million for your answers, Sharon, and for shining some light on bigger issues that first world consumers don’t often consider.

If you’d like to see more of Sharon’s work, she’d love it if you checked out her Etsy site and gave her a LIKE on Facebook.

Are you creative? Curious about what the Voix blog is up to? Would you like to answer a few questions about your Life of Art? Visit this post and leave a comment, I’ll send you some questions.

Life of Art: Brian Beatty

And here we go! My first Life of Art interview is with writer, comedian, and storyteller Brian Beatty. Enjoy!

Who are you and where is “here” for you right now? Please include what do you do to keep food in your belly and a roof over your head.

As you can see, the beard really is impressive.

My business card says, “Writer. Comedian. Dude with a beard.” Which is as accurate a description as any I’ve been able to come up with. I dabble in Moth-ish storytelling, too. Banjo and guitar noodling have figured into my recent gigs as well.

Maybe I need new business cards.

To feed my literary addiction and buy my hound’s kibble, I write print and digital copy for clients of all shapes and sizes. Which isn’t like Mad Men. Not the way I do it, anyway.

What is your creative practice and what have you learned from it?

I write every day. I get up on stage as often as I can fool people into inviting me up on stage. This summer that’s meant “acting” in Ferrari McSpeedy’s “Once Upon a Time in the Suburbs” at the 2011 Minnesota Fringe. Reviews confirmed my suspicion going into the show that I’m not anybody’s idea of an actor.

Where do you find inspiration?

I read a lot. I listen to and play a lot of music. There is a handful of artists (writers, comedians, visual artists, musicians) I return to as barometers of the honesty and artfulness of my own work.

How do you overcome the creative barriers you encounter?

I heave my shoulder into the boulder and keep pushing whichever direction looks like the top of the hill.

How do you regenerate when feeling artistically depleted?

I hang out with my hound. I go for hikes. I pick up a banjo or a guitar. Last spring, I took a pottery class.

What does success look like to you?

Having a story or poem or stand-up bit turn out as close to my intent as possible — without sacrificing my integrity to appease an audience — is my idea of success.

What do you want people to know about you and your work?

I’m not for everybody. It’s possible I’m not for you. But even if that’s the case, I hope you’ll see that what I’m sharing with you is an honest effort to entertain. Honesty is as important to me as artistry. I also like as little artifice as possible between the audience and me. And I’m not the least bit interested in shock value — believe it or not.

**

If you want to see more of Brian’s work, check out his blog: Brian Beatty.

And here are some links to his stories: Private Properties and Can’t Get There From Here

and some poetry: Flap (Position) and Astronomy for Dummies

I hope you enjoy Brian’s work. He’s great, articulate, bristly, humorous, tenderhearted, and honest beyond belief.

Are you creative? Curious about what the Voix blog is up to? Would you like to answer a few questions about your Life of Art? Visit this post and leave a comment, I’ll send you some questions.

Life of Art: an interview series

You know what’s annoying? Nobody gets a gold star for living a normal, sane, even-keel middle class life. No matter how much I may resist paying bills on time, remember to wash body and clothes, stay fed and sheltered and somewhat fit – it’s expected that I figure this stuff out. It’s the responsible thing to do – a standard to maintain if I don’t want all my friends and family to think I’m trashy, crazy, or just plain irresponsible.

And the mechanics of daily life (which includes holding down the job that I’ve got to have to pay for the shelter, food, maintenance, and entertainment) take up lots of time. Most of every day, I’d say.

And then there’s this creative impulse living inside me. It wants me to stay busy, write books, make collages, travel, photograph, learn to draw, write movies, do improv, and audition for plays. It wants me to tell stories at microphones, create new video and podcast content for my students to practice their language skills, learn to scuba dive and take pictures of coral reefs, and make friends with every single creative person who crosses my path. It’s busy in my head, friends. Very busy. And I try so many things that I’m not particularly good at. Then I get frustrated and give up.

Sometimes my creative impulse makes me tired, other times I just dive head first into a new project without considering the impact said project will have on the state of my yard, kitchen counter, and food supply.

So I’ve become very curious about how other artists in various stages of their careers are managing their life of art and what Ira Glass calls getting past the gap between being a beginner and doing art that matches your taste. SO – over the next indeterminate while, I’m going to interview* other writers, actors, visual artists, musicians, etc. and ask them how they juggle it all.

I hope you’ll join me. This should be fun!

*If you’re interested in being interviewed, shoot me an email or post a comment here.