The other month I had a chance to visit San Francisco, and spent a few hours wandering around the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. One of my favorite pieces was the installation work by Tomás Saraceno – Stillness in Motion – Cloud Cities.
I absolutely loved the simple, geometric shapes that took over the room. I also liked how he wove mirrors into these shapes, which continued to play with your perception of the depth of the room.
Here you can get a sense of how large the webs are in relation to the museum patrons.
It was wonderful learning about a new artist, and experiencing his work in-person. It was an inspiring visit that helped jump-start my creativity.
People often think I’m a full-time visual artist, although I’m actually a full-time web developer who makes artwork part-time. I still consider myself a full-time artist in a sense, since my day job involves the art of developing and building applications and websites. Instead of using scissors and paper for my tools, I’m using different pieces of code, and thus creating what you could almost call a digital collage. Regardless of what tools I’m using, I’m still able to satisfy that inherent drive I have to make things. I am able to live the creative life full-time – whether it’s code I’m writing or collages I’m constructing.
I like to tell people that I’m a code artist by day, and a fine artist by night. And I like how these two worlds of mine inspire each other. I first got started with working on websites because of my artwork. Back in college when I was studying painting, I took a class where one of our projects was to create an online portfolio. The first version of my site was pretty terrible, but I was so proud that I made a functional website all on my own. I managed to teach myself enough about coding to create and deploy a website – and that’s what got me hooked with web development.
Over the years, I’ve continued to grow as a developer. The direction of my art career often inspires changes on my portfolio site, such as updating the overall layout or adding an online store. And sometimes the coding I do for my art website inspires the coding I do for my day job. Other times I’ll make something at work that inspires the direction of my portfolio site.
As a web developer, I’m able to tackle problems with my web presence as a fine artist and come up with creative solutions. When my site was fairly new, I noticed that I kept hearing from students and teachers who wanted to learn more about my work. So I came up with the idea to make things easier for them by developing an education section for my website. The section includes information about my process, as well as online lesson plans to help teachers teach my technique in class. As a result of launching this section, I started hearing from more and more classes around the world.
When people hear that I’m a full-time web developer, they often ask if I want to some day become a full-time visual artist. I always answer “no,” because I enjoy the variety in my work. I like how I’m able to live the creative life with two fields that inspire my work in both areas. I’m happy that I’m able to challenge myself creatively in a number of ways, and because of that, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’ve been told that as a kid, I used to draw an abnormal amount. I’d spend hours with coloring books or craft projects, like making my own paper dolls. When art stopped being a hobby for me and became a part of my daily routine, I noticed a pattern – some people shot down my dreams of becoming a professional artist almost immediately.
When I was graduating from high school, and was getting asked the whole “what’s your plan” question, I remember talking about my creative interests. And I remember hearing a few people tell me sarcastically, “good luck trying to make a living at that.”
And this pattern continued. Later on I decided to pick up art as a second major in college, and started exhibiting my work in galleries after I graduated. Even then I remember hearing the phrase, “it’s difficult making a living as an artist.” Or sometimes, “not many artists can make it big.” And although I had a wonderful support network of friends and family who encouraged my artistic endeavors, I kept having run-ins with people who were trying to dissuade me from the creative life.
So why do so many people feel the need to discourage the artistic lifestyle? Is being an artist really as tough as some people say it is?
Well, being an artist is difficult and so are a lot of other careers. As an artist, you’re essentially running your own business, and being an entrepreneur is a lot of work. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible and that there aren’t people out there who live and work as full-time artists.
For whatever reason, our society likes to feed the idea that art isn’t important, that it’s valued less than math or science. Society tells us this in a variety of ways – let it be the starving artist stereotype or how funding for the arts is usually one of the first things gutted whenever money gets tight. Cultivating this type of thinking gives birth to art naysayers. Or should I call them art un-enthusiasts?
So the next time someone tries to discourage you from your artistic dreams and goals, just remember, you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it. If it’s your dream and passion, then you’ll make it happen. When faced with setbacks and failure, you should never give up – you should pivot or rethink your approach, but never give up. Success happens when you persist. As for all the naysayers you run into along the way? I say you use them for motivation to work even harder, so that you can one day prove them all wrong.
As an artist, I’m constantly finding inspiration around me. Sometimes that inspiration comes from the beautiful sights I see when I travel or go for walks, and other times it comes from unique experiences I have. This past weekend I was lucky enough to get tickets to see the popular Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn. It was an incredibly inspiring show.
The exhibit consists of five small rooms where two to three people are allowed inside for twenty or thirty seconds. Each room made me feel like I was exploring a new world. The rooms were covered in mirrors and had either lights or sculptures arranged in a pattern that was repeated infinitely in the mirrored walls.
My museum visit lasted hours. My tickets were for 12:30pm but we weren’t admitted until after 1:30pm. The entire show required waiting in line for a chunk of time before we were able to enter each of the five rooms. Although there was a lot of waiting involved, I thought it was well worth it. Only once in a while do I find myself going to an art exhibit where afterwards it leaves me marveling at the beauty of the world. Kusama’s exhibit left me feeling just that- and it left me feeling hopeful, with my imagination reenergized.
So if you have a chance to see Kusama’s work, I highly recommend doing so. Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit was an experience like no other.
I get asked this question a lot, and every time I hear it, I’m always surprised it was ever asked in the first place.
“I’m an artist because I don’t have a choice.”
I guess it’s hard for non-artists to understand what I mean, and to understand what fuels me to live the creative life. I’m an artist because I need to be one – I have this inherent drive to make things. It pulses through my veins, and makes me fiercely resistant to the thought of ever giving up the artist title.
When you’ve been making art every week of your life for years, the process of art making gets ingrained in your mind. What may have started as a hobby, or something that was “just for fun,” blossoms into something you can’t live without. It becomes a habit through repetition, and when you finally go without it for a few days, you feel like something is missing from your life – the pangs of art withdrawal. It’s moments like those when I realize I can’t live without being an artist in one form or another. Being an artist is what gives me purpose in life.
Art has also been one of the few constants in my life. Even when times have been tough, like grieving the loss of a loved one or coping with the pain of a broken heart, art has been around for me. During those times, art has not only been a creative outlet, but also a form of therapy that helps me through the days when it’s difficult to stay afloat. I guess you could say that when life gets messy, making artwork is one of the few things that makes sense amid the chaos.
When I was growing up, art had a major role in my life, which is why it makes complete sense that it still does. As a kid, I took art classes at local galleries and whenever it was possible at school. I remember back in high school, it didn’t matter how stressed out I was from my other classes, because I could always count on feeling a great sense of relief when I went to art class. I could momentarily forget all my other worries as I focused on drawing or painting.
Although I went to college for creative writing, I quickly realized that visual art needed to have an active role in my life every year, so I picked up a second major in painting. It was at that time that I realized something – that no matter what criticism I received for my visual art, I was always able to bounce back. Rejection is a pretty tough thing to overcome when it comes to an artist’s work, simply because we are putting ourselves out there when we share our art. And even during the worst critiques, when I felt incredibly sad and didn’t know if I should continue making artwork at all, I’d find myself painting in my room late at night and realize it was meant to be.
As an artist, you would think rejection is something I get used to since it happens often enough in an artist’s career. Although for whatever reason, whenever a gallery has rejected my work, I still find myself wondering if there is any point in continuing to make art. I’m glad that I’ve never given up entirely because of the opinion of a handful of people. No matter what, I’m still drawn to creating something, let it be a collage, drawing, or painting.
So whenever I’m asked why I’m an artist, all I can think is it’s not something I choose to do – it’s something I have to do. I’m an artist because making artwork is what drives me through each day.