How would you describe your relationship with failure? Is there any advice you give to others about dealing with the disappointment that is a natural part of any career?
Failure and I are besties. It’s a love/hate relationship, for sure, but failure is ultimately helpful. I tend to think of it like a mean little gremlin that I just have to live with—it pops up randomly, stings for a moment, but ultimately I just say, “You again!?” and move on. Whether it’s in the studio or in the sense of career progress that failure comes about, I just know it’s a given. Rejection is woven into the fabric of being an artist, and that’s just the way it is. I think recognizing that it is all part of it is a helpful first step . . . then move on to the part where you have to be your own biggest fan. Feel the sting of failure and then tell that lil failure gremlin to go away, and keep doing what you’re doing. The path we want to be on, the one working towards our goals, it’s never a straight line, and the speed limit isn’t the same the whole way, but [the idea is you] just keep on going.
What does it mean to you to have people buy your work and live with it every day?
It’s pretty magical. It’s an incredible feeling when people want to invest in your work and career. I feel like it’s the ultimate compliment when someone wants to live with my work day in and day out. I think it also puts the life of a painting in such a unique trajectory. I have been working on building my art collection, mostly from local Baltimore/DC artists—and the experience of living with art, and seeing the same piece again and again, day after day, year after year is just amazing. I love how it evolves. You noticed different things about a piece, all the while your life kind of happens around it and with it. My collectors often send me photos of my work hanging in their homes—and I truly love to see it. In a lot of ways, it makes that painting take on a whole other life.
It’s also definitely a goal of mine to have my work in public collections. I truly hope one day my work is in a museum, especially one that is free, accessible, and open to all.
Being a full-time working artist is a rarity. I think our readers would love to know what your daily or weekly routine looks like. How do you establish your own routine and how do you stick to it without a boss telling you what to do?
Establishing a routine can be tricky when you’re self-employed. I think people tend to worry that they won’t do the work without a boss telling you what to do, but really, it’s the opposite. Self-employed people tend to work allllll the time—I mean, the rent’s not gonna pay itself and I don’t get paid time off, but it’s important to set boundaries and maintain balance and some sort of sanity.
I definitely think it’s easy to just be working all the time, so I really try to stick as close as I can to a regular Monday-Friday work week, and for the most part that works for me. Of course, when I am close to exhibitions or deadlines, my hours increase, and weekend days get added in. I tend to have more studio visits on the weekend as well, but for the most part, I operate a typical M-F.
Having a studio away from my house has been very beneficial for me. It helps to have that routine of “going to work,” plus it automatically creates a cut-off to the day. I do occasionally miss the perks of my studio being in my house, but the separation has definitely been an improvement for the work itself and my work/life balance. For a long time, I was more of a night owl, which is obviously easier to do when your studio and bed are in the same place, so that was definitely a challenging adjustment. It took me a little while to get comfortable working in the daytime and to find that flow, but I do love ending my workday and still having the rest of the evening to hang out with my husband or friends. The pandemic has thrown much of my routine out the window, especially after I was sick with COVID for a couple of months, but I am getting back to my regular schedule now though, which feels great.
My workday routine tends to look something like this: After I workout in the morning (yay, swimming), I aim to get to my studio around 10 a.m., and I work until about 5 or 6 p.m. I tend to start the day with the admin side of things—emails, invoices, etc.—but I also do those when I’m home (again, it’s easy to just work all the time). I also start the day by cleaning up whatever mess I left the day before (another perk to a studio outside my house, yay to leaving messes), plus I also start the day with the more mindless tasks, like building canvases or cleaning up the sides of finished paintings. It’s a nice way to warm up to being in the space and getting myself organized. I am also a big TO DO list maker, so being able to cross a few things off right at the beginning of the day helps a ton.
Then I jump into whatever painting feels like it’s calling my name. I tend to work on several paintings at once—which often means they progress at different speeds, which allows me to be able to pick and choose. If I am ready for some tough problem-solving, I will dive into a painting that is well on its way or nearing a finish. If I am feeling like I want to start the day without so much pressure, maybe I’ll start a fresh one. More often than not though, I tend to bounce around on several paintings throughout the day. I’ve also recently jumped into a large sculpture project, which is such a different process compared to painting since it requires several steps and a much longer waiting time between them. So pieces of that sculpture have gotten through into the mix.
I have also found that having a dog in the studio—I have two, Monty and Adja, so one or both is always with me—helps me keep a regular routine. They push me to take breaks or step away for a midday walk, and my dog Monty tends to be my end-of-day alarm since he knows it’s close to dinner time and will come nudge me like, Hey! Lady! It’s time to stop working!