HOW TO HAVE AN ART LIFE – REALITIES & REVELATIONS OF BEING AN ARTIST
Welcoming Mellissa Read-Devine to the Gingernut Express ‘artist interviews’. I met Mellissa many years ago and was struck by her joyful nature and lust for colour. She is humble and engaging as well as a master at adding sparkle to her colourful landscapes. Her work is reflective of the energy she invests into every element of her art practice. One thing I really admire about her is her willingness to actually enjoy the process. I remember in a demo when she mentioned how lucky she was that she got to paint every day. We artists tend to forget that. The joy of actually painting, doing the practice, often gets lost in the drive to be acknowledge and accepted. Thank you Melissa for reminding us. Read on to learn how she conducts her own creative art life.
Where you always a creative person?
Yes. Even though a lot of the creativity may have been in my head at first – I was an extreme daydreamer as a child-teen-….adult. An avid reader, I also spent hours poring over the illustrations. I still remember some of them more than I might remember aspects of real life.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I never imagined it as an actual career until my early 30s. I liked being creative, but it was always delegated to a spare time hobby.
When I was living in Darwin, at home with 2 children under 5; I took night classes (to have some time to myself) and to learn painting. It was like an epiphany. That was the moment I decided to pursue, learn and work towards calling myself an ARTIST.
When did you decide to dedicate more time to being an artist?
Even with young children I always made time to practice my craft. I was fortunate enough to find a day a week to go to a painting group. And I made painting a priority when I found the time.
About 10 years ago, I became a full time artist. I actually found I wasted a lot of that time, being social and pursuing family responsibilities. I then started work for family 20 hours a week and found myself being a lot more productive in the studio as I needed to manage my time – and most important – prioritise.
Where do you make your art?
I am extremely fortunate to have a custom built studio on the property where I live in Sackville North, North West Sydney. In winter, it is even more comfortable than the house as I can light the pot belly stove, move the dog off the comfy chair and have a cup of tea while I contemplate the current project.
Where do you store your paintings?
At the moment they are wrapped and stacked up in various rooms of the house as I am waiting for a weatherproof shed to be built.
How do you plan your art?
This may be when a lifetime of dedicated daydreaming becomes useful!
I walk a lot in the local bushland, observing the rocks, the trees, flora and fauna. I come back home and go through the photos and drawings I have made. Then I put together imagery on my tablet, and create a list of paintings I plan to paint.
What mediums and materials do you use?
I paint mainly with heavy bodied acrylics on canvas. I rarely use any medium beside retarder and sometimes a medium to thin the paint.
I also have a passion for printmaking – linocuts and the traditional art form of wood engraving.
What is the focus of your art?
Things I see. My local landscape – I am so fortunate to be able to live within it on my bush property – eucalypts and angophoras amidst ancient sandstone boulders along the Hawkesbury River, tiny bright wildflowers and the life that lives within it. As I paint there may be stories within the imagery – sometimes only apparent to myself. Often I will focus on the character of birds and other wildlife endemic to the area I live. They make me smile.
How do you schedule your time?
Just about every morning I will be in the studio. Even if I only have an hour to spare, it is worth it. There are a couple of days a week where I have the luxury of a whole day and it is wonderful. I open the door and say “Hallo studio!” and it is like coming home, every time.
Do you like to work in complete silence or do you have music or other things playing in the background?
I have the radio on – usually news and chat. Interestingly music can be more of a distraction as I get carried away with the rhythm and might have a dance.
Where do you show/sell your art?
I am a gallery artist – I have a good working relationship with the ones I am with. Selling is very time consuming and not a skill I am comfortable with so I appreciate what galleries do.
How do you pay the bills? How do you balance your art making income and out goings with other income?
If I were a sole income family I might find my current situation difficult. But my current arts practice pays its own way. The extra income from my part time work and from teaching art helps supplement general living expenses.
How do you keep motivated? When you do hit a flat spot how do you get over it?
I go for a bush walk. I read books and browse the internet. I go to art exhibitions. And having a deadline for an exhibition is a great motivator for me.
Flat spots will happen, especially after the stress and major production of an exhibition. That means its time for a rest. I don’t go into the studio, I read books and watch tv. Things I don’t do too much of.
Then, I have to force myself back to the studio and have a clean up. It doesn’t take long to get going again.
How do you tackle social media in the new ‘self promotion’ arena we find ourselves in.
So important these days to have a “presence” online. If someone cant find you and an example of your work after a quick internet search, then it is harder to stay current in todays art market.
I try to post something on social media at least twice a week.
What is the hardest thing about being an artist?
To be taken seriously. It still isn’t viewed as being a “real job” with some people. And I don’t think its realised how hard one has to work.
What would you say is the best thing about your art life?
Creating. Being totally immersed in a work is so meditative and energising at the same time.
What is one thing you would recommend to others struggling to get more art in their life?
Try not to procrastinate (something I sometimes suffer from) Find the time. Even half an hour will be a moment of creativity that will help you grow as an artist.
Where can others see your work?
Check out www.readdevine.com and the socials – Instagram and FB @readdevine
Do you have any exciting art adventures happening in the near future?
I was going overseas to paint and to teach next year but plans are on hold at the moment. In the meantime I have many future paintings to explore.
Exhibition at the Royal Childrens Hospital September
“Between Earth and Sky”
Solo Exhibition at Humble House Art Gallery, Canberra
October 28 – November 15
“Side By Side” exhibition fundraiser at Royal Childrens Hospital
Catalogue available soon from www.readdevine.com
Check out more artist interviews here
These monthly instalments are a sneak peak into how other artists I know build an art life and maintain a creative existence. I hope you will jump on board as we take a few trips beyond the easle on THE GINGERNUT EXPRESS!
The Gingernut Express is a monthly blog, written and produced by Visual Artist and Arts Educator, Kristine Ballard on www.kristineballard.com
© Kristine Ballard 2020