Sunday, June 06, 2010

Art as Business Interview: Rebecca Burkhalter

Rebecca Burkhalter Flicka med fågel, oil on canvas

1.How would you describe your art?

I am a painter. I started painting rather young. I have also been using other techniques, like installation, photo and sculpture. The technique in itself has never been essential to me; to change material has rather been a way for me to trick myself when I’ve gotten stuck and not been able to move on. Now I have been painting for some years as it is a slow process. I had a longer break from painting when studying at Valand School of Fine Art . I was mostly into photography, then I missed the sluggishness of painting too much. When eventually restarting painting I used only black and white for many years, then one colour after the other slowly returned. I’ve just been hanging along.

figurines in Rebecca Burkhalter's studio

I’m always basing my work on something existing (figurines, stuffed animals etc), staying more or less faithful to it. Nature was my starting point for many years; I tried to surpass the traditional way of relating to the landscape, I tried to attain what exist in the grey zone of our attention, what you pass without noticing. Then I painted flowers, which often has been a symbol for the beautiful, the erotic and the exotic. I wished to give them some dignity by subtracting the colour, the traces of the paintbrush in the depicting and the contrast. They just existed. My present world of imagery has the same core as before, figurines, stuffed animals, book marks, fairy tales, photography. They are restrained, but demanding attention at the same time as they are turning away from the spectator. Restrained with a glimpse in their eye.

2. Do you make a living out of your art and related practices – or do you combine it with another job?

I can’t live from my art practice alone; incomes tend to be rather irregular and occurring in connection with exhibitions or when getting grants/scholarships. Most of the time I have been complementing my incomes with something else. I’ve been teaching at Art Schools, worked as projects leaders within Public Art Projects etc. Nowadays me and my husband Thomas Zornat (also an artist) run a framing workshop where we each work two days per week. It’s rather fun as it is related to our profession; I meet interesting people and get to see a lot of art. We have three children, a house, dog, cat and a guinea pig – which obliges.

Rebecca Burkhalter Bo, oil on board

3. How long have you been working professionally as an artist?

Since 1997 when I graduated from Valand School of Fine Art.

4. Have you had a big break? If not; any turning point?

I have not had any “big break”. I’ve been exhibiting a lot, but can’t really say that one exhibition has given more than the other. I am very persistent and determined in my work. But you can say that I’ve had big breaks when it comes to myself; afterwards I have come to terms with what I work with - which is an amazing discovery. Otherwise I would say that I’m rather focused in my artistic work and I receive respect from my surroundings and at my exhibitions.

5. What is your primary client base?

That’s differing: private customers, municipals, the Region, the Art Council

6. Describe your work environment. Do you work alone or with others? In a studio or at home? Does this arrangement work for you, and if not, what would your ideal work environment look like?

I have an excellent studio in my house. At first, before moving here, I was a bit worried if it would work, but it’s been much better than expected and I feel very comfortable with the arrangement.

Rebecca Burkhalter's studio

7. Do you have a typical workday? How much time do you spend creating and how much on business related activities?

A typical workday: the dog and me walk the kids to school, and then we go for a not too short or too long dog walk. On returning home I go to my studio and work there until the afternoon. The day has a fixed schedule, as a normal job. Normally I don’t work at night, but I might go and pay my figures (or whatever I am working on) a visit, to check how they are doing. I definitely spend more time in the studio than networking.

8. Which marketing strategies have/have not been successful in advancing your career?

I might have to pass on that question, because I don’t know. I have a website, I’ve printed a little catalogue and I stay in touch with different galleries.

Rebecca Burkhalter Katt vid brunn, oil on board

9. Can you share any tips on business organization or financial planning that have worked well for you?

No, that’s a difficult question to answer. As we are two artists in the family you might think it could have gotten difficult, but we have always managed to be good at timing: when we’ve almost run out of money everything has suddenly been solved thanks to a good sale or a grant or something else. We have always worked hard, so it has worked out so far.

10. Do you have any advice on how to rebound emotionally from rejection or difficult client situations?

I have not had any difficult client as far as I can recall. Some gallery might have been slow with paying me my part of the money from sales. But it could also be that I have a selective memory; being good at forgetting the bad experiences. Of course I’ve gotten my fair part of rejections when applying for exhibitions, but that was more common in the beginning of my career when I applied in a more active way. I rather consider it to be part of the job; handling rejection. Nowadays it’s probably more me turning down offers.

Rebecca Burkhalter Dummerjöns, oil on canvas

11. Based on your experience, what suggestions or lessons learned would you give to someone starting out as an artist?

Try to get to the core, find the essential, of what you work with – after that it’s just about hanging along on the ride and not forcing it. Listen to yourself.

12. What would you like to accomplish in 2010?

I have a whole bunch of paintings waiting on line to be painted. It’s a gang of figurines who I will very much enjoy meeting once they have been painted. And then I have a large amount of clay in my studio calling for attention; maybe now is the time for it. We will see.

13. What are your long-term career goals as an artist?

Persistence will pay off

Rebecca Burkhalter Pojke och snigel, oil on board

14. Finally: Can you share something inspiring?

Some books; The gravedigger's daughter and Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis. All books by Roald Dahl; they have been absolutely wonderful to read with the children – they are just as fun, scary and good for grown-ups as for children.

Tradera is for me a well of inspiration that never runs dry.

Last but not least, to make life even a bit more fun, buy a Golden Retriever of good breeding and give it a proper upbringing. An unexpected tip from me who doesn’t really like dog. But you can always change …

Rebecca Burkhalter Räv, oil on canvas


marie-louise said...

I like her style! Jag har mött flera av hennes bilder tidigare. Och den där samlingen skulle jag gärna titta lite närmare på.

Så tycker jag förstås att det är ambitiöst och intressant med din intervju! Härliga Alexandra vill jag liksom säga nu:)

Aris said...

Great interview and interesting work. I love her subject matter, strange and comforting.

Unknown said...

väldigt intressant att läsa. bra frågor och uttömliga svar. bra jobbat!

gracia said...

Fascinating to read and interesting and beautiful work to see... as well as a handsome collection and enviable studio.

Happy to see and read another Art as Business interview.

●• Thereza said...

so inspiring... i love that fox painting and her studio looks really nice too :)

Camilla Engman said...

Vad kul! Tack Alexandra och Rebecca.

We Blog Artists said...

GREAT interview!
Love it...and her work is gorgeous.
Thanks for sharing.

annapernilla said...

Vilken bra intervju:) Jättekul att läsa och så mycket fint att titta på. Extra roligt eftersom jag haft Rebecca som gästlärare när jag gick Gerlesborgsskolan.