Sunday, October 10, 2010

Art as Business Interview: Vanna Bowles

Vanna Bowles: Cultivation

How would you describe your art?

I make drawings and sculptures. I work with the grey tone, the black and white, the drawn or the photographed, and I try to push the boundaries for these expressions through sculpture and installation. An example is my drawings with relief where part of the motive ”grows” out of the picture surface and becomes 3dimensional. The relief is made by a sort of paper clay which when dry gets a surface very similar to that of the paper and easily melt into it. Therefore it gives the impression of an illusion.
Vanna Bowles: Falling
I’m inspired by surrealism and everyday absurdities, and aim to make images on the border between the ordinary and the improbable. My world of imagery depicts mainly people in different contexts, together or alone, often with a connection to nature. They can be out in nature, in a park, or a garden, they can also have nature within; like a tree growing out of a head or a waterfall in a chest. Vegetation and nature is used as a metaphor for what we can not control, like feelings and unwanted thoughts.
 Vanna Bowles: Origins wall installation
My starting point is private photos I find or buy and I base my drawings on them, then rework them further in photoshop – or keep them the way they are.

I’m interested in how we present ourselves to each other, what we think we show and what is hidden. When I look for material I often search for facial expressions, gestures and situations where I experience some form of tension or conflict behind the immediate impression. Then I have a good starting point for an interesting image.
Vanna Bowles: In the Hands of a Boy

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

I have more or less supported myself as an artist the last 5-6 years, but in periods I have doubted it being possible. I take one year at a time, and looking more than a year into the future I seldom know if I have an economy to trust. You have to learn not to worry too much about money. It should be mentioned that I have a job on the side, but the reason is mostly because it is fun and because I’m addicted to training. I work as a fitness instructor a couple of nights/week, and it is a fine contrast to the studio work, which is lonely and doesn’t involve much motion.

How long have you been working professionally as an artist?

Since I graduated from Kunstakademiet i Oslo (The National Academy Of Fine Arts Oslo) 2004

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

It depends on how you look at it; it’s a relative question. I have had the experience that Now it is happening, this is the moment I have waited for a couple of times. But then the feeling passes and you wait for the next breakthrough. There are always new levels to reach and new heights to aspire for.
Vanna Bowles: Stretching the mind

What is your primary client base?

I show and sell my art in galleries, public Art Galleries, museums and such

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 my own studio in a former classroom in an old school building. The whole building is full of different kind of artists. I’m alone in my studio and can work undisturbed, but I like that people around me are doing the same. This creates a certain feeling of fellowship that I like.
Vanna Bowle's studio
Do you have a typical workday? How much time do you spend creating and how much on business related activities?

My workdays are different in different periods, but I like it best when I’m in the 9-5 routine. Routines create security and peace, which makes it easier for me to create. I’m not good under time pressure, but instead at my best when I know I have a good time span ahead of me reserved for work, and that the days will look the same. I try to take care of email correspondence, phone calls, buying materials etc in the mornings so I can concentrate on my artistic work in the afternoons.

Which marketing strategies have/have not been successful in advancing your career? Or maybe we should call it strategies to become more visible/noticed?

In order to be visible it is important to have a website. I have gotten a lot of good things coming my way thanks to mine. I have also the habit to send information about my work on a regular basis to people/institutions that are important to me, or where I would like to exhibit. This normally doesn’t give results immediately, but if you are persistent you might get a positive answer now and then.

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

Kind of. I have learned by experience to become better and better in organising my art practice. My experience is that it is very important to make things clear and not be vague when it comes to contacts with clients, galleries, institutions and similar. Make sure to get as much information as possible before you accept a job/commission or an exhibition. Dare to make demands and be proud of your work. And make sure to be paid for what you do. Galleries often charge 50% of sales and for those money you should get something in return.

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

I’m myself very bad at handling rejection and still haven’t got a strategy on how to handle it. But this said; time and experience has helped. You kind of get used to it. And when you have gotten some confirmation, you will get better at taking rejections. I don’t think it is just bad though, to be rejected – you get to be tested in your faith in your own work. So you have to learn not to take it personally. Being rejected, getting a No, often depends on other factors than that your art wasn’t good enough.
Vanna Bowles: Attached to Nature
Based on your experience, what suggestions or lessons learned would you give to someone starting out as an artist?

Be stubborn. Show faith in you work. Don’t try to be someone else, or to do like someone else – just be yourself. Don’t get caught up in trends. Be critical and don’t settle for the very first. Have fun when working and try to look at yourself with some irony. To be an artist is a very self-centred profession and then it is good with a pinch of humour and some self-distance.

What would you like to accomplish in 2011?

I have just started a 10 months residency in a huge farm at the countryside, outside Lillehammer in Norway. There is a lot of space here, many rooms, a lot of nature and loads of time. The last two years I have had very many exhibitions and worked with focus in an efficient way – so to now be out here in the stillness is an amazing feeling. Starting from now I will spend a year working more in an investigating and experimental way, with less focus on results and finished objects. I’m also looking forward to getting the time to read and reflect.

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

My goal is to continue developing in my work, and to be able to continue to live out of my art. I have mostly been exhibiting in Scandinavia, so a concrete goal for me is to exhibit in other parts of the world.

Finally: Can you share something inspiring? 

Vegard Vinge's and Ida Müller's 24-hour-theatere Vildanden [the wild duck ] is one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen. It is actually closer to art than theatre and is both brutal and beautiful.
Vegard Vinge's and Ida Muller's 24 hour-theatre The Wild Duck

Otherwise I can recommend taking a look at Claude Cahun’s photograpies – timeless, personal and existential. Or watch a film by animator Jan Svankmajer.

When it comes to drawings, I would very much like to recommend a Norwegian artist called Martin Skauen, his images reminds a bit of Hieronymes Borsch’s – in a contemporary packing/version.

Another interesting draughtsman, well worth taking a look at is French Mad Meg.

Vanna Bowles: Behind the Hedge


Sara F.E. said...

Mycket intressant intervju, och jag vill även tillägga att din blogg är helt suverän!

Unknown said...

Thank your for this intruiging interview. I like her honest and truthful words about her work and the art business itself. I would love to see more artist interviews like this.

nathalie et cetera said...

wow !!! son travail est magnifique. Merci pour la découverte !

sandra said...

helt fantastiskt kul att se och läsa.

aimee said...

INCREDIBLE work! wow!

Alexandra Hedberg said...

Barbara - more interviews are coming - I aim for one/month. Until then you can access the earlier ones from the sidebar: art as business interviews.

gracia said...

Amazingly beautiful and thought provocative work, and a fascinating interview to read. What people elect to show is fascinating, I agree (re: "I’m interested in how we present ourselves to each other, what we think we show and what is hidden..."). Thank-you to both of you.