An Interview with Maude
To start us off, tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I’m an oil painter and muralist who focuses on very whimsical, colorful, and impressionistic work with themes of nature and fantasy. I graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2013 with a BFA. After that I taught art classes and dipped my toes into freelancing for a while. In 2016 I moved out to West Michigan, where I continued to teach while throwing myself into my artist practice.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in art?
The thought first started fluttering around my brain in my late teens. I had been making art all throughout my childhood and really loved it. I was exposed to career artists my junior year of high school when I started an interactive media program at Penta Career Center. At that point I thought I would be a graphic designer of some kind but meeting fine artists in the field really inspired me to move in that direction.
What have been your biggest challenges along the way?
The two big hurdles I can think of are fairly interconnected in my mind. The first is money, and our collective cultural perception of artists and people who self-identify as such is the other. I’ve found it extremely difficult to market and sell my work to the public at a price that is sustainable for a livelihood. I believe the common perception that art is a hobby, as opposed to a career, often leaves people who have little knowledge of the art world with sticker shock. Often, when the public sees a price on a piece or project that puts the artist just at a minimum wage level of income, it is perceived as overpriced. Yet people want, crave and need art in their lives.
It’s also become a bit of a balancing act for me; I want to keep prices low enough that my work doesn’t become a luxury item for the wealthy and completely outside the budget for the average person, but high enough to pay the bills. I have a deep-seated belief that art shouldn’t be for the upper class alone.
So, I struggle between validating the cost of art to the public, without catering solely to the wealthy, whose patronage could easily fund my work. It’s a back and forth between financial stability and values.
We’ve all heard of the stereotype of the starving artist. How do you feel about it, and have you ever considered yourself a starving artist?
I have absolutely been a starving artist, both during college and a short time after. I think the trope is an honest one that comes to us as a symptom of the value we place on art and artists. I touched on this in a different question, but it’s worth repeating. We want and crave art yet are reluctant to lend credence to the idea that fine art is a valid profession, leaving many artists without the support they need to thrive.
In addition to that, I think many young creatives fail to realize that being an independent artist isn’t all about the act of creation. It’s a lot of business and learning to market yourself. We focus so much on perfecting our craft that we often fail to learn how to actually get our work in front of the people who want it, which is essential if you want to eat!
How do you stay hungry for more projects, more commissions, more new ideas, etc.?
I like to keep up with fellow artists and creatives online that I’m either friends with or just fond of. Seeing a constant flow of creative energy inspires my own. I also try and take regular adventures to places that I think will lend me some inspiration, whether they are physical destinations or fantasy worlds in literature or film.
If you could travel back in time and give a younger version of yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t settle, don’t make contingency plans, and take a small business class! I guess that’s more than one, but they’re all equally important!
While we’re talking about time travel, if you could travel in time and back only once, where (or rather when) would you go? Is there anyone you’d like to meet?
Oh there are so many, its hard to choose! I think if I had to pick just one, I’d like to travel back to the Library of Alexandria before it burned, and just explore it all. I’d really love to meet and speak with Hypatia as well, though she lived about 100 years after the library burned.
Do you have any routines or rituals to get yourself in the creative flow?
I try and construct a very particular kind of energy in my studio. The colors, the lights, the music, décor, it’s all cultivated to inspire. It’s not strictly necessary, but it does help quite a bit! I try and keep that same energy with me when I travel the art circuit and sell at art fairs and festivals as well.
Who/what is your muse? What are some of the inspirations behind your work?
I’m influenced a lot by the natural world, and these little almost magical moments I’ve experienced by just being still and observing it. I’ve traveled to many of our national parks and was raised in the countryside. The wilds have a special place in my heart.
I also find a lot on inspiration in fantasy novels and children’s stories from my childhood. I’m big into nostalgia in that way.
How has your process/style changed over time?
When I first started making art, most of it was very dark, both in color and in tone. I used a lot of pencil and ink. I think I was trying to express concepts and emotions that I wrestled with as I tried to reconcile the realities of the world I was discovering and experiencing, with what I was taught to expect. It was very raw, reactionary, and observational.
By contrast, I now use almost exclusively bright colors and peaceful, joyful, whimsical content. I use my work to create and manifest the world I’d like to see, willfully constructing my own vision, experiences and reality. I think I reached a point where I realized there was enough darkness and tragedy in the world, and a plethora of artists exploring that in their work. I wanted to shed some lightness and joy instead.
If someone wanted to check out your work, or commission something from you, where can they find you (social media, website, studio, etc.)?
You can find links to all my other social media and in-person events there!
Can you describe your work in 100 words or less?
I create in an attempt to make the normal fantastic in the eyes of the viewer, utilizing jewel tones, impressionistic rendering, and themes of nature married to themes of fantasy. I experiment with mixed media surfaces and almost always incorporate gold into my work. I’m not afraid to douse a piece in glitter, and there is no such thing as too vibrant in my studio.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
I do what I want.
Is there anything else you’d like mention about yourself, your art, or just life in general?
Don’t be afraid to bring art into every aspect of your life. The way you present yourself, your home, your vehicle, your yard, your cooking, your journal – it can all be your art!