There’s good reason why the phrase “struggling artist” pervades local artistic communities.
The answer to a simple question posed to several Flagstaff artists (below) reveals that they battle with recognition, making ends meet and their own apprehensions, all while continuing to unleash their creativity and passions.
The public will have the chance to interact with 63 local artists during the 20th annual Flagstaff Open Studios hosted by the Artists’ Coalition of Flagstaff. The free, multiple-location, self-guided tour will take place Aug. 26-27 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
“Artists are kind of mystical beings,” said artist and photographer Mike Frankel, executive director of the coalition. “Part of the appeal of open studios is the chance to see the techniques and the tools they use and the way they work.”
He said many of the artists in the tour work other full-time or part-time jobs to support artistic endeavors.
“The life of an artist is a balancing act and often a struggle,” Frankel said, adding that the open studios tour presents an opportunity for the public to lend their support.
Taking part in this year’s tour are painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers, ceramic and jewelry creators, fabric and glass artists and others. The open studios concept allows for exhibits, demonstrations and discussions with artists, and art lovers can make purchases directly from the creators.
Brochures with a complete list of participating artists and maps are available at the Arts Connection in the Flagstaff Mall and at the Flagstaff Visitor Center, 1 E. Route 66, or online at www.flagstaff-arts.org.
In advance of next weekend’s tour, the Daily Sun asked a few of these “mystical beings” what an artist’s life is like. Here’s what they said.
Roger Bedard — ceramics, sculptural forms and totems, infused with a dose of whimsy
"Rarely does an artist make even a modest living producing and selling artworks. However, if one is not dependent on the sale of one’s art to live, the life of the artist offers unique joys and challenges. It is a life of questioning and trying, and trying and trying, and trying yet again, and wondering 'What if?' and 'Why not?' It’s a life of honing unique perspectives of the world and hoping that, once-in-a-while, someone cares."
Abe Snider — landscape photography and astrophotography
"It is fluid and always changing. As an artist, you must always be open to new possibilities and opportunities and can't get too comfortable with one practice or skill set."
Laura Hines — illustration and graphic design
"It’s personally rewarding, but also incredibly difficult. In addition to the sheer number of hours spent immersed in the creative process, from conception to completion of a project, there are difficult emotional and financial considerations that impact their daily lives. … Many artists spend a large part of their professional lives simply marketing themselves in the hustle to get recognition and compensation for their work.
"Art also requires a great deal of vulnerability in the face of potential public criticism, rejection, or worse: ambivalence. It takes confidence and dedication to one's artistic vision to pursue art professionally. But I can personally attest that even if only a single person amongst a thousand connects with an artist's work in a real and profound way, the constant uncertainties of this career pale in comparison to the deep gratification of knowing that one's art has meaning and significance to another human being."
George Averbeck — hand-blown glass works
"Expensive and tiresome. … It’s hot in my studio, around 100 degrees."
Tamara Sullivan — works in sculpture, drawing, paper, fabric and found objects
"If I give an honest answer, it’s difficult; mainly because I am usually my own worst enemy. I haven't consistently made work because I always seem to worry about what I think other people think I should be doing; even though I’ve known since I was 15 that my drive in life is to make art. Recently, I committed to making a new body of work. I have never had my own studio and make everything on the floor of various apartments I live in or use space and equipment that other people let me borrow."
Marsha Owen — watercolor painting
"It's a world all to itself. Art begins my day with goals and ends with gratitude. It's a huge part of my circle of people and activities. It comes with me on vacation, it's what I see as I drive or walk. I covet an art friends t-shirt that reads: 'I may be making eye contact but I'm painting in my head.'
"Paintings can be what I'm so proud of and then so disappointed in. Being a painter has forced me to learn computer programs, organization systems, join groups, step up and be more confident. It's not about facade or finding something easy. It's about working hard, problem solving and trying to improve every day with the hope your art brings beauty to someone else."