By Carolyn Edlund
Judith HeartSong was interviewed earlier this month for her expertise in art consulting and corporate art. She is a working artist as well, with a beautiful portfolio Artsy Shark just had to share.
AS: Judith, your work is colorful, intense, and very appealing. What inspires you?
JH: I have been working as a professional artist for twenty-eight years now, after a public school education in which my focus was completely art-centric. As a child I was always out in nature, in the woods and along the creek beds of northern Pennsylvania. I developed a sense of
awe and respect for the natural world early on and that devotion has never wavered. Plants and flowers fascinated me with their lush shapes and wonderful colors, and I was always interested in looking at botanical renderings and nature studies. To me they were often cold and impersonal, and that was not how I saw nature. I became captivated with trying to capture and share the world as I saw it.
AS: When transitioning into a career as a professional artist, there is a point where a “leap” is made, a commitment to the profession. Can you talk about this point in your career?
JH: My story may be different than others. I knew from childhood that I would be a professional artist, as did everyone who surrounded me – friends, teachers and family members all recognized my gift. By seventh grade a new art teacher looked at my first drawing assignment of the school year and called me a diamond in the rough. Friends and teachers always respected the spark that drove me and special allowances were made in the course of my education to provide art instruction and the time I needed to focus on it. I studied privately with some tremendous artists and worked with every sort of material I could get my hands on to build my knowledge of mediums.
As an adult I went on to marry and raise two children and would paint in the dining room in the middle of the night when all was quiet in my home. I handled my own PR for shows and events, and carried large trays of 200-300 mailers to the post office for mailing several times a year. A few years ago in San Diego a longtime patron pulled out several of those brightly colored envelopes filled with my letters, photos of work and newspaper clippings, and I was stunned that she had kept them all those years. My children grew up attending my shows, gallery openings and business meetings, and my art career was just a part of our life.
Fast forward to today and I am still at it, although I love the advantages of the internet and the ability to send jpegs and monthly newsletter updates electronically. Now with a gorgeous light-filled studio in a 28,000 square foot art center (VisArts, just outside of Washington, DC) and the ability to afford all the supplies I could ever need, I am able to focus totally on my career and creating new business opportunities.
AS: Could you share some of the most important steps you took which enabled you to become a successful independent artist?
JH: Believing in myself, my abilities, and my vision led me to follow a singular path. Primarily self-taught I learned early on that no other artist saw things exactly as I did, and I worked to develop my own signature style. I continued to explore new methods and materials and over the years met and formed bonds with a lot of talented artists. We shared information and insights and I continued to learn every day. A prominent businessman also took me under his wing and mentored me, and continues to do so some twenty years later. His perspective on the art of business informs my business of art.
I ventured into the world of licensing early on in my career with a catalogue company called The Company of Women. I learned a lot about art and design, as well as the business side of art. The company eventually went bankrupt, taking some of my original paintings and monies owed with them – another lesson learned. I had gotten to know Laurel Burch during our mutual time
with the catalogue and we had some invaluable conversations as I learned the business. I found her to be inspiring and dedicated. During this stage of my career I also built relationships with galleries and over time I learned to be cautious in every business deal I struck. Basically nobody was watching out for me BUT me.
Some artists abhor the business of art, but I found that learning to handle every aspect of my business on my own was an important part of taking control of my career. In the last eight years I have had the opportunity to re-focus my energies on my art and new business and licensing opportunities and I have never worked harder at building my business. I maintain my website and a daily blog, and pick and choose where to participate in social media knowing that everything I do leads back to my art.
I think it is the daily process of working… in the studio, on the computer, at the business… that builds a successful career. Continuing to learn and grow and to welcome new experiences and inspiration at every opportunity enriches our lives as artists. I wouldn’t change a thing.