Redeemed Artist Part II

In my first blog post about the "Redeemed Artist", I started telling my story about becoming an artist later in life, with hope that other people in a similar situation may find some useful information in it. I know that I appreciated hearing about other people's experiences, so why not return the favor the only way I can! 

I left off my story at the point where my beloved art school the Vancouver Art Academy closed down. Here is what happened next.

Around 2002, after about 4 years of taking art classes, following all the directions of my teachers and repeating all the exercises endlessly, I felt a desire to hang my art on a wall next to my peers and to keep expanding the techniques I learned from my teachers.

I did some research and found that this can be done in shows run by art associations, so I joined the best one in the town - the Federation of Canadian Artists. What initially most appealed to me was that they hosted numerous members shows in a lovely little gallery on Granville Island, a popular artsy part of the town, and that they had a web site where members can publish their work. The works I have seen there were most inspiring and beautiful and the first time I saw it, I was hooked. I wanted to learn how to consistently create art of such quality.

I submitted 3 paintings, and when the jury accepted me, I took that as my first ever license to call myself an artist - what a wonderful moment that was! I started submitting paintings into every possible themed show that they organized. I think that I entered more than 20 shows per year for a few years, all very different themes and mediums, although my forte was watercolor portraiture for which I won several awards.

Anticipation, watercolor painting by Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki

I now had access to an entire art community connected with this organization, and consisting of many amazing established artists, some of them nationally and internationally famous, and also hundreds of people like me who were working hard on becoming artists later in life. Generosity of this community was amazing and truly inspiring. The myth that artists needed to be solitary, twisted, hungry and cut throat competitive was completely dispelled here. I have learned that a life in art can be inspiring, inclusive and rewarding in many ways. My wonderful new mentors, teachers and friends included the famous Robert Genn, Alan Wylie, Mike Svob, Janice Robertson, David Langevin and many more fantastic artists whose thoughtful  insights I cherish.

Plain Air Event with friends from the FCA: Robert Genn, Alan Wylie, Sinisa Mirkov, mystery friend, Bob McMurray, Janice Robertson, Teressa Bernard, Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki, Alfonso Tejada, Angie Au Hemphil

If I start listing all the great friends I made in the FCA, I am bound to miss someone, so I will just send a huge hugging thank you to everyone in the FCA who touched my life - each and every one of my FCA friends is truly precious! I hope that every art community has a similar group, and I wholeheartedly recommend budding artists to join in.

Between 2002 and 2005 I learned a lot about the logistics or art creation, and some fundamentals of navigating the art scene. While the focus in the art school was learning techniques, in the FCA I learned how to enter shows, photograph and frame paintings, the rules of copyright, how to set prices, how to organize my home studio (read - spare bedroom), and much more about becoming a productive and joyful artist. I even sold a few paintings in FCA group shows, to the astonishment of my family. One important point at this juncture was also about learning how to handle criticism, endure rejections from shows, and face all those difficulties that seem so big when they occur, and so small in the hind site. But every single one is a valuable lesson in strengthening the artist's character - what doesn't break us, makes us stronger!

At this time I decided that figurative watercolor paintings were too slow to create, models too difficult to find (and costly), interested clients too few.  I realized that I can utilize my love of nature so I switched my main focus to landscapes. Acrylic medium appealed to me because it allowed for fast, clean and mobile work.  I loved the idea of plain air painting, but at this point I was more confident in the studio so I stared creating a cohesive body of work based on Canadian landscape photographs from my travels in BC and Alberta. I am still adding to this body of work, and getting new ideas on daily basis after all those years, so I know that I made the right choice.

Interestingly, all my drawings, watercolors and oil paintings so far have been fairly realistic, but as soon as I started painting in acrylic, a distinct style started to emerge. I am not really sure how and why this happened. I remember that acrylic was the first medium that gave me a fair amount of trouble (I guess it still does). I am fascinated with it's endless possibilities and I'd like to believe that this ongoing struggle  makes me a better artist every day that I persevere.

One of my first acrylic landscape paintings

One side effect of actively participating in an art association is that one gets more and more involved in the actual running of the organization. I joined the FCA Board of Directors in 2005. I was thrilled to give my time and energy back to the organization, and even though this was a demanding and time consuming duty I am happy that I did it. 

This was the end of my honeymoon with art and beginning of the "school of hard knocks", because with a consistent body of work, and having learned the basics of the art scene it was the time to put my determination to become an artist into a next gear, and enter the commercial art scene.

More about that in the next installment of the "Redeemed Artist"!