Artist Interview: Andrea Becker
Back in October I had a chance to interview and photograph my friend Andrea, an artist in Seattle, Washington. She has been drawing since she was 7 years old. In 2014 She decided that she wanted to see if she could find a way to make money off her art.
Here is our interview, my questions are in bold.
B: How did you discover or decide that you wanted to make art full time?
A: 4 years ago, when I was living in Lacombe I was looking to make art full time, but I had no idea when it would actually happen. It wasn’t until I’d been in Seattle for 2 years that I was like “ok, I can actually do this as an artist.” and so I had to figure out, and I’m still discovering, what platforms are going to be the most beneficial. I’m exploring, I’m in a creating zone, so I’m creating constantly. but as for how to sell it, that's still in transition.
I find a lot of it has to do with networking, who you can connect with that kind of dictates how you’re going to sell your product, your art.
B: who are some artists online that really inspire you.
A: When I started pursuing this, one artist that actually inspired me is Yuko Shimizu. She’s an illustrator from NY and her style is really unique. She does a Japanese Edo-period style with a modern twist. Shes worked for DC, Marvel, Times Magazine, she’s done tons of stuff.
I like her because Japanese stuff has always fascinated me, but also because she went back to school when she was 34.
She’d been in the PR business in Japan for 10 years and so she got to a point where she was like you know, I have to do this art thing. So she took out her savings, went to New York, went to school, and got into the art scene. To me, she was a huge inspiration. She came to Calgary and led a workshop. So I had to go. I met a ton of artists there who were in the industry and most of the people who took her class were fans.
There was maybe two of us who didn’t have an art background, but were interested in it. So just going there was fantastic because there were so many people that I was able to talk to who had done an art degree, and just about everybody there was working a part-time and doing art. To me, that was a huge wake up of “oh, I don’t need to go back to school. I just keep working and make my art, and eventually, at some point, I’ll start transitioning and be able to do the art thing.” I had a lot of feedback from everyone like “just keep doing what you're doing.” I thought I needed to do colour theory and to figure out my medium.
B: So was that your wake up moment? like this is a thing I can do?
A: Yep! This is something I can do. I can actually do it, it's just going to take time. That was four years ago. So now, I’m at that space where I am doing art, and I am selling. But now it's building it up to making it a little bit more income. And finding out where my niche is. I can create, I’ve developed my style, I’m comfortable enough, I know that pen and paper are my preferred medium. I’m also learning photoshop. I’m comfortable enough with photoshop that I can now do commission work for people.
So now it's just going “ok, so what/how I can I make this consistent enough. I’ve only been at it for 3 months.
B: How do you come up with ideas for your work?
A: Instagram. I look at a lot of artists, I have a lot of artists that I follow because I like their particular style. Or I have a specific genre that I follow on Instagram. So in my feed, just about every day I come across something I like, a particular style, or how someone drew a character's eyes, or how they made use of space. So I actually have file folders in my Saved Posts on Instagram, that when I like something I drag it into one of those folders.
Since I’ve developed my style, I’ll keep drawing in my style, but to invigorate it I’ll just go “hey this week I want to create more forest creatures.” So I’ll go back to my files and review, and I’ll look at style, or use of space, or anatomy, and let that influence my drawing. When I feel like I need to have a refresher, I need something new, I’ll go back and look at stuff.
I try to follow other artists whose styles I really draw me in, that I really enjoy. I don’t try to duplicate but I always find influence. Every artist is gonna say that they don’t duplicate but that they’re heavily influenced by other artists. But yeah, Instagram is my main source of inspiration.
B: what three books would you recommend to an aspiring artist
A: One Small Step Can Change Your LIfe: The Power of Kaizen by Dr. Robert Maurer, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
Those are the three that I’ve read cover to cover and I’ve taken the ideas and applied them to my life. They all kind of mesh with each other. They all actually tie-in to each other.
And I read a lot of stuff on Medium. There is tons of stuff on habit building, which I think is essential for artists. The nice thing is the articles are very piecemeal. Sometimes there's a lot of stuff that you can find in the books I mentioned, but every so often I’ll come across a writer who’s got one additional idea I never thought of. So it's really nice because these are people who are applying the same concepts in their lives.
I’ve read tons of articles about the importance of being up early in the morning. I’m a night owl but I was able to transition because I found all of the elements I need to get me up. So 1 key thing for waking up early - a natural light alarm. I found another thing, to help me get out of bed, was having something to look forward to, which was coffee. That's literally the first thing I started doing. I would go to the kitchen and start my coffee. I’d have that to look forward to every day.
I haven’t been drinking coffee lately, so what I’ve been doing now is water and vitamins. Because vitamins create stability for my mind. So literally, that will get me out of bed because then that creates my mental stability for the day.
But you have to find something to get yourself out of bed that you have to look forward to. So it was coffee for the longest time because I enjoy it, now it's vitamins. Getting out of bed has to be something that you can look forward to like you’re treating yourself.
B: I started doing the Artist’s Way workbook earlier this year and I got to chapter 8 and then fell off the wagon. But I was like getting up half an hour early and writing.
A: what season was that?
B: I started in January, fell off the wagon at the beginning of the summer
A: I find it's a seasonal thing, I started in November. I did it for 6 months, and the key thing is, is doing it 7 days a week. ‘Cause that’s the only way it’ll stick. I started in November, and by March, when daylight savings changed, I stopped.
B: June to August is usually when I struggle to write or create every single day. And then September I’m usually back into it.
A: Yeah, I think it's a seasonal thing because come spring, I stop. For me, it worked in winter because I’d get home late, it’d be dark. I’d get up early, it would be dark. But I found that for me it was a way of enjoying myself in the morning. Because in the Kaizen book it talks about enjoying little moments, and I think that's really important.
In our apartment, we have a huge huge window looking out into the street, and it's framed by trees and I can kind of see the Seattle skyline. So in the morning, I’d have my coffee, and I would journal. Sometimes I’d pause and look out the window and just enjoy the moment. There is something very key and raw about just simply stopping and reflecting in that space and looking out. Finding a space you really like can help. If it doesn’t work, if you fall out of the habit, then Kaizen theory would say you have to go back to the drawing board and make it simpler. So you have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what worked, and what can I do that's similar that might work again. So I like to find a physical space that you enjoy. And then adding food or a drink you like, so coffee or tea or the fizzy water or a snack. I’ve found little things, little treats, that I can be like “hey, I have coffee! Sip and enjoy!”
And then, if it doesn’t work for me, I’ll try something different, like I’m going to try to do my journaling in bed, or I’m going to try sitting on the couch with a cosy blanket, and maybe light candles. I try to find what triggers that I enjoy or like what I kind of gravitate too.