Monday, November 14, 2011

Beth Weintraub: Interview with an Artist

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting a dear friend from San Francisco, Beth Weintraub. It was great to see her smiling face and to catch up. We visited a local farmer’s market, did some antiquing, and made wonderful dinners together. She’s a world-renowned talented printmaker who specializes in etching and her beautiful work can be seen at  Oddly enough, in a medium known for multiple prints, no two prints of Beth’s are alike. I am happy to cal her a friend and mentor, and am thrilled to announce her as my guest artist. We will hear about her journey and story during this question and answer interview.
So, without further delay, I introduce to you the visionary, youthful, never dull, Ms. Beth Weintraub.

Q: Why are you an artist and when did you become one?

I’m quite sure that I was born this way, but why I became an artist is a more interesting subject to consider.
In an effort to keep me occupied, my childhood was filled with creative play involving all kinds of crafty supplies at home. Our family basement was a playroom with free reign to paint, draw and construct using anything within reach. During elementary school I fondly recall many YMCA craft days on football Sundays, where we made everything from candles, play-dough figures to elaborate construction paper mobiles; I loved going there. I was also exposed to art of all kinds, in museums from ancient to modern, at craft fairs and antique shops, even architecture, historical ruins and handicrafts during family travel. Clearly my education was designed to teach me that all art and culture were to be revered and highly valued.

Q: From where do you draw your inspiration?

The connection between what I see, what I feel and how I create new imagery is an elusive and internal function. The way my hand and body move dictate the kind of shapes I like to make the most, but this gets repetitive fast, so I often seek out visual stimuli that is farthest from my own natural style. I like to look at high design elements in furniture, I look at the fabrics, the colors, the wood, the way it’s assembled. I examine surface textures in concrete, asphalt, metal, even food, plants, and skin. I get inspired when I see obvious decisions that were made in the process of creation.

Q: Do you work in your studio every day?

I spend time in my studio nearly every day. My best working hours are between 10am and 4pm. After that I’m often wasting materials. I do keep to a rather regular schedule; it helps to be available and focused during the same workweek as everyone else as well as allowing me to plan for doing my non-studio tasks around my most productive creative time. I’ve been told this approach is like that of an athlete; it makes sense.

Q: What factors motivate you to create?

I think I just have an urgent need to make stuff. The need to use my hands and either alter, fix or make something in its entirety is at the core of my personality.  I’m the queen of customization and I enjoy being different.
As a result, I strongly feel that every effort should be made towards achieving originality. I always hope that my work doesn’t appear derivative of any other artist or designer. I don’t always succeed but I hold integrity as the highest ingredient for my personal goals.  I see other artist’s work that motivates me, but I never ever wish for anyone to compare my work to another’s.
Conveying that urge via paper and ink is irresistible.

Q: How do you handle the business side of being an artist?

I am naturally good at some aspects of business, like marketing, time management and project development. The areas where I don’t excel, such as bookkeeping, graphic design and office administration, are dealt by other people who are good at those things and who hopefully like what they do. I don’t try to learn everything and handle it all myself. No matter what, business is collaborative. I have to trust others to help me. That part isn’t easy and of course, it costs money. I also have to trust that money going out will be met by money coming in. A gamble, I know but it gets easier.

Q: What are the best and worst parts about being a full-time artist?

The worst parts are silly, ego-oriented things. People’s attitudes towards artists are often minimizing – as if it isn’t really a job or a business. Some people ask me ‘what I really do’, or I get the feeling they assume I’m either broke, or given money by my family.
The best part is having a well-equipped romper room under my own control.

Q: What do you consider to be key factors in the success of your career as an artist?

The ability to express my intentions, explain the value of what I do, and follow through with promises has greatly helped me. I know I get more business because I am reliable, timely, and able to confess my shortcomings. People have a hard enough time spending money on non-utilitarian items, much less something they can’t see in advance. I have to be able to help them feel like part of the process, often from long distance. Communication is key.

Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I fantasize about working on only 4 projects a year. If I were to divide the planet into quadrants, each section would get one allotment. Such as one commission, one museum exhibit, the sale of a single piece from my studio. The challenge for me is not to be bored with that, or concocting a few such complex projects that it’s all I can handle.
Also I’d like to be invited by aliens to travel with them by space ship, indefinitely.