Friday, June 11, 2010

Women Artists Unite!

by Kate Dardine

Last fall I successfully juried into a 40 year old artist’s organization called Women Artist’s of the West. And then this spring I was juried into the WAOW all-member show with my painting, “Vision Quest.” These two accomplishments have done a lot to “prove” to myself that I have finally reached a point in my artistic journey where my work is considered to be on a par with artists I have admired for many years. It’s been a long time coming…

Although I graduated from college with a degree in Illustration (many years ago!), life – and the choices I made – have kept me from pursuing art full-time. The path I chose took me on a meandering course, and I already was married with two children before I decided to finish college and get my degree. So although art was my passion, I had to fit it in around the needs of my family. When we left Connecticut 22 years ago for the plains of Colorado, I had to find a part time job to help make ends meet. Luckily, I found a job which utilized my art skills as a “spotter” at Fine Print Imaging. Twenty-one years later, I am still at Fine Print – although now I am in the Marketing Department and working 32 hours a week.

What does it mean to juggle a full-time job, family responsibilities AND try to build an art career? Well, for one thing, it means that your time-line for “success” is probably going to be a bit longer than someone who is able to devote a full day’s work to art. I have often felt alone in my journey – most artists I know, both men and women, are “full-time.” And of those who have a day job, most don’t have children or family to take care of. Without resorting to reverse-sexism, I have to say that nearly all the men I know who are successfully building their art career are not working at a day job AND taking care of a family. On the flip side, MOST women artists I know are either working at a day job or taking care of a family (read: cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, schlepping kids to and from activities and/or taking care of aging parents, bill-paying, vacation-planning, etc.).

However, this is not a complaint. It is just a realization that women artists by and large face different challenges than our male counterparts. And THAT is why belonging to an organization whose sole purpose is to promote and support women artists is such an important part of my art career.

Last week the Women Artists of the West converged on El Cajon, California. About 30 of the members were able to take the trip to San Diego, and we were able to meet and converse the night before the show opened at the Olaf Wieghorst Museum. Most of us had never met before, so there was a lot of “where are you from” going on. And many conversations mentioned husbands left at home with long lists on how to take care of the horses, dogs, cats, children, garden, etc.…as well as talk about sales, galleries, painting styles and workshops. It struck me that most male artists don’t have to make long lists before leaving for a few days to attend an art show.

But let me dispel the idea that these women artists were unhappy about their lives. No – it was just a part of the experience of being a woman artist. Oh sure, there were jokes about us all needing “wives” to take care of things for us! But for most of us, “it is what it is.”

At the opening reception, the show judge, Peggi Kroll-Roberts, gave a talk and slide presentation of her work and her life as a successful woman artist juggling family and career. She talked of painting small so she could finish a painting in 20 minutes, of bribing her children and their friends with $1 bills to pose for minute sketches (“just count to 60!”), how she brought her sketch book along to soccer and baseball practices and games, days at the beach or in her backyard – “draw, draw, draw” she encouraged us.

Looking at slides of her paintings, sketches, contour drawings and children while listening to Peggi explain how she became successful because she never gave up, painted when she could – even if only for 15 minutes between loads of laundry – filled me with respect for this woman whose motto is “no excuses.” And made me realize that the path to success is different for everyone. Instead of bemoaning the lack of time, lack of money, lack of anything…just get out there and paint. Little steps get you to your goal as well as large steps, it just takes a little longer. But think of all the beauty you will see on your slow journey that those moving forward on the fast track will miss.


Natasha's Art said...

Thanks for sharing - this is so encouraging.

Diane said...

I'm proud of you, Kate! You did it! As you say, it's a longer, harder journey for women. I am reading a book about Alice Neel, some of her trials and tributions would have done in most people. It's tougher to succeed as a woman in art, unfortunately, but I just say, never, ever give up!

Anonymous said...

Coming from a young mother who was wondering if I would ever be able to make anything of myself as an artist... this article has given me hope and reassurance that I am not alone! Thank-you!

Kate Dardine said...

Thank you for your comments! We women artists have to stick together - to encourage, support, celebrate and yes, nurture each other!