Contemporary Artist Mom Shares the Importance of "Finding Your Niche"
Our guest for episode 30 is contemporary artist, Mom. From grade school tiles to limited-release pieces for the Dallas Mavericks, Mom shares how she rose to become a full-time artist and studio owner, and why it's important for artists to find their own niche. Cabus kicks off the episode by asking Mom what made her want to get started as an artist.
photo provided by artist
As a kid, Mom enjoyed tracing Looney Tunes characters and drawing her own creations on porcelain tiles. She was drawn to becoming a Pediatrician when she grew up because she liked that they got to paint and decorate their offices. As she moved into high school, art became more of a focal point as she joined advanced art classes, studied digital rendering for animations, and eventually pursued a degree in Textiles at the University of North Texas. Mom says that her many experiences with different mediums during her school years all influenced the direction her art has taken today.
After college, Mom took a career detour into IT for five years. True to form, her cubicle was always covered in drawings. She also began hosting art pop-ups in her backyard where she would screen print t-shirts and invite other local artists to sell their goods. She did what she could to keep her art practice alive behind the scenes of her corporate job.
Mom then transitioned into a career as a high school art teacher, which she considers her first "professional" art endeavor. She says teaching inspired her to infuse more meaning and intention into her own art, which eventually gave her the confidence to step out into an art career of her own.
"I love when life pushes me into a corner and forces me to level up because a lot of times [I'm] afraid to step out and do things that are unknown just because of the fear of the unknown - that's the only thing that's really ever holding us back."
photo provided by artist
After teaching for a couple of years, Mom co-opened her store and studio space, Trade, which she shares more about later in the episode. Utilizing her degree expertise, she began creating textiles and custom merch, which she thought would become her main career focus. Her trademark abstract landscape hoodies have now expanded into paintings on canvas.
Mom shares that her residential pieces range from collaborative and personal designs to complete surprises painted in the moment. Her commercial works involve much more planning, including color samples, sketches, and specific location considerations. She says these pieces feel more weighted because they are seen on a larger scale and are intended to bring in more business for the client.
Cabus then asks Mom how her approach to pricing her work has evolved over time. Mom says it's been encouraging to see her art valued by companies and people thus far in her career. She has been inspired by a prior Artist Uprising podcast guest, Jasmine Marie, who says if your hand isn't shaking when you're writing the invoice or if you feel too comfortable with the price point, it's not high enough. Mom has been trying to live by that advice for the past couple of months, even sharing it with other artists.
"I think the pricing is one of the hardest things for artists because you want to make it accessible, but at the same time, you need to get paid what you're worth - and then some."
photo provided by artist
When asked about her painting process, Mom says she normally starts with a blank wood canvas and paints it light pink, which she feels adds depth and richness to the colors she paints over it. She says having a color already on the canvas helps her make decisions quicker. She then paints the main framework of the piece followed by the smaller details.
Mom keeps it simple with her color choices, following her inspiration one section at a time. She likes to balance saturated colors and warm tones with desaturated colors and cool tones to keep it visually interesting and non-overwhelming. Mom says she avoided working with color in college because learning color theory seemed too confusing. But, teaching simple art principles to her high school students helped her overcome her color block and approach it more innately and intentionally.
During the pandemic and the winter storm that hit Texas at the beginning of 2021, Mom's business grew significantly through social media. She attributes this to consistency and a bit of repetition. Mom says she used to look down on online creators who continued to post the same kind of content on their social platforms but has seen now how it helps educate people about your brand.
Simple social media tips have helped her grow her following like showing her full creative process from start to finish, adding closed captions to her videos, and paying attention to what her fans are responding the most to. Mom has implemented these ideas while also keeping true to her own vision and avoiding the monotony that she hasn't enjoyed from other creator accounts.
"A lot of people see having to create content as a burden, but it doesn't have to be. You find your niche and you figure out what the value is that you're providing to people. But not in lieu of caring for yourself."
Cabus then asks Mom about Trade, her co-op studio, and shop in Oak Cliff, which she co-founded with two of her friends. There, they provide studio space, host markets, teach art classes, and sell handmade and vintage goods. Mom says the community that this space provides has been enormously beneficial, not only personally, but for getting her name out there and landing new business, too.
Mom then describes the process behind her recent collaboration with the Sweet Tooth Hotel. She says she began with a painted wraparound mural and then added some unique 3D elements like turf, clay snails, and oversized flowers made from EVA foam and hot glue. Mom had never created 3D elements like this before, citing Google as her best friend for how-tos.
"If you don't trust yourself to take on new challenges or to get something done, you're never going to start. You've got to have that trust and belief in yourself to be able to move forward. Otherwise, you're going to be stagnant. If you don't believe, who the hell else will?"