Friday, May 6, 2011

Artist Profile--Robin Olsen

This month I'm posting my own profile--Robin Olsen. I started Portland Art Collective 8 years ago after moving to Portland from Calif. It was one of the best things I've ever done! I am thrilled to have such a wonderful group of artist friends for continual inspiration and support.

1. What are the main mediums you use? What do you find satisfying about them?

I love painting and stitching and pretty much focus on those 2 things. I like to work intuitively, but I also want a piece to have good design principles when it's done. I love that I can paint fast and furiously but then make as many changes as I want. I might do the first painting in a couple hours, but spend the next 2 months making changes until it all feels right. I'm always trying to find that line between freedom and control. It's much harder to make changes after I've spent a lot of time hand stitching pieces together in fabric. But I love the meditative quality of slow hand stitching.

2. If someone were going to get started in those mediums, what suggestions would you give?

Don't wait for the perfect time, place, class, materials, just start. I started painting after reading Michele Cassou's Life, Paint and Passion. At the time I had 2 toddlers and a tiny laundry room to paint in. Every day I put on a Magic Schoolbus video for the kids and spent 30 minutes painting. I used cheap paper and kid paints. Every painting went into a stack, not to be looked at again. I think it's really important to have time to experiment, play and find the joy in what you do, without expecting great finished pieces. Later I took painting classes and was then ready for the sometimes tedious exercises like value scales.

There are so many different ways to learn, find what works best for you. When I started in mixed media, I loved taking classes at big retreats where I was energized and inspired by all the novelty. Now I find those events over stimulating and prefer to work and learn in solitude. I love online classes and books for that reason. A few favorite books that come to mind--Stitch Magic by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn, Expressive Drawing by Steven Aimone, and Creative Illustration Workshop by Katherine Dunn.

3. A perfect art day would look like_________

Any day when I wake up with a creative spark and no obligations is pretty nice. Ideally, I'd wake up and go to a Nia class. Have coffee and an oatmeal scone at Baker and Spice, then head home to plunge into art projects. I'd be at that stage when ideas are flowing and I lose track of time. I'd alternate between painting for an hour or two, then sit and work on stitching for a while. I'd head out to a great dinner probably at Apizza Scholls or Por Que No with my family, and they'd be intensely interested in everything I did that day. An evening walk and a luscious dessert would round out the day.

4. Do you have dedicated studio space? Give a brief description of where you work.

One of the features that sold me on our house was a nice size daylight basement for studio space. It wasn't entirely finished when we bought it, so I was able to choose cork flooring which I love because I often stand when I work. I have my easel set up in front of a window. And an area designated for fabric work. My studio is more functional than beautiful.

5. Favorite place you've visited or lived?

I feel very lucky to live in Portland! My favorite place to visit is New York City, and I go as often as I can. Theater, museums, great food--I never get tired of it. I love to walk from one end to the other and absorb all the sights on the streets.

6. What inspires you (or are there recurring themes in your work)?

I am inspired by artwork that has a spontaneous energy to it such as graffiti and outsider art. I used to teach children's art classes and love the exuberance in their work. I get lots of inspiration from ethnic textiles and art. And I find big cities very inspirational.

7. I still struggle with_________

My moods. I wish I could wake up feeling creative everyday, but sometimes the funk sets in.

8. I'd be lost without__________

This probably makes me schizophrenic, but my alone time AND my family and friends.

9. Favorite dessert?

Anything chocolate, but nothing beats a warm chocolate chip cookie loaded with nuts and an ice cold glass of milk.

10. What's on the horizon?

More of the same. I'm experimenting with painting on wood. I'm working more and more with reclaimed fibers--bits of old linens and handwork, the more worn and frayed the better. And I'm looking forward to warm weather when I can dye a new batch of recycled fabrics.

You can see more of my work on my blog

1 comment:

stephanie brockway said...

I love your perfect art day! So true, not wait for the perfect time, I turned 40 and told myself if not now when, good advice. And now Im craving a chocolate chip cookie!
Thanks for sharing!