A Talk with Carolyn Latanision
The Sixth in an Artist Daily Exclusive Series:
The Realities of Fine Art as a Career
Flamenco Recital II, 14 x 19, watercolor painting by Carolyn Latanision.
What did you find most surprising about being a full-time painter?
I found it difficult to work without interruption or distraction in my home, so I decided the best thing would be to rent studio space where I could paint and also teach, the latter to pay the rent initially. Once installed in the space, I found it difficult to stay focused, often getting up and pacing! I was so used to being interrupted. I needed to develop discipline.
What did you find most difficult about starting a full-time professional career?
My biggest struggle has been how to maintain production. As a wife, mother, and now grandmother, I, of course, pick up all the loose ends–a familiar refrain–and cannot keep a predictable studio schedule. I have had to be very tenacious, working when I can and trying not to fret when I can’t. I still teach in my studio and find that it actually helps me to stay focused and scheduled.
Do you recommend keeping another source of income while launching a professional career?
Some years ago I was a visiting artist in classrooms in a nearby town. A few teachers introduced me to the classes as making my living as an artist. I didn’t think it would be fair to leave the children with the impression that it was quite that simple; I told them that actually it was my husband’s income which paid our bills. I do, however, cover all of my own expenses related to my art. It’s a necessary compromise to paying the bills, since my husband will never retire and be my “wife.”
Do you believe gallery representation is still the best way to go?
I have not tried to sell my art online, although I do believe a website is essential, as galleries and commissions have come my way by that route. It always surprises me to be found!
Did you have a career plan with specific goals when you started?
I began my career as an art teacher with a degree in art education, but with a desire to primarily be a painter. Between my husband’s career, moves, children, and other life events, the career plan has never fully focused. It has kept changing in various ways as I have continued to paint.
How prepared were you for the business side of art–record keeping, gallery contacts, etc.?
There was an artists’ organization in Boston with volunteers to provide business tips. That proved to be invaluable for me in terms of keeping records. Marketing is an ever-evolving task as the media market continues to change.
Flowers on the Exchange, 21 x 29, watercolor painting by Carolyn Latanision.
What do you wish you had known about the art business before you started?
Many art schools now offer artists courses in business. Above all, I think that is essential and is what I most wish I could have inserted into my training somewhere. No matter how good the work is, it won’t be known unless you find ways to get it out in front of an audience. In the beginning years I hung my work in banks, restaurants, etc., volunteered, and found reasons to have my work mentioned in local newspapers, even though it made me uncomfortable. Often people will say to me now, “Oh, yes, I’ve heard of you. You’re an artist.” But although I don’t know how they know, I guess something worked. I also made the effort to become a signature member of a number of nationally recognized art societies.
How much of your time is devoted to the business of art?
I wish I could put a number on this. It might average six or seven hours a week; I’ve never tried to work this out, in all honesty.
With all the other obligations of a professional, do you have enough time to paint?
There’s never enough time to paint because of the myriad peripheral tasks related to art as well as for the reasons mentioned in the answer to the second question. I would love to be able to have a predictable schedule. A great frustration is that many people, including family, don’t think artists “work” because the schedule appears flexible, and maybe that pertains to female artists more than to male artists.
Are you able to maintain normal working hours-six to nine hours per day?
Sometimes I force a 6 to 10 hour session on a painting if there’s a deadline; otherwise it just doesn’t happen, so I grab the opportunity each day offers, always trying to tailor other appointments, commitments, and schedules, including exercise, to opening up time for painting.
What are the hidden pressures of fine art that most of us are not aware of?
When I painted subjects popular to a general audience, I sold more. When that began to bore me and I painted what really grabbed my interest, I sold less, but interestingly, those are the paintings that tend to sell to collectors. It is always a conundrum.
What is the best advice you could offer an aspiring fine artist?
Other than trying to establish the discipline to paint consistently, visit museums at home and when you travel. Galleries often reflect the latest trends, but museums offer depth. In visiting museums in different countries in different parts of the world (a perk that has come with my husband’s career), I find new insights that open my mind and my heart. Just allow yourself to evolve without forcing it.
Carolyn Latanision Is a native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and now lives and works in Massachusetts. She works primarily in water media, exploring its unique challenges and possibilities. Carolyn is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society, New England Watercolor Society, Pennsylvania Watercolor Society, Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club in NYC, Hudson Valley Art Association, Philadelphia Water Color Society, and the Whiskey Painters of America. In the Boston area, she is a designated Copley Master in the Copley Society of Art. For more information, visit Carolyn’s website.