Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Elyse Johnson. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Elyse, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today Do you wish you had started sooner?
If I could go back in time, I wish I had started my art career sooner. I started teaching art in the school system right out of college, but I didn’t really expand my art career until almost 8 years after graduating. One critique I have of my college, is that although they made me a wonderful artist and teacher, they didn’t require any marketing or business classes. Thus, I lacked the confidence and the know how to push my art into the art world. I was fortunate that my husband’s degree was in business and entrepreneurship and through his guidance I was able to learn how to sell my artwork. Furthermore, there is a difference in how you sell your artwork today verses the past. Colleges, Universities, and the “Traditional” art world push new artists to focus on galleries and shows. The problem with that is if you don’t live in a city that supports the arts this really isn’t the best way to be a successful artist. I have found galleries take a large portion of your profit (granted they do a lot of promoting) and shows can get expensive with no guarantee of a benefit. Moreover, I choose to live rural and I enjoy being a hobby farmer, it’s part of my artistic inspiration, so that requires innovative ways of selling my art and it’s why I don’t just specialize in one type of art. I paint in almost all mediums on canvas, paint murals and barn quilts; I can sculpt and do pottery.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers?
Growing up in Apex, North Carolina, I started taking art classes in middle school, and was in love with it by high school. I took every single art class that was available to me, both in and out of school. After graduating from Meredith College with a Bachelors of Arts in Studio Art and Art Education, I worked for the Wake County School System for several years teaching 2D and 3D art and eventually pottery.
While pursuing my career in education, my then-fiancé was starting an adventure that would take us across the globe to New Zealand. The five years that we spent there molded me in so many ways as I experienced the new and different culture, and helped me learn more about myself. One aspect of New Zealand’s culture that impacted me the most was the collectiveness, valuing of teamwork and the success of the community over individualism. For example, there is the analogy of the field of poppy flowers. If one flower is taller than the others, it is cut so that the entire field is uniform. Like many artists, I embrace uniqueness and self-expression thus causing me to stand out and giving me the name of a Tall Poppy.
Upon returning to the United States, I have a new love and respect for the way that Americans embrace individuality, and now I sign all of my artwork with a poppy as a reminder that Tall Poppies are needed in this world, and that my goal is to create more of them.
In the last three years, I’ve pushed myself even further with my second business VanGoat Studios NC where I paint murals. Through this business, I seem to be able to reach even more artists, art supporters, and encourage future professional artists. We have to keep educating the public and letting them know how vital the arts are in our society. Civilization could not have developed into what it is today without creativity and we need more of it instead of less of it.
Is there a particular goal or mission driving your creative journey?
My goal or hope is for our society to view visual arts as a good, respectable job and not just a hobby. We see every year how the arts in the schools are receiving less and less supply money. Schools want to invest in science, math and technology, which are important, but they also require creativity for problem solving.
Parents are investing loads of money in art, music, dance or theater lessons, but then most discourage their child to pursue those as an actual career. How many of these same parents buy original art from professional artists? If children are learning from us, then what are we telling them by encouraging them to be artists, but not supporting local professional artists?
We are not all made to be solely doctors, lawyers, engineers or administrators. Our society puts so much weight on these jobs and not on creativity. The thing is that all professions require in some aspect of creativity; it’s impossible to separate them.
In addition to understanding art as a career, it is important to recognize what is fair in equating time, supplies, and experience with financial compensation for a work of art. I know this can be difficult sometimes for a consumer. However, that’s where, like any business, communication is important. Understanding the artwork you are purchasing and what was involved in creating the work of art. And in some cases, myself included, if an artist is aware of your budget, they can create something within a specified amount.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
The most rewarding aspect of being an artist to me is when a client is amazed and excited about the artwork they have purchased. It confirms for me that I’m in the right profession and makes my soul feel whole. I have done less creative work in order to pay my bills and support my family and even though I give it my all, I don’t feel complete. When I’m working with my art materials my whole body feels involved and I feel I’m doing what I was made to do in this world. There are days I don’t get to do art because there are administrative tasks that need to be done when owning a business and on those days my heart aches. In fact, if I go multiple days in a row without creating, I become depressed and struggle to complete my work. I try really hard to balance studio days verses more administrative days.
- Website: https://www.artifactual.biz/ and https://www.vangoatstudiosnc.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/artifactual_dunn/ and https://www.instagram.com/vangoatstudios/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtifactualStore and https://www.facebook.com/VanGoatStudios
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elysejohnsonnz/
AnnaScott Cross Wesley Johnson Myself-Elyse Johnson