Artists Profile: Adriana Whitney Sept/Oct 2017

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Title: Visual Artist | Age: 45

In the past, you have described yourself as a folk artist. How would you define that genre?
I see folk art as an everyday art done by an untrained artist that is more decorative than aesthetic. I used to define myself as a folk artist for my lack of formal training but now, as my art has evolved, I’m leaning more to surrealistic or pop artist.

What do you hope people experience when they observe your artwork?
I want to bring the child out of the observer. I want to take them to an imaginary world inspired by nursery rhymes, fairy tales, lullabies and childhood memories. I want to generate a feeling of nostalgia.

What are your preferred mediums?
My favorite medium is acrylic paint. I also like making dioramas using wood and clay. I love combining elements like fabric and paint to make art dolls.

Are there any special pieces you have created over the years that stand out as being your “best”?
It’s hard to pick one because even the ones that aren’t the best have a reason to be and reflect a moment in my life I wanted to express.
From the public I get great reactions from “The Cat with a Pearl Earring”—they think of the movie and the painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by 17th century painter Johannes Vermeer. But since it’s a cat, not a girl, many think that is very amusing.
The other painting that brings a lot of compliments is “Sir Ram.” The texture of the horns and the folds in his clothes make people want to touch it and that gives me joy.

Where do you sell or show your art?
I sell my artwork at art shows, outdoor art festivals, art galleries, art stores and from home when I get commissioned work.
Once I had a fun experience when I needed to set up my booth in my front yard to check my new panels before an art festival. People driving by my house stopped and started shopping and I made a few sales. It was a very encouraging experience.

Take us back to your upbringing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It didn’t take long for you to discover your talents.
I remember the exact day I thought I wanted to be an artist. I was in 5th grade and my teacher left the classroom for a while. She said we could draw on the chalkboard and I did. My classmates told me they liked my drawings and asked me to make drawings for them. They offered candy as payment and I gladly accepted.

After childhood, where did your art career take you next?
I kept drawing as a hobby; I wasn’t a painter—just drawing using charcoal and pencil. One day back in 2006, for my birthday, my husband gave me an acrylic paint set and brushes. I tried to use them right away, but it was like pushing mashed potatoes with a tiny mop. I went to the library and got some books on acrylic paint; I kept practicing until I got it.
At that time I was a stay-at-home mom of three young kids. One day I was browsing eBay and I noticed people were selling paintings. I posted my first painting and I sold it. My husband’s birthday was coming up, and I felt pretty good about being able to buy him a present with the money I had earned as an artist.
Selling my artwork online gave me confidence to apply to art festivals and shows. At my first art market I sold almost all my artwork and the owner of a nearby consignment store asked me if I would like to sell my artwork at her store.
Then at different venues, art store owners like Space Montrose in Houston asked me to show my artwork at their stores so I realized I didn’t have to be a part of so many art festivals (I was booking one a week)—I can just send my artwork to stores.

Now, you are taking care of a family of your own. How has having children changed you as an artist?
In the beginning of my career my artwork was more serious and realistic. From them I learned to have fun with my work and paint what I want to paint—not to pretend to be something that I’m not. I’m a silly mom who loves fairy tales and movies and that’s what I paint.

Do you think one of your children may follow in your footsteps?
I have four kids. All of them like art, and they are all very talented. One of them, my 17 year old, wants to follow a career in art. He is in high school and is already doing art commissions. He sold his first painting online when he was only 9 years old.
My 11- and 13-year-old girls’ drawing skills are amazing, but they want to be doctors like their dad. My 7-year-old boy is the only one who has not shown signs of liking art.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring artists—including children and teenagers?
Work on your technique, practice and create. Don’t get too attached to your paintings so when you make a mistake or you are not happy with it you can let it go and move on to the next piece. Listen to criticism; consider it, but don’t dwell on it too much. People love to tell artists what to make or how to run their art business, but they are usually not in the art business. Don’t be afraid to be different.
I would also like the concepts of “starving artist” or “profitable hobby” to be removed of the way people approach this business. My experience of talking to young or aspiring artists is that they believe they are not going to make enough money as artists and that is not true. You can have a very profitable career as an artist. It’s hard work, but it’s possible.

What’s next for you in your journey?
Do you have any big goals?

I would like to have an art gallery and art center in the future.

How can readers get in touch with you?
They can visit my website at www.adrisart.com, follow me on Instagram at adris.art or on Facebook at facebook.com/adrisfolkart.

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