As part of our continuing Artist Series we are pleased to feature an interview with San Francisco Bay Area visionary artist, Laura Milnor Iverson. Laura was "very" first person to join the Mind Body Spirit Marketplace when we set it up on 1000 Markets many moons ago and I knew exactly at that moment that we were headed down right path! Enjoy the interview, and I 'm sure you'll find Laura's work as uplifting and enchanting as we do!
~ diane fergurson
Green Buddha Meditation
MBS: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started as an artist? How did your career develop.
My father took up oil painting when I was in my teens. It would be hard to separate his involvement in my development as an artist. Just being in the environment of art, being so important to him, was an influence. Some of his work is online. He passed away in 2001.
As an adult, I switched to watercolors when I moved to a tiny apartment with bad ventilation. Acrylics, at the time, were not the medium they are now. I did that up until my father passed away.
Due to that traumatic event, I felt an overwhelming need to return to oils and found the water-soluble ones. I started experimenting with acrylics around 2006 or so, and found the switch quite easy. I still work in both mediums although, with the new "open" acrylics, I find I use oils less & less. The long drying time makes them less practical for online sales, in my opinion.
Bent Pine Tree at Moonrise
Around 2005, I broke out of traditional landscapes, seascapes and figures, and into the Zen Series, which remains my most popular.
My most recent exploration has been into fantasy, ghosts and graveyards. I've always loved ghost stories and the paranormal.
MBS: I can see there have been several different series that you have worked on over the years. What interests you to a particular subject matter enough to make you want to spend time with it and paint it? Is it a specific idea that you are pursuing, or maybe the challenge of capturing something in particular with paint? What sparks your interest?
Laura: I guess I got a little ahead of myself and answered some of this in the previous answer :-).
I tend to paint things I love, to capture a place or moment or feeling. I live in a beautiful area of California and I often go walking out in nature. I find constant inspiration. In the tree branches for the zen and Peace Tree series, many of the tree branches are the old gnarled oaks I see on my walks.
Even a fanciful scene like this: http://zenbreeze.com/store/zenwishes.htm owned its origin to a spot in a local park, Los Gatos lakes. I was intrigued by those three pine trees on the hill in the distance.
The new ghost series was also inspired by a local site, an old abandoned cemetery on the coast. That combined with my love of ghost stories, especially Poe's The Raven.
Books are also an inspiration. I read a lot of urban fantasy, children's/juvenile series, ghost stories and such. The Shaman's Gate series: http://zenbreeze.com/store/gatespring.htm was inspired by a scene in a children's book. The character goes to a mysterious house and he notices that, over the wall, it's winter & snowing, although it's summer where he is.
MBS: I think it's interesting the way you chose to portray the ghosts in your new ghost series. Transparent women with long flowing hair and gowns. Graveyards. A very, romantic traditional representation. Any particular reason?
Laura: I suppose I am influenced by some of the old illustrators, such as Rackham and Brock. I also researched Victorian fashion plates and illustrations from the time. I use long flowing hair in the mermaids too but their hair is loose.
MBS: I love the cats in your work. The cats and the moon seem to be a re-occurring theme. Can you tell us a little about that?
Laura: Thank you. I love cats. I always have. Originally, I just painted the moons and branches. That went on a couple years before I started adding animals. Cats were first. Then crows. Then various flying things (other birds, moths, butterflies, dragonflies). But the cats are the most popular. People seem to relate to that setting and often send me photos of their cats, which further inspire me.
Siamese Cat in Autumn Glow
MBS: What format do you normally work in? A specific size...large, small...or does it depend on the project? Also what materials do you use.... Acrylic, on canvas, boards, paper etc...
Laura: The size depends a bit on the project, although I tend to work on canvases 16" x 20" or smaller. The reasons are practical. I don't have a separate studio so my workspace is limited and I find the smaller sizes easier to pack and ship. My favorite size is 16" x 20" because I feel it's also the best for making prints (I run prints at home and the maximum size I do is 11" x 14").
The only time I work on paper is for ACEOs (miniatures) and those are pretty rare for me. I mostly offer that size in limited edition prints of larger work. I feel the paint moves easier over canvas than paper.
MBS: What is a typical work day for you? Do you keep "hours" and go to work painting like a 9-5 job? Or are you less scheduled about it?
Laura: I wish I could keep a regular schedule but the demands of family make that a bit impractical. Typically, I get up before everyone else, at 5 or so. That's my best creative time. I check messages and that while I make tea & breakfast. After that, it somewhat depends. On days I have orders in, I pack those (and run prints, if necessary), then get them out to the post office. Customer service is important to me and that accounts for my repeat customers.
In the afternoons, I like to work on my pendants in clay or painting, if I get a little alone time then. Otherwise, I do listings and other administrative tasks. That and social networking and visiting with my online friends. That often goes on through the evening.
Blue Moon Tea
MBS: I know many artists who are very hesitant about selling their work online. I've noticed that you actively sell quite a bit of of your work that way and are on several different selling sites. How has selling online worked out for you as an artist? Any advice you can give to other artists who are thinking about selling their work this way?
Laura: I went straight to online so I can't really give informed pros and cons. Working with galleries seemed too difficult and cost prohibitive. I don't know how galleries are in other areas but, in mine, you're talking about spending hundreds of dollars just to have your work looked at. Some even charge so much a piece per month to hang there. For shows, you seem to be too much at the whim of factors, such as weather, how much advertising the venues do, etc., and all the artists I talked with said they were pretty much just selling cards and small prints, often not even covering the booth fee.
MBS: You mentioned above that you spend time social networking in the evening. There are so many artists I've run across who really don't understand what social networking is about or how important it is as a tool to promote their work. What has your experience been as an artist using social networking?
Laura: Social networking is fantastic for artists on a number of levels. This is one small example. I was chatting on a thread and someone asked me if I did 5" x 5" prints. She collected them. I'd never heard of that size before. It was easy enough for me to offer them, once I knew they existed. Although someone could have sent me a message directly, it's more "committal" than chatting on a forum, twitter or facebook. Social networking also provides a way to cross promote with other sellers. I got a fairly large print order as a result of someone else posting about my work on facebook.
Laura: Create what you want to create. If you love it, there will most likely be buyers. And, if not, the creation is important. Never try to create "what sells". You'll always be playing catch up and miss out on true creativity.
MBS: Thank you so much for spending time with us Laura! We appreciate it and the best of luck to you!
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You can find links to Laura's work here
and also through her main Website.
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Also from our Artist Series:
Interview with Emily Balivet