New series starting – interviews with working artists

We’re starting a new series of blog posts this month spotlighting some of our artists.  We’re hopeful that it will give the public and emerging artists a sense of what it’s like to work as an artist in the Portland area.  Kathleen Vidoloff has agreed to conduct the interviews with the artists and we hope to share them monthly.  Our first artist is long-time Portland Open Studios’ artist Diane Russell.

Written by Kathleen G. Vidoloff

I caught up with Diane Russell when she was demonstrating at Blick on Glisan in February.  She shared with me how she ended up working as a full time artist. 

In 2003, she found herself in the middle of a life transition as her employer made the decision to downsize the workforce of creatives.  Diane had to make a life altering decision. Would she continue down the path of illustration, learning yet another version of Photoshop, working in the same avenue of art that she had been doing for 27 years? Or would she venture into something else?

As she pondered her next steps, the longing to leave illustration and pursue painting and drawing full time began to emerge.  She was already doing portrait work while working as an illustrator, but now the decision was clear. She would do what she always wanted to do: pursue painting and drawing full time.  But she needed to develop a plan to make a sustainable income.

Diane admits it’s a financial challenge to be a full time artist. “I had been drawing and painting some musicians but I also added family portraits because I knew I couldn’t make a living with just painting musicians.”

She started out doing outdoor shows, handing out her card, and taking art marketing workshops. She also developed a newsletter to keep people updated on her work.  For her, the newsletter continues to be successful because it keeps people updated on her work. She recalls one instance when she included a picture of a work in progress and ended up selling the piece as a result.  She admits marketing is required to sell art, but is also mindful of the relationship between the art work and the purchaser.

 “Selling art is not like anything else. You don’t go out and try to sell it and you don’t try to close the deal. None of those things apply. It’s more personal than that. So I just let the work sell itself. I feel like if I create something I love that people fall in love with and can’t live without, that’s when they buy the work.”

 Diane also credits Portland Open Studios for her continued success as an artist. She loves participating in the art tour and has done so for the last six years. For her, being able to connect directly with people and show them work they have not yet seen is a huge benefit.

 During the 2015 Open Studios Tour, Diane was approached about showing her work at the Portland Airport, and that conversation resulted in a six month show at the airport’s Concourse E last year.  

 Portland Open Studios creates a unique educational opportunity for the public to witness art in the making, and learn about media, materials and the business of creative endeavor. Through this interaction, Portland Open Studios creates a platform for local artists to thrive, engage and foster a community that values the arts.

 Artists throughout the metro area invite you to their studios during the second and third weekends of October. Visitors experience studio tours, demonstrations of various techniques, and many hands-on opportunities.

 The deadline to apply to be a part of the 2017 Open Studios art tour closes March 3. Apply today!

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