The past two years have been especially challenging for artists. Museums, galleries, and art fairs have been shuttered, their hours significantly curtailed or canceled. With more time at home on their computers, curious art buyers have become familiar with new artists from every corner of the globe. But what skills must artists have to navigate the growing on-line marketplace? For those seeking to make a living from their art, can they survive?
In this edition of “From the Easel,” we spoke with award-winning contemporary artist Ela Shah whose decades-long career has been a journey of discovery. Like many fine artists, the past two years have been a time of challenge and, especially for Shah, a time of continuous learning.
Sandy Levine, freelance journalist, spoke with Shah about the challenges of choosing art as a career.
This is my first quilt. I digitized my artwork, printed them on fabric and then stitched on quilt. I have always enjoyed the challenge of learning new techniques and combining them with age-old ways and traditional materials. Photo: courtesy Ela Shah
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SL: “Let’s start with this; what would you say to a young person who told you ‘I want to have a career in art?’”
ES: “I would say ‘follow your heart. Be honest with yourself. Do what makes you content in your life…what makes you happy. The art world looks glorious, but it can be as hard as chewing metal chickpeas.”
SL: Art has become an important element in everything we do or buy. Computer pioneer Steve Jobs and groundbreaking architect I.M. Pei produced works that are both functional and artistic. Do you think of them artists?
ES: “Of course! There are so many artists working in careers that haven’t been traditionally thought of as art… commercial artists, graphic designers, animators, industrial designers, set designers, clothing designers, photographers…The definition of art has exploded in so many new directions during my lifetime. And that’s expanded opportunities for artists.”
SL: Can you talk more about that?
ES: “Think about the computer and the internet. Every website you click on has been designed by someone who is a visual artist. There are artists who specialize in computer generated artwork or the design of video games…and the computer is their tool…When I began to do art in India, I only used paper, canvases, brushes, and paints. I still use them, but I also like to use new materials and learn new techniques to help me tell my stories and express my feelings.”
SL: How have you been able to integrate so many new techniques in …….