‘My art is good, it’s great – I can finally say that with confidence, I can finally say I am a professional artist’
Kirsten Todd – Artists Feature – VAA Member of the Month August 2022
Kirsten describes a typical day in her life, her creative process, and trusting herself.
Art has been my passion since a small child, I went to Art College and gained a degree in Graphic design and illustration. Had a career in the graphic design industry for over 25 years whilst continuing to paint and for the last 4 years have been concentrating on painting professionally retaining the graphics in the background as the bread-and-butter work.
To get started, what does a typical day in your life look like?
A typical day – wake up around 7.30 am and do 10mins meditation to centre me, ready for the day!
My days are not ‘typical’, each day is different, I try and go with the flow and usually it depends on whether I have a lot of graphics work in. I usually spend around two days a week doing graphics, but this varies and can take over the whole week sometimes. I try and split my week by painting and concentrating on my art business for three days and the graphics for two, but it never really works out like that and the margins become blurry.
If there are no graphics to sort, I will go through my emails as usual and work on my painting. Some days I will trawl through the web looking for opportunities and open calls.
I take time out during the afternoon for a break. I used to walk my dog at this time, but recently this has been a part of my day I’ve missed out on. He got me out of the house and my head out of my work! So, now my break is to just go and be in the garden. I give myself the space to connect with nature.
Usually, I will work until around 5.30 then break off to go to the gym – I try and go 5 times a week. Once I’ve been to the gym I make myself an evening meal and then either get back to painting or if there’s other work that needs finishing. I then take some time to sit and relax and spend some time on my spiritual practice and channel messages or do a meditation (this doesn’t happen every night!). Sometimes I’ll just sit and watch a film! There are some weeks when I have clients for Reiki so that time must be factored into my week as well.
I do find balancing it all a bit of a challenge! Luckily my two children are mostly able to sort themselves out now they’re grown.
How does your creative process fit into your typical day?
I usually sit in my studio with some meditation music on. I sit still and open up and open my connection to the energies surrounding me coming into that altered state where your brain is in Alpha state. This is when its most receptive and you are focussed.
I intuitively start making marks on the canvas, starting with an abstract background. It is never planned, and I always go with the flow and feel my way around it, feeling into the colour and strokes. I usually work in acrylics but love to add spray paint, oil pastel, gold leaf and inks.
Once I’m happy with the background and think it is complete, I then leave it to sit for a short time to see if I’m guided to create a portrait on top of it or leave it as an abstract piece. It usually becomes a portrait to be honest, so I will find my inspiration for the figure from sifting through references or photos I have taken and draw up the figure onto the background. The portrait is then created in layers with intuitive brush strokes and marks of colour leaving much of the background visible. The figure that emerges from it and the background are in conversation with each other. As the portrait progresses, I will work back into the background and over the portrait using bold coloured strokes, patches of gold leaf or spray paint or inks wherever it feels right. The piece becomes a working meditation and as I’m working energy is channelled through me to the canvas, it is a release and therapy for me giving me a deeper connection to my inner being, my higher self and all that is.
What advice has stayed with you?
Do you have a guiding outlook?
I am guided in every aspect of my life by my inner being, my intuition, my higher self, and my connection to spirit.
I find my own truths and my own compass. I use my intuition and connection to the energies daily and can read and feel energy around me, in a room or the energy of a person I’m interacting with. Therefore, I usually feel my way through situations and if it feels wrong, I trust my gut. I follow my heart and my passions which lets me know I am on the right path. This outlook guides my art and the messages I want to get across to empower people in raising their own consciousness and vibration and help them to find their own new truths and question the conditioned narratives and outdated concepts of the outdated patriarchal society.
How have we been able to support you here at the VAA?
The VAA has been a valuable asset to me during my art journey so far. From making new artist connections to the mentorship, and the wealth of information to easily downloadable fact sheets on the website. I love the sense of community it gives with other artists, as working on your own in your studio can be quite isolating. On the Facebook members group where you can share your experiences, ask others for advice with things. Hearing the views of other artists and seeing their work and taking inspiration from fellow members. The art cafes and workshop events are extremely helpful in giving advice and tips and help especially on the business and admin side of things where I especially need help with as I feel a lot of creatives do.
I am not built for the logical methodical business side of things my brain is wired for the creative, intuitive going with the flow side of things and I find structure really hard to deal with. I also don’t like being told what to do which is why I have been freelance and run my own business for most of my career. I don’t like being boxed in by company rules!
I am currently in the mentorship program and I’m finding Karen’s help invaluable – she is fantastic, she helps with structuring and gives great pieces of advice, and the mentor program is well worth doing if anyone is thinking about it. I do also like the feeling of belonging to an association – I think it gives a sense of credibility and professionalism to prospective clients.
Could you tell me about what you have achieved in the last 12 months? And what you are most proud of in your career?
Over the past 12 months, I have sold 8 original pieces, 15 hands embellished canvas prints, and 2 limited edition giclee prints. I held my own pop-up gallery each weekend over the Sumer months last year showing my art, prints and bespoke merchandise which I found was quite successful. I have held 3 solo shows, 1 at Innside by Melia, Liverpool from Last September to February this year, 2, at The Everyman Theatre in Liverpool which finished last week and an online solo show with Atriums Europe. I was in the final selection and finalist in exhibitions Voices of Earth – Art from Heart, Manchester 2020 Vision, Iconic – The Holy Art, The Divine Feminine – Art From Heart, VAO21 shortlisted, Artbox Biennial in Venice. I participated in Luxembourg Art Prize and received a highly commended certificate. I was Winner of the People’s Choice award Open Exhibition at Open Gallery, Halifax. I am to be featured in the next edition of Circle Quarterly Art Review Magazine which comes out in August. I have also been selected as 1 of 4 artists in residence at The Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, of which my residency starts in September for 6 months, at the end of the residency there will be an exhibition of works completed during the time there.
I am proud of each painting I complete as each one is a journey into the unknown for me, each mark is valid and valued. With each painting, I learn something new, a new technique or experiment. With each painting and process, I get a little better and a little bolder. My greatest achievement to date I think is being selected to do the art residency, as it is something I haven’t done before and is out of my comfort zone, I will be feeling my way along and learning as I go and smashing through each block and glass ceiling that I put in place for myself.
Finally, what would you say to the artist you were a year ago?
I would say well done.
You’re f**king amazing! A tower of strength!
I’d like to give myself credit – we don’t acknowledge ourselves enough. Congratulations for keeping going through the tough times. Through the severe wobbles and artist block, the battle with self-criticism and self-confidence. I would like to thank myself for all that I have achieved in the last 4 years through trauma and grief, being a single mum, bringing up two children with Phenylketonuria (a genetic disorder) and ADHD and having the inner strength, the grit and determination to keep going, to keep doing what I love in the face of those adversities. Sticking with my art, finally recognising my talent.
My art is good, it’s great – I can finally say that with confidence, I can finally say I am a professional artist. It has taken a while for that confidence to build up. I still have wobbles, we all will do, but I have done the shadow work, faced my dark side, and stepped out of my comfort zone. I am ready now to keep blasting through the comfort zone and those glass ceilings we all put in place for ourselves. Change can be daunting but not when you want it enough and embrace it wholeheartedly. I would like to say keep going, create, create, create, and keep on doing what you love the most. Follow your own path, and your passions, find your own truth and be your own compass.