The Creative Unconscious: What's your name, age, and professional title? Where are you currently employed?
Karen Ruane: 38 Years Old, Multi-Disciplinary Fine Artist and Co-Founder of The Wilds, Co-Working for Artists and Creatives, Employed by myself, happily!
TCU: What hobbies do you have outside of your professional field that keep you inspired and motivated to generate personal work? How do they inspire you?
KR: I am a sucker for learning about new processes, so I watch a lot of YouTube videos, read lots of books on creative processes and look at as much Art as possible. I also love getting outdoors, camping in our new Aline popup camper, Tenkara fishing with my husband, and traveling with our two daughters, 13 and 6.
I find that simply keeping my eyes open brings in new inspiration all the time. The enemy to inspiration is monotony, and moving through life on auto-pilot!
TCU: Do you have a hard time balancing being a creative professional and generating personal work that you're proud of?
KR: During the Holiday Season, yes! This is the time of year that I'm marbling on anything that will stick. My marbled ceramic goods sell well, and I make the bulk of my sales during these couple of months. But I definitely go on mass production mode, and that sucks the soul out of the creative process a bit. I balance this by taking a marbling hiatus once in awhile to paint, which doesn't always pay the bills, but nourishes my soul!
TCU: What time of day do you feel the most creative? What about the most productive?
KR: I definitely produce more in the mornings, but the ideas come at night! I suffer from insomnia, so often I'm laying awake at 3am, mentally sifting through ideas for my next project. It's no fun losing the sleep, but I appreciate that my brain is working creatively!
TCU: What are your creative goals for the future?
KR: This is the big question for me right now. I recently had the honor of being commissioned to produce the artwork for a prominent beer label which is distributed to 28 states and 3 countries. It's led to a few new opportunities, which is fantastic! But it also has created a possible need to pivot in my focus. Where I was comfortable selling locally and showing my work all over my small town of Bend, OR, suddenly I'm starting to think a little bigger. Maybe some licensing of my marbled patterns? Or a home goods line? I'm still in the process of hashing it all out, and trying to take my time and be smart about it.
TCU: Are you working on any personal projects right now? If so, can you share a little bit about your inspiration and your creative process?
KR: I'm always working on some paintings "for the process". It's a way to clear the palette after a long period of marbling. Currently, I'm working on what I call a perpetual painting. It's basically an ever-evolving piece with no end planned. Sometimes I add to it, sometimes I cover it completely and start again. The layers are building up nicely and I think it tells a good story, even if it's just for me. The title of the piece is "The New Normal". My father passed away recently and I kept hearing from people that I'd find a new normal. In the throes of grief, I didn't appreciate the sentiment. But now that I've had time to process and heal, I understand what they meant. So this painting has been a part of my healing process and I'm still not sure if it'll even be complete!
TCU: What scares you?
KR: Everything scares me! I'm a delicate little flower. I don't look it from the outside, but inside I'm all mush, all the time. I'm afraid of putting years into my craft and never really making a name for myself. I'm afraid I won't find real purpose in my lifetime, and an opportunity to do something good. I'm afraid my daughters suffer more from my working full time, than they benefit from seeing their mother trying to make a career as an artist. And right now, I'm afraid for our country! ...But let's keep politics out of it.
TCU: What does success mean to you?
KR: Great question, and one I always come back to when I feel a little lost or get side-tracked. Success for me, is making my mark in the art world, big or small. If I can regularly hear that what I make means something, then I think I'm on the right track. A little steady income wouldn't hurt either, I'm not gonna lie!
TCU: Anything else you want to add?
KR: So I'm 38 years old. I've been painting for 20 years now. I graduated magna cum laude from art school with the assurance from my professors that I was "ready" to make a career as an artist. 16 years later and I make about enough to support my lofty art supply habit! But things have shifted this past year and there's been real momentum. The opportunities are coming in and I'm saying yes to everything. I feel like I am just hitting my stride as an artist. Many people think it's an easy choice of career to make pretty stuff for a living. But if anything requires dedication and perseverance more than being an artist, I'd be surprised. We've got to be business minded, with a creative spirit. Put in hours of work, whether or not inspiration is there. And to sell our work, we have to appeal to an audience, without sacrificing our own voice and gifts. It's a delicate balance! But I wouldn't trade it for any other career. I couldn't be anything else, even if I wanted to!
If you want to see more of Karen's beautiful work or learn more about this Bend-based artist, head over to www.karenruane.com.