In Pahoa, Hawaii, artist Linda S. Watson paints colorful oil and mixed media abstracts. Though she is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she has found a beautiful and inspiring world in her island home.
In our interview, we discussed the influence Linda’s surroundings have had on her work.
Jason: Can you describe your style and subject matter for us?
Linda S. Watson: I paint abstract expressionism and my art reflects the deep mysteries of nature as inspired by minerals, the universe, and, of course, the volcanoes of Hawaii.
J: What drew you to that subject matter?
LSW: I live near an active volcano on a beautiful island covered with cooled lava that shimmers with mineral deposits that sparkle in the sun like jewels. Telescopes atop Mauna Kea capture amazing photos of the night skies above us. How could I not be influenced by all this?
J: How did you develop your style?
LSW: A lot of trial and error and experimentation. I push every medium I use to the limit. I often start a painting thinking “I wonder what would happen if I did this” and then it takes on a life of its own.
J: What is your medium?
LSW: My main medium is oil painting. However, I have also worked extensively in watercolor and acrylic. I have a strong background in the fiber arts, so many of my pieces are mixed media.
J: What do you feel is unique about your work?
LSW: The highly tactile surfaces and the layers of iridescence reflected in my colors.
J: How did you get your start in art?
LSW: As a child, I always had an unlimited supply of paper, crayons, pencils and pens to work with. I started seriously studying art in high school at 15.
J: Are there other artists in your family?
LSW: My younger sister took up painting as an adult. But I was the only artist in the family.
J: Did your family encourage your art?
LSW: My father sometimes hired me when I was a teenager to do graphic designs for his advertising products. He really wanted me to go into commercial art. Unfortunately both my parents discouraged me from attending the art college I dreamed of going to.
J: It sounds like your experience in the art business started early. When did you sell your first artwork?
LSW: I sold my first graphic design at 13.
J: What art-related education do you have?
LSW: I have a BA in Art from San Francisco State University. Since then I have continued my training both privately and through class offerings at local colleges and community art centers.
J: Are you a full-time artist?
J: What other jobs did you hold before going full-time?
LSW: I was a waitress for a couple of months. That was horrible. Then I worked for a bank for three years, also not a wonderful experience. My best job was the one I retired from in 2011 – I was an art librarian in the Art and Music
Department of the San Francisco Public Library. What a joy it was to be surrounded by thousands of beautiful art books, and get to work with creative colleagues and customers.
J: As a full-time artist, do you have a daily routine?
LSW: Generally I spend my mornings on the computer, updating my website, doing online marketing, researching new galleries and doing correspondence. I usually go out to the studio sometime after lunch. But I don’t follow this routine everyday because I live in Hawaii and the beaches and the ocean are always tempting me!
J: How much time do you spend in the studio on an average week?
LSW: About 15 – 20 hours a week. The rest of the time is spent marketing, planning and designing. I also work one afternoon a week in a gallery that represents me in Hilo.
J: How much work do you produce per month on average?
LSW: About 2 – 4 paintings a month, depending on the size and the subject matter.
J: How do you promote and expose your work to potential buyers?
LSW: I have my work in four commercial galleries throughout the Big Island. I enter many competitions every year. I rely heavily on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to promote pictures of my art and provide links to articles about me. I have been given fabulous marketing opportunities by working with Renee Phillips of Manhattan Arts International. And of course, I have business cards and postcards with images of my work.
J: What do you feel you’ve been most successful at in your art, and in your art business?
LSW: I have definitely gained more confidence in talking about my art to potential customers. And I have succeeded in not giving up, no matter how frustrating and hard it gets. Not that I haven’t wanted to. . . oh yes, I have had plenty of rejections, depressions and creative blocks. But there are so many wonderful books, magazines and blog articles that have helped me to regroup and keep moving forward. Your blog is one of them. I also read a lot by Eric Maisel, Julia Cameron, Renee Phillips and biographies of my favorite artists. Knowing that I have chosen a difficult path, but that I am not alone, helps me to “hang in there”.
J: What do you feel has been your greatest challenge in selling your work?
LSW: Making the initial “cold call” with a gallery owner. I am so introverted and shy; I expend an enormous amount of nervous energy prior to approaching a new gallery. I would love to have a front person that could do all that for me.
J: Who is your favorite artist from art history (and why), and which of their works is your favorite (and why)?
LSW: My long time favorite is Claude Monet. In my opinion, no one has ever been able to make a painted surface shimmer with color and light the way he did. The work of his that I love the most is his gigantic Water lilies installation in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. The monumental scale, the brush strokes, the colors and the subject matter made viewing this piece a spiritual experience for me.
J: What are your interests outside of your art?
LSW: I enjoy gardening in our amazing tropical back yard. I love to swim and snorkel. I make my own handspun yarns on a spinning wheel for my knitting projects. And like any other retired librarian, I am a voracious reader.
J: Thank you, Linda! To see more of Linda’s abstracts, visit http://www.lindaswatsonartist.com/.