Questions About Becoming an Independent Artist in Miami

How do you decide to become a professional artist?

My first exposure to oil painting came when I was a child. My mom had taken it up as a hobby and I used to watch her paint in the kitchen of my childhood home in Kendall, a suburb of South Florida.

My most vivid recollection is of walking in and seeing her paint a row of colorful daisies. I remember them clearly because when I went back into the kitchen a few minutes later, they had disappeared.

The canvas had been covered in a thick coat of violet paint with a bit of ultramarine blue splattered across it and some white highlights. It was the same canvas, but another painting entirely.

At that point I became mesmerized by the power of the artist to alter the fate of a painting.

It wasn’t for another twenty years that I would have my first experience with oil painting.

I had just moved back into my parent’s house after deciding against climbing the corporate ladder in financial services and moving out of my condo in Coral Gables. I was in my late twenties and I decided that I had to make the most of my time at home so that I didn’t feel like moving back was a step in the wrong direction.

To that point, the only thing that I had figured out was that stressing over financial figures, client meetings and performance reviews was not something that I wanted to do in the long term.

Where do you start your creative career?

I started my creative journey years before that while I was writing for the FIU Beacon, my college newspaper.

I reviewed books, movies and music at first, then ventured into humor and anecdotal nonfiction – all the while discovering new characters and stories in the pages of my short fiction and poetry. My creative work never saw the light of day, though. I was too insecure to put them out there at the time.

I had attempted to make a career out of writing after college, but the type of work that it required to be successful in publishing in Miami was not the type of work that I was interested in doing by the time I was in my mid-twenties.

So, I figured that I had no other choice but to pursue some form of art – a choice I had been intimidated by since I was an adolescent.

How do you develop and discover your artistic talents?

By my late twenties I had collaborated on digital photo collage work and editorials for local publications, but my main focus had been on writing.

Once I decided that I was not going to take the traditional corporate track to find my success, I wanted to build my skill set as a visual artist so that I could eventually focus on art and design as a career.

As fate would have it, my mom was taking oil painting classes from an older Cuban couple when I moved back home.

I joined her for a couple of classes out of a desire to try something outside of my comfort zone.

The studio was on the second story of a strip mall on Calle Ocho and the bohemian instructors were kind and welcoming. The smell of linseed oil and the diversity in the colorful student work displayed on the walls immediately drew me in.

Applying a coat of wet paint to a blank canvas felt very sensual to me – it still does. It can be tedious, time consuming and frustrating, but I now understand the immediate gratification and long term value in painting.

Outside of oil painting, I found myself drawn to painting the furniture we had in the house that nobody was using at the time. I would stare at these vintage pieces and carefully figure out how a coat of paint could bring new life to an otherwise forgotten furniture piece.

What happens after you identify your talents and passions?

Once I realized that I had something to express with paint, I decided that I needed to do more than just paint in order to make it a career.

I began The New Miamian as a literary and visual art studio to share my work and the works of other artists that I encounter along my artistic journey, with a focus on Miamian Art.

And instead of shutting off the part of my brain that craves analysis and written communication, i’m going to use my words to create a dialogue about art and how impossible it seems to be able to make fine art a career choice in the twenty-first century.

The way it works now, only artists that appeal to collectors and curators have any chance of living as a professional artist.

My concern with this system is that it doesn’t encourage artists to experiment or to produce work that may not have a market at this moment in time.

What do you say to the Vincent van Goghs of the world, who will never sell a painting in their lifetimes, only to have them hang in the most important museums of the world a century later?

We should encourage everyone who is passionate about art to produce it, not just those with the possibility of appealing to those who hold the purse strings of society.

Is art a profession?

The true artist refuses to assimilate to a lifestyle that ignores the realities of society.

A rejection of the status quo and a divestment of the trappings of contemporary life are necessary to be able to view the world with the objectivity necessary to create honest art.

It’s hard enough to overcome the insecurity of looking at a wet canvas with odd shapes and colors on it without wondering if you’re losing your mind. Adding to that society’s dismissal of art as a profession only makes it sound more insane to want to become an artist.

Only recently did it occur to me that it doesn’t sound like a career choice for a reason: the role of the artist goes beyond commerce. The artist is meant to ask society the questions that we don’t have answers to yet – and these questions are usually met with resistance.

Where are we going as a civilization?

Technology has added a lot of noise to our daily lives and it’s hard to live without, but what happens next?

Will we end up in another nuclear war that will devastate our already deteriorating environment?

Will our children be able to witness nature in the multitude and splendor that the last few generations have been lucky enough to experience?

Will religious wars overshadow their doctrines, creating the first generation on the planet that does not worship a deity?

More importantly, though, who is asking these questions – and to whom?

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