Big questions concerning life as an artist were tackled on Tuesday, Nov. 11 by a panel of local painters at Ciné. Visual artists Jim StipeMaas, Andy Cherewick and Jill Biskin shared their experiences and opinions during the discussion “Surviving Outside the Box,” the latest event in UGA’s continuing Spotlight on the Arts Festival.
Moderator Dana Bultman, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and the Associate Academic Director for Public Programs at UGA’s Willson Center, led the artists in a conversation about their careers and lives. The attentive audience also contributed questions, with topics ranging from the solitary nature of the studio experience to “Facebook: Does it help or hinder?” Slides of paintings by all three were projected throughout the discussion.
Biskin, a muralist who designed the sets for UGA’s recent production of Hansel and Gretel, made the decision early on that she was going to be an artist. Her advice to students is, “You figure out who the interesting people are, and you take their classes. It doesn’t matter what they teach.” Biskin studied fine arts at the Rhode Island School of Design, but opted for a variety of experiences—like studying scenery painting in New York and illuminated manuscripts at the School of Sacred Arts—over the training offered through a traditional graduate school.
When asked whether or not they missed critiques after leaving art school, StipeMaas nodded vehemently and said it was at first “odd to be all by yourself in the studio.” He also laughed, “I have this one friend who—the whole time he is painting—he’s saying ‘It sucks, it sucks, it sucks.’” Cherewick discussed the inner critic that evolves in the artist.
All three painters had some positive things to say about being an artist in Athens. When speaking on his experience as an artist in New York, Cherewick said, “The quality of the conversation [among artists] dropped… Everybody talked about angles, and nobody spent time working.” In addition to the supportive communities of fellow artists living here, he also cited the cost of living in Athens as a big plus. Cherewick, Biskin and StipeMaas all continue to be productive here, creating admirable—and very different—bodies of work.