Karen Ruane is an Artist who loves color, nature, and form. She is also Founder of @rise_and_art and owner of an artist's collective in Bend. OR. For obvious reasons we can call Karen a true #badasscreative but keep reading to find out what she had to say to our 20 questions.
1) What is the best part about being an artist?
I love being in full control of my career; my schedule, my product, and my marketing.
2) What is the most difficult part?
Lol, same as above! With the freedoms comes enormous pressure. I am responsible for the arc of my career, for better or worse.
3) Have you ever seriously considered giving up?
All the time. But I honestly feel there isn’t anything else I’d rather do, and so I don’t really have the option of giving up. Art is in my blood, it’s a part of my soul, its healing and motivating and keeps life interesting.
4) Whose work do you most admire?
Oh, there are so many artists I admire! One in particular would be my friend, Katie Daisy. I feel she has her business totally dialed in. Each decision she makes is well thought out and intentional and fully in her control. Even though she’s reached a level of remarkable success, she’s keeps her business small and her hand on everything. She knows her customer and creates for them, without sacrificing her voice or personal style.
5) Have you ever been accused of copying or vs/vs?
I guess I don’t really believe in copying. Of course, there is blatant theft of imagery. But I would challenge you to find a single artist that seems uninfluenced by other artists. Artists create through inspiration. Artists also love looking at art. So, it would follow that artists are inspired by art and it informs their own work. That said, by my own pride, I always make sure to make my own mark. Even if I’m influenced by art I admire, I make it my own by injecting my own voice. On the flip side, I’ve seen plenty of artists who’s work reminds me of my own - but I don’t let it phase me. Artists who don’t use their own voice won’t last long in this field.
6) If you've ever received negative feedback on your work how did you handle it?
Negative feedback is even more useful than positive feedback. It may sting in the moment, but it always teaches me something. If my work was never challenged, what would motivate me to try to get better?
7) How do you really feel about social media?
Ugh, it’s a double edged sword. I fully admit to being under the influence of social media - I’m a addict. I’ll even justify my use by telling you what an amazing tool it is for my business. I make about 90% of my sales via social media, so I’m afraid you won’t find me at any Insta-Anonymous meetings anytime soon.
8) What is the one question you wish people would stop asking you?
“How did you do that?” I get this several times a day. Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing my passions with others, but I often feel people think my artwork is so easy to make that a few sentences over a DM will tell them everything they need to know about how to do what I do. The truth is, I’ve been making art professionally for nearly 18 years. I went to art school. I took continuing education classes. I’ve read countless books on my craft(s). I’ve put in my 10,000 hours. That’s how I do it!
9) What is the one thing you wish people would ask?
“Where did this come from?” Meaning, what inspired me or drove me to create an artwork. What was I thinking and feeling?
10) How many followers do you have on Instagram?
11) Does this matter or make a difference to you?
When I first started to get up there in numbers, I thought this was incredibly important. But honestly, it hasn’t resulted in many more sales and it’s added a lot of pressure to maintain. I’ve recently begun to be approached by art supply brands seeking relationships with “influencers” and I’m not sure I feel like an influencer. Often, I feel as if I’m screaming into a void - so to me, that number carries a lot less significance these days.
12) Do you have an assistant/team to help you make all the magic happen?
Nope. It’s all me. I would LOVE an intern or assistant, but it isn’t in the cards (or wallet) just yet. I’m just doing my best to keep all the balls in the air. Sometimes they drop, and the world keeps spinning, so I just pick ‘em up again and start all over.
13) What advice can you share with new artist just starting out?
Try not to focus on the money, or you’ll quit before you get started. Making fine art is not a business - it’s a calling. You have to be ok not earning a penny for a very long time. Or, you have to find a partner who’s really good at marketing and sales to help you out on that end. But if you start off your career producing just what you think will sell, even if it does sell, you’ll never be happy.
14) What new and exciting projects do you have on the horizon?
Things are pretty quiet for me right now, so I’m taking the time to regroup and focus on making things I love. On the side, I’ve just moved into a new space with a small gallery! So, I’ve started an artists collective with 5 other local artists. Our downtown has an artwalk every first friday, so the six of us will always have a show for First Fridays!
15) How do you really feel about commissions?
I mostly love them. I don’t mind a little direction, and I love that people trust me to make something especially for them. I don’t love the pressure of having to please - but that’s a minor annoyance in an otherwise pleasurable experience.
16) If you could only choose one area of your business to focus on what would it be and why?
Actually, it might be COMMISSIONS! I’d love to just have a string of jobs that are a sure thing!
17) What are three adjectives that describe your style/vibe?
18) What art hacks have you discovered to save on costs?
Ordering in bulk on Blick when they have a sale! Layering lower quality acrylic paints under the high quality stuff - it’s all about the pigments anyway, so who cares how pigmented the underpainting is!
19) What do you use to photography your work?
Mostly, my iPhone 7plus. Once in awhile, I’ll hire a professional to do in-situ photos. But I find my iPhone and photoshop skills mostly suffice.
20) Finally, what do you wish more people would feel, know, and do?
I wish more artists (and people for that matter) would focus more on who they are, and not what their “brand” is. I wish more people would be vulnerable and honest about their struggles, and use them to connect with others. I feel there is a distinct lack of connection these days, due to social media, ridiculously busy schedules, and spreading ourselves too thin. We’ve forgotten how to be real friends and family to one another. We’ve forgotten how to be honest and let our guard down. We seem more ready for a fight than a hug, we’d rather flee, ghost or burn bridges than trudge through the hard stuff and come out the other side. We talk about dumping toxic friends, removing stressors, saying no, and putting ourselves first...we’ve forgotten how to CONNECT, LOVE and NURTURE.