It Girl | AMY SHERALD
Guys! I am freaking pumped to share this interview with you. Amy Sherald is the such an amazing artist, so amazing that Michelle Obama chose her to paint her official portrait! I had the opportunity to listen to Amy share her insights and experiences at UNC last June and then we were able to coordinate some time for her to answer a few questions. SO. MANY. GEMS.
1.What were your initial goals with your work, and how have they evolved?
I realized I wanted to be an artist in the second grade but I don’t really realize what that meant until I was close to graduating from college. But I have never thought about it in any other way but as a career and a way to build legacy.
2. When you started off making your work and selling it, what was your goal as a creative?
It’s what I knew how to do best. It’s what I’ve always done, I didn't pick it up in high school, it’s what I’ve always done, so it’s always been a part of my life. I have, in a way, always approached it as a business because I realized making art is not really frivolous. If you are trying to make a living out of it, and build a career, you have to think about it as any other career. It doesn’t really work outside of that sphere.
3. What do you think is the most important life skill you’ve learned through creating art?
Because art is empirical, you could work hard and nothing could happen, so I learned to comfortable with risk. I also learned that intuition is the most important skill I could have: being able to make decisions while feeling like the thing could or could not work out, but staying with it and listening to my intuition about where I was in my journey, and not quitting.
4. What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced as an artist?
It’s always money. With anyone starting a business, it’s money, figuring out how to make a living with your passion while you’re building your empire because you’re not making money in the beginning.
5. Can you share with us one time you failed and what you learned from that failure?
I don’t think I have. I tell people you’re gonna make a whole lot of bad work before you make good work, but I feel like that’s part of the process. So, I don’t have any real failures in life like that. In my personal life, sure, but I feel like with the art I’ve always stayed on track, so I feel like failure would have been not pursuing it in the first place.
6. Can you tell me about the way you come up with titles for your pieces?
I usually search on the internet and read a lot of poems and look for lines and sentences that could kind of make a title. I work with my sister, who is a writer, we sometimes go back and forth on titles. For the most part, it’s just random internet searches that give me ideas, then I put stuff together based on what I find.
7. What do you hope people will take away from your story?
The advice I give is: don’t be the one to quit because at some point most people will, and it’s only making space for you to be where you wanna be. Pay attention to your own path, and your own timing in life, and not other people’s timing, because things are gonna happen at different times for different people and that doesn't mean they’re not gonna happen to you. It just means that you may be a late bloomer, which I appreciate.You see people do things, and they may have made a mistake, but I was always taking notes and looking at how other people pursued their careers and made sure that I wasn’t making the same mistakes, but then also pulling from things that I saw that worked.
8. When do you get your best ideas?
When I’m driving or watching movies.
9. What would you tell someone else who is interested in either entering your field or just in pursuing a creative career?
You have to make sure that whatever you’re putting your energy toward and whatever you have to do to support yourself, while you’re waiting for things to coming to fruition, can’t be something that’s gonna steal your time away. Because whatever you put most of your energy towards, that’s what gonna flourish, whether it be something positive or negative. So you just have to be aware of what you’re putting your energy towards. I always made sure I lived very minimally, so that I wouldn't have a lot of bills outside of what I needed for my studio - I didn’t have a car, a tv, or extra bills that would have me stressed out about money so that I could be in the studio more and working less.