How would you like to sit down, one-on-one, with your favorite artist and ask her/him anything? Are you interested to learn how they became who they are or get advice catered just for you? Well so would we! That's why we are welcoming back our 'Artist Spotlight Series' to our blog! Join us as we have conversations with artists from around the state and nation who are passing along their "what-I-wish-I-would-have-knowns", their creative process, their best advice, and their stories that have made them who they are.
This week we're starting off by introducing you to artist, Andrea G. Hardeman and her art business Papillion Skies. Andrea was not only able to successfully create her business during 2020, but also create emotionally inspired art pieces through and because of these recent turbulent years. See how she did it and learn how you can.
Q: What artistic skills (such as collaboration or adaptability) have you found to be of the most value professionally?
Andrea: I launched my business six months ago and collaborating for social media giveaways has helped me build relationships and learn additional avenues to promote my work. Papillon Skies is my side-hustle that I plan to develop into a secondary income. For me personally, I prefer the side-hustle life for my art because it keeps it feeling less like work, and I love stability. It’s important to find how to keep the fun in your art and your business.
Prioritization is the most valuable skill to me professionally. I have limited time to run my business and create new pieces. I’ve learned that the deadlines I set for myself aren’t necessarily realistic and have learned to adapt to an accurate reflection of my bandwidth.
Work-life balance is a myth, but my passion for my art makes it easier to juggle everything without feeling burned out. It’s important to set personal and professional boundaries. You have to be forgiving to yourself and engage in consistent self-care. Burnout will come, so opt for preventative care via self-care and realistic, healthy boundaries.
Q: How do you feel your education helped you transition into the arts as a career?
Andrea: My transition into art was unexpected. I don’t have any formal training outside of taking art classes in high school, and I’ve always been too “in my head” when it comes to painting or drawing. I’ve always been a creative — forming businesses, drawing, writing poetry, singing, and playing guitar.
2020 released something deep inside me. The injustices with Breonna, Ahmaud, and George happened on top of being told to work from home for what many of us thought would only be one to two months. Between the protests and generational trauma in conjunction with being in an economic downturn and global pandemic, I was crying at random moments for the first few months because the Black deaths kept piling up. And, I knew that it could have been me or a family member or friend. It was suffocating, so I turned to art."
Q: What experiences have helped you gain business and leadership skills? And what do you feel are most valuable for young artists to learn?
Andrea: "I work in tech sales, have run a non-profit, and am a former university professor. These experiences among others in my 10+ year career have helped me develop my professional voice and tenacity to achieve my goals. It’s okay to be afraid to approach a gallery and promote yourself. What’s not okay is to allow your fear to paralyze you into inaction and self-doubt. Open your mouth. Speak up. Do it anyway.
No one can take away the value of the art you create. The only opinion that matters is yours. Take confidence in that. Your confidence and belief in your work will resonate with others. If your art doesn’t resonate with a certain audience, it doesn’t matter because they are not your tribe. Your tribe will get what you are doing. Find them. They are out there."
Q: In what ways has mentoring helped you as an artist?
Andrea: I’ll share this story to illustrate the power of mentorship. I was over at my friend and fellow artist Melissa Kamba’s house for a mentoring session when she showed me an invitation she received to participate in an upcoming gallery show. Mind you I had only painted a dozen or so pieces at this point and had no business name, fine art printer, social media presence for my art, etc. I asked her to forward me the email, so I could reach out to the curator, Essie Shaw. If they said yes, I could figure everything else out from there, right? Easy. Simple. Let’s do this.
Essie gave me the green light to participate, and Melissa connected me with a printer and taught me about different paper types. I created an Instagram account for my art and printed and framed my pieces for the show. I had been stuck on the word Papillon since I purchased a Peloton bike at the beginning of the summer and incorporated it into my handle. Because art has been healing and transformative, I decided to name my art business Papillon Skies. Papillon means butterfly in French.
Melissa and I dropped off our art for the show and grabbed a bite to eat. She asked if I had business cards and was not satisfied with my response. I told her that I was going to wait to print cards until I set up my Etsy Shop and had a few other things in order. Mama Kamba came out with a quickness. She had me pull up Canva that very moment and create a business card for the show. I used one of my art pieces for the background and added my Instagram account on one side and my name on the other side with a subtitle. Melissa pushed me to take my art seriously from day 1 and along each step of the way.
Q: Where do you get inspiration? How do you generate new ideas?
Andrea: My art is emotionally driven and isn’t typically planned out. I may or may not have a vague idea to start with, but I pick up whichever colors speak to me in the moment and apply it to the canvas. It’s an intuitive and iterative process. The canvas tells me when it’s done. I paint to release energy, or I’ve been too busy with work and life and have the intense urge to create. I zen out when I’m creating, and it’s a way for me to come back to myself—a way to settle and soothe my restless spirit. My digital illustrations are mostly inspired by music, pictures of my friends or that I come across on Instagram, and from books I read.
Most of my pieces have a story behind them, which I include with the purchased prints. For instance, “say their names” poured out of me within the same six-hour period that I created “Beauty n Pain” after receiving disappointing news. That evening I created “whimsy” because I felt the need to incorporate additional fun into my life and redirect my focus to everything that was going well. An hour or so later, my friend texted me the Breonna Taylor verdict. It was past my bedtime, but I stayed up and created “say their names” to allow the emotion to pass through me.
Thank you to Andrea for passing along her wisdom and sharing her inspiring art work with us! You can read more about Andrea, see and shop her artwork at papillonskies.com. And remember, YOU can be a part of our Artist Spotlight conversations. If you are interested in sharing your experience with our readers or if you want to submit questions for our next spotlight interview, contact a team member at email@example.com.