Today’s guest is an artist that has been featured in countless shows, won awards, been included in art books, and was commissioned to create paintings for the NSA. Her book, Create Brilliantly, is scheduled for release in 2020 and does NOT teach technique, but instead focuses on the mental and psychological aspects of finding your inner voice to find success as an artist.
Please welcome Gwen Fox.
- 1:12 – Reputation
- 2:04 – One Woman Show
- 4:49 – Gwen Fox’s Career Journey
- 10:10 – Level
- 15:19 – Ups and Downs
Learn more about this guest:
Podcast Episode Transcripts:
Disclaimer: Transcripts were generated automatically and may contain inaccuracies and errors.
Having gone through the school of hard knocks. Gwen has great stories of vulnerabilities, successes, failures, and strengths that made her into the award winning artist and teacher. She is today. Gwen Fox. Those are the stories I like to hear. Thanks for jumping on you are welcome. I’m happy to be here. So why don’t you kind of illustrate to our listeners that the type of artists that you are so they can get a better understanding of the medium that we’re talking about?
Oh, that’s good. That’s that’s good to do. I do mostly. I do large abstracts in, um, acrylic and oil and add some collage at sometimes. Um, not all the time. Now. I want to go down some of these, these credibility little bullet points you got here. So you were the only American selected to show with his Royal Highness Prince Phillip at the Fairmont art gallery in England.
And then you also won top awards in national jury shows and were selected for inclusion in books and also commissioned by the NSA for some large paintings in Maryland and Austin. So how do you, how do respectable outlets like that? It does it, does your reputation precede you, or how do you get connected with those types of showings?
Uh, well, it to get into say a juried show, you have to submit and, uh, then, then you have no control at all. And then it’s up to somebody else to decide, uh, and, uh, The other things, a lot of times it’s who, you know, and or it’s have they seen your work and do they think that would work for their project?
Yeah, so, so those are some pretty, um, very distinctions. And then you have, uh, another ballpoint here. That you’ve been included in one woman shows in New York, Washington, D C Colorado, Hawaii, Florida, South Carolina, New Mexico. And so across all these types of showings is, is there one that you enjoy more than the others?
Well, this shows where, you know, on woman shows. So, you know, you go, you present your work and so forth. It’s, it’s, it’s real, it’s a lot of work and it’s real on, or to be able to have that. And. I enjoy all of them. I can’t, I’m sitting here thinking, did I enjoy one more than another, but no, you get to meet the most delightful people.
And they’re all they’re eager to hear about you and your work. And I’m eager to talk about it and educate and Senna. I love them all. So, so where, where does this story begin? You you’ve obviously established yourself within the art community. Um, you know, how far back does this journey be in. Well, I grew up on a farm on East Tennessee and my mother had to cook for the farm Hanson as a little girl.
Um, she had to get rid of me.
She wallpapered with plain wallpaper, uh, the, the wall of the old farm house, the hallway. And she liked me and she says, This is yours. And as a little girl, that was a huge, huge wall. And I could do anything I wanted on that. Yes, she can’t. So I, that gave me the freedom that gave me the start, they, that, you know, and I grew up thinking all kids drew on the wall got trouble
But my, with my friend’s parents, but other than that, but my mother ended up re wallpapering the, the hallway every week for years. Wow. I know. Cause it was just so much fun. I wish all parents would do that. Yeah. I’m thinking which one in my house. Can I give up now in the closet or something? Not no good.
It’s so freeing for the children. Yeah. And yeah, those are the types of things that I like, um, to, to give my kids the experiences to either learn or just experiences in general instead of things. Um, now, so how, uh, at what point did you realize, like you said, you thought all kids. Had the opportunity to draw on their walls.
At what point was there a definitive moment where he realized that wasn’t the case? When my parents had to sit me down because they’d gotten phone calls and, uh, that was, that was the moment that I realized that I had to be the luckiest child in the world. Yeah. Okay. So, so you start, you start in your youth and drawn on walls.
And then when did, was there a point where you made, um, an intentional. Uh, maneuver towards pursuing this as a career. Well, um, yes, yes, there was, uh, after, you know, you raise a family, I traveled all over the world. My husband and my first husband was in the military. And after that divorce, um, because he had said, you can, you can paint, just don’t embarrass me.
And so I figured, okay, that’s just not going to work. So, uh, but anyway, what did he mean by that? Uh, I don’t, I actually don’t know, but I, I don’t know. He thought they were really bad paintings. I don’t know. But, uh, uh, but anyway, I, um, I took my first workshop too much shy of my 50th birthday. Okay. And so what I’m saying here is that.
I was a really late bloomer as far as really deciding that, Hey, I want to do this. So I would take, I would take workshops and I’d come home. And I think that was the best workshop I’ve ever had. And then about two weeks later, I’d say, Hmm, there’s something missing, missing. Don’t know what it is. Biley figured out what it was and what it was, was the mental aspect of creativity.
Because it’s kind of like preparing yourself for something because we can easily go down that rabbit hole of, I’m not an artist I’m not good at this. I shouldn’t be doing this. I can’t make a living blah, blah, blah. You know, all the stories. And it’s kind of like being an athlete when you’re playing Wimbleton or you’re playing the U S open.
You’ve got to be prepared. You’ve got to be mentally prepare. And as far as I was concerned, the mental aspect of creativity was actually more important than the technique. The how to, because we learn the how to, from. Anybody. I mean, we studied with all these instructors and that’s what they do. So I decided to do deep into the interview working so creativity and being an art.
So, um, that’s what I did. And when I started teaching, I included that in my teaching and not knowing how it would be. Received cause people come, how do you, how do you get this effect? How do you mix these colors? How do you do this? What’s good design blah-blah-blah yes. I cover all of that, but we also cover the other and it wasn’t until one of the workshops in Taos, New Mexico, I said to at the beginning of the workshop, that five day workshops and I said, okay, now every morning we have a talk.
And then on Friday, you don’t have that talk because we’re going to do critiques. And I came in that Friday morning and there, they were sitting in their seats just like every other time. And I said, Hey guys, you forgot, we don’t do this on Fridays. And they elected me and they said, but we come for those talks.
And that was when I realized that the mental aspect of creativity was as important to others. They realized that that was a missing link. Why do you think it’s so, so common in, in the world of artists for that to be some, a new concept. Because I don’t think it’s talked about, I don’t think it’s, uh, if you ask an artist, when they go to a workshop, what are they going to learn?
They’re gonna learn how to do something. It’s a, how to. And to go and learn to learn something about the way you think. Well, yeah, that’s a new concept for them. I don’t, I don’t know why, but it is. I think they’re so eager to learn how to put that pain on the paper, how to make a good design, how to get into show.
That’s what they’re eager for. Now you have a book coming out called create brilliantly. Is, is this the type of. Is this, what you teach in the book is this, so he touched on in the book, Oh, this is what the whole book is about. Okay. It’s not going to be about, uh, design and value and color and mixing and all of that because there are so many books out there like that.
I don’t, I don’t need to add to the clutter. Yeah, I ju I need to present an idea. That’s going, that somebody is going to open this book and they’re going to say, yes, that’s, that’s what I’ve been looking for. Is there a certain level, does somebody need to be at a certain level or, or maybe below a certain level for this type of concept to, to, uh, affect them or directly for them to.
Absorb this concept. Do you think it’s something that is better for, or new artists or more mature artists? I think they a good question, but I think they probably need to have a little bit under their belt because let’s face it at the very beginning. It’s it is. How do I mix the paint? What are they, what are they elements and principles of design.
I mean, they’ve got to learn these things. And so that’s what they’re interested in, but then. Comes the issue of how do I find my artistic voice? Because your artistic voice is going to separate you from the gazillion artist out there in the world. And so they’re there and that’s when they start reading, really getting into this because they are looking for this voice and they can’t find it.
And you know, they’re looking out, he out, out beyond themselves when really it’s inside of them. And that’s, that’s where we go to find this. And part of it is the mental aspect. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Um, earlier you talked about some of the, you just briefly touched on in a comment about some of the stereotypes of, of being an artist.
You know, how am I going to monetize this and make an income? Um, what it, and I, I, I have one friend that I can think of directly in my mind, um, where they graduated with some sort of art degree and. And they don’t have, uh, I, I, I’m kind of detached from that world. So I don’t know if they’re not, um, pursuing, uh, enough opportunities or the opportunities just don’t exist, but it, it, I do agree with my limited understanding of the art world.
That is kind of a stereotype that it is. So what, what do you say to aspiring artists? How do they circumvent getting stuck in that little pit? Oh, that’s a big pit. That’s not a little one I’m afraid. Um, I will tell, I tell the artists that I coach that it’s, uh, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t think that you’re going to make a living by just your art.
Uh, If you want to have a real, real steady income teach, write a book, you know, deuce do something else in the art field that is going to help you do with that. But when, when I lost my second husband, I realized that yes, my paintings were selling, but were they selling consistently enough that I could.
Live on that. And I didn’t want to live with that uncertainty. That’s when I thought, Hey, I’ve got to figure out another way to bring in money. That number one, I love, I have got to love it. In order to do it. So I had been teaching, but that I just upped the teaching so that I knew that I knew the amount of money that was going to be coming in.
And I think that a lot of times that, uh, artists just say all my paintings aren’t selling. So now it’s, you know, it’s not me. It’s the, it’s the market. It’s the, you know, what, whatever, it’s the, the it’s how, how everything is in the political scene or whatever these are excuses because they haven’t dug deep enough to find out and be stubborn enough and be persistent enough to make it happen.
You gotta want to make it happen. Yeah. Yeah. And, and, and I think that’s the case for, for any. Entrepreneurial journey. Oh, I do too. I do too. You have to find a way to stand out. And like you said, find your voice you’ve got to and finding your voice is, is something that you can do is your voice is what your strong, what, what, what you what’s, you.
W like, are you strong in color? Are you, so what are you drawn to? And how can you, how can you develop these strengths? Because, uh, if you hand in a workshop, a teacher will and people in Apple, and then she’ll say, or he’ll say everybody paint this Apple and you get up and you look around and there’s not one painting alike, not one.
And it’s because people are painting their strengths, but they don’t realize it. So they don’t. They don’t do anything with that. Say they take their strikes and they’ll find their voice and their voice will make them unique. So help me fill in the blanks a little bit between when you know, around 50 took this workshop and then to, to where you’re at now in your career, walk us through some of the ups and downs that you’ve gone through in that little time for him.
Oh, well, I’ve certainly had a lot of those. Um, aye wanted to be an artist so bad, but I wanted to be a really good artist. So that’s when I started taking the workshops. And so I’m extremely stubborn and I’m extremely persistent. So I think that’s that’s, uh, that could be good. And that can be bad, but it was good for me.
I entered shows and I got. 73 rejections over a couple of years, I didn’t know what it was doing wrong. I was doing my best. And these rejections, these aren’t like lack of awards. These mean you didn’t even get into the shell. Right? Exactly. Okay. I couldn’t even get in, so I’m sure. Yeah. I’m going down the rabbit hole of, well, I guess I’m not an artist, I guess I’m not good enough and blah, blah, blah.
But I decided to enter another show and it was the Rocky mountain national and golden Colorado. And I mean, you got to realize that the other shows that I entered had even been local shows and this was a national show. Which the, the competition was fierce and I got it. And not only did I get in one, one of the top awards, now you can imagine going from total rejection to.
Being in a national show. And when he went to the top awards and it was, I was all happy and that was great. However, and went back to my studio, closed the door, sat in my comfortable chair and I cried. And the reason I cried is because I did not know. How I got it, why it was different by always accepted?
Why did it get the award? I felt I was angry at myself because of lack of knowledge. I was scared because I knew, I didn’t know how to get another one. I mean, it’s kind of like the writers. Do I have one book in me? Yeah. Do I have one painting in me? So that’s when I really decided I’ve got to go deeper.
I’ve got to go deeper and know what it takes to really do a painting of quality. And okay. As you, as you enter these shows, is it a different painting every time or sometimes the same one or always the same one. No. I usually entered different ones. Yeah. You paint a lot. Yeah. Yeah. And a lot, but that’s what it takes.
That’s what it takes to be able to grow. It’s like anything else? You’ve got to do it a lot. You just don’t become good at it at the beginning. So I have, I have a two part question. So, um, what, what did you find out? Did, did you find some sort of answer as to why that one made it further than others? And then kind of the question to follow up on that is, does that start to train your mind to.
In some ways. I wonder if that starts to have you focus on the wrong thing, like getting into the shows and getting an award. Do you feel like that ever kind of distracted from just your passionate painting as you, as you learned what works and what doesn’t work? Um, no, that’s a very good question, but I think what it did for me is it, um, it gave me the, the knowledge or the, well, it told me yes, your, your painting is good enough to get an, a show.
Now I. Did not just enter shows for getting in them. I wanted to know if my wife was acceptable. Okay. And, um, I think once you get into enough shows, like I don’t enter shows anymore. It’s not important to me, but it was at the beginning, just a sad, uh, uh, kind of, uh, uh, level, which I knew that if I reached that level, then I was quote, good enough.
If you can get into the shows, you’re good enough. If you can write a book, right. And be in a, in a, uh, you know, company picks you up. Then, you know, you’re good enough, you know, so I don’t think it, uh, I don’t think it takes away entering shows. I think it just helps you know, where you are. And, uh, so, but the first part of the question I’ve forgotten.
Sorry, what did you learn? What did you find out as you dug into why that one got in and others didn’t. Well, you know, I’ve found that. Okay. Number one. I couldn’t, I thought, okay, I’ll just do another one. I’ll just do another one similar to that. Well, it turned out like, well, you know what? It didn’t turn out at all.
So I had to then step back and say, okay, I’m going to start. I’m going to start all over. I’m going to start all over and I’m going to really learn. And what I’ve learned is you need to put emotion into a painting for the viewer to feel it like one of my galleries called and said, Gwen, there is a man standing in front of your painting and he’s crying.
Wow. Okay. I knew at that moment that that was probably the most, the highest compliment I could ever get. Yeah. Cause the emotion that I had put into that painting the man felt, of course, he bought the painting. Uh, I call emotions a form of spirit because spirit is who you are. And spirit is a lover and spirit will, will bring the viewer into the painting.
But you too. To love the painting. So do you find yourself sometimes painting for four different reasons? So, so two examples that come to mind and in what you just talked about, about bringing emotion to the canvas is. What’s do sometimes you find yourself painting just for fun and creativity and, and outlet versus painting with, uh, the intent to show, to bring a message to, to your, to the, to the artwork.
Um, there are times that I will go into the studio and I have no idea what to paint. I mean, it’s just like, yeah. Oh, okay. I don’t know what to do. So when I do that and I just say, okay, I have no idea. I will call it a trash campaigning day. And so the trash campaigning day is I can paint anything. I can do anything.
Cause I’m not in there to paint a painting for a gallery. Or to sell I’m playing and I’m having a ball. Now I got news for you. You usually do pretty good work then. Yeah, I could see that. Yep. Because there’s no parameters. There are no doors that are going to close on my gosh. I’ve got to go in and I’ve got to do a really good painting for the gallery today.
Hello. That’s a re that’s a burden on you. Yeah. You know, so if you can go in and just have a trash campaigning day. Yeah. That’s a good day. So, so when you’re done, do you like, do you literally throw in the garbage or do you like scrapbook everything that you make? Oh gosh, no, I’ve had no, I used to, when I lived in D C I would look out and I’d have people go through my garbage, can take your paintings and then take those paintings.
So then I had to learn it. Tear them up. That’s funny. How do you, so how do you, um, how do you price your art? Oh, that’s a terrible question. That means it’s a good one. Like I just can’t, I don’t even know where to begin. Like if I’m an artist, uh, you know, like, cause obviously you don’t necessarily price it based on time.
Like you price it based on some sort of emotional value. I’m assuming, um, you know, I don’t even know where to begin. Like, cause I’m looking at this from a. A business owner or an entrepreneurial mindset where as you provide more value to your audience and your customers, you slowly increase your prices.
So I would, I would assume that as you increase, you, improve your skill set over time, that that piece of work is more valuable to you. So I guess they’re like a baseline where you kind of figure this out. There are lots of ways to price your paintings. And I’ve decided, cause there’s by the end, by the square inch.
And usually, uh, the bigger paintings like that, I do like 48, 48 they’re too much. And the little paintings that people like to buy or too little. So I decided to. To do mine by the size. And when you do it, do it by this size. And this is, uh, the other thing to know is that let’s say you have a, uh, 30 by 30 painting and you have two of them.
And one, you love. It is your best painting you’ve ever done in your life. And you’ve got another one that it’s okay. They’re both priced the same. It doesn’t matter what you think. Does it matter if you spent 30 minutes on one and. Three years on the other. It doesn’t cost more because you like it. And the other thing that I have found is that the ones that you love sell the, the, it takes longer and the ones that you don’t like.
They call like hotcakes. I have never understood that, but that’s how it is. Do you ever feel like that you’re giving away your child sometimes? Oh gosh. Yes. I just want him to go to a good home, you know, please just don’t put it in the bathroom. Yeah. Have you ever, have you ever later found out about somebody that bought some of your art and it gave you some sort of pride that, you know, it’s in somebody’s home, you know?
Uh, yes. And, uh, I will go to someone’s home and they’ll say I have one of your paintings. Oh my gosh. And I’ll look. And sometimes I will be so proud. And then sometimes that will be, Oh, I can’t believe I sold that. I can’t believe I did that. Of course I had done it years ago. I have improved, you know, we all improve.
And so when I, when that happens, she just smile and say, I’m so glad you love it. And I’m thinking. Oh, God. No. Yeah. Is that like one of those where you say just, Oh God bless. That’s right. That’s right. But yes, it’s, it’s extremely gratifying when people will really, they want to, uh, They are willing to put out hard, earned cash for something like a painting, and then it’s yours and they love it and they’re proud of it and they show it to their friends.
Uh, yeah, it’s very rewarding. Yeah. But let me ask you the outside of the art world, um, you know, who, who is, who is Gwen outside of the artists, Gwen? Who am I? Well, I’m an avid gardener and I, I love dogs and I do some training of dogs and, uh it’s so yeah, the gardener and a dog lover. Yeah. I love music and I love books.
And so, yeah. Yeah. Well, I want to give you a moment to talk about a little more about your book create brilliantly. Um, so it’s, it’s expected to be released 2020, is that right? Hopefully, yeah. I, uh, the, the listeners will know that I just finished a book about SEO and I. Writing a book is a task. And I, every time I talked to another guest, that’s written a book and it seems like, um, very few everybody appreciates the process, but nobody really enjoys it.
I have, it is like pulling teeth. It’s it’s just to keep it organized. Did you have trouble with that? Um, I did. So the abbreviated version of my book, reading book, writing process was I thought about it forever. And then I finally said, I either need to do it or stop thinking about it. So then I started scribbling little, you know, typing up a little bit.
Blips. And then I finally said, this is never going to happen. And so I paid somebody that I could vomit all my knowledge on and said, can you clean all that up and organize it? And so they helped me build the outline and then turned it back to me. And then from there I finished it. So yeah. So, well, how long did it take, um, About like about six months.
Uh, just, I mean, it’s still an ongoing thing with like editing and printing, but I would say at its core, the chunk of writing took six months, but then, then it took like another six months after that, for me to just read it two or three times again and make minor edits and just try to find the time to go through and, you know, figure out do I want to change this or shuffle around this
And at this point I realized I’m just. Over critiquing it. And so it’s going to protect it. Right, right. So, you know, get it out there so people can actually read it and enjoy it. Yeah. Yeah. And that’s a hard thing to let it go. And I’m sure that in mind, there will be a misspelling somewhere. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s impossible to catch them all.
It is, it is. And you know, I, I read a book once at the beginning. It said you will find misspellings in this book because that’s what you’re looking for. Yeah. I like that. So the book is going to be about, um, the, the more of the psychological side and the mental aspects of artistry. Is that right? And it’s going to be the stories that I’ve gone through to kind of reiterate and demonstrate the things that I’ve gone through and the lessons that I’ve learned as well.
There are little stories in between and stories with my students and so forth because those stories are everybody’s stories. Yeah. I think that’s, that’s important to, to kind of chime in on is, is a lot of times people will. Will be hesitant to share their stories because they think that they’re the odd ball or that it’s unique and 7 billion people it’s the chances are pretty small, that that’s unique.
And then that’s actually, what makes you relatable and builds an audience and a following is when someone can go, okay, I’m not alone. And I understand what you’re talking about. Well, you know, I think that people working to be a professional artist, think that professional artists going to their studio and they paint a painting and the paint is glides across the thing.
And all of a sudden, there’s this fabulous piece. Well, that’s not the truth. I mean, I showed a painting to a class yesterday and it was a painting that I finally finished and I says, he’s got five paintings. I know this well, because they didn’t work out. And they looked at me like, really, really? I said, yes, the majority of my paintings have paintings underneath them.
Because they don’t work out, but I, when do you decide to just paint another layer versus get another piece of canvas? Um, I’m going to wrestle that baby to the ground. It is. I’m going to see a dojo with stabber. Hey, now it makes sense. Why not? Well, I think don’t you think entrepreneurs have to be stubborn?
They do. I think either, yeah. Either, either stubborn or, you know, strong-willed or, you know, some, yeah, definitely some variable of that. Let me tell ya. Yeah, yeah. I mean, the, you gotta just, you gotta stick, put a stake in the ground and on what you’re going to do and, and just, yeah. Stick to it until it happens for sure.
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s, it’s a chore, but you know, it’s really like when I do abstracts mostly, and I also do dark dog portraits. Cause I’ve kind of liked that that way. Cause I, artists are really interesting people in the fact that they get bored really easy. Cause they have so many ideas and they go from one idea to another idea, to another idea.
And so telling them that they are going to do one thing is very good, difficult, but I tell them you don’t have to do one thing, but you get need to get known. For one. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s, uh, it’s like that. Um, I’m going to slaughter this quote it’s, uh, you know, the Jack of all trades kind of thing, where if you try to be good at everything, you’ll, you’ll be good at nothing.
That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. And so, you know, I, and I tell my students, I said, you know, you’ve got weakness and you’ve got strengths, you know, your weaknesses, but you don’t know your strengths. I said, but if you constantly work on your weaknesses, all you’re going to have is really strong weaknesses.
So, you know, we really need to know your strengths and really work on those because that’s, what’s going to bring out your voice and that’s, what’s going to make you known. Yeah, no, I agree. I like it. Fox. Um, I want to give you an opportunity to put out your contact information. How can people get ahold of you and learn more about you?
Uh, they could go to my website, Gwenfox.com and that’s spelled GW E N F O X. And they are, they will see the workshops. They will see the online, online workshops and they’ll see the work and, uh, And eventually the book. Very cool. Congrats on the book from one book writer. You’re on another. No, sorry for you.
You appreciate the effort. I, I, uh, I thank you for that. Yeah. Well, last thing I’m going to ask. I ask all the guests is how do you want to be remembered? How do I want to be remembered? Oh, well that’s a good question. Um, yeah. You know, I want to be remembered as somebody that brings somebody, bring an artist forward to bring out their best, to bring out the asked within them.
I, um, I wrote a, I wrote this the other day. Well, it was a while go. And one of my students who came from Canada said, I said to her, I said, how did you find me? And she says, well, it was a workshop in Canada and on the wall, in this big room where they hold workshops was a quote and it had your name on it.
And I said, Really, what did I say?
And, uh, she says, well, and so she told me, and it was like, it was when you awaken your inner giant, you will find a passion that fear cannot touch. And that is what I want to bring out. Is that passion that they’re no longer fearful. Well, good for you. That’s a good quote. I like it. Well, Gwen Fox, everybody.
Gwenfox.com. Look forward to create brilliantly coming out soon. It’s been a pleasure, Gwen. Thank you. It’s been awesome. Thank you.