We had the good fortune of connecting with Barbara Kemp Cowlin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Barbara, do you have any habits that you feel contribute to your effectiveness?
Way back when I was in art school, one of my professors liked to say “Let inspiration find you working” (a shortened iteration of a statement by Picasso). This has stuck with me and it’s probably the most important thing I’ve used to develop the habits I have today. I have a schedule that I stick by, Monday through Friday and sometimes on the weekends. Mornings are for the business part of being an artist: exhibition submissions; researching galleries; social media posts on Instagram and Facebook; keeping my data base of paintings updated; creating a bi-monthly newsletter; maintaining my mailing list and more. The afternoons are for painting, usually about 4-5 hours. During this time, I focus on my work and stay clear of distractions. Friends have been trained not to call during my painting time. There are days when I can hardly wait to get started, but there are also plenty of times when I’m stuck and would love to avoid the hard work of solving problems in my paintings. But I force myself to launch in, tempting as it can be to read a good book instead!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a painter, currently working on a series, called “Askew” that I’ve very excited about. I started the series about 3 years ago and am about to finish the 100th “Askew” painting, 8’x8′ in size. The paintings are loosely based on architectural details with a skewed perspective, unusual color combinations and fanciful details. I have a BFA in printmaking and an MA in Community College Education with a major in art. I’ve had a variety of jobs throughout my life to support my art habit. Among other things I’ve been an arts administrator, a graphic designer and an art instructor, teaching all levels from 1st grade to university. It wasn’t easy to carve out the time to make art between caring for my family and working full time, but I’ve always managed. And my life experiences have enriched my art. For the past 10 years, I taught art workshops with flexible schedules that allowed me to devote the majority of my time to painting. Last year I received the Gottlieb Foundation Individual Artist Support Grant which gave me the financial resources to take several years off teaching in order to devote all of my time to my artistic practice.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d suggest the museums/art centers in the city/metro area, including Phoenix Art Museum, Heard Museum, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Mesa Contemporary Art Museum, Tempe Art Center, Chandler Art Center. Galleries would include Sette Gallery, Bentley Gallery in Phoenix, Royse Contemporary and Gebert Gallery in Scottsdale, Art Intersection in Gilbert. The Botanical Garden and Zoo are always fun. There are so many great restaurants, I’d suggest going online for convenient locations to where they are staying and checking out reviews and to find out if they are open for dining or just for takeout.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The Artist’s Breakfast Club, a loose knit group started 20 years ago by Beth Ames Swartz and Jon Haddock is a group I appreciate for the way in which it has created a generous and supportive community of artists. We meet about once a month at various locations around the valley. Meetings consist of exchanging information and ideas with each other and then a program—a talk by a curator, an exhibition tour led by a museum official, prominent artists giving information and advice on subjects helpful to artists. I’ve been a part of this group for about 6 years and I can’t stress enough the importance these meetings have been in meeting artists, creating friendships and helping the growth of my artistic practice and being a part of the larger arts community.