Friday, February 1, 2013

A Visit with Vancouver Artist Michael Soltis

All of us who have email have probably signed up for way more eNewsletter than we're reading. Eventually you have to quit some because you find that you are no longer opening them. There are two, however, that I have been receiving for a long time that are related to the arts that I have been receiving for a very long time and still continue to look at almost daily. First is the ArtDaily and second is Carolyn Edlund's Artsy Shark feed.

Both eNewsletters have been helpful as idea stimulants related to the arts. In addition to introducing reader to new artists Edlund also has information, practical articles and advice for emerging and experienced artists building their careers. I discovered Michael Soltis through one of Edlund's interviews this week, and wanted to share his work here at Ennyman's Territory. 

EN: How did you first come to take a serious interest in art?
The Cracks
Michael Soltis: The arts have been a part of who I am from an early age. I've worked in graphic design and acting has been my passion since the age of ten. I painted here and there throughout my life but didn't get serious about it until about five years ago when I was encouraged by a friend. About two years ago I built a studio and decided to take it from a hobby to something I would pursue in a more focused way. And the more time I spent painting, the more I just completely fell in love with it. I was working full time and had a family and could only paint at night so found myself staying up until 3 and 4 in the morning just so I could keep working. Then in the fall of 2012 I decided to quit my full time job to pursue painting full time and make it my career.

EN: What was your career path from student to full time artist?
MS: I have a bachelor's degree in communications and a Masters in Education. I spent my early working years at jobs in the business world in health care, marketing, and non-profit management until I quit to become an actor. Then after having kids I went back to work in the business world until (as I said) I quit my job again to pursue painting. So I don't have a traditonal path from art student to professional artist. I am self-taught and continue to learn through each piece.

EN: Your style is clearly your own but appears to echo influences like Jasper Johns. Who have been your biggest influences as a painter?
MS: When I first started painting this question was so threatening to me. I hated to be compared to other artists and felt like if I wasn't completely original then there was something wrong. I must admit that I continue to struggle with this because I have a tenacious desire to be authentically my own. I can't point to any one artist who influences me but what I can say is that every artist, every structure, every poster, billboard, sign, postcard, every piece of visual work that I see influences me. How can it not. I've seen it, I've interacted with it so it's all in there. I never try to do what anyone else is doing, but I know that there is nothing completely original and that the ideas that come out on my canvas are built on the creativity of people that have come before me. And I'm thankful for their contribution to my work.

EN: What is the Vancouver art scene like? What prompted you to open a gallery? 
MS: To be honest, I feel like there are so many artists living in Vancouver, so many great opportunities to engage with art, but it is a struggle to find support. We've had galleries close, major theatre houses close and many artists (in every creative field) struggle to get an audience for their work. I don't mean to be bleak because I am SO inspired by the many people who commit their lives to support the arts who live here. But I think because it is a somewhat transient population, it is very expensive to live here and there are many outdoor activities at our disposal in this beautiful part of the world… we have some barriers to overcome. I chose to open my art gallery in Palm Springs because there is a thriving arts community with a TON of support from the city, politicians and business leaders. It is a big vacation and second home destination and art enthusiasts from all around the world visit the area. It is a big focus in the desert and seems to be a priority for a large percentage of the population.

EN: Why is art important in our culture? 
MS: Firstly it is important because there is a segment of the population who are born to be artists and there needs to be space and a place for them to fulfill their purpose. They need to be nurtured, to feel valued, to have the freedom to express the incredible gifts they've been given. Because -- and this is my second reason -- artists are able to communicate through their work in a way that changes people. It opens them up, shuts them down, makes them delighted, makes them angry, makes them feel understood, moves them to change, inspires them to keep going, helps them decide to quit. It whispers pain, shouts love, fights for peace, jumps for joy, kicks you around, gives you a hug and keeps the conversation going.

EN: Where can people see more of your work? 
MS: My work is available at the Ian Tan Gallery in Vancouver, Axis Contemporary Gallery in Calgary, through Swenson Fine Art in Laguna Beach, and at my gallery, Stark + Kent in Palm Springs. I also have a couple pieces at Julie Nestor Gallery in Park City. I work in my studio at home and also have a studio in Vancouver housed in a giant old amazing building of creativity with hundreds of other artists where people can visit me and see the current pieces I'm working on.

She Approves

EdNote: Thank you, Michael, for sharing yourself and your work here.

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