TreeHouse: You work in a few different art mediums, including mixed media, photography, poetry, and fiction – just to name a few. Did you start out creating in just one of them and then moved over to the other genres or have you always worked in all of them? Is there one medium that you tend to focus on more than the others?
Lorette Luzajic: I like to say that the whole world is my palette. Whether it’s a pack of Crayola on hand or a stack of old Popular Mechanics, I’m going to create something. I’m excited by the variety of human creativity and feed off of that.
I did start out on poetry and short fiction. For the longest time I knew I would be a writer. I enjoyed making a lot of different things, but making art seriously as a career was something of a surprise. I even tried to get practical with my writing and studied journalism in university. But I got hooked on collage doing a project, and immediately saw the excitement of adding more materials to my cut and paste.
As for photography, it was always an interest as a part of art history, which is a major passion for me- it’s essential for me to see how others saw the world, to see what other eras and cultures produce and value, to see aesthetic and interpretive changes and experiments and ideas. I started taking my own pictures thinking I would cut them up- this way, the “whole world” could literally be my collage base, even if I found a texture on a real wall, not a picture of that wall in a magazine. I could snap everything my eyes registered and freeze it, then snip and splice to my heart’s content.
As it turned out, I almost never do that. My passion for collecting images found a different kind of outlet this way, one I didn’t cut into pieces. Freezing these spare moments of colour or contrast or emotion or portrait was teaching me to look deeper still and see even more. The excitement I have for “muchness” and “lots” is totally satisfied in the digital age when I can load a cacophony of hundreds of images onto my screen and sort and search to my heart’s content. But in the end, it’s all about that one image, isolated for a moment and contemplated. It’s the most restrained, minimalist, spare work I do. But it’s still “mixed media” in a way, because I’m showing you that poetry is all around.
TH: You sell your work on Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/shop/LorettesArt) – how has your experience been with them? Would you recommend the site as a lucrative platform for artists looking to showcase and sell their work?
LL: My weakness is a common one- I try to do everything, be everywhere, want to try everything, see how everything works. I might find a platform a lot more lucrative if I focused on one with some consistency and a marketing plan! No, Etsy is not lucrative in and of itself. My sporadic sales there are just a mirror reflection of my sporadic attention to the platform. “Be more consistent on Etsy” is on that running list of goals and things to do that carries over into every new day timer! But I have reached and sold some work to an audience that didn’t see me anywhere else.
Etsy has a few amazing advantages that creative people really should make use of. One, the price is right. You can’t beat not paying out fifty percent commission to a gallery, and you can’t beat a .25 cent listing. Second, it’s secure. Etsy is taking care of transactions. If you don’t have a shopping cart on your website, you actually do have this access to a shopping cart, this way. Three, people are browsing Etsy because they want handmade, creative items. The platform was literally designed for crafters and artisans and small business creatives and smart ones have used it to make small business big business. I hope I’ll evolve to that!
TH: You are an editor for The Ekphrastic Review. Tell us a bit about that.
LL: In July 2015 I launched The Ekphrastic Review as another way to bring together my love for both art and writing. I was involved in the past with some now defunct online arts journals and really missed the work and connection, but I knew the world really didn’t need another general poetry journal online. I wanted something meaningful that would strike a need and a niche and bring great writers together, but something that would have longevity. One of the ways I keep my creative writing fresh is by writing about art, and I saw that there were a few ekphrastic projects out there, but not much.
When I opened the blog, I committed to the long term. I said to myself, no, Lorette, you’re not going to start a journal that closes a year later. I knew these things can take a lot of time and the best of intentions can’t keep up with the reality. So I decided it would be an ongoing project, but I would not let it stress me. If I had a lot of time one week, great. If weeks went by and I did nothing, fine. I would have no expectations and go with the flow, when I could. I really thought I would receive the odd poem and have twelve readers. Turns out, a lot of writers are using visual art for inspiration, and looking for an outlet. And many more want to be challenged and develop an ekphrastic writing practice, or play with art prompts occasionally for variety. We are getting top notch submissions, we have a roster of writers who are getting to know each other online and care about each other and support each other’s successes. And we have about six thousand readers a month! I love it!
TH: You were recently invited to a two-week symposium and exhibition in North Africa, which you mentioned will be your first serious international event. First off, congratulations on that accomplishment. Tell us about the event: where in Africa is the event taking place and what type of art does the exhibition showcase? Are you excited about exploring the area? Have you found that your environment influences your work in any other traveling you’ve done?
LL: I’m very excited about heading to Tunisia next month to work with thirty other artists from around the world. We will be creating together and learning from each other and enjoying new cultural experiences. I’m very excited about working somewhere else- I have always wanted to try working in another country and see what transpires. I tried to paint when I went to Mexico City last year, but was so busy seeing everything! Mexico got under my skin and continues to inspire my work to this day, in all kinds of ways, writing, poetry, photography, collage. But going somewhere expressly for the purpose of working creatively there is different altogether, and I’m really excited.
I knew nothing at all about Tunisia before this and the chance to expand in an unexpected direction is amazing. I’m learning about artists who have gone there- Canadian landscape painter James Wilson Morrice, Paul Klee. There’s a vital art scene there today, I’m finding out, with Tunisian youngsters pushing boundaries in music and graffiti. The aesthetic of the land and people looks just beautiful, too. I can’t wait to experience it firsthand.
TH: Do you have any advice to share with those just starting out in the arts or artists who would like to make a living creating their art?
LL: My honest advice whenever I’m asked this question is, “forget it.” I’m serious. Find other work you’re good at and build your skills there. Focus on family. Live each day.
You might find that incongruous with the fact that everything I do seeks to inspire others to creativity. I want everyone to experience the joy of making art or writing.
The issue is that a lot of the joy goes out of it when you have that “making a living” part to worry about. The idealized, romantic image we hold of the life of an artist is one I had, too, but it looks different on this side of things. A lot different.
I survived the tortured artist part of my life, and I’m lucky. And there’s supposed to be a redemption story at the end of that, how art heals and fixes and gives you meaning. And it does. But it’s an uphill struggle in every way. And it can be lonely.
I feel extraordinarily lucky to spend my days creating. But there are times I honestly wish I had studied physiotherapy or fast food management. The stuff of everyday life, the bustle, the basics, are out there, and I’m in here. It means a lot when someone is touched by your work, but that will happen even if your art practice is a weekend thing. Most of my days are spent picking up and delivering art from one venue to another on public transit since I can’t afford a car. Or filling out proposals or forms, or writing checks for booth rentals that might be pissing in the wind, or praying I sell something and fast because I need art supplies.
If you have a good job, you can enjoy the thrill of splurging at the craft shop without feeling sick to your stomach. You don’t feel the pressure to “make this a good one” because it has to sell. You can share your projects with friends and family and enjoy a sale or two as easy bonus money. A lot of creative work is volunteer work. You have to be fine with this fact.
I am so grateful for the gifts I’ve been given. But if you can do something else, then do so. Do this for love, not money.
If you can’t help yourself, I understand. Then welcome to my beautiful nightmare.