In the Studio with Daniela Soberman ￼ ￼￼
What does a day in your art practice look like?
I’m currently working on a large project that spans several months.
The panels I’m working with are too large to fit inside of my current space, so I’m forced to work outside in the elements. Plaster work composes a large part of my surface treatments so that means I’m contending with the elements which in Southern California means the Sun (which starts beating down at 10am even in the Fall).
So plaster work and sun has forced me to shift my work schedule to a block of time that can be mostly uninterrupted and which allows the plaster time to dry/set without undue additional moisture (evenings and overnight are too damp).
My day currently goes something like this…
5am — wake up, read my phone in bed and will myself to leave the covers by 5:30am.
5:30am — out of bed, dressed, and having my ginger coffee (I mix powdered ginger root with my morning coffee and that gives me a huge burst of energy that keeps me going until lunch. I usually skip breakfast).
6am-6:30am— Panel set-up i.e. determining where I’ll be painting or plastering for the day. I have 30+ panels of 8ftx8ft squares and an impending deadline — which means finding a spot for panels in the backyard, driveway, front yard, and my neighbor’s front yards (no, I’m not kidding).
6:30am-8ish — outside working. Moving large 8ft x 8ft panels, mixing plaster, plastering, painting, scraping, gouging, kissing my son and husband goodbye as my husband does the school run and heads to work. Saying hello to the neighbors as they walk by with their dogs. Answering questions about what I’m doing (no, sorry friends, I’m not building a fence).
8am — coffee refill / break (yes, with more powdered ginger). Drink water.
8:10am — 11:30am — Moving large 8ft x 8ft panels, mixing plaster, plastering, painting, scraping, gouging, albeit more slowly because now the sun has come out.
** Note — plaster work requires mixing small batches and then applying. I work by myself. No assistants. So from 6am–11:30am, It is non-stop constant motion of me on top of panels / moving between panels — cutting, plastering or painting. I have to work quickly before the sun starts breaking and to take advantage of my “uninterrupted” block of time.
11:30am–Noon — collapse / break for lunch. This is my first sit down of the day and my first meal (usually leftovers).
Noon-1:30pm — Shower (because by this point I’m usually covered in paint, clay or plaster), check emails, check deadlines, respond to questions.
Early afternoon — School pickup (i’m somewhat presentable now)
Afternoon — the minutiae of mom life. Chauffeuring my child to activities, homework help. Calling the grandparents, Doing dishes, making dinner,
Late afternoon — Dog walk / dog park
6pm — Dinner with the family. At this point if I have any questions or concerns about the structure / sculpture I’m building I will have built and laid out a model on the dinner table to discuss while we’re having supper (my husband is a physicist and my son is engineering inclined). Usually we debate. I present why intuitively I know it will work — and the boys then convince themselves mathematically that I’m correct.
6pm-8pm — Evening rituals with the child.
8:30pm-9:30pm — Create mocks-ups / models, create presentations.
9:30pm — collapse into bed.
What is the hardest part of creating your art?
Recently I’ve started working larger. What that means is that there is construction that must happen before I can actually “create” a sculpture. I must first build the building blocks that will be used to create the structure. This initial building is pure manual labor and exhausting.
What inspires you?
Ancestors. I feel like I come from a long line of people who have had to sacrifice so that I am able to be where I am today. My parents are from former Yugoslavia. My father grew up in a house with a dirt floor. He’s a brilliant inventor and my mother an equally brilliant artist. But as poor immigrants to America, as most immigrants know — you take the factory jobs, the manual labor jobs so that your children may have opportunities that you never did. I feel like not just my parents, but for all of my ancestors who were never in a position to lead a creative life because they needed to till the fields or go to war — all of their sacrifices have culminated into an opportunity that I must take advantage of. Not purely for myself, but also for them.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
You have to show up.
There are a million people happy and willing to take your spot. If you are given an opportunity, you have to show up (literally and figuratively). I once did my largest piece to date for a show that a lot of artists discounted. Turns out that I received my largest commission based on someone seeing that piece.
If you could change anything about the art world, what would it be?
Eesh, the arrogance. A lot of people act like jerks. Being new to this world I would say it’s been genuinely surprising to me.
It used to be that as the creative kids we would all band together at school lunch time and have food thrown at us by the jocks. We sought eachother out and found strength in numbers. But in this industry those same friends are just as willing to shiv you. What happened?!
There used to be a joke and it would go something like this, ….
“How do you know if someone went to Stanford/Harvard/Yale/fill-in-the-blank?
—- They never stop telling you about it.”
A little humble pie and don’t be a jerk.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
Arbitrary deadlines. For me this works. I once gave myself an arbitrary goal to create 28 sculptures in 28 days — and that ridiculous goal / arbitrary deadline, helped flesh out ideas and get rid of stale ideas to make room for the new. It’s something I think I will continue to do a few times a year to determine if certain creative lines of thought are worth pursuing. It’s been a great tool for me.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?
You need to show up.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?
Movement. I’m a big believer in volume and time. If you just start, understanding that maybe the first, second, or the fiftieth version of your idea will be shit, and get those out of the way, so that the 60th will be magic — then there is less pressure to make the first iteration perfect. That’s what I see a lot of — people striving for perfection too early in the process so the work feels constricted, suffocated instead of loose and free.
You can’t fall in love with all the work because most of it won’t be that great. You have to get out all the shitty versions until the good ones come through. That’s how it works for me, at least