In the Studio with Vicky Hoffman
What does a day in your art practice look like?
Mornings tend to be reserved for the “business” of life, e.g., walk dog, any meetings, conversations, yoga, errands, etc. In short, I want a clear head when I get to the studio so I’m not distracted by a “to do” list. While in the studio, I dislike interruptions from texts and phone calls. Almost always I start with the sketchbook as a place to put my thoughts, almost like a “dear diary.” I highlight a few key words from that entry and then proceed to sketch those words on the flanking page. Sometimes the sketch resonates with me and I want to explore it further or sometimes I’m working out the next step on a piece. The juice is in my sketchbook. Next, I may do a study or start working on a larger piece. I don’t tend to work on more than three paintings at a time as it diverts too much energy for me. I become fragmented and unproductive. To wrap up the day, I have a mindfulness practice plus a glass of wine. That is pretty much how it rolls. To quote Robert Irwin for a New York Times article in October 14, 2007, “If you wanted to watch me, it would be totally boring. It would look like a Warhol film where nothing happens. I sit for 24 hours, then I scratch myself.”
What is the hardest part of creating your art?
The hardest part is I grow attached to the ground or foundation of a painting. It becomes precious and I don’t want to screw it up so I end up spending countless hours looking at the piece to determine what is wanted and needed or sketching up solutions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
A friend once mentioned to me that an artist is never satisfied with their work. Learning to love that dissatisfaction is key. There’s some truth to those two statements, which is probably why an actor always wants to do a second, third or fourth take. Next at some point, usually around our teenage years, I say we develop a young strategy for life. It may work in our adult life and yet, it could keep us locked into a way of being.
Who would you most like to collaborate with? Why?
Great question and I’ll answer it slightly different than collaboration. I would love to have been a student at UCLA when Lee Mullican was teaching there. I would love to hang out with Carlos Almaraz and Robert Rauchenberg. I wish I had the talent and patience of Vija Celmins.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I received was when you think you have a good idea, STOP. Most likely, it’s not a good idea. Play around with it on paper and at some point, you’ll realize the idea was either incredibly awful or a good one.
If you could change anything about the art world, what would it be?
This is a complex question and a hot button for me.
Generally, the school system is churning out students at all levels that don’t think. These students may even have advanced degrees, e.g., MBAs, but are unable to problem solve. Art collectors purchase works of art for thousands of dollars and most artists with MFAs are saddled with debt and not seeing the monetary exchange. Business schools have a name associated with them, e.g., Wharton, Kellogg, etc., and yet art schools do not.
Richard Florida identifies what he calls the Bohemian Index, measuring the degree to which a city is culturally engaged, open, exciting, non-discriminating, with a large ethnic mosaic and a less segregated gay population. Cities with a strong Bohemian Index harness new ideas and have a high degree of tolerance, are ego attractive to creative people, are accepting of new businesses, and give tax breaks. Cities where conservative approaches still flourish are in decline. People gravitate to environments that are diverse, tolerant and allow new ideas to flow.
That said, make art essential in the educational curriculum. Incentivize collectors, large companies and cities to fund art in middle and high schools. Consider a new seat in the C Suite for the Chief Creative Officer.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting out in your field?
Do what you love, good luck and life is short.