In the Studio with Cathy Breslaw
What does a day in your art practice look like?
I am very self-disciplined. I have a list of “to do’s” each day with stars for the priorities, including for my art practice and everything else in my life. Each day I cross off what has been done, leaving the rest of items. In terms of my ‘work’ items, it depends on where I am in the process – could be researching ideas for a series I am working on, materials I need to find, or the actual work which I would spend the balance of the day doing. Early morning work/outs of some type begin my day which impacts my mental state and level of calm and readiness. Sometimes I do a short 5 or 10 min meditation to prepare for the day. I also sometimes do research for proposal-writing or for exhibition opportunities. When I am in the midst of actively working on a series, I wouldn’t add other items for those particular days. The work definitely takes priority.
What would life be like without art?
I would not choose to have a life without art-making – it is my “north star or true north”. I have been making art since I was a child, though not consistently and regularly as I have been since the 1990s’. Making art is connected to my ‘soul’ and who I am as a person.
What is the hardest part of creating your art?
The hardest part is withstanding the various stages of my creative process. There are times when it all flows well, and other times when I know very well that the “seeds” of my ideas need time to germinate. It helps to have had so many years of art-making experience, so I don’t get too worried if the ideas or work doesn’t come easily and takes time. Also, I am pretty good at throwing away art that isn’t working well. With all that said, sometimes the creative process can be painful even though I know I cannot force something to happen. For me it’s a bit like giving birth, and when good things happen, it was well worth the wait.
Cathy in process image spray painting/ mesh
What inspires you?
Largely it is ‘nature’ that inspires me most. When I am in nature, I am in a state of connection, and it is often meditative. I have a great deal of gratitude for planet earth and all of its natural wonders. ‘Nature’ for me encompasses the obvious – forests, gardens, oceans, water ways of all kinds, mountains, hiking trails etc. but it is only activated when I am in those spaces and interacting with those places. I am also inspired by the cosmos, outer space and all that implies – the wonder of space, including invisible spaces where ‘energy’ exists as well as curiosity about what is unknown about our world. I have often spent hours reading and researching some of these things. It doesn’t always find its way into my work in an obvious way but does on other levels.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell me to seek to learn – to follow my curiosity and seek answers to my questions without judgement (from myself or others). I would also say to pay attention to my inner urges rather than listen to the expectations of others. I would say be patient, be self-disciplined, have self-compassion and do not give up on what brings you joy and fulfillment in life.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
In a perfect world, I would collaborate with folks from a mix of pursuits – artists, scientists, sociologists, educators, architects, designers and more – I think its important to collaborate with people who have a variation in ideas and ways of seeing the world.
What’s the best advice you have been given?
The only way we learn is by personal experience.
Installation shot of ”Atmospheres” series, exhibition
If you could change anything about the art world what would it be?
I think the art world follows culture and in a way is not too forward thinking, which seems counter-intuitive. Artists are innovators yes, but overall, I don’t think the art world leads – from my point of view it follows.
What do you do to keep motivated and interested in your work?
When I am feeling un-creative or seemingly empty of ideas, I remind myself that this is all part of the creative process. So, often in this state, I will clean my studio, review my past work, do research for new work, or talk to other artists. Sooner or later, I will be revived and something clicks and am in a creative space.
If you had the chance to live during a different artist movement other than now, which one would you choose? Why?
I have no idea – it’s hard for me to place myself in a different era – I can only relate to the one I am in. Every art movement has had its good and bad and varying influences including now.
Commission for Prespbyterian Hospital – Margot Perot Womens’ Wing, Dallas TX 2016
How has personal experience influenced your creativity?
I think I’ve already answered this question, having to do with the creative process. I think I handle the ups and downs of the creative process better and better as time goes on because of prior experience.
What do you wish to accomplish with your art?
I want to always do the best work that I am capable of creating. The rest of it is something I have no real control over.
What are your words of wisdom for someone starting in your field?
Being an artist can sometimes require different kinds of sacrifice – you have to be willing and strong enough to deal with it. If not, do something else with your life.
How do make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?
Again, this is all part of the creative process, and it is not always the same process for each idea I may have and how to get there – there is no one path.
Installation of exhibition Macro VIews, Micro Wonders, San Diego Mesa College, Sept/2015
Patches of Light, layered and painted transparent white fabrics, 2022 48″ x 47″