ArtCan are pleased to introduce you to our artist Irene Raspollini. After a successful Instagram Takeover, we caught up with her to discuss what inspires her, her plans and her experience on becoming a full time artist. Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about your self, your practice and what inspires you?
I am Irene Raspollini, an Italian professional painter born in Siena in 1982 and based in a small village in Tuscany, Scalvaia. I only recently became a full time artist, but I paint and draw since I can remember myself. As a self taught painter, my practice went through a long process of trial and error: I started with charcoal and gouache and then started using acrylics and watercolours, which are now my favourite materials. I remember that my biggest struggle was to find my own personal style. I was deeply inspired by many artists that I admired, and often I ended up copying them. I love great self taught artists such as Frida Kahlo and Henri Rousseau, borderline artists such as Wölfli and Seraphine de Senlis, great contemporary masters like David Hockney and the classic ones like Sandro Botticelli. Anyway, copying was nothing to be proud of and it was time for me to find my own voice. I decided to break away of all kind of influences and made my artworks as minimal as possible, using only three colours (black, white and red). I started to create my sketchy, rosy cheeked characters using pieces of found charcoal and red pigment on paper. I then slowly started to add more and more details and bright colours, which led me to my present figurative style, which is a combination of my original style but, now, has heavy pop twist too.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently preparing for new, upcoming shows and would really love to increase my presence at art fairs in the future. At the moment I am working towards two new projects: “The Chroma Key Project”, which is about art, augmented reality and the 80s aesthetic, and “100 Nuove Primavere (100 New Springs)”, which is all about human body grafted with twigs, succulents and flowers. Apart from these I am working on a new tile mosaic mural using a technique I learned from a master muralist in Mexico.
You are a full-time artist, has it been an easy process? Many claim that being a full-time artist can very hard to achieve in our days.
Once I found my style, I decided to show my work and started searching for opportunities, open calls and art contests, both nationally and internationally. I joined online galleries that allowed me to connect with collectors all over the world and started to make my first sales and shows. The Italian art market is very interesting in terms of artists and sales, but it is really hard to become part of it if you’re not introduced by a critic or a gallery owner. Very often the work of self taught artists is not considered a worthy investment. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, it is now possible to find a plethora of opportunities abroad and gain good exposure through social networks. In our days a creative person can find and approach the audience in so many different ways. As a result of my efforts, I started exhibiting abroad more and more frequently and focused on the quality of my works. After a while, I decided to leave my day job and become a full time artist and now I’m happily making my dream a reality. In general terms, the more you do, the more you get; and to everyone that still believes in the “starving artist” myth I say that making a living out of your art nowadays is absolutely feasible. It is not easy and may take years to earn enough through sales to pay your bills, but it is possible! The art market is evolving and it is a great challenge to stay up to date in such a continuously changing world. Millennials are starting to collect art and the traditional brick and mortar galleries are now facing the increasing demand of buying art online. Thanks to social media, artists are now able to connect directly with collectors all over the world and engage and collaborate with other artists, regardless where they are based. The Internet offers so many different, unique and exciting platforms, where one can find great opportunities for connections and collaborations!
Becoming a full-time artist may take years, as you say. What did you learn through the process?
The journey of becoming a successful artist can often be very frustrating; a very big part of us goes into making our artworks which makes it really difficult to deal with customers or critics’ opinions without taking them all too personally. Another issue is that, very often, an artist concentrates onto improving their technique without considering the business or financial aspects. Being a professional artist also means being able to run a small (or big!) business, dealing with finance and accounting, marketing, social media promotion and sales techniques. They are all as important as using a pencil or a brush.
What advice would you give to other artists?
I think that struggling artists often underestimate this part and concentrate only in their artworks, expecting that a gallery owner or a curator takes care of that process. This is a very dangerous way of approaching the art world and can be very risky; especially if you intend to make a living out of it (it is more or less like a shop owner who only thinks to fill up the shelves without caring about reaching clients, dealing with providers or offering proper customer care). There are a lot of good books, online courses and mentoring programs out there about these matters and, considering all the knowledge you will get, it is a worthy investment. Once you understand and learn the process, you will then able to delegate and grow your activity with the optimal results. The greater advice I can give to artists starting out their careers is just this: invest in your education and find your own voice. There is no better moment to become a professional artist than today!
You are an ArtCan Artist; what do you like most about ArtCan?
ArtCan offers new ways to connect artists with art lovers and, one of the things I like most about it, is the zero commission philosophy, which grants fair prices for both artists and collectors. Also, it is run in a very professional way and has a broad vision: it is not only an association of artists, it also involves art critics, writers, business people and galleries, and it is constantly evolving in order to offer valuable opportunities and connections with potential buyers, as well as workshops and initiatives to sustain our practice. Connecting with other like-minded people is crucial to develop my art and thrive!
You can find more about Irene’s work here: www.ireneraspollini.com