painting

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I’ve recently started painting with acrylics, and I love it! My mother-in-law gave me her late father’s art supplies, which included a set of acrylic paints, an easel, and a pad of paper pallets (kind of like wax paper that you can use as a paint pallet). I got some canvas boards and started playing around, and fell in love very quickly.

There’s something about painting: using brushes, the squishy paint, playing with color and light, the amount of time it takes…it’s meditative and fun and physical. It connects me with my mom. I’ve always preferred pens and markers, but now I really understand the pull of paint.

I’ve been doing a lot of still lifes, and some portraits and self-portraits. Inspired by my sister I am making comic paintings– this is what I am most excited about. My new thing. I remember so clearly as a kid seeing this print hanging in the condo of a family friend:

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Drowning Girl, by Roy Lichtenstein

Something really attracted me about this. And even though it’s been many years since I’ve seen it, it stuck with me. That’s how it is with the best art– those special pieces that stay with you, stitched into your mind.

I’m really excited to make more comic paintings. There’ll be an exhibit at Images Cinema in August.

business

I have worked a lot of jobs. At age eighteen I went to college to study theater, writing, comics, and dance, with the dream that I’d make it work somehow– I’d find a way to make a living at this crazy thing called Art. So I never committed myself to a full-time job. I worked multiple part-time jobs at once, scrounging for any little bit of time to draw and write. I drew comics in the box office and the projection booth at move theaters. I wrote short stories in emails to myself at receptionist desks. I sketched on the subway, worked on story ideas at babysitting gigs after the kids went to bed, wrote in diners at 6am. I lived close to the bone, making just enough money to survive.

While living in New York City I walked around to comic book shops asking them to sell my little self-published mini comics, and got feedback from store owners about how to make them look more professional. I modeled for life drawing classes. I submitted to short story competitions. I volunteered at MoCCA Fest in exchange for a couple hours of table time selling my comics. Any small way to make a tiny amount of dough from my art.

March 1st marks my one year anniversary of being “self-employed.” I quit my job to be a full-time artist and stay-at-home mom (we need a better term for this). So, how do I make money?

The short answer is that I don’t make very much. I am fortunate to have a partner who believes in me, believes in my work as an artist, and takes on the responsibility of supporting our family financially. This is the first time I have not supported myself completely since college. It’s hard sometimes, to reconcile this fact in my head, that my husband supports me financially.

But the truth is, if I were to go work at a job I wouldn’t make enough to pay for daycare or to make it worth it to not be home with my baby. And I would likely be sad and unfulfilled. So instead, I stay home and take care of Giles, which is a very important contribution to our family. And twice a week my mother-in-law takes care of him at her house so I can do my artwork.

Art Work. It is really, really wonderful that my only work (besides being a mom) is making art. It is also really hard. In the first couple months of Full-Time Artist Life I made just as much money as I did at my previous job. I taught a comics workshop, sold a few commission portraits, sold some drawings from an exhibit. Art income often comes in windfalls like that– for a few months I will sell a bunch of things, and then there will be long dry spells.

These are the ways I make money:

Teaching: this is relatively new to me. Last year I taught a five week Autobiographical Comics workshop for adults at a local art school. I am about to start teaching another workshop with the same school. This is a really nice way to make some money, the highest hourly wage I have ever been paid in my life– about $25/hour. It’s also inspiring, working with students and seeing their ideas and growth. A great way to make money in my field that is truly connected to what I love. It’s also a lot of work, and takes time and energy away from making my own things.

Commissioned Portraits: this is something I’ve been doing for a while. I don’t get a lot of commissions. Most art from people I know, friends and family. On my Etsy site I offer portraits, holiday cards, and invitations. Commission work can be tricky– early on I learned to be very clear with customers about what I do, what my style is, and that I will not copy the work or style of other artists. I change my prices pretty often, never sure of how much to charge, balancing how much I value my time with how much someone will realistically pay me.

Exhibits: these can be great or not so great. It’s a lot of work (and often expense) to put up a show and there’s no guarantee that I’ll sell anything. It can be fun, and it sure feels good to sell work off the wall. It can also be disappointing, and exhausting to smile and make small talk at openings, to hang and rehang work, to sell myself. My favorite part about doing exhibits is when someone I don’t know responds to a piece I made, and especially when they buy it.

Selling Other Stuff: I also make and sell t-shirts, tote bags, cards, etc. This is more intermittent, for example, when I have a specific idea for a shirt design and enough money to make a bunch of them up front. Then I sell them on my Etsy site until they run out. Shirts are hard because I never know how many of each size to print ahead of time, and often end up with leftover sizes that no one wants. Because of this, sometimes I will wait to actually print the shirts until I have several pre-orders. Cards are the easiest because they are cost-effective (they aren’t expensive to make, so I can charge less and still make a small profit. I’m a big believer in affordable art).

My ultimate goal is to get an agent and a publisher and have my comic books and short story collections published and for sale at stores. To contribute financially to my family and have lots of people read my work. The way that I am making this happen is by putting my work out into the world any way I can. Posting my comics on my blog, selling at indie comic conventions, submitting stories to magazines– just putting it out there and putting it out there. I am a big believer in doing things myself. I don’t like to rely on other people’s approval. If I can’t find someone else to publish my comics, I make them into books myself and find a way to sell them. I just keep going, keep making the work, keep sharing it, and things will happen.

Other artists make their livings in different ways, have different methods and different measures of success. This is how I work.

I’d like to give a special shout out here, to my dad. I often write about my mom on this blog, and how she is part of my artistic life. But my dad has always supported me– emotionally and creatively, even financially when I’ve found myself in a tough spot. He is the BEST exhibit hanging partner, audience member, and starred in an early short film I made. He may claim to be the non-creative person in our family, but he is an artist in life, in his own work, and in being a dad. I owe him a lot. So, thanks Pops. I love you.

art as life

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Today I was interviewed on the community radio station in North Adams for a show called Creative City. I got to talk about my art and my life, how they inspire each other, and promote my upcoming comics class (is183.org for more info and to register).

It felt really good to talk about what I do. I’m proud of my life, and it’s validating to be interviewed on a radio show and have someone besides me refer to me as an Artist. It’s important to remember that I work, and it’s good work, even if it’s not a “regular” job. It’s a “real” job and I love it.

My mom and I used to discuss our lives as artists all the time– how we balance time/money/desires and manage the business side of art. I loved talking about that stuff with her. I don’t get to talk about it that much anymore. Not the way she and I would talk about it. I’ve never found another art friend like my mom, and I don’t expect to.

I miss her.

I wish she could’ve been with me on the radio today, talking about her art life. I can’t really talk about mine without talking about hers too.

My dad and Giles listened to the show from the lobby of the station while we were broadcasting. Julia played a couple of my song recordings, one of which was the “Giles Fox” song. My dad held Giles up so he could stand on the floor in front of the radio, and he danced.

 

portraits of women i know

Women friends are very important to me. These portraits are mostly of local ladies who’ve come into my life in the past 5.5 years, with the exception of “Phoebe” who is my sister and has always been my best friend. Each of these women is beautiful and does important work for their community. Each of them is an artist (with food, animals, the land, plants, homemade beauty products, pottery, sewing, books, printing, photography, movies, drawing, painting, dancing, love, life). Each of them has touched my heart. Each of them inspires me. Each of them sat in front of me and let me look at them and translate what I saw onto paper.

(click on each image to see it larger.)

I’ll hopefully be exhibiting these somewhere at some point in the fall or winter.

drawing while moming

This is the first drawing I made after giving birth:

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I drew it from a photo taken of my sister cuddling with Giles on the couch. It feel so good to start doing art while being a mom since for the first few weeks I just focused on mom-ing. It’s a beautiful thing to fully be a mom, at home with Giles, completely in the moment with him. But it’s also important for me to find a way to do both art and parenting. I want to find my own way of doing this, of doing both things and letting them inform each other.

Several years ago a person I worked with said to me, seeming to read my mind, “When a woman artist has a child, it deepens her art.” At the time I was 23 or 24, already knowing I wanted this life. That statement feels even more true now that I am here.

My first portrait of Giles:

first giles portrait

Giles is right next to me as I post this, cozy in his Rock N Play, sucking on his pacifier, watching me.

my becoming (at images cinema)

Ce_UPQAW8AEt858.jpg-large.jpeg This is a photo of me at the opening reception for my current exhibit: My Becoming. The description I hung on the wall reads as follows:

I am about to have a baby. As of this show hanging I am eight months pregnant– my due date is May 7, a week after I take the show down.

This is my first exhibit as an unemployed person. That is to say, I am now a Full Time Artist, my dream of many years. I am grateful for these two months as a full time artist, as I prepare to share that with the role of Full Time Mom. From December 1, 2010 until March 1, 2016 I worked right here at Images Cinema, during the most critical years of my adult life thus far. After leaving New York City and breaking my own heart (it needed to be broken, to let the light in) I moved in with my parents in Bennington for a year, before finding my own place in Williamstown. I found a community here, because of Images, and I stayed, so much longer than I planned to, because there was work to be done on my own self.

During these five-plus years some important things happened: My mom’s cancer resurfaced, and then she died. I met my husband (our first kiss happened right here in this cinema). I got married. I got pregnant.

Starting as a film projectionist, trained under the inimitable Dave Blair, I worked in the little booth upstairs; the most magical place in Williamstown if you ask me. That’s the best job I’ve ever done, something I am very proud and honored to have been a part of. As the theater transitioned to digital projection at the end of 2012 I transitioned to working in the box office, as well as the business office processing memberships and donations, along with learning and taking control of the digital projection system. I’ve been a part of history here, in this 100 year old, continuously run movie theater, something I am incredibly grateful for.

I’ve worked with some really special people here at Images, it’s been an honor to share this space with them. You know them– they program the films, sell you tickets and popcorn, smile when they see you, answer questions, create a unique and lovely movie-going experience, and clean up when you leave. I’m grateful for the work they do, and to have been part of it. Thanks for keeping the magic alive, guys.

These pieces are a mix of drawing and watercolor, little windows into my life. Each one is a different kind of self portrait: coffee cups are me, lemons and cat and wine and mixer.

From Pablo Neruda’s Ode to Things:

Many things conspired
To tell me the whole story.
Not only did they touch me,
Or my hand touched them:
They were
So close
That they were a part of my being,
They were so alive with me
That they lived half my life
and will die half my death.

Okay. Now I’ll waddle my pregnant body into the theater with my large popcorn and sit in the dark and dream some dreams.

Anna Moriarty Lev, April 2016

my becoming, self portrait.jpgmixer and wine bottle.jpgburgers and fries.jpgcitrus fruits.jpgflowers.jpgcats.jpgunnamed-1.jpgunnamed-3.jpg

 

 

holding it in my hand

I finished the cancer comic book. With the help of a really lovely woman named Kate Barber and the Publication Studio at the Williams College Museum of Art, it is printed and bound and is a real live book I can hold in my hands.

adventures of a left breast

I want to cry. The intense joy of seeing the physical result of seven years of work plus the deep sadness of my mom not being here, not seeing this, and the sadness of everything we’ve gone through… seeing it and holding it I want to cry.

Reading the first part of this book, my mom’s part, is the only thing that makes me feel close to her right now. When other people tell me they dream about her or feel her presence I get mad, because I don’t feel it. It’s too much for me to feel it, or she just isn’t here, and I’m so mad, because she’s not here and she’ll never be here again.

But she’s in this book. At least, a part of her is. 2007 Viola is here, and I remember all these scenes. Reading her story in her own voice with her drawings and collages and handwriting is comforting and devastating at the same time.

We made this together. And I finally finished it.

Now that it’s a real live book, organized and formatted, I’m going to send copies out to publishers and hope it gets made into a book you can actually buy in stores, at comics festivals, and on the internet. I’ll let you know when that happens. (Incidentally, if you are a comics publisher reading this, feel free to contact me.)

holiday gift sale

Hey guys and gals. I’m sure, like me, you have all started looking for gifts for all the lovely people in your life, and I’d like to suggest browsing Etsy. There’s all sorts of cool, handmade stuff that you can buy directly from artists.

Here’s a link to my Etsy Shop where you’ll see I’ve got plenty of interesting items. For instance, my Movies Are My Religion t-shirt is on sale for only $20 right now! I’ve also got some mini comics, tote bags, and custom art! You can commission a hand-drawn holiday card, a portrait of your cat or favorite human. There are many options.

Thank you for supporting art and artists this holiday season!

working at home

I love Wednesdays. They’re usually my work-at-home day, when I get to spend the whole day writing, drawing, making things…doing my own work. When I lived in San Francisco for a couple months after college, I lived this kind of life: Wake up, breakfast, go for a walk/explore the city, write, draw comics, dinner, watch a movie. Every day was my own. I wanted to see if I could live this life of a professional writer/artist, and if I would enjoy it. I did.

I enjoy my cinema work, too. It gives me a place to get out of my own head, be part of the movie world that I love, have a role in the community. And I’m so grateful to have a “money job” doing something I truly believe in. But I still yearn for the day that I can support myself and my family using my own work.

I’ve worked very hard to get here, to this point of being able to work part-time at a job I like, and have time to do my art work at home. There have been many “money jobs” in my life that I did not believe in so strongly, jobs I dreaded going to. Many morning on the NYC subway I fantasized about not getting off at the right stop, I’d just keep going, have a different day than going into Midtown offices to work as a temp doing things like data entry, refilling coffee in the break room, filling out someone’s Weight Watchers booklet for them, getting yelled at on the phone, getting hit on by older men with photos of their wives right there on their desks. One day, in one particularly depressing office, a man said to me, “I always wanted to be a fashion designer. Then I got a job here and it was just so easy. So I stayed. It’s been twenty years.”

So here I am, living a lovely life, able to pay my portion of the rent and utilities with the money I get paid working at a non-profit art house cinema. And I have time to write stories, make comics and drawings, and even earn a little money from that. I have health insurance. I get enough to eat. I did this, I got myself here. (Of course with the help and support of people who love me, like my parents, who have helped me when I was barely scraping by, and have always supported me emotionally– I know how lucky I am to have this.)

I also know how lucky I am to have a partner who values my work as much as I do. I know this is rare and special. But I’m also saying that I helped make this happen. It didn’t just fall into my lap. This kind of life is totally possible, but you have to make it happen. I make decisions about what is most important to me. I work every day.

When my mom became an artist (well, she was always an artist, but I mean deciding to live a professional artist life), she and I would have conversations about this often. She in her forties and fifties, me in my twenties, both of us at the beginning of our art careers, figuring out how to live, work, love, and be ourselves in the world. Hanging shows together, giving feedback, going to museums, seeing movies, sitting at the table together drinking coffee and drawing.

working at home

Every day, making coffee in Mama’s espresso pot, doing my work, she’s with me. Even when I forget, even when I don’t know it, she’s there.