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Ana Benaroya: Artist Advice #3

What were your reasons for going to Graduate School?

I chose to go back to graduate school because I felt like I needed the time to dedicate to painting and getting better at my craft. After working for ten years as an illustrator and graphic designer, I found myself most drawn and excited by my self-directed projects - and I was interested in allowing myself the chance to really grow as an artist, specifically as a painter. 


How did it help advance your artistic practice? 

I think it was the intensity of the experience, being surrounded by so many other talented artists, and having the dedicated time to really focus. The experience allowed me to start taking myself seriously - and also gave me the space to make work. I never had a studio before grad school. 


What was your experience getting into the gallery scene?  What was your first show experience?

I first started showing only after I went to grad school. While I was there I was able to meet so many new people, which eventually led to my first show, which was a two-person show at Postmasters Gallery. Before grad school I had shown at more non-traditional galleries, like a dress shop in San Francisco (Nooworks) - or a design studio's gallery in Portland, OR (FISK). But it wasn't till I went back to school that art world galleries started to become interested. 

Could you share some advice for someone applying to shows and wanting to enter the NYC gallery scene? 

The key thing, which is important to never forget, is to keep making work and keep trying to grow and challenge yourself as an artist. If the work and drive and passion isn't doesn't matter who you know or where you go to school.  There are many many paths to becoming an artist that shows - my path happens to include graduate school. For me, it was what made the most sense, I love school...and I know I learn and grow the best in a structured environment like that. But other artists are more outgoing and social - and can get to know other artists and gallerists at openings or events. I would say that's the other approach that seems to work. 


I really love how your forms translate to 3D, is that a medium you want to explore more? 

Thank you! Yes, definitely. It's a very new development for me - but I think it's exciting. I still have so much to learn when it comes to sculpture. 


Any advice for artists trying to find their own style and a unique voice? How did you arrive at your signature voluptuous female figures? 

I think the key is just keep making work, eventually what feels the most true to you will shine through. Also, I think as you mature and grow as a person, your art naturally grows with you. It's a process that can't be forced or rushed...and it never ends.  When I was a little girl I was obsessed with comics and bodybuilders and so I'd copy from anatomy books and cartoons and superhero comics all the time. I always had this fixation on the figure (at first, the male figure). It wasn't until much later I started appropriating these traditionally masculine muscular forms and applying them to my female figures. 


How do you cultivate a collector base? 

I think this happens both once you start showing with galleries - but also through Instagram. I don't think this is something you should worry too much about as you make work. It can be very distracting. 


Could you share some insight on your studio practice and process?  Did it change when you started getting bigger shows? 

My process is never exactly linear - though it often begins with a pencil sketch in my sketchbook. It depends if I'm planning for a solo show or a group show - that will affect how I think about a body of work. For solo shows I like to come up with a loose narrative or sense of place that ties all the works together. For group shows I want to be sure the one or two paintings I include really are a strong representation of me as an artist.  Sometimes paintings go exactly as planned and sometimes they go totally astray. This is something I can't often predict - I often figure out color as I go along. Drawing I am much more able to control.  The one thing that stays consistent is I go to my studio everyday and try to keep a somewhat regular schedule. I find I am most creative and experimental in my work when my life is structured and mundane. 

 Check out Ana's work!

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