An Interview with a Successful Artist: Elizabeth Dorman

The Project: I want to be a successful artist. What does that mean? How do I define “artist”? How do I define “success?” I want to interview fellow artists for my own and others’ inspiration.

Notes: I started with artists I know personally very well, and the first 5 interviews came together in a mini-series of emerging artists. The 5 interviews in this series were transformed into mini-zines with hand-drawn portraits of the artists and other details by me. These are available for purchase at my Etsy shop ronddejambe.

More interviews are in the works…

Some names have been abbreviated at the request of the artist. Information regarding the artist has been reviewed and approved by the artist.

Interview #3

The Artist: Elizabeth Dorman is a professional pianist & native of San Francisco. She has won many competitions & been the featured performer at national festivals. She also has two very large cats.

Recently, over tea, I got caught up on her life as a successful artist.

LB: When people ask “what do you do?” how do you describe your work?

ED: I’m a pianist. I’m on staff at the SF Conservatory. I also teach and perform

LB: How did you get started being a pianist?

ED: I was 5 years old and I fell in love with music. I decided before even taking lessons that I wanted to be a pianist. My mom told me, “they are called concert pianists.” So at 5 years old, I started telling people I was going to be a concert pianist.

LB: What do you struggle with when it comes to your work?

ED: Pacing myself, not taking on too much work & taking care of my body. Not comparing myself to other people. Not thinking about it too much – like wondering why do this when there are a million people who do it better? That doesn’t get you anywhere.

LB: What is your approach to that struggle?

ED: Learning what I can handle physically & prioritizing. If I see someone better than me, I try to just admire what they do and how wonderful it is. Consciously turn my insecurities into admiration to make me work harder.

LB: If someone said, “I want to do what you do,” what advice would you have?

ED: That’s hard, because if you want a professional career, most people start really young. But I know some people  who have successful 2nd careers as pianists. If you want to play the piano, you should. It’s an instrument you can learn and play your whole life.

LB: Who has inspired you?

ED: I don’t usually ask other pianists. That’s a strange question, because everyone’s path and skills are so different.

Lots of people have inspired me. I get inspired all over the place! I’m very inspired by fellow musicians and music lovers.

LB: What are your goals when it comes to your work?

ED: Work harder and get better. Learn.

LB: Essentially, what makes you passionate about your work?

ED: Sometimes what I’m passionate about is a deadline & I’m terrified of failing in public!

But it’s so much a part of my language and who I am. I would be doing this if I had another job. When I hear something really beautiful, I think, I want to do that, now! I want to play that.

LB: Do you think of yourself as an artist? Why or why not?

ED: On good days, yes. On bad days, I think of myself as a piano player. My teacher used to call it being a “pianimal” (an animal that plays the piano). I feel like an artist when I’m working hard and not letting anything slip.

LB: Do you think of yourself as successful? Why or why not?

ED: I’m trying to purge that word out of my mind because it’s not useful. You can define it in any number of ways, but you’ll always leave out something important. What matters is can you live? Do you like what you do?

Elizabeth Dorman can be contacted at:

 Much thanks to Elizabeth for this interview!

Purchase this interview in all its mini zine glory HERE