An Interview with a Successful Artist: Liz Brent

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 LBDances Etsy Shop.

Interview #5

The Artist: My name is Liz Brent. I grew up in Colorado Springs and went to university in Boulder, CO. I lived in Japan, near Kyoto, for 1 year. Now, I live in San Francisco, CA.

I turned the tables on myself. Here are my answers to my own questions about being a successful artist. (I wrote this last year – during July/August 2011, I think.)

Question 1: When people ask “what do you do?” how do you describe your work?

LB: I’m a dancer-artist. I’m a dancer with multidisciplinary ventures in the visual arts and costumes. I’m also a barista.

Question 2: How did you get started being a dancer-artist?

LB: I’ve been an artist in many different ways since childhood – drawing, dance, photography, writing & poetry. I danced in high school & college. I also started doing costume work in college.

Question 3: What do you struggle with when it comes to your work?

LB: I struggle with the word “professional” & what that means in art & dance, as it’s hard to get paid work. I feel very much on the edge of the community. I wish I was performing. I’m also really hard on myself.

Question 4: What is your approach to that struggle?

LB: To be excited and grateful for the work I am doing. To trust my path and where it will wind, even when I don’t understand it. To be kind and patient, especially with myself, but with others, too.

Question 5: If someone said, “I want to do what you do,” what advice would you have?

LB: What I do is very strange & difficult. It’s not straightforward at all. I juggle a lot of projects. But I follow my interests & my passions in an exploratory way. I would say, listen to your inner dialogues. And don’t give up!

Question 6: Have you ever asked someone that? Who has inspired you?

LB: Truly, I’ve had amazing teachers throughout my life. I am surrounded by inspiration. One thing that really stuck with me from one of my teachers is to listen to your art. Let it lead you. Try to follow.

Question 7: What are your goals when it comes to your work?

LB: I want to support myself, & my family, through art. I want to own my own home, studio, & gallery space. I want to run my own dance company.

Question 8: Essentially, what makes you passionate about your work?

LB: I love creating. Working with my hands, with my entire body! I am both shy & a performer. Observer & the observed. Finding the balance is exciting.

Question 9: Do you think of yourself as an artist? Why or why not?

LB: Yes, because that’s what I want to be.

Question 10: Do you think of yourself as successful? Why or why not?

LB: Honestly, no, but I’m still learning. Also, I’m still exploring what that even means & my definitions change every day!

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Purchase this interview in all its mini zine glory HERE

My reflections a year after writing and working on this project:

I’d like to interview more artists, of course. I started with friends, who are about my same age, who are in similar places in their careers as emerging artists. Next, I’d like to interview artists who are more established in their careers. I might change some of the questions to be more specific, but it would be interesting to keep them the same and compare the answers.

Looking back, almost a year later, and reading my own answers to the questions, I can see how I’m growing and changing. I would answer the questions differently now, perhaps. Mostly with regards to where I’m heading and my goals.

Maybe I’ve just become more realistic living in a more expensive city like SF with the economy, and the support of the arts in this country, about owning a home, running a dance company, etc. Not that I’ve given up on these dreams, but I’m looking at the difficulties surrounding them more practically.

One thing that has been difficult this past year has been coming to terms with my dance career. I love dance, and I always will. But I’m not training rigorously or regularly enough, I’m not in a company, and I haven’t performed in a long time. And I’m in my late 20′s. Realistically, I’m making money doing admin work, sewing and in costumes, and lately I’ve wanted to concentrate more on my drawing, designing, and production of visual art.

I’m still dancing, but these days I’m taking dance classes that make me happy, versus dance classes I feel like I have to take for a modern dance career. I still have dreams of collaborating with artists, and creating performance work. I’m trying to find new ways to approach dance mentally, emotionally, and physically, so that it makes sense with my whole life. I’m trying to be patient and kind with myself. I’m trying to be good to my body.

I don’t want to continuously feel like my life in dance is a struggle, but a source of joy.

Thank you for reading!

- LB