Living a Creative Life
I love discovering new artists, writers, and creatives. It is even more exciting when a creative person bridges two or more sustaining passions. This month I am pleased to introduce you to artist Lindasy Satchell whose yoga-inspired painting found its way into last month’s newsletter to illustrate Corie Feiner’s beautiful poems.
I am often struck by the similarities between creative pursuits. The self-doubt that plagues me as a writer lurks among all kinds of artists. “Do I have anything important to say? Hasn’t it all been said (or painted, or recorded, or performed) before?” These kinds of questions “from inside the house” sabotage our motivation and drains the energy we need to create. Read on for Lindsay’s story of how she gave herself the professional identity as an artist.
I also love her parting advice to creatives: Make art. The more you make, the more you learn about yourself and your style. No matter who you learn from or what you're trying to express, you have a unique voice. Just keep going and don't let perfect be the enemy of good.
Yes! Our voices, our art, our individual selves are worthy of expression!
Here’s to meeting self-doubt head on and creating anyway! As Lindsay says, “Creative living is worth celebrating!”
About the Artist
Lindsay Satchell is the owner and artist at Lindsay Satchell Designs, which she started 20 years ago with just a few simple paintings. Those paintings reflected her love of yoga and have grown into a wide collection of yoga and Pilates illustrations. She holds an MFA in sculpture from Wayne State University in Detroit and is self-taught in watercolor painting. Her work has been published in healthcare magazines and journals and was recently featured in a fictional Pilates studio on HBO. She lives in Asheville, NC with her family and enjoys gardening and exploring the mountains.
Interview with the Artist - Lindsay Satchell
LC: When did you start creating art and what inspired you?
Lindsay: I started creating art from a young age. I was inspired by everything around me including the beauty of nature, magazine ads of models, even litter in the road that I made into small sculptures. I was fortunate to have inspiring teachers and mentors that showed me living a creative life was possible.
LC: Can you describe how you grew into the identity of an artist?
Lindsay: "Artist" is something I felt inside from a young age, but after I graduated from art school I didn't know how to be an "Artist" in the real world. I didn't know how to officially become an artist. I realized no one was going to give me that title, so I literally printed business cards that said Lindsay Satchell, Artist. I gave myself that professional identity.
LC: How has your artwork changed over the years?
Lindsay: I have a Masters of Fine Art degree in Sculpture, so 3-D art was my focus for a long time. My watercolor yoga designs emerged at the same time that I was in graduate school for Sculpture. After several moves to different states with limited space, I moved towards exclusively watercolor painting. My work changed from large and messy to small and tidy.
LC: Who are your favorite artists? Whose art do you admire and why?
Lindsay: My favorite artists include Wayne Thibaud for his use of color, simplicity, and dedication to subject matter; Lois Dodd for her quiet paintings of trees and windows with unique compositions; Lee Bontecou for her strong use of line, 3-D space and subtle references to nature.
LC: What are you reading /listening to these days?
Lindsay: I'm in school to become a sign language interpreter, so I'm mostly reading about Deaf culture and interpreting. But I keep The Book of Delights by Ross Gay on my nightstand for a treat.
LC: What’s the best advice someone has given you about creating art?
Lindsay: If you're stuck, make some really bad art. Terrible art that you would never show anyone. It helps you get past the fear of a blank canvas or empty space and starts to build momentum again.
LC: What are your sources of inspiration?
Lindsay: My inspiration is always nature. Even the yoga/Pilates paintings are stylistically inspired by trees and the way bare branches contrast against a colorful sky. But the beginning of that series started with the "Updog" painting as an expression of love for my yoga practice. The inspiration was movement and the way my body feels as it flows through poses.
LC: How often do you draw/paint/create? Do you have rituals or routines?
Lindsay: I'm not a very routine person. I tend to get really focused and create a lot of work, then take a break for a while. It really varies. I think most artists have rituals in terms of how they set up their space and how they begin. I start with a cup of tea and I need a window nearby. I can't be creative without a view outside.
LC: What is your process for creating a new work?
Lindsay: I need reference materials if I'm illustrating, so I'll collect images from books, magazines or online. I'll do a few sketches and then dive into the painting. For the yoga/Pilates paintings I usually do the watercolor strokes first, then add the ink lines. After it's all dry I scan the image into Photoshop and clean up any smudges, smooth out lines, and adjust anything I'm not happy with. It might be surprising, but I can move arms, lengthen legs... whatever is needed.
Here are a few "sketches" of how I build some of the illustrations. Sometimes I do the lines and color separately. Here are some examples.
LC: How do you know when a piece is finished?
Lindsay: That's a tough one for most artists. I think it can only be learned through experience. You need to land somewhere between, "That's not quite it." and "I've lost it." Stepping away and looking at your work is so important during the process. I want to keep my yoga/Pilates paintings very minimal and elegant so I use quite a bit of restraint. It's rare that I finish and think, "Hmm, it needs more."
LC: How has being an artist influenced the way you see the world?
Lindsay: I see how artists touch our world in unique ways: the musician who composed your favorite song, the graphic designer who created the cover of the album, the furniture designer who created the chair you're sitting in, the potter who made the mug for your coffee, the photographer who took the picture on your wall. The list is endless. Also, as I move through the world, I am constantly taking mental notes of specific colors, angles of lines, patterns, etc. Unfortunately, it means I sometimes miss practical information!
LC: Do you have a funny story or anecdote about being an artist?
Lindsay: A few years ago I designed some Pilates holiday cards to sell in my shop. I sold a lot of these cards which were supposed to say "Happy Holidays!" on the front. A few weeks after Christmas I looked at one of the cards and saw that it actually said "Holiday Holidays!" I was so embarrassed. My family still teases me about it.
LC: Will you comment about making a living as an artist, especially using an online platform. Any thoughts as to secrets to success? Feeling appreciated and valued by customers? I guess the question is really about sources of validation. Do you need to sell to feel validated as an artist? How much is enough?
Lindsay: I recently helped a friend who is pivoting in her career to be a full-time artist. She is new to selling art online so I gave her some tips and realized that I started when there wasn't much in the way of social media or tutorials. I started on Etsy in 2007 with a smaller shop selling various things and then in earnest with Lindsay Satchell Designs in 2009, so I saw Etsy in its early days.
Today there are so many options for where and how to sell online. There are apps like Canva and Snapseed that help make great photos and banners and logos. You can create a great-looking shop on your phone! It's a lot of work with multiple hats: Artist, CEO, accounting, R&D, marketing, photography, shipping, customer service, and more. I've always had another job (or two) to support me so selling art online isn't my main income. But it is possible with hustle and determination.
Success comes with trying new things, staying steady with what works, taking care of your customers, but also yourself. Building customer relationships is one of the highlights of my job. I really do enjoy interacting with my customers, especially when I am doing custom work or designing logos and I have a chance to get to know their story and their business.
It's a great question about whether you need to sell art to feel validated as an artist. One point I was going to bring up was that I have other types of art in my shop, but they rarely sell.
One collection I'm particularly proud of is my terrarium series. They are very detailed, very realistic paintings of small plants inside reflective glass, which is really tricky to paint with watercolor. It took about a year to finish the series, after which I had prints made for my Etsy shop and the originals went to a gallery here in Asheville. I felt so deflated when they didn't sell that I took a long break from painting. Yet as soon as I was hired for the next job, the joy of making art came right back to me. I'm still very proud of those paintings and they're some of my all-time favorites. So while perhaps being paid is a good incentive to make art, the validation lives inside me.
LC: What advice would you give to aspiring artists?
Lindsay: Make art. The more you make, the more you learn about yourself and your style. No matter who you learn from or what you're trying to express, you have a unique voice. Just keep going and don't let perfect be the enemy of good.
Thanks for these great questions. It's fun to explore these thoughts! I can see how writing and artmaking are very similar.