Recently I interviewed Ariana Page Russell, world-famous artist, creativity coach and author of Skintome, an online community exploring skin and creativity. Learn more about her art in the articles linked below, and read on for her thoughts on being playful, committing to your practice, and the creative process.
Jess: Ariana, what’s your most exciting current project?
Ariana: After moving to LA from NY just 5 months ago, I was curious to see how my work would change. What’s happening is that I’m using a lot of colorful materials and getting more playful in my art. I’m making collages with shapes of internal organs in bright colors based on the chakra system. Cutting out these organ shapes and putting them together intuitively has been a relaxed process, one where I’m not thinking so much about the outcome. I feel like I’m having fun again versus being so hard on myself. Plus by referencing chakras I’m revealing my interest in spirituality for the first time in my work.
Jess: It’s interesting to hear a famous artist like yourself being critical of your art. Your art has been shown in Bolivia, Ireland, Toronto, Miami, and New York City just to name a few; and you’ve been on ABC News 20/20 and written about in The Atlantic and the Huffington Post. What challenge do you have to overcome at this stage in your career?
Ariana: It’s interesting to hear myself being called a famous artist—thank you, I don’t usually think of myself that way! I used to feel limited by what I thought I could make based on past work: don’t do the same thing over and over again, stick with what people expect of me, etc. Allowing myself to be colorful and abstract has been a breakthrough, something different than what I’ve done in the past, and I’m okay with it. I think it can be hard to continue making art after achieving some sort of success because you’re always held to a standard, and it can be hard to always meet people’s expectations. Nobody wants to be a one hit wonder!
There is always fear around creating, no matter what stage you’re at in your career. It’s scary to show your art and yourself again and again, growing and creating publicly for a long period of time. But the bottom line is, you gotta keep doing it!
Jess: How do you stay creative?
Ariana: Moving across the country flipped my whole practice (my commitment to making art) upside down. It’s been tough to find time to maintain my practice of art, but I know I need to make it my priority.
It’s been important for me to make/maintain physical space for art making, my studio. Spending time in my studio (even if it’s just unpacking or organizing), helps me be productive because I’m in that space of creation.
Also, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m finding inspiration. So that helps me stay creative.
Jess: This notion of physical space is intriguing. For yoga and meditation, having a sacred space to return to is equally necessary. For business owners, having a place to do business or a place to do their best thinking is key. I believe that’s why we see the rise in co-working spaces and offices for rent. There’s a quality of work that comes from doing it in a special place.
Jess: What are your passions now?
Ariana: Aside from my art, I’m passionate about helping aspiring and established artists create more powerful work. I also want everyone to know that even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, you are one because we are all creative and imaginative—we just have to tap into that part of ourselves. My ebook (launching soon) is called Artist Tome: The complete guide to fostering Agency, creating consistent Action, and finding an Audience for your artwork.
In it I discuss what it looks like to have the 3 A’s of creating going for you: Agency, Action, Audience. There’s exercises to spark creativity, and projects to do as well. I’m so excited for it to launch this fall!
Jess: It’s amazing how a few minutes of creativity can unlock new ideas. I love to journal, and write and read poetry. What have you learned about the creative process through your art or through coaching?
Ariana: We have to make art and creativity a priority! If you don’t prioritize your craft, it will just go away as the million other things you have to do take precedence.
Something like 95% of people that earn an MFA do not make art 3 years after graduating. This breaks my heart! I’ve chosen to make my practice a priority in the face of everything else going on in my life. It takes a lot of effort, but I think it’s worth it.
Jess: Practice is a word we often use in yoga, or music or other pursuits. In the yoga sutra 2.13, “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to, in all earnest, for a long period of time.” Satchidinanda Basically consistency, devotion and endurance constitute a meaningful practice.
As a yogi, what other parallels do you make between art and spirituality?
Ariana: There’s a connection between the two, definitely. I often get new ideas when I meditate or practice yoga and afterwards I write them down so I don’t forget. Making art also takes devotion, like many spiritual practices you have to make time for it.
My art comes from my experiences in my body, I’m inspired by my day to day life, so my art is my life.
Ariana Page Russell creates images that explore the skin as a document of human experience, using her own hypersensitive flesh to illustrate the ways we expose, express, adorn and articulate ourselves.
Russell has exhibited internationally and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Recent shows include the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin; Town Hall Gallery in Australia; the Luminato Festival in Toronto Canada; Adelphi University in New York; and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in Bolivia. Her work has appeared in Art in America, the Huffington Post, Wired, The Atlantic, VISION Magazine: China, and the monograph ‘Dressing’ published by Decode Books. She was featured on ABC News 20/20 and was a recent participant in the Sexto Encuentro Mundial de Arte Corporal in Caracas, Venezuela. She had a solo exhibition at Magnan Metz in New York December 2014, and will have another in 2015 at Platform Gallery in Seattle. She received her MFA from the University of Washington, Seattle in 2005. Russell is also a creativity coach and the author of Skintome, a website about skin and creativity.