Artists are a very special breed of entrepreneurs. There is no amount of advertising, marketing or investment that could guarantee people’s acceptance of your work. No matter what kind of artist you are, your work will be judged subjectively. You could work your whole life as a nobody, or you could get retweeted by Justin Bieber and blow up overnight. It’s really hard to say.
There is a perception is that most artists struggle to pay the bills, hence the term “starving artist”. (Also hence why your Asian parents will start a riot if you tell them you want to be an “artist”). There is also the notion that art and commerce don’t mix, that commerce somehow tarnishes the art, and the artist a “sell-out” for commercializing their work.
So what is it like as an artist trying to make a living off of creativity? After speaking to Karla, it seems that even though the struggle is very real, the satisfaction in seeing appreciation for your work is well worth it.
Karla Del Cid is a Torontonian artist exploring horror and mythological themes in a very unique way. Most of her work is done on scratch boards or carved out in linoleum. Think of it as sculpting in 2D – carving out the unnecessary to expose the beauty beneath.
Q: Why do you like horror themes so much? It doesn’t scare you?
K: Actually when I was little my older sister, I have 3 sisters, introduced the rest of us kids to horror films. She explained to us that it wasn’t real, just people in costumes and special effects. Since then all four of us have been really into horror movies. I don’t find it scary but rather very entertaining. It was a form of escapism for us. Our family situation wasn’t the best so it took our minds off the negative things. I guess horror is a weird area to “escape” to, most people find it stressful, but because it’s what my older sister introduced to us we just stuck to it.
Q: What would you say is the biggest struggle you face as an artist?
K: Trying to be creative while trying to be financially stable. Balancing work, money and creating is really difficult. I would want to be creating full time, but I need money to pay for my prints and my products, and to do that I have to find work, and that takes me away from being creative. It’s hard to have your mind go in and out of a creative state, so obviously it’s less efficient. But that’s just how it is and I have to do what I have to do. I’d love to have a larger studio space, I work out of my bedroom right now, but again that costs more money. It’s hard. Not to say all artists do this, but I know some who still live at home and don’t have to worry about bills so much, so they can afford to create full time. That’s their advantage and that’s great for them. It’s not the case for me unfortunately. The upside for me is the confidence and sense of accomplishment I feel when I do achieve a goal, because I know I got there all by myself, slowly but surely.
Q: Has anyone every said negative things about your work?
K: Of course! I posted a pin I made on instagram and someone called it “horrendous”. It happens but oh well. People have their opinions.
Q: What has been the highlight of your career as an artist?
K: Opening my online shop. It gave me greater motivation to create and a larger audience to create for. Seeing random people from all over the world buy my work is an amazing feeling. It makes me want to create more to put on the shop. Even though the shop isn’t consistently busy at the moment, I do see sales getting better and better. Makes me realize there are people who like what I do and this could be a livelihood.
Q: Why did you chose scratch boards and linoleum?
K: I was introduced to scratch boards in high school, loved it, and stuck with it. It’s the idea of not being able to make a mistake or your whole piece is ruined. You have to be extremely meticulous and plan everything out. You have to be very careful. It’s more stressful than painting on canvas, but when I finish a piece I feel extra satisfied. Adding linoleum to my portfolio just felt natural since both linoleum and scratch boards use negative and positive space. Also the monochrome of the two works really well with the horror and mythology themes I work in. Added bonus with the linoleum is that I can reproduce each prints in batches if I wanted to since it’s essentially a stamp. I wasn’t thinking of that when I started but it happened to work out business wise.
Q: What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
K: Right now my goal is to have an exhibition that showcases everything I do. I do a lot of scratch boarding and lino but I also do sculptures and canvas paintings. I want to show everything together in one exhibition so people can see my whole body of work.
I was very surprised her answer didn’t involve her financial bottom line. Usually entrepreneurs answer this question with “X number of dollars in Y number of years”, and that’s what I was expecting. On the other hand, I admired her answer. Not everyone values success on the same scale. For Karla, the integrity of her work is at the forefront. With this mentality, I have no doubt the money will follow.
Karla’s artistic abilities range beyond print art. She also dabbles in many other creative outlets such as stick and poke tattoo and special effects make up. All this with no formal art training or fancy tools – just a creative mind and a unique eye.
Check out her work at her online shop to support this ridiculously talented woman!