Allison Svoboda is a professional artist with over twenty years of industry experience. While she specializes in ink and watercolor on paper, including cut paper, the majority of her current projects have been printed on cut metal. I had the chance to encounter one of her pieces through my position as marketing manager at Cushing Printing.
The graphic was printed on di-bond, an aluminum composite material, and installed on the side of a building. The work combined artistic vision and savvy and I wanted to learn more. Over the phone we discussed the project and Allison was kind enough to let me jot it all down, sharing career tips, insights, and details on how the fine details came together.
What inspired you to make your career in art?
I have always wanted to be an artist but I came to it through the back door of architecture. Working in an architectural firm is grueling, tons of “all-nighters” to finish projects -- just too hectic. I enjoy the ability to set my own schedule and commit fully to being an artist.
How important are relationships and networking for a professional artist?
Essential. I try to go to openings and try to keep involved in Chicago Artist Coalition and Chicago Sculpture International.
How did the gallery project in Michigan come together?
I was invited to a show at the Grand Rapids Public Museum for ArtPrize, the largest art competition in the world ($500,000 in prize money.) Although I’ve made it to the top 25 several times, I have never won. Fortunately, I do usually sell my work so it's worth entering the competition. For this installation, the piece had to be outside so I made it on metal.
This project went very smoothly. Before this large piece for Grand Rapids, I completed a smaller five-foot diameter piece for a show in Milan that was made from four segments that needed to match up just right. Paul Han, one of the designers at Cushing really understood what I was trying to achieve and did a great job.
How important are vendor relationships in pulling these types of projects together?
They are also essential especially for large-scale public art projects. Since I used to work in architecture, I really enjoy this aspect of the process.
If you were not practicing art as a commercial career, what would you be doing instead?
Maybe a therapist!
What advice do you have for artists seeking to make a career out of their creativity?
Plain old hard work. The business portion of my career takes up a lot of time--I’d say 30 percent of my day if I’m not on a residency. To get your career moving, keep applying to shows and residencies and don’t take rejections too seriously.
What’s your favorite place to visit and why?
I’ve spent a lot of time in India. The diaspora of the Indian culture from the Himalayas to the beaches in the south is the most inspiring place for me. I love the colorful textiles, the friendly people, and the food. I’m going to Japan on a fellowship this fall, which should be a contrast. Both countries have interesting textile traditions that are still thriving, which is what really interests me.
Any interesting projects or items on the horizon?
My fellowship from Hemera Foundation, which is supporting me to go to Japan to study traditional ink painting and shibori. Also two weeks in California to study calligraphy with Kazuaki Tanahashi and then to the Vermont Studio Center where Jacob Hishimoto will be the visiting artist. I also have upcoming shows at the Ukrainian Modern Art Museum and Prairie State College.
Find more of Allison’s work at http://www.allisonsvoboda.com/