I have been making art continuously since earning my last art degree in 1984. Although I've had a steady career path as a fine artist, I have also embraced opportunities along the way that have enhanced my career.
I have always sought gallery representation and exhibited in galleries since my arrival in Chicago in 1986, including 12 years in River North galleries and representation in Indianapolis, Michigan, and Maine, as well as shorter stints in San Francisco, St. Louis and Cleveland. I've also worked with art consultants and a master printmaker; my artist loft and art have been spotlighted on HGTV and on cable TV, and my work has been featured in two Hollywood movies and reproduced in prints by major print companies.
I combine teaching with my art sales to balance things out monetarily, and to get me out of the studio and keep me sane. I was happily able to leave behind the part-time temp work I did to support myself in the early days. I was always careful to keep my day jobs only as part-time endeavors so that my studio time was not usurped, and the art-making never stopped.
Many opportunities have presented themselves to me because I have consistently "done the work" and put my name and art out there. My work was chosen for two movie sets from the Chicago Artist Coalition slide archives; I have been invited to shows by curators who saw my work in galleries; and made contact with people who saw my work in shows or on the Internet. I was recently invited to be represented in a book by a publisher who saw my work in a gallery. It is really important to get the work in front of people (whether virtually or in person) in registries, archives, shows, on websites, and in prints.
Conversely, I have also found that when opportunity is slow to knock, it really pays to make opportunities for oneself! Because I am a landscape artist and love to travel, I have always found a way to do so, seeking out new landscapes to paint and draw. In the past 10 years I have been leading my European landscape painting and drawing workshops to Italy, Ireland, and now England (inspired by my junior year abroad). I developed this workshop as a way to combine teaching/traveling/art making independent of the institutions at which I teach.
A wonderful new direction for my art has been my recent involvement with the Prismacolor company, beginning with an impromptu audition for a colored pencil video demonstration. I got the job based on years of teaching—the ability to talk and draw at the same time—and had great fun on a movie set shooting the development of two landscape drawings. The company then chose to use six drawings from my sketchbooks for their new product brochure. This is a great example of “doing the work” and eventually having it pay off! I've been keeping sketchbooks, specifically travel sketchbooks, for many years. The latest are from my travels both in the States and while teaching my workshops in Europe. I never imagined there would be a purpose or application for these sketches. I did the work because I enjoyed it, and that’s what artists do. However, it’s wonderful that there is now a commercial application for m drawings, bringing further exposure and a bit of monetary compensation.
There is no one specific and prescribed path for our art careers. It is helpful to do the most honest work you can and do it consistently, with or without acknowledgement or financial gain. It's also worthwhile to put an effort into the marketing aspect of your career and to create opportunities to get your art seen. Remaining open to career twists and turns is a helpful strategy, particularly if you accept that sometimes the path you are shown is sometimes better and more rewarding than the path you expected to be on!
Nina Weiss is a nationally recognized artist who has been painting and drawing the landscape for more than 25 years. She holds a BFA from the Tyler School of Art and K–12 Art Education Certification from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has been an artist in residence at the Ragdale Foundation, Acadia National Park, and the Vermont Studio Center. Nina’s work has been reproduced in prints, posters, and cards. Her paintings and drawings can be seen in two Hollywood films: John Hughes' Just Visiting and Harold Ramis’ Ice Harvest. She exhibits widely in solo and group shows throughout the Midwest. Nina can be seen on Prismacolor's YouTube website in a half-hour landscape colored pencil drawing demonstration. Her drawings are featured in the new Prismacolor Watercolor Pencil Brochure. She taught for more than 15 years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she also served as an advisor in the Drawing Certification program. Current teaching appointments include Columbia College Chicago, the Evanston Art Center, and the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Nina teaches workshops throughout the Midwest, and travels to Europe every summer to conduct her European Landscape Painting & Drawing Workshops. Her work can be seen at ninaweiss.com.