Barbara Kolo is a Los Angeles-based visual artist, creating abstract works inspired by the natural world . Her paintings are now on exhibit in Oakland, CA at Slate Art and has an upcoming exhibit in Naples, Italy at Art 1307.
Interview conducted by: Tiffany Chan
Interview edited by: Morgan Moore and Tiffany Chan
All Images courtesy of the artist
Q: What is your story? How did you fall in love with the visual arts?
As a young child, I was influenced by the people around me. My other sister would draw with me, and our aunt who had worked as a fashion illustrator influenced me too. Several teachers encouraged me to pursue the arts. By the time I was a teenager, I knew art was my passion.
Q: What was your professional path like? How did you get to this job?
After graduating from the School of Visual Arts, my career path was designing and art directing advertising for films and television. I designed many memorable movie posters over the years, including the iconic image for Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever”. I enjoyed working on films, but after 18 years of living on deadlines I had stress related health problems. I needed a change, and my first love of painting and drawing was calling to me. The decision was made to concentrate on my art full time.
Q: How and when did you know that you were a capital-A Artist?
I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was asked to participate in some of the well respected art fairs such as Art.Fair in Cologne, Germany and Context Art Miami in Miami, Florida.
Q: What does a normal day look like for you?
Early in the morning I work on my computer. This includes email correspondence, image retouching, website updating and social media promotion. Late morning, I drive to my studio in Venice and paint/work the rest of the day. Some evenings, I attend the opening receptions of art exhibitions. It’s a full time job.
Q: What was it like to start your own studio? What were some unexpected challenges/lessons from the process?
The biggest challenge in starting an art studio is finding affordable space to rent. This is a very big problem in Santa Monica and Venice. Both neighborhoods were once known as artist communities. Most artists have moved to more affordable areas of Los Angeles. Luckily, I found a studio in Venice, but I am under the threat of redevelopment.
As for lessons, the experience of looking for studio space underlined the importance of networking and friendship.
Q: What are the greatest rewards of your job?
Through my artwork I have met some amazing people and have traveled to places I may not have discovered on my own. For instance, in a few weeks I am traveling to Naples, Italy for a group exhibition called “Ambiguous Reality” at Art 1307. This is a cultural exchange show where 6 American artists from the Los Angeles Art Association are exhibiting with 6 Italian artists. Last year, the Italian artists came to Los Angeles to exhibit at Gallery 825. Experiences like this have given me a fuller, broader life. I have come a long way from my humble beginnings in Queens, New York.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you faced at your job?
To face the blank canvas and consistently do my best work that pushes forward creatively, and at the same time juggle all the other things it takes to be a successful artist and do them well.
Q: What is one essential/unexpected skill that you have had to learn “on the job”?
Packing artwork for shipping has become an expert skill of mine.
Q: What is the quirkiest side job you have ever had?
Never had a quirky side job, but I have art directed some unusual photo shoots. The one that comes to mind was for John Carpenter’s “Halloween III”. An animal trainer was hired to position the talent in a still-life set up to be the key art for the film poster. The talent was a tarantula and an assortment of snakes. I learned so much from the animal trainer and still use some of his techniques on my pets. He was amazing at getting the talent to do exactly what we needed and was very respectful of them. In the end, the images were not selected, which was a shame.
Q: Were there ever moments throughout your career when you doubted yourself/what you were doing? How did those moments resolve?
Yes, this happens when I’m struggling to resolve a painting or working long hours over a period of time. The best thing to do is take a break and do something fun, like a ride on the Santa Monica Ferris wheel or a drive up the coast. Do anything that gets your mind off the problem and return the next day with a fresh start.
Q: What is one contentious issue in the art world that you are very passionate about?
I tend to stay away from contentious issues, but this is The Female Gaze! Glad to see a website that celebrates talented woman. We need more of that in the art world, because sadly it is still not equal.
Q: What inspires you? What motivates you? What are the strategies you use to work yourself out of a creative rut?
Nature is the inspiration for my work, and getting out in nature can help unlock a creative block. My husband and I hike in the Santa Monica Mountains and take long walks on Venice beach. The colors, light, and textures that I have experienced on these walks have entered my paintings.
Like many artists, I have a fundamental desire to create that keeps me motivated. I’m compelled to keep going against the all odds.
Q: In your opinion, what are the most important considerations that make up good design?
There’s no simple answer to that question. It’s easier for me to state that I like designs that are simple, memorable, timeless, and are appropriate for the purpose of the design.
Q: Some parents may discourage their children from following a creative path, out of concern for financial stability (or at the very least, worry greatly about their children). How would you address those parents/their concerns?
If art is truly a passion for the child and they have the talent, I would encourage them to be supportive. Commercial art can be a financially stable career. The fine arts are more of a concern. Many people do not realize that it costs money to be a fine artist. The more skills a person has the better off they will be financially. Computer, photographic, and writing skills will help an artist have an edge. It also helps to be handy with tools. Many artists have a side job, which is a good idea as long as you still have time to create in the studio.
Just for fun…
Q: What is your favorite drink/drunk food combination (or comfort food/drink)?
A chilled glass of Sancerre with a slice of bucheron cheese on a piece of French baguette that is still warm is sublime.