Since I became the business manager for our art business, I started paying more attention to art careers of prominent Alaskan artists, in hopes of learning from their journeys. Sadly, one of my favorite artists, Rie Muñoz, recently passed away at the age of 93. I had seen her work several times, but had never met the artist, or known much about her until local papers published a brief account of her life. So I did a little more research about Rie, and was able to gleam a couple things about her that may be inspirational to aspiring artists.
She was devoted to art, and was a very productive artist, completing about 2,000 paintings, and filling 140 sketchbooks. Although she had worked as a teacher, a writer, a cartoonist, and a museum curator, and was a mother, she still found time to paint. A full-time job has a tendency to use up all creativity, leaving an artist tired and uninspired by the end of the day. If you want to eventually work as an artist full-time, keep making art, and showing it to the public, as much as you can. Rie was eventually able to live off her art, and having her son manage the business end of things freed her up to paint and travel more.
Rie was adventurous and independent, and traveled and painted with other artists. She traveled all over Alaska, and said that the only two places she never visited are Anaktuvuk Pass, and Kake. Traveling and meeting new people is the best way to find inspiration, so take the time to explore new places, and don’t forget to bring your sketchbook.
One of the reasons Rie was able to live off her art was because her work was distributed through prints, gift items like cards and coffee mugs, and book illustrations. Some artists are hesitant to turn their art into merchandise, because they don’t want to “sell out”, but if your goal is to make a living off your art, then selling an image more than once is a good way to do that. Rie’s paintings made people happy, and she made her art available to more people by making reproductions. Not everyone can afford an original piece of art, and many people are happy to purchase an image that they want to hang on their wall, or give to a friend, even if it’s not an original.
Rie’s advice to other artists is keep painting… and paint what you want. Sometimes the best advice is the simplest.