by Winsome Adelia Tse
A few weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to reach out to Lucy Plowe for an interview related to professional practice as an artist. I’d been following her on Instagram for quite a while, and greatly admire her work. I was even more pleased to discover that she was enthusiastic, energetic, and welcoming to my inquiries during our correspondence by email.
Lucy Kay Plowe is an artist that lives and works in Ithaca, New York. She specializes in painting and print media, exploring complex and reflective narratives with themes of the figure and intimacy. Her interest in the mythical and religious inspires her introspective approach to art creation.
Her thoughtful responses about her experiences as an artist in the traditional industry and contemporary online platforms provides a brief view into her journey.
Winsome: “How did you get started as an artist? Is it different from how you would describe getting started in your own professional practice, or even getting started in the industry in general?”
Lucy: “I’ve always been an artist, since I was old enough to hold a crayon! As I’ve grown up my interested have shifted and developed. I’m currently in my third year at Cornell University for my BFA, but I’m working hard in my independent practice to create work that feels meaningful and important to me. My goals are to go for my MFA in painting after I graduate, and eventually become represented by a gallery so that I can get a footing in the art world and have a career as a practicing artist.”
W: “What has your professional journey been like?”
L: “I try to exhibit as much as possible while I’m still an undergraduate. I exhibited my print installation “Fear No Fate” in the New Prints/Summer 2018 show at the International Print Center New York (*), which has been my most major exhibition to date. I had a solo show entitled “THE NEW SACRED” this past September in the Tjaden Gallery at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I’ve also had work in various group shows in Ithaca and at Cornell. In the day-to-day, I try to have an active web presence and on social media so that I can have as much exposure as I can, and I apply for opportunities when I find some!”
W: “What are your thoughts on working as an online artist versus a more traditional artist? Do you lean more heavily towards one or the other?”
L: “I actually used to work as an online artist, doing commissions and digital work (*). In high school and early on in college, I had an active presence on Tumblr and would often do commissioned illustrations. I liked working like that, but I moved away from digital work and now I’m definitely leaning more towards being a “traditional artist.” I just like working with traditional mediums more than digital painting at this point, and having a physical piece existing in the real world is a much more rewarding final product than a digital file!”
W: “What is your workspace like?”
L: “I have transformed my apartment into my studio, which is both good and bad. I work best in isolation, so I set up my apartment to fit my needs. Lately, I’ve been working in watercolor at a large-scale, so I unroll my roll of paper across the floor and often paint barefoot, standing and sitting on the paper as I work and the imagery develops. I work very intuitively, so I find this freedom to be key in my practice. I’m limited in terms of space, though, so I’m looking forward to a day when I’ll have plenty of room to spread out as I work and put things up on the walls! Hopefully, after I graduate from my BFA program I’ll be lucky enough to work in a big, bright space. But in a way, working in my apartment has been beneficial to my work; my work is inherently personal and I’m exploring ideas of the self and the psychological landscape, so to make work in my home feels fitting.”
W: “What is your typical day like? Do you have specific strategies to get inspired, resolve roadblocks in your process, or stay motivated?”
L: “My art practice ties closely to my mindfulness practice; I find that being present is key to making good work. I set up my playlist, then put my phone on the other side of the room so I can’t distract myself. I have to immerse myself fully in my internal world so that I can manifest it into my painting! When I reach roadblocks, I try to take breaks and instead read, watch movies, and listen to music, to hopefully fill myself up with new inspiration. I stay motivated without really trying; if I stop making art, I stop feeling like myself. Making my work is just an inherent part of my life, so I find ways to be creative outside of my art practice if I’m really feeling unmotivated. For example, I like to make beaded jewelry and charms or write.”
W: “What are you working on in your practice right now? How do you decide what themes or subjects to focus on, especially if you start a new body of work?”
L: “I’ve always been interested in the mythological and magical, and have found that lately that my personal spirituality is able to come through in my paintings. I aim to work as intuitively as possible, creating lush, vibrant scapes where the body reflects the power and beauty of the natural world. Recently, I’ve been working with watercolors at a large scale, specifically Dr. Ph Martins watercolor pigments, which are extremely vibrant and potent! This medium has allowed me to work quickly and fluidly, and often the effects of the watery washes are out of my control — the colors take on a life of their own in how they mix and interact on the paper. I’ve also been experimenting with large-scale collage, in creating images and then cutting them out, and reconstructing compositions from the many pieces I’ve painted.”
W: “How would you measure success for yourself as an artist?
L: “For me, I don’t care so much about “success” as much as I care about having the freedom to keep creating work that feels meaningful and genuine to myself. I think that as I continue making the work I need to make; it would be really great to have work in galleries and have shows out in the “real world”. It’s also important to me that my work is meaningful to other people as well as to myself, so by having galleries or museums (!) showing my work, it would widen my audience and allow my work to touch many more people. That seems so far off in the future; right now, all I can do is focus on making my work intense, evocative, and important and hope others see it the same way. I think my goals are to be represented by a gallery and to have a book published with of work! At that point, I’d feel established and successful, but I’ll never stop creating.”
Lucy’s admirable foray into the traditional approach to being an artist from online roots is something I haven’t personally seen very often. In this digital age, I have always found the two spheres of being an artist at odds with each other and been torn between the conflict; people are either mostly online or mostly traditional and rarely stray. Her spirited determination and commitment to her own narrative is a strong reminder to me that I can achieve balance in these two worlds of art, and even find my place. Despite that we are similar in age and in our journeys as artists, Lucy’s words bring the many facets of professional practice closer to reality, and closer to daily life than I usually think of it myself. I greatly enjoyed our brief yet insightful conversation on her experiences being an artist, and want to express my thanks once more for taking the time to share her thoughts.