Tuesday, November 02, 2010

In the home studio with Vivienne Strauss.

As someone who runs a full-time, creative-based business from home, I'm always interested in hearing about others who are doing the same. There are many positive aspects to being at home, but there can also be drawbacks. On one hand it's so great to work in your pj's and on the other hand it's not so great to work in your pj's!

My fifth interview takes us to Upstate New York to the home studio of Vivienne Strauss.  She creates stunning paintings in oil, acrylic and watercolor as well as collages often inspired by vintage photographs, movies and even the neighborhood wildlife.  She was gracious enough to answer a few questions about her experiences...

1.  First, please introduce yourself.  What keeps you busy during the day?   
My name is Vivienne Strauss and  I've been working as an artist full-time for a little over three years now, before that I had many different careers after graduating from college with a degree in Philosophy.  My days are spent working on my art and running our household.  I'm married to artist Matte Stephens and we both work from home and are lucky enough to spend more time with each other than most couples we know.   I mix household work (cooking, cleaning, etc.) with my work, though chores are sometimes dreaded they can also be a nice break from trying to be creative. 

 2.  Please describe your art; what is your creative process and what inspires you.  
My paintings (both watercolor and oil) often are inspired by an old photo, something I've read or a movie I've watched.   I love searching for and collecting old photos and college annuals and being able to justify those purchases is great!   Collage works in a completely different way for me.   I love the act of cutting out images and letting them come together.  The more I work in collage, the more I enjoy working with the scraps rather than the previously prized images.

 3.  What is a typical day for you?  Do you keep to a strict routine or is your day fairly fluid?
I find I feel best when I can stick to a routine.  Typically I wake up really early, anywhere between 4:30 and 7:30.  No matter what, coffee is the number one priority.  After that, I  generally like to do things that have a beginning and an end first thing (i.e. shipping, grocery shopping, meal prep and errands) then with that behind me it is easier to focus on being creative. 

 4.  How do you avoid distraction (ie laundry, house keeping, errands, non work related phone calls, etc)?  Or do you tend to give in?  
I try to do all those things first before I start working or do them as breaks from working on my art.   Regular exercise helps prevent being restless while I work too.  When I have a hard time sitting still to work, sometimes putting a movie in and not taking another break until them movie is over helps a lot.  I do take periodic breaks to respond to emails or go for a short walk outside.

  5.  Does working from home affect your art in any way?  
I really can't even imagine working on my art in a studio separate from home, to me that would really defeat one of the great benefits of being an artist. 

 6.  How do you transition from "work" to "home"?  Are you able to close your studio door and walk away for the evening?  Is it easy for you to do? 
I do have a habit of closing the door to my studio only to take sketch books and inspiration to bed with me.  When I read and watch movies after working all day, part of me is still always finding inspiration and I try to write down all my ideas even if they don't end up being a piece of art for a long time or I may toss the idea altogether at some point.  A lot of my ideas reside inside my head for a long time before they materialize.

 7.  Working from home can sometimes be lonely, do you miss working with other people such as in an office environment?  Or do you usually interact with people (in person) during your day?  Is this even an issue for you?
I'm lucky that we both work from home so we at least see each for meals or when we want to take a break.  We work at opposite ends of the house so as not to interfere or distract each other too much.  Most of my interactions are online ones or the ladies at the post office when I ship our work.  I recently joined a book group so I would have a specific time to socialize, otherwise it is too easy to keep putting it off to a future date.  It has really got me reading more too which I love.  I went through a period where it would take me a month to read one book, now I'm back to a book a week at least.  

 8.  Please describe your studio space (is it a spare room in your home, in your garage, etc.)?  Is it an inspiring space?  What would you change? 
I work from a back bedroom upstairs and my favorite part is having two windows right over my desk. I have squirrels and birds at the feeders just a few feet from me on and off through out the day.  That is a really nice distraction and they provide inspiration as well, the squirrel made it into a recent painting I did.   Before I worked in part of the dining room which was hard because I had to put everything away at the end of the day just to keep it looking decent.  I do still straighten up my studio at the end of the day, but leave out the projects I'm working on.

 9.  In a nutshell, do you enjoy working from home?  What has been your overall experience?
I love working from home!  After doing so for three years now, I can't imagine doing anything else.  I guess the only downside is managing to take time off from work and no paid holidays.

 10.  And the million dollar question...do you work in your pj's, shower and get dressed or something in between?  
That varies.  On days when I don't have plans to go anywhere it is very tempting to just work in pajamas from time to time.   More often than not though, I do shower early and dress though it is usually in comfortable jeans and a sweater or a dress and boots.
Thanks a million Vivienne!

Please visit her Etsy shops featuring original pieces as well as prints:

And be sure to keep up to date with her blog:

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