Like many things in life, equal respect, notoriety, and representation for women has been a process in the works for many years. While it would be idyllic to call everyone simply “artists,” there is no denying that the road for female artists has been full of twists, turns, and at times the unexpected. Some women have been lucky enough to have entered the industry at a time woman were already well established and respected in their style and medium, while others remember what it was like just 20 years ago, and that often there was a great disparity in how many males and females were on a gallery “roster of artists.” There are many galleries, that we will mention in this article, that have always strived to showcase and support the female artists, and to help others hear their unique voices. Besides the common question of what it is like to be a female artist, I wanted to ask these ladies what it was that motivated them as an ARTIST. Their thoughts and insights are what I hope young artists will find inspiring, and fans will find validating.
The first artists I would like to share with you is Camilla d’Errico. She has some wonderful thoughts on the work she does, why she does it, and what it has been like for her in the industry the last 20 years. She truly started her work in a field that was male dominated at the time, but was still successful and respected, as she always let her work speak for itself. Her work is beautiful, and leaves the average viewer in awe of how it was accomplished. Here is what Camilla had to say:
“It’s a common question that I get asked, ‘What’s it like to be a female artist?’ and its one that I’ve answered many times over many years. I’ve noticed my answer changing over time. At first, I would answer, “It’s great. I’m treated so well. Men don’t expect a woman to be a comic artist or a painter so they are excited to have me in their midst.” Then a few years into my career my answer began to morph “I don’t really see the difference between being a woman artist in a creative industry. I’ve been treated really well and so far, it’s amazing.”
Years later things changed again and I’d say “I wish that people would stop asking me about being a woman artist and what it’s like. Art should be gender neutral and appreciated for what it is not for who painted it.” Which is something that I still believe. But as things changed I began to realize that there was a reason why I was being asked this specific question repeatedly. It took me a while to understand the significance of it as well as the importance of the question itself.
So now that I’m being asked once again what it means to be a woman artist I can say that I’m proud to be part of an art movement that is inclusive of women for the first time in history. Growing up I never realized how lucky I was to be raised in Canada by a family made up of mostly women. I was treated equally my whole life and whenever inequality surfaced its ugly head my sisters and I would challenge it head on. So, it didn’t occur to me that women hadn’t always been part of the world the way that men were. I think of men and women as equals. But history hasn’t and in a lot of the world we still aren’t. Women weren’t allowed to be artists until only recently. If you look back in time there weren’t female artists alongside Davinci or Picasso though women were always depicted in art. Even at the beginning of my career I was one of a rare handful of women who were comic artists but now close to twenty years later there are an amazing amount of them in the industry. It’s an evolution that I didn’t even know I was part of.
Times are changing and I hope that the day comes when women aren’t asked this question of what it’s like to be a female artist because that means that the world sees us as equals. It’s a very interesting thing to be a woman in the art world though I will say that. I have seen things evolve so I remember being asked by a lot of men why I wanted to be a comic artist? As a painter the questions change to why do you only paint women? There is always the question of who is my audience and why do I create the art that I do.
I’m motivated by humanity and what it means to feel what we feel while existing on the planet with nature. Everything I do is to deconstruct emotions into iconic imagery or stories that push what we feel and how we view those emotions. I don’t create art for fame or glory, there is very little of that. I paint my emotions. I paint what I feel or what I see others feel to try to understand what it means to be human. I didn’t realize the impact of what I was doing until social media exploded and people were able to reach out to me and tell me how my art affected them. Suddenly I was aware that people were having emotional reactions to my work. I wasn’t alone anymore. My art had become something that connected me with thousands of people all over the world. Some like my art for the aesthetic, others for the colors, some for my style and many for the feelings that they get from looking at my work. Whether it’s my graphic novel Tanpopo or my oil paintings I get to tell my stories about humanity and connect with people.
I’m so thankful for the support that my followers have shown me over the years that I began to dedicate a big part of my career to helping aspiring artists. They allowed me to live my dream so I want to do the same. I spend many hours talking to new artists, answering questions, creating video lessons even writing How-To books all with the goal of helping others. Being a professional female artist has inspired many girls and women to also create art. It’s something that I didn’t set out to do but I am so honored to be someone that girls look up to. I want to help other artists create art and beautify this planet. We artists need to stick together, whether we are men or women, boys or girls, we need to spread love and creativity into this world because the messages we put out into the world have an impact on humanity. I want to spread as much love into the world as I can.”
The next artist I would like you to meet is Lola Gil (most often know as simply “Lola). She has a unique voice, and is humbled by the fact that her artistic work is well received. She has aligned herself with galleries that truly celebrated and supported the female artist. Here style is inspired by toys, childhood, and the unexpected, and it evokes tremendous emotion and joy in the viewer. Here are some of Lola’s thoughts.
“The more I hear about the topic of being a female in the art world, the more open eyed I become to the realities which women artists have faced throughout history to the present. Due to technology today, I've been introduced to artists far and wide. I can see that this struggle is real. I realize I've been very fortunate in my own experiences. And really over the past few years, it's become clear that there was plenty of serendipitous luck enveloping me along the way.
I like to think I was brought up in a unique way which helped facilitate this deep-down drive to continuously create. My connection with painting was and still is a necessary outlet to feel "normal". From an early age, I've been compelled to create. It's never really felt as though I've had to force myself to put in time and effort. For me it's always been a therapeutic outlet. I spent a lot of solitary time as a kid playing on my own. With a strict mother. I think largely because of this, I became a hardcore daydreamer. I drew a lot, constantly. In high school, I began teaching myself to paint.
As a very young woman, I was unfortunately in a mentally abusive relationship. But out of it I was given 2 daughters. And time to paint all day and night. My first art show was through a lovely girl named Alaska, who put on exhibits in the basement of a coffee house in Riverside. This gave me just the right push to start submitting to galleries which showed the type of work I was creating. Instantly as if by fate, I began participating in exhibits steadily and successfully. Meeting people who believed in the work I was making, giving me the chance to free myself and raise my girls in a healthy environment. And here is where I realized through my obsessive drive and need to create, paired with perhaps this luck or excellent timing, I could make a living doing what I love. The first 7 years of my career I was a single parent to 2 girls. I could romanticize it by saying forces greater than me have kept me on track. But it's paired with an immense amount of dedication and stamina. Physically and mentally. Keeping a level head in both the good times and the bad. It's important to me that they see they can also chase their dreams if they put all their attention hard work and passions into it.
For the past 12 years I've been fortunate to work with both female and male gallery owners who haven't judged artworks based on gender. I was shown that artists are special wonderful beings, and that this job is an important role. That what we do can have meaningful impact - This is not to say that all experiences have been an easy one, but those wrong galleries taught me to seek the right representation. Less about sell sell sell, and more about nurturing and growing with their artists in a healthy way. I used to hate my hardships, both personal as well as professional, but I can see now it's been the fuel for my fire. The source of my inspiration. My voice discovering its visual language. And the paintings as my savior. Along the way, I have met and befriended many successful and exceptionally talented women. I'm constantly inspired.
In my early representation, I exhibited for years with Jan Corey of CoreyHelford Gallery, who treated me as if I was part of her family. And still does. There I could explore my childhood storytelling paintings. The ones I dedicated to viewers who wanted to recall innocence and early memories. Inspired by raising my 2 girls, and overcoming what held me back. I grew a lot there, and learned to be both strong and humbled. I currently exhibit with KP Projects gallery which is owned by Merry Karnowsky, here in Los Angeles (formerly known as Merry Karnowsky Gallery ). My latest exhibit which ended in May titled "Outside in Doors" was such a fulfilling experience. Both due to the support from Merry and her amazing staff of ladies, as well as the freedom that came from the uninhibited journey deeper into my creative subconscious to paint these new paintings. I'm growing in a mature and meaningful direction.
As I start to expand my search and seek interest into exhibiting with international galleries, I do see that many have few female artists on their rosters. I'm not sure what to expect as I begin to inquire, but I know my experience up until now will help me keep a positive outlook. There are way too many talented women out there to not get their chance at chasing their dreams. I'd like to believe that in my lifetime women are equals across the board.”
The next artist I have the pleasure of introducing you to is Kat Philbin. Kat’s style has been called reminiscent of Shell Silverstein. While her art and her vision has a unique female edge to it, she has a style and creativity that resonates with all. When given a theme or a challenge, each time, I am in awe of her interpretations and creativity. Here are some of Kat’s thoughts on her experience in the industry, and why she does what she does.
“As a woman in the art world, I consider myself fortunate to find myself in the dark art/ lowbrow art world, even if my art doesn’t even always fit into those niches. The fact that I can find some measure of success despite not ticking every box helps prove my point. I feel like it’s an easier place to make it without the limitations faced by women in the highbrow/ more traditional gallery scene. That isn’t to say there aren’t challenges, but I think there’s a greater freedom to forge your own path and find your audience. (Not to mention greater freedom for gallery directors and curators to take a chance on you.) There are trade-offs, of course, those of prestige and money. I have never made five, six, or more figures on a piece and likely never will. But that’s okay, because that isn’t what motivates me.
Inspiration isn’t a topic that comes up for artists as often as the topic of motivation. In many ways the two are entwined, but not totally. In my mind, inspiration is what gives you the idea. And motivation is what drives you to express that idea. Basic survival is one motivation as a working artist. You’ve got to sell so you can eat. And simple compulsion is another. Ever since my motor skills developed enough to let me scribble, there’s never been a time when I haven’t put pencil to paper. How could I stop?
But for everybody, there’s something a little deeper as well. For me, it’s the fact that there’s so much ugliness in the world that if I can use my abilities to put a small piece of beauty or joy out there, then that’s something I need to do. It can be as small as a silly doodle of a horror villain cuddling with cats to bring a smile to someone on a rough day. Or it could be a more elaborate piece, with my own demons disguised as a girl in a mask or a fox or deep, dark woods that resonates with someone else emotionally. That is what ultimately drives me. As well as making that art accessible and affordable to everyone, whether they can only afford to buy a print or to reblog something on Tumblr. It’s spreading a touch of brightness in a world that feels increasingly dark."
I hope you are feeling the genuine joy and motivation each of these women has for what they do. Not only do they have unique voices, not only are they women who have taken the industry by storm, but they have a desire to give something to this world. To touch people on a deep and meaningful level through their work. They use success for good, being active in many causes, and they use their art to spread love and meaning into the world, along with some profound messages. There is one more woman that I would like to introduce you too who personifies this as well.
Elizabeth (Liz) McGrath, is someone who has seen and faced adversity, but defined the life she wanted for herself. She has always believed in herself, and I believe this has been the key to her success. She always told herself and believed that she was important, that she was unique, and that her artistic voice was something worth hearing. She is kind to her fans, and her works are truly like nothing you have ever seen, or imagined.
“Having no formal art education or education in a classroom environment past 6th grade I was able to study what inspired me, and have discovered artists in that fashion. The first artists I fell in love with were Frida Kahlo and Keith Harring, probably because they were featured at the Z Gallery in the local mall, which for a latchkey kid growing up in suburbs of Los Angeles was equivalent to the museum. I also collected and lined my walls with punk flyers of artists, often anonymous, and during these explorations, the thought of what sex they were never crossed my mind.
It wasn't until years later, when someone asked me what I thought of the inequality in the art world, that I realized there was a problem. At the time, I tried to feel indignant about it, but truth be told, in the art word I come from (which if it were to be compared to the real world would be somewhere in a remote corner) I have not encountered any prejudice because of my sex. If anything, I was asked to partake more because there was a lack of female artists, and maybe I should have been complaining that I was only included because I was female, but at the time, about 20 years ago, at least in my part of the art world, there really was only a handful of female artists, and we weren't treated any differently than our male counterparts .
Now the internet has changed all of that, especially in pop surrealism . There seems to be equal, if not more, female artists showing in galleries around the world. Galleries like Corey Helford have certainly promoted female artists, and probably have more female then male artists in their program, but I don't think this is done intentionally. I do notice more male buyers buy with investment in mind, and maybe that dictates why in the higher art markets there are so few female artists, because if you do the research you find this glaringly true. Historically this is also true, but then most history books of the past were written by men, but thankfully the internet is here to correct this.
Thankfully, the people who like and collect my art aren't usually thinking of weather it will turn a profit in the aftermarket. I think they buy with their hearts . That is how I like to make art as well. I'd say my biggest tool is my heart. I have ideas for creatures I must give life to, and I feel guilty if I keep them caged up for too long. I must make them exactly right for them to be released. I find happiness in the struggle to make things exist out of my imagination . That is my biggest drive.
I hope you have found these four women artists, as lovely and inspiring as I do. Their art speaks volumes about who they innately are, and about what motivates them to create. While they have navigated an industry that both reveres them, or has grown to in certain segments, their goal is to be simply “an artist.” Someone that creates work that evokes something in its viewer, and makes people want to collect and own it, because it speaks to their heart. To get to know these artists, and then study their work, is to see the true person in their work. I can see collections of work, and immediately pick out what pieces are by which artist. It is not because their style is repetitive and identifiable, but it is because they create with a unique viewpoint and purpose with each piece they make, and it could not be mistaken to be by anyone but them. I hope that you take the time to discover these unique artists talents for yourself, and that you feel their sentiment and motivation in their work.