More than an interview, this post is going to reflect a friendly chat that took place during an art workshop in which I personally participated. I wanted the opportunity to talk to a real artist that could give us useful advices on art career and tell us her story and how her project is born.

The workshop was also a really enjoyable activity; the theme of the day was “harvest”, and we worked with mixed media. The opportunity allowed me both to have an excellent interview and to do a really good potato. You will understand shortly.

I think that this blog post is really powerful, so please get ready to read, “listen” carefully and learn.

What we are gonna talk about today:

  • Who’s Margarita?
  • Are sketchbooks important?
  • What about materials?
  • Is planning needed in a full-time artist job?
  • What should I include in my final prices?
  • What does an artist’s style come from?
  • How a beautiful art project for expats was born!
  • Were social media helpful?
  • Is my potato drawn well?

We are in a professional animation studio, in Tallinn, near the Creative City. I’m with Margarita Vul, the main figure, and teacher, of the Tallinn Art Club for Expats. She’s really kind and she makes me a really good coffee 😋

Obviously I have a bunch of questions to make her, and while her workshop is going we have a little chat!

“I ended up here because I wanted to do, you know, my stuff. But then I realised that they needed something different. The basics are needed, even in animation. An animator needs portraiture, for example, because the movement of a character (even a cartoon) has to be as natural as possible, to be familiar to our brains. So I started teaching here; because I promised at the owner of this place that new animators would come out from here ready to join the team!”

“I saw that you are an artists who works with a lot of different medias, an educator and a collector of Christmas ornaments, if I’m not wrong. Plus, you teach at these workshops.”

| Who’s Margarita?

“This is not my main job, i’m a language teacher. I have been years in England, organising cultural events in the UK and working with art centres, galleries and other organisations. I was a professional artist back in England but I didn’t like it. I don’t like to see it as a job. You always have to think about the result, the outcome, how to sell it. Every step is about selling eventually. Then I decided to come back in Estonia.”

While the work-shop was running and we were drawing cute potatoes and carrots, she gave us some advice on the learning process, to learn and experiment better. (+ some selling advice 😏 )

Always set you mindset for learning; if you’re gonna think you are gonna sell that piece or give it as a gift, the thought will stress you and you end up not learn appropriately.

Low down your expectations, you need to experiment to learn, you don’t know the outcome.”

I don’t think anyone would buy my beautiful painting in fact, but I sure learned a lot.

Are Sketchbooks Important?

Sketchbooks are also very important. 

Some artists use it as a portfolio, for example, to show to collectors. You can use it to work on small ideas that will, then, form a bigger painting. Sometimes you can sell the painting for hundreds of euros, and the sketchbook for as many hundreds of euros; just because it’s the warm-up!

That why the way that it looks is important too!”

Margarita believes in the emotional process, more than the visual perfection. In fact, she’s a mixed media artist. Materials and their features help her to express her thoughts and feelings.

Art shouldn’t be perfect, loosen up your hands a little bit while painting. Don’t try to sterilise it, don’t try to make everything pretty. It needs to look handmade. You have this massive competition of computer generated art and photographers.

Yes, you can reach the perfection of photographers but why? Why would you do that? You need to find yourself and find pleasure.”

“Don’t use palettes as they are. I’m using my knowledge about how to use colours instead. Mix colours and go a lil crazy with your materials; you bought them to use (and eventually ruin) them! Dirty your colours a little bit to make them more natural!”

And What About Materials?

“Is it true that the skills of an artists don’t depend on the quality or price of the material he’s using?”

“Materials are your tools. They are fundamental. The simplest they are, the better. They have to be simple. You don’t need a lot of materials and you don’t necessarily need some expensive useless material. Don’t limit yourself; don’t think “aah I can’t do this, I don’t have this colour” or “I need ink for this, I’m gonna do this later”. Do what you can.

Pay attention to always use the features of your materials to their fullest potential; it’s stupid not to do that! It’s stupid to take, for example, animation plastiline and not stretch it, make some crazy eyes, maybe roll it and stuff like that!

Aaand, always make sure that people don’t get how you create a piece! It’s intriguing and people will be more likely to get curious about that and maybe buy it!”

“It’s an important step to start a career as an artist, a risky and very ambitious step for someone.”

What would you recommend to someone who’s about to begin a career as an artist? Is planning needed?

Is Planning Needed?

“First of all, being an artist is a state of mind, is not a role or a job. You need to monetise certain things, of course, but not everything. 

Then, you need to plan. You need to plan your space, plan your time; sometimes, for example, I need to hire a babysitter to go to work. All these things have to be included in the final price of your work.”

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So.. What Should I Include in My Final Price?

What’s included in the price is: cost of materials, your effort, your name/brand. Also consider contract stuff if you’re working with an art gallery.

Also, for success, as an artist, you need to be consistent, as on instagram you have to post regularly and often. It needs the same constancy.

With experience I learned the artist career is like a circle, the three fundamental points are:

  1. Experiment and investigate a lot! (sketches, studies etc.);
  2. Produce;
  3. Receive feedback.

Thats why it’s really hard to start, you have no audience so you have no feedback.”

“Your style is really particular, it feels real; as we know, every artist has his own!”

From What Does an Artist’s Style Come From?

Materials dictate the style. When you visualise your idea make sure that you chose the right materials to express it in the best way possible. Keep in mind that watercolours, for example are delicate and gentle, so it’s not that appropriate to use them for strong visuals or meanings. If I’m going to represent a topic like human trafficking, watercolours won’t be able to be a strong medium to represent such a strong topic. Because they aren’t strong.

Breathing also dictates the style. You can see a kid’s artwork because of the fast and small strokes, for example. They can’t control their breathing yet.

Your body is also a tool! The most important one. So make sure you’re not ill or tired while you are painting or drawing, it would affect it. Release muscles while working, even stretching it’s very important.”

“As an artist and an expat I think that this is a really important project, for the community. One of the first thing I thought of, when I moved in Tallinn, was to find a group with common interests, but I immediately thought about the language issue. 

So, this is how I found you!”

How the Idea To Create an Art Club for Expats Was Born?

There’s nothing for the English community here. Nothing I could find for myself either! Here in Estonia, the language is everything. So, it’s a little bit difficult to find something for the foreigners. It’s not that easy. I’m not founded by the government because my club it’s not in Estonian.

So I decided to start something that was convenient to me, since I prefer to teach and work in English.”

What Did You Expect at First? How Did People Responded to Your Idea? 

Nothing! I just went like “I’ll just do that, let’s see”.

Sometimes we had too may people and we learned the way we need to manage workshops properly; but sometimes there were a few people, so I started thinking “how do I market that?”, “how do I sell the workshop?”. I also had to think about how to name the workshops in a way that anyone could understand.

It’s just a little community. We also have regular people and anyone has preferences: sometimes people come just for painting, some just for collage. Someone just want to experiment, especially teenagers. Someone come to learn. Once a girl came to build her academy portfolio!”

Were you scared to start a new project, at first?

“I’m a professional teacher, so to me it’s just people, I’m used to people. I’m not scared. Believe it or not we have the same brain: things you see, how you perceive, where signals go, how long does it take you to learn. Just our personalities, experiences and fears are different.  

We make coffees and teas before the workshops starts so I know that people have enough energies to face the stress of learning something good!”

I confirm, the coffee has helped a lot!

“It’s very common to advertise real-life activities trough social medias, to spread the voice and have more participants!”

Were social media helpful?

“Initially I didn’t need many people because is more important the quality than the quantity, to me.

I mostly used Facebook. I just did a Facebook group and did a few posts about our activities and workshops. I did not need to pay for any Facebook advertising. I didn’t insist much, because this is not my main work; it’s just one of the many things I do because of the small art market here.

Someone told me to write, for example, what people will get after the workshop; but that’s just another way of thinking! That’s not how you think in English. We don’t think about the result, we come to meet each other, to speak, to just sit down and chill while doing art.”

And, as we said in the beginning of this interview, my potato was really great. I think we all agree.

Also, thank y’all for reading and thanks to Margarita!

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