Art center presents “How Not to be a Starving Artist”
a panel discussion featuring Kathy Davis, Amy Voloshin, Sarah Van Aken, and Lisa and Rob Papp
1:00 to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Horsham Township Library
HORSHAM, Pa. — She may be a successful artist now, having built a multi-million- dollar business around her expressive watercolor painting and inspirational messages. But like many who dream of a creatively fulfilling career, Kathy Davis was once deterred by the myth of the “starving artist.”
“The whole starving artist thing is something we’ve all heard. It kind of puts the fear in people,” says Davis, CEO and chief visionary officer of Kathy Davis Studios, one of the top social expression and lifestyle brands in the country.
The former art teacher wants to help dispel that fear in others considering or struggling with a career in the arts. On Oct. 29, she’ll be part of the panel discussion “How Not to be a Starving Artist,” held at the Horsham Township Library.
The special event, sponsored by the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts, which Davis founded in 2015, will explore the pros and cons of starting your own business versus freelancing or working in-house, as well as offer insights and suggestions for licensing your work and building a brand.
Davis has invited a diverse gathering of colleagues to join her: fine artist and illustrator Robert Papp; Amy Voloshin, founder and creative director of textile design studio Printfresh; Sarah Van Aken, president of Kathy Davis Studios and founder of fashion brand SA VA; and author and illustrator Lisa Papp.
“We’ve covered a wide variety of industries and combined different perspectives so that anybody could get something out of this, whether they want to be a musician, a writer, a photographer…
“There are so many new fields in the arts, with technology-based companies and social media and computerized design in addition to some of the more traditional mediums. People should really explore and expose themselves to as wide a variety as possible out there before they try to zero in and make a decision.”
Davis herself was 35 before she even considered striking out on her own as an artist. Although she always loved art, she lacked the confidence to pursue it and spent her early adult years teaching sixth grade and then high school art in her native Horsham after she received her master’s degree in art education.
“It was a common conception at the time that being an artist was not a safe career,” she says.
Sarah Van Aken
Following a divorce, Davis began designing the greeting cards that would launch her career as an artist from a drawing table in the corner of her bedroom, while her children napped. Those cards, with their expressive florals, whimsical designs and heartfelt messaging, have since touched millions.
But the path to success didn’t come easily — and hasn’t for most on the panel. Quakertown’s Lisa Papp, whose illustrated children’s books include “One for All: A Pennsylvania Number Book (America by the Numbers)” and, most recently, “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog,” says no matter her level of achievement, her artistic life remains fueled by faith.
“Faith that the next job will come, that I’ll feel creative when I have to create the next sketch. Faith that I’ll find some part of me to share with the world. Faith that this little job will lead to a big job,” she says. “An artist’s life is a circle of faith, trust, action. You can makea very nice living from art if you are dedicated and professional.”
Even in moments of failure, there are lessons to be learned. Van Aken, a Reading native and Philadelphia resident, became one of the city’s hottest young entrepreneurs when she launched her made-in- Philadelphia fashion brand SA VA in 2009. Its clothing was all produced with varying levels of sustainability, whether it was organic, locally made, fair trade or recycled. Then, in 2013, after becoming a celebrated model for contemporary sustainable enterprise, she shuttered her business amid struggles to raise capital for its wholesale division and unpalatable investor demands.
Today, she considers her uncommonly transparent exit among her greatest accomplishments. “It could have been a disastrous — financially, professionally, personally — situation but each step of the way, I honored the people and process and the ending was even better than the beginning,” she says. “When I started my fashion business, I wanted to be great. I used to identify my greatness by achieving the ultimate in success — positive reviews in the best fashion magazines, a high valuation for my business… As I grew with my business, I saw that greatness is reached by always acting with integrity. Failure helps you find your greatness.”
Such insights are what Davis hopes aspiring artists especially will find valuable at this month’s event.
“You have to believe in yourself and your talent. But you also have to be flexible and adapt to what the market needs,” she says. “I was a starving artist until I found the right way to go about it.”
Scatter Joy Center for the Arts presents “How Not to be a Starving Artist”
FEATURING: Kathy Davis of Kathy Davis Studios; Sarah Van Aken of Kathy Davis Studios and SA VA fashions; Amy Voloshin of Printfresh; author and illustrator Lisa Papp; and fine artist and illustrator Robert Papp
WHEN: Saturday, October 29, from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
LOCATION: Horsham Township Library, 435 Babylon Road, Horsham, Pa. 19044
ADMISSION: $25; high school and college students, $10 (proceeds will go to donate art supplies to children in need)
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: 215-672- 3140; www.scatterjoyarts.org
Thank you to Naila Francis for the content of this post.
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