Artist Geography

Kate Wickham
Kate Wickham, Blue I. Watercolor on canvas, 12 x 12 inches. ©The Artist

Do you identify with being an artist of your region?

For example, if someone called you a “Missouri artist” or a “Georgia artist,” would that resonate? (Replace those states with your own state or province.)

How important is geography to your identity as an artist?

Do you embrace your location or fight it?

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28 thoughts on “Artist Geography”

  1. My work is primarily about sense of place, but, I haven’t embraced my new locale as quickly as I had hoped. A lot of my current work is still about New Mexico and Montana, places where I used to live… or places I visit. Need to seriously work on adding in work rooted in my current place (Austin, Texas).

  2. Geographic connection for me has developed over time. I don’t call myself a ‘xxx’ artist just because I work from somewhere or am from somewhere. (for example, I call myself neither a London artist nor a Chicago artist). But as my work has evolved I’ve noticed two distinct categories linked to geography I either feel strongly about or that do have an influence on the work. First is the midwest – I feel I’m very much a midwestern artist in the sense that my upbringing and view of space and place is reflected in the large open areas I paint. Think corn fields and Lake Michigan. This is something other people, mainly buyers, actually pointed out to me. Second is British – again a connection to landscape and a sort of nostalgic sens the British have about it. Again as an artist this has culturally been a large influence on my work, and is the context of it, since I learned my art here and practice my art here.
    In fact a huge shock to me was going to Sofa Chicago art fair and how different the artwork was! In London/England a vast majority of what you’ll see at art fairs, both contemporary or traditional focused ones, will be landscapes and seascapes (or works based on those themes even if it’s abstract). At the show in Chicago there were so many people/figure based works! Really interesting.
    So geographic just as a label? No. Geography if it’s somehow resonates with the work, style or just a strong personal identity? Yes.

  3. A fair number of my paintings are of local scenes, so yes, I guess it’s a factor. But I’m not ties to it. Of course there is the (seemingly reasonable?) point of view that one builds up one market from local to regional to global.

  4. If one is having an exhibit in another city or region, people are often interested that your work and you yourself have come a long way for the show. Wasn’t it Mark Twain who joked that an “expert” always had to be was someone from another town. It is often worth it to make an extra effort to show far away from your hometown. People just take the art more seriously.
    The other side of the coin is that many people feel a deep emotional tie to places they grew up or spent important times in their life. Frequently someone who really likes one of my landscape paintings persuades themselves it must depict some exact spot they know from their past. And their disappointed if I point out I actually painted it somewhere else. So generally I think it is to an artist’s advantage to let the public perceive you as being from a certain city or region.

  5. Having heard many American artists that ‘Europeans don’t have mixed media yet’, I like to make them aware that I’m from the UK, which is in fact, part of Europe, so yes actually, we do indeed have mixed media ‘over here’.
    But I identify the UK part as being an artist from the UK, not producing English Art. I make mixed media pieces for children and ‘child’ is a pretty universal language.

  6. I think it depends on whether the region has creative “cred” or not.
    My hometown is Minneapolis, Minnesota, which is a very creative city. I embraced that location and am proud to identify myself as an artist from there.
    However, my current location, a far northern Cali mountain town, is the antithesis of my identity. My bold pop art style sticks out like a sore thumb AND my target market doesn’t exist here. So, while the quality of life is excellent, neither my personal nor my artistic identity is “of the region” at all.

  7. That’s an odd one that I often ponder. Vermont has a certain cachet that I have been sort of catchet-ing in on after 25 years of living here, but I’m only sort of a Vermont artist. I usually refer to myself quite seriously as a citizen of the western hemisphere, having grown up in North, Central and South America. The years I spent in New Mexico were so deeply formative I will never shake them out of my bones, nor do I want to. And my work is about connectedness- beyond cultural, linguistic and regional barriers… Sometimes it helps create a common ground for discussion to say you’re a *** artist. But our market is global now. Does it help someone connect with your work or write it off? I think it can work either way.

  8. I live in Colorado and really love the work related to the West – horses, beautiful landscapes, the mountains. But, no, I often think there are plenty of great artist taking care of that, I’ll work in a different direction. I work abstractly and feel this allows me to voice my “artistic opinion” best.

  9. I am a passionate Michigan artist. I was born here, travel here, paint here, and it is a fabulously beautiful state. When I started my blog I used that name at first to pull in more viewers, by being specific. Then I created a website so those who have a difficult spelling my name would have something easy to type in. Now I have an extra domain to that website which is my name
    I am still a passionate Michigan painter, but also want to be known by my name.
    I think what Phil Koch had to say about going to another state to do a show would be interesting to see what happens.
    Phil Koch came to Michigan (from the east coast)and had a show at the Saginaw Art Museum, as well as teaching an art marketing class. (this was perhaps 10 – 12 years ago) I was at the class and only one person had a website at that time.

  10. Great question! It brings to mind the Pennsylvannia Impressionists, the California School (watercolorists), California Impressionists, and the Indiana Impressionists., also the Group of Seven(Canada).
    Lately I have been trying to identify myself more with my own state, Connecticut for two reasons.
    First, the bulk of my paintings are either directly inspired by the local landscsape through plein air work or in the case of my more universal larger studio pieces at least influenced by the coastal marshes.
    The second reason is that most of my sales and collectors are in other states and countries due to the fact that I sell a great deal through my website, blogs and out of state galleries.
    Unfortuantely, the down side of that is that when I have a show in CT I don’t have very many people (other than artist friends) to invite to the opening or event.
    I am gradually introducing the idea of being a Connecticut artist into my “brand” which so far has worked more or less. In the last few months I’ve gained two new collectors, however they are both CT natives that now live in other states LOL They were both searching for paintings of “home” .
    I am getting more commission requests from people in CT looking for specific scenes and I’ve gotten a speaking engagement to speak about the influence of the CT landscape on my work.
    The internet has made this an interesting turn around. I think in the past you would have had a local following first and then branched out to regional, national and international. Connecting all around the world through websites, social media etc. is now easier than becoming known in your home state! It’s a crazy new world for sure!

  11. I moved from Nova Scotia to Alabama five years ago and still have not adjusted to living in the South. I still consider myself a Nova Scotia artist and much of my work still relates to the coast. I don’t think I will ever get past this because I live with the hope of eventually being back in NS. But that’s fine with me. I still paint regularly and life goes on.

  12. I am passionate about being a regional painter. I live in a northern rural area that is not renowned for its beauty, and I love sharing the beauty that I see with people who don’t know how to look for beauty in unexpected places.
    However, I also lived for a long time in a very different part of the world, and I am drawn to paint that as well – because my work is exhibited locally, I am not sure how the more tropical stuff is received in comparison to the local art people can relate to.

  13. Marianne Hornbuckle

    In Texas, I started as a landscape painter, certainly identified with place, then became enamored with the desert Southwest, and have now been near Santa Fe for 25+ years, but no longer paint the landscape. SF being very much an art place, I identify myself as a SF artist, glamorous mainly to those who don’t live here (though it is a great place to live!). My current abstract painting is meditative and more “universal” but themes and colors surely come out of my living here. I do see inherent differences in palette from region to region, from country to “City,” which must be an influence of geography. Evolving out of long time life drawing,the other thread that has developed for me is figurative sculpture, which because it is classical, comes out of the Western tradition, just a bigger geography, and certainly not the only one! I was once known by my name I think, and because of the internet am able to broaden my recognition in other ways.

  14. I consider myself an Arkansas artist, and actively promote myself as such. I’m proud of where I grew up and where I now live. A lot of my work stems from images captured around me and my home state, but work isn’t about Arkansas and Arkansas only.
    I find that people are interested to know more about where you are from, and that it helps to deepen your story as an artist. Plus, with a new “-ism” being developed every 3.2 seconds, I feel that attaching a geographic title to my art related endeavors is easier than trying to explain whatever new art movement my work may or may not fall under at the time.

  15. Angela, I love your idea of sharing the beauty you see in an area where others may overlook it. It reminds me how when i was young I hated driving across Kansas because I thought it was so boring. Now I find it such a treat! The NJ turnpike has replaced Kansas in my mind as a really boring, ugly drive – and yet there is a lot worth looking for there as well, I’m sure.
    I live in the Hudson River Valley and some of my work reflects that influence – to that extent I can relate to my “place”. But I also paint more universal themes. I feel connected to my present geography but know that my previous places are also a big part of me and what I like to paint.

  16. When referring to myself, I would first call myself a jewelry artist, but I don’t argue with the fact that I am a Pennsylvania artist. I wouldn’t say that my art is in a PA style (and definitely not what most outsiders would consider a Lancaster County style) but I am very much a part of my community. I went to school in PA, I was raised in PA, I currently live in PA. I try to be active in and support my local arts community, so in those senses, I am very much a PA artist.

  17. Is there ever a time when you wouldn’t want ot be considered from a particular area? I’m from Florida, but don’t really find that I have a preference if I’m labeled as such or not.

  18. Is there ever a time when you wouldn’t want ot be considered from a particular area?
    Oh yes. There are not infrequent times when I genuinely would rather not have it pointed out that I’m American at a gathering or event (though many people think I’m Canadian anyway due to my softened accent). Generally that doesn’t apply in art-related situations, though even then there have been times where for I have purposely neglected to mention my nationality because it could complicate an otherwise straightforward application (for space, funding, residencies, etc).

  19. So far no one has identified me as a locale centric artist and really I don’t either. Except for those times when something specified “Connecticut based artists only” because I am at the moment living in Connecticut. I suppose if more of my art had, say, Sleeping Giant or other readily identifiable features – or if I had spent my whole life in CT – then probably being called a Connecticut Artist (as opposed to an artist living in Connecticut) would resonate.

  20. I have been called the best kept secret in Hope, Maine. I am an artist in Maine. I am deeply inspired by the land and energy here, and the artist community, which includes the spectrum of world art people.
    Did you know that Louise Nevelson was born in Knox County? Wyeths of course. The late Kenneth Noland lived a few miles down the road. Just enjoyed a retrospective of now local boy Robert Indiana, whose latest work is the Star of HOPE.
    Maine is a valuable keyword in Marketing anything.
    And in no way am I a Maine Artist. I do not expect my primary market to be local (though I ought to allow myself to be surprised). No lighthouses, few coastlines, and I am not all that good at Landscapes anyway.

  21. I agree with Jan Blencowe, and have increased my local profile this year. I started out thinking that we have a global internet and economy, and why be limited? Then, after about 12 years total as a working artist, I have evaluated who buys my work. Locals. People who know me.
    I live in the Pacific Northwest, and yet last year at Sausalito, a couple recognized me from having done the Park City, Utah show for years. This SLC couple were proud to buy a work from me, because they recognized me. A sense of place was involved.
    Yesterday, I had an article published in the local small town weekly about my recent prizes. In December, I had an exhibit of my landscapes at my Alma Mater, a University in the Seattle area. Next, I will be sending the same press release to my hometown newspaper across the state. Good to come home.

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  24. Thank goodness you posted a recap of thoughts on FB as I missed this one! Interesting question & responses. I think of myself as a global soul, I’m interested in what’s going on in the world, love to travel and am obsessed with Europe for lots of reasons the main one being is I much prefer their attitude towards art rather than the US attitude. If asked I may say I live somewhere but never identify myself as a New England or MA artist…too limiting. Plus saying you are a New England artist you can almost “see” the images floating in their mind of lighthouses & boat filled harbors. Not all New Englanders paint that but place tends to suggest image. I don’t even like saying whether I’m abstract or realistic etc. So I keep it global as much as possible.

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