Artist Maureen Gubia on why she sells her own work
By Siena Oristaglio and Winter Mendelson on July 12, 2017
Maureen Gubia is an artist who lives and works in Ecuador. Her mediums of choice have traditionally been watercolors, pastels, and oil paint, but she is currently working to integrate digital art, animation, and music into her artistic practice as well. She has been a full-time artist for over a decade, due largely to the fact that she fearlessly sells her work directly to her patrons. We chat with her here about how she uses the internet as well as her expansion into art curation and what that means for her home country.
Siena Oristaglio: I love how you show people not just your finished work, but also sometimes your behind-the-scenes process. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about why you do that and what it’s like for you?
Maureen Gubia: Yeah, I think it's really interesting to show the process-side of my studio practice. I don't know if I'm influenced by reality TV in that sense. Maybe it's normal nowadays to want to show your face, but I also think showing the process helps to mold the impression of the work. When I started out with the internet, I wanted to promote myself and my art, and the easiest way to do that was to make digital art and scan my drawings.
SO: What are you working on currently? Are you mostly doing digital work or physical paintings?
MG: I do draw and use traditional materials like oil and pastels, but right now I’ve been making a lot of digital art. I’m trying to mix multiple mediums such as oil paintings, animations, and music to move towards becoming a more multi-disciplinary artist. My dream is to make a full animation with my own music, but it’s a very lengthy process. I’m doing that this year because I have already created proposals for it. I’m getting funding from different sources so that I can concentrate on doing that project alone because it’s really hard to juggle all of these mediums.
I used to live in New Orleans, about a year ago. I could've developed my art career there, but it was difficult to start from scratch, so I decided to come back to my home country, Ecuador. My hometown, Guayaquil, is a large port city that’s very commercial. It's the largest city in Ecuador, but it's not considered a cultural capital city. New Orleans reminded me a lot of my hometown because it's on the gulf, there are two rivers, and it's a swampy area like an estuary.
SO: Awesome. How would you say that the art communities in New Orleans and Guayaquil differ?
MG: Well, New Orleans is more of a tourist city, to be honest. You can feel the difference around holidays such as Mardi Gras, when people mostly work up to that event. Guayaquil is more into contemporary art. It’s very serious, more studious. What I found out is that there is a lot more support for the arts here. The prizes for local art contests are very high. I really appreciate that now, and I'm working non-stop on getting them.
SO: That's great. As you know, many years ago, I followed you on LiveJournal and that's how I found out about your work. I'm curious how you have you used the internet in your practice to share your work and what has it allowed you to do with your art?
MG: I have been using the internet for over a decade. I used to send out snail mail to all my pen pals all over the world, but I can't really do that anymore as much because I believe the Internet has changed focus and it’s more saturated and a bit less personal. I think that’s why there aren’t many journal type of services like LiveJournal out there anymore. But I still use the internet for promotion, to make connections, and to discover opportunities around the world.
I’m getting funding from different sources so that I can concentrate on doing that [digital] project alone because it’s really hard to juggle all of these mediums.
SO: It seems like you make your income from various sources. Do you make your full-time living just from your art alone?
MG: Yes, I've always made my living from just art, since a decade ago, pretty much.
SO: Wow, that’s great.
MG: Yeah, it's pretty much the only thing I know how to do so I try to apply myself to that alone, to anything that is artistic. But now, I also have a job as a curator for an arts foundation. In Ecuador, you can also enroll in classes for free, because there's a new law about arts education accessibility here so I'm going to do that too. That will require me to travel around to different cities and to the museums and I'm really excited about that. I really love anything that has to do with art curation and art criticism, anything that has to do with the critical side of art-making.
SO: I also wanted to ask you about your website. I love how you have a storefront for your paintings on there.
MG: Yeah, sometimes that's not well-received; I've heard from other artists that it's not a good look to be so upfront with prices and have your own store. I mean I could be selling that on Etsy, or whatever, but I don't really need to pay them by giving them a percentage when I can sell myself.
SO: Right, absolutely.
MG: I make posts about my work with prices and people buy it. That's how it has always worked for me, so I'm not changing that, but I do have a gallery here that represents me. They have their reservations about me doing that, but I still do it. The one thing I can't do is upload unfinished paintings that I'm working on before I exhibit them in their gallery.
WM: I am curious when your friends tell you that it's not a good look to sell your own work what their reasoning is?
MG: I guess the industry itself can be elitist and secretive. Nobody wants to make their prices public. It's all speculation, and I think that's how the art world works. But I don't know if that will ever change. It's weird. I don't know why that is honestly. I’m not an insider; I’m more on the periphery.
SO: I think it's great that you are bucking that trend, and the fact that it works for you is really wonderful. That is exactly what we try and teach at The Void Academy. The system isn't built for artists necessarily to be the ones who actually make the money.
WM: Yeah, it's taking back the power. When you're putting your work out there, and you're selling it, then you have all the power. I love that I can go to your website, and there's a list of your work, and I can buy it today. I think it's really awesome.
MG: Yeah, I think so too because that's what the internet was for, and that's what it meant for me: independence. I can reach people directly and build a rapport.
SO: How do you price your artworks, out of curiosity? We talked with a lot of artists who sometimes struggle with that and they rely on a gallery or another person for guidance. Do you have a process that works for you?
MG: Yes, definitely. I have to think about the amount of hours I work and then the cost of materials I use. The thing about pricing is that once you get more collectors, you can also increase the value. I’m still not at that point where I can freely go up like that, but I do think about where I’m selling the work and factor that in as well.
...that's what the internet was for, and that's what it meant for me: independence. I can reach people directly and build a rapport.
SO: Is there anything that you’ve learned along the way that you wish you knew when you started?
MG: Yes, maybe wising up about not being taken advantage of. If someone wants your artwork in a magazine or an art booth, then you have to ask for compensation. It’s only fair because you are providing content. When I started, I did a lot of different things and that was helpful. I made money from making portraits, commissions, and working as a freelance illustrator. Working with different types of artists can also be a good idea. I rarely did this, but I’m now working with artists like musicians like Panda Bear from Animal Collective. I made some promotional artwork for them and that’s been a really good experience.
SO: Awesome. What do you feel you’re working towards with respect to of your art practice?
MG: Currently it’s to expand the art scene in my country. Like I said, I would like to be a curator, organize events, and take a more didactic approach. Before I was too hermetic, but now I’m able to really connect with more people because my work is better known now. I want to expand into different mediums like music and art criticism. Anything that has to do with art, I want to do it.
SO: Wonderful. Thank you, Maureen.
For more information please visit mgubia.com.
Maureen Gubia is a multidisciplinary artist who uses materials such as watercolors, pastels, and oil paint, with a strong emphasis on the figurative. Other creative outlets include digital painting, animation, and self-released music. Her art career is heavily influenced by online activities such as promotion on social media platforms and establishing a rapport with collectors and art patrons worldwide.
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