Eva Magill-Oliver, Artist and Designer, Is Going Beyond the Gallery & Embracing a New Era of Art
Creative powerhouse Eva Magill-Oliver discusses her passions, the evolution of art, and how a little brand named Nike serendipitously discovered her work.
This blog post is part of our “Shop Talk” founder series, which celebrates Word of Web clients as we dive into what drives them and how they embrace the entrepreneurial spirit.
Tell us who you are and how you got where you are today.
I’m a visual artist and designer based in Greenville. I went to the University of Georgia where I got my BFA. About a year after I graduated, I got a job in Atlanta as an in-house artist for a publishing company. During that time, I was able to paint every day, but it wasn’t my personal work. So, I moved out of the country for a couple of years and when I came back in 2010, I wanted to build a career centered more around my personal work.
Around that time, the birth of social media really helped visual artists. It became a platform to use as an online gallery. I started putting my work out there and doing commissions. Then larger companies like Nike and Anthropologie started finding me. A lot of big brands wanted to support smaller local businesses and artists, so it was really the perfect storm.
What unique gap does your work fill?
When I first started out, there were only a few avenues to make a living as a professional artist. But, that archaic mentality that your work has to be on a canvas or hanging in a gallery to be considered fine art is shifting. Artists aren’t pigeonholed anymore. Now we can make a living by working with brands and companies, not just selling to collectors. Fine art can be on clothes! I’d like to continue to fill that gap and help make art part of everyday experiences.
How do you handle marketing and self promotion as an artist?
It’s difficult to self-promote. I have a lot to learn in that area. It’s really nice to have someone help promote your work, so I lean on galleries to help with that.
People don’t like phony self-promotion — I think it has to come from a place of authenticity. So, I try to be as genuine and real as possible on my site, social media, and my blog. Art is visual, so you may not ever know the thought process or the person behind the work. That’s why I think having an online presence is important — it helps to add that context and tell the story.
What are the most challenging and most rewarding parts of what you do?
It’s challenging trying to self-promote when your product is so personal. Whatever you create is a part of you and makes you vulnerable. So, shifting into selling and monetizing your work is hard.
The creative process itself can also be a challenge — you have to use your time in the studio to the best of your ability, but sometimes getting into that headspace can be difficult. I really love that Chuck Close quote, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.” I definitely think those moments of inspiration come when you’re actually in the process, doing the work. But it’s still a challenge.
As far as the most rewarding part, it’s a joy to do something you’re passionate about. Sometimes turning creativity on like a faucet can be hard, but I can’t see myself doing anything else. It gives me such fulfillment and so many people don’t get to experience that, so I never take it for granted.
I also think showing my son that it’s important to spend time doing something you’re passionate about is something that he’ll always carry with him.
Where would you like to see your work in 5 years?
When you’ve been doing something for so long, it’s nice to flex a different muscle. I really love writing about art, so I’d like to explore more writing and blogging. I also enjoy teaching, so I could see myself doing more of that. In terms of art, my goal is to always be more present and more involved.
What’s the best advice and worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
The best advice came from an old neighbor. My son was a baby, and I would feel guilty whenever I took time for myself to paint. She said it’s important to not lose yourself. Never feel guilty about doing what you love. By showing my son what passion looks like, it would instill the same thing in him.
The worst is to try too hard or not be your authentic self. If you aren’t true to yourself or if you’re forcing something, it will reflect in your work. I think people can really see that. They invest in the work because it speaks to them in some way — but they’re also investing in the hands that created it.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since becoming a professional artist?
I’d say that working with galleries who will promote your work has been an important lesson for me. If I focused on all of the branding and marketing aspects of art, I wouldn’t be in the right headspace to create. So, that was a choice I had to make — letting someone else help me with those responsibilities so that I could focus on doing work that I’m proud of.
What advice do you have for other artists just starting out?
There’s a business component to art, so if you don’t like self-promotion or the little details, delegate! It’s naive to think that you can do it all — and that mentality starts to dilute your work. I’d also say that there are no boundaries! You don’t have to have an art degree or formal training or have your work in a gallery to be a fine artist.
What about your work or being an artist are you most proud of?
I wrote a book at the same time my collaboration with Nike happened. Everyone was really interested in the Nike work, which was great, but I’m also really proud of writing the book. I didn’t think I could do it, so it was a good challenge. I enjoy writing about art and thinking about it more thoughtfully.
I’m also proud of the work I create when I get in these moments of “flow,” where you’re just so deeply involved in the work. Time is passing, but you’re just in the moment and making something really special.
If you’re in the Upstate, check out Eva’s First Friday show on July 1st at Art & Light Gallery in Greenville’s West End.
Learn more about Eva and her work on her website, follow her journey on Instagram, and check out her book, Paint Alchemy, on Amazon.
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