Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do.
My name is Rita Howis and I’m a full-time artist working primarily with acrylics and alcohol inks. When people ask about me, I usually say something along the lines of being a creative rebel and artist by heart with a background in architecture and design.
Originally from Russia, I’ve always had this inner urge to explore the world, so I spent most of my twenties studying and working in many different cultures including Austria, Belgium, China, U.S., and Spain. Now currently settled in Denmark, and after taking in the Scandinavian lifestyle for a couple of years while working as an architect at BIG and COBE, my inspiration has come to draw upon the Danish design philosophy of minimalism, functionalism, and sustainability. While each experience has shaped my understanding of art and design, the red thread throughout my journey has been a strong conviction of the need for more sustainability actions and demands. I’m not the woolly sweater, tree-hugger kind of person but I really feel it’s important that we’re able to create a mainstream appreciation of our natural environments, respect to nature and each other – and use art as the universal language to achieve it.
Could you explain more about how being a woman has affected your career?
In hindsight, the important transition from woman to businesswoman was shaped by the early stages of my architect career. Hard work being one of them, perhaps because I felt that I needed to prove myself among teams of men, so working +60 hours per week became sort of an occupational hazard for me.
Defending my positions and believing in my ideas was also something that didn’t come naturally, but I learned how important it is to speak up and be heard and not just resort to silence because you’re afraid of the confrontation. If a man cuts through the noise and speaks his mind, he’s decisive. If a woman does the same, she’s bossy. Being able to position myself with confidence without being labelled as bossy is something that I continue to refine, not because I want to but because I feel there’s still an undercurrent of male versus female and associated understandings of masculine versus feminine. Luckily, these mental barriers are eroding, so hopefully we can all just focus on being our own authentic selves – male, female, or non-binary.
Can you name some other female (artist) that inspires you and explain why they do so?
Maria Oriental Wind, Peggy Kupier and Kim Rose have been an inspiration for me, not only in terms of their artistic abilities, but especially in terms of how they’ve managed to build up the brand and hype their artwork. What I learned from them is that it takes so much more than just being able to create great art to stand out of from the crowd and grab people’s attention. When people buy a particular piece of art, it’s just as much based on how they admire and connect with the artist in addition to how they connect with the particular piece of art.
Another inspiration is Lilit Sarkisian and Sofia Nikulna for showing the world that there’s so much more opportunity out there than just selling physical art pieces in a gallery or showroom. There are so many pathways to create value, especially combined with the opportunities embedded online and in social media these days. Why not expand into NFT’s, online courses, or find ways of scaling products that you offer? There are so many directions to choose from these days, which on the one hand may seem quite daunting but ultimately provide us with endless opportunities if we just dare to jump outside of our artist comfort zone, aka. the atelier.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a female artist?
Many people think that becoming a successful artist is all about being great at creating beautiful art. While that’s of course true, I do feel that it only covers 50% of what it takes to grow and succeed in this profession. The other half, which usually remains untold, is the business-side of artwork. It required grit and determination for me to learn a completely new set of skills around how to establish and grow a business and brand from scratch without having any team to lean on. By that I mean becoming a businesswoman and learning to tame all the areas that cover setting up and growing a business: Strategies around communication and branding, community management and engagement approaches, business growth tactics, SoMe execution, negotiation, and financing - just to name a few!
To be honest, I spend just as much time planning and strategizing around the business side of things as I do be a creative in the atelier. That’s why I really like the word “Artrepreneur” to define who I am and what I do as an artist because I feel it captures both sides of the profession. It’s not enough to just focus on creating physical art pieces and hope they sell themselves – it’s just as much about how you create, share and distribute content around your artwork – and how that distribution fits into the personal brand that you wish to nurture and grow into a business.
What would you like people to notice in your artwork?
The colors for climate projects aim to create awareness around climate change and biodiversity by using artwork to reach out and touch both the hearts and minds of people across the world. As the saying goes, a picture does say more than a thousand words, and we’ve been speaking about climate change for way too long. In order to transform climate fatigue into climate action, we need to combat the abstract words and impersonal nature of climate change into something that is understandable and relatable to every human being. I hope my art can do exactly that by being able to portray the world’s unique and beautiful places in colors and shapes rather than in words and politics. My goal is to raise awareness through the beauty of art by bringing my pieces right into the homes of people, reminding them why our planet is worth saving as they sip their morning coffee and go about with their daily chores at home. In short, I’m on a mission to combat climate fatigue using art as the primary weapon!
Article is publised at https://www.en.munthe.com/blogs/munthe-art-monday/munthe-art-monday-rita-howis