Cynthia Decker, and Curious3D
Being an artist who sells doesn’t mean you’re a “sell out”. You can make art with integrity and meaning and sell it with the same integrity. There is a path that allows both.
What’s your background?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to draw or color. I took all the art classes I could in school. I grew up in Cupertino, California, home of Apple computer and the heart of Silicon Valley. My parents both worked in technology fields. I drew and painted on used punch cards and stacks of green and white striped pin fed computer paper. We had a computer in the house when not very many people had home computers.
Does your artwork come from that background?
Absolutely. As soon as I could get my hands on a way to start drawing on the computer, I did. Growing up with them, there was no barrier to learning about digital art. It was natural, just like learning to draw or paint. I started drawing pixel by pixel in about 1983. At that time tech got better, leapfrogging to color and then high resolution monitors and more powerful processors. Software like Mac Paint was introduced, and then a little later, Photoshop. I worked with all of it, and tried to get jobs that would let me be creative. I worked in graphic design, marketing, and technical illustration – not just because I enjoyed the work, but also because I was able to keep my digital skills sharp.
I discovered 3D software in 1994 or so, then started using a program called Bryce in 1996. Bryce was a fractal landscape program, and my first experience with creating 3D environments.
What are you trying to say with your work?
I have a vivid imagination, and I frequently think in pictures. I like to create narratives around emotions or life lessons. My work is about risk, about joy, about loss, about how we choose to see and remember events in our lives. I laugh a lot in my life, I have a tendency to find humor in just about anything, so much of my work has a kind of tongue in cheek humor as well.
What made you choose the medium you work with?
My combination of 3D modeling/rendering and digital painting lets me present imaginary or impossible ideas to my viewers the way I see them in my head: as realistic, almost touchable environments and objects. It’s familiar to the eye, but surreal in content.
Music chosen by Cynthia
Do you work in a studio?
I work in my home office. It’s about 3 and a half meters square, and it’s jam packed with art supplies, inventory for galleries, framing equipment, books, and computer hardware and software. I have a big window that faces the woods, and I almost always work with that window open, listening to the birds in the forest while I peck away at the keyboard.
What is the one thing in your studio you just could not be without?
My computer. I use a PC, and I custom build them to suit my needs for making artwork. I also have a lot of really bold and playful artwork in my studio from other artists that I love and wouldn’t want to do without.
Who are your biggest influences?
I love realists; Sundsten, Hopper, Wyeth, Benton. I also draw a lot of inspiration from Magritte, Dali, and Escher. My influences pretty literally translate to my aesthetic now; realism and surrealism.
What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?
I think when asked this questions, most artists respond with whatever is their most recent work. Because the memory of creation is freshest, it feels the closest to us. That’s true for me, but I think looking back my favorite work is “The Introvert”, because I put a lot into the planning of that one. The composition, the color palette, the story it tells.
How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?
It really depends on the intention and the complexity of the work. I have some that go into the hundreds of hours, and some that take only about five hours total. But on average, I spend about a week working on an image from beginning to end – somewhere around fifty hours.
How do you know something is ‘finished’? Is it easy to walk away?
It’s easy now, but it didn’t use to be! Over the years I have ruined a lot of images, in all sorts of media, by fiddling with them long after I should have stopped. Part of that was the pursuit of perfection. I’m now old enough and experienced enough to know that’s a futile and counterproductive pursuit. Imperfection is what creates beauty.
Music chosen by Cynthia
What project are you working on now?
I have about three different digital images in the works at any given time. I flip between them, finishing or abandoning them and starting new ideas. At the moment I’m painting again to sharpen my skills there. I’m working in acrylics on miniature canvases, and then moving over to the computer and recreating those canvases using my Wacom tablet. It’s fun, and a refresher I needed.
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Find your voice. Know who you are, and what you have to say.
What was the first piece of art you sold?
I think it was an image called “Lagoon”, that I made in 2001. Cartoon style, inspired by a video game. I’ve sold quite a few prints of it over the years. A lot has changed about my technique, but I still love making playful images.
Do you find it hard to navigate the artworld?
Early on I decided that the formal fine art world may not be for me. This was largely due to the fact that up until relatively recently, digital art wasn’t considered a valid medium by most art venues. But the proliferation of online art communities has really changed that. It’s given digital artists a platform to show and even sell work. Now, the challenge is being seen. The internet is a planet full of people standing on chairs and yelling about what they do or what they think. Hard to compete with all that noise.
You have to find your audience. Gather people that like your work and speak directly to them. If you can do that, your online experience marketing your work will be much more meaningful.
What are you personally doing to advance your work career?
I built an audience early, both online and through physical gallery locations. I went to openings and met people, I participated in online communities, I applied for shows and got my work into the real world whenever possible. I collected emails and communicated with my audience about new work or events. I still have people on my mailing list that signed up over a dozen years ago.
Music chosen by Cynthia
In my town this Summer, I will have my two regular exhibit spaces, I’m showing in two additional galleries for group shows, and I have work displayed in two local restaurants. That’s a ton of exposure, and far more active shows than I usually manage. As long as I can handle the financial risk of the cost of inventory, and the show is a good fit for me, I won’t turn down an opportunity to get new eyes on my artwork.
I spend about 50% of my working time on business tasks: marketing, researching new products and providers, looking for new venues, managing shows and gallery inventory, communicating with buyers and processing direct orders. The other half of my time I spend being creative (or trying to!).
How do you price your work and why do you price it that way?
My pricing online is the same as my gallery pricing for similar products. Over the years I have gained an understanding of the costs and labor involved in producing ready to hang artwork for galleries. My pricing is consistent within a small margin (for shipping and the like), in the galleries that carry my work and at my online store. I also work with a licensing agency that offers low cost stretched canvases through major online home décor retailers. I like being able to offer both higher end, fine art quality prints and canvases as well as budget friendly artwork. If people love my images, I want it to be easy for them to own one.
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
I use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram mostly. And I probably should post more often!
Is there anything that really annoys you about the artworld?
Not really! If something isn’t a fit for me personally or professionally, I just work around it. I try not to dwell in spaces or ideas that don’t help me grow in one way or another.
What advice would you give new artists?
Practice practice practice. Look at art all the time. Figure out what you like, and why you like it. Figure out what you want to make and why you want to make it. Take classes, online tutorials, read books about art and technique. Then practice some more.
Have you got hobbies?
I love making artwork and miniatures, gardening and home improvement projects, spending time with family and friends, and yoga.
Where are you based?
I live and work in Asheville, North Carolina.
Cynthia Decker, and Curious3D
I live in Manchester, UK and try to promote other artists and writers when I can.I'm so pleased you found our community and I hope to chat to you soon!!Please comment on my posts if you like them 🙂