Interview with Karina Bania

Oprah had Maya Angelou as a mentor. Picasso had his father. Georgia O’Keeffe had her partner, Alfred Stieglitz. Mentorship in our art practice is something we often overlook in our individualistic culture. And in the age of mask-wearing and zoom meetings, we are mostly expected to go it alone.

Athletes always have a coach by their side, so why don't artists? When I first started to share my work, I couldn’t decipher the legitimate requests from the scams. Should I say yes to every opportunity that shows up in my inbox? Should I pursue galleries? Would it be best to sell my work on Instagram or should I open a Shopify site?

After a couple years of trial and error, I eventually reached out to one of my first Instagram art friends, Karina Bania.

Karina was someone who had been selling her art through a variety of channels and I could see that she was thoughtful and kind. (Reaching out to ask questions can feel vulnerable!). Turns out she has a business degree which explains a lot and is even more generous than I could have imagined.

Karina shared her experiences and empowered me with the elements that worked for her and were critical to her success. And we're not strictly talking financial success here but a state of well-being — a balance of all the hats we wear as women...success as an artist, mother, partner, sister, daughter... Karina pulled back the curtain on so many areas of the art world for me; reaching out to her shifted everything, even my mindset.

I wanted to start my interview series with Karina because not only is she a wildly talented painter but she is a deep well of wisdom, compassion and generosity.

Do you have an art mentor or a community of women you consult with? I began my career as an artist before the days of social media. In my local community, I created a strong network of creative and entrepreneurial women that supported one another in pursuing our businesses and goals. Although in different fields, we shared many of the same ambitions and encountered similar challenges and were able to mentor each other along our paths. In the early days of Instagram, I formed friendships with other artists that I still talk to and meet with today. Working together, we helped and encouraged each other to grow both as artists and business owners. These connections have been invaluable. Together we provide feedback on each other’s work and help navigate all the questions and decisions that arise along the way. Being an artist is often a solitary pursuit. Having a community of artists that are navigating the same path and understand the artistic process allows me to feel understood and supported.

You seem to have struck a lovely balance between selling your own collections, working with big brands, and being a gallery artist. What is it about being a gallery artist that works for you? Throughout the years I have tried many different avenues of selling work. I’ve created a good balance between releasing my own collections, working with designers, brands and galleries. Being a gallery artist has been really good for my career. Galleries have given me exposure to local communities that I would not have reached on my own. Galleries work hard to market and introduce my work to their collectors and designers in their network. The gallery takes the job of marketing my work which frees me up to spend more time in the studio creating, which is where I love to be. I am careful about which galleries I partner with because I want to make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial. 

This year (2020) has brought so many changes to our lives that we couldn't have foreseen. How has your art practice been impacted? How have the changes affected your creativity? Life moves unevenly with change happening slowly and then all at once. Though the pandemic shifted life so dramatically, much of my art practice has remained the same. Since my studio is in my home, I’m used to being around the house. The difference was that now everyone else is here with me! Balancing the kids’ homeschool and trying to work was a big change. 

There were many times this past year when I was too stressed to focus or work. But work kept coming in. People wanted to brighten their home with art and that motivated me to provide some beauty during this dark time. I have always experienced the ebb and flow of creativity, time, and drive. There are periods of abundance and times when I experience slumps and shifting priorities. I’ve learned to be content with small steps, knowing that great distances are eventually made. More than most years, I needed daily downtime to feel inspired. Unplugging, taking news breaks, and spending a lot of time in nature helped fuel my creativity. 

What ideas or themes do you explore in your work? My work centers around the visible and unseen world of place and connection. The space around us holds things we don’t easily see — the movement of wind, traces of memory, the lingering feeling of connection. In my paintings, I try to capture this unspoken world that lives in the spaces between us. I pay close attention to objects in life, but also represent the spaces from which they come. Throughout the past year, I have a desire to paint scenes of nature and still life moments. The slowing down and narrowing of life has inspired this new direction.

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