I started this interview series as a way to start conversations with women who are doing incredible things in their field. These are the women who inspire me daily. There work is something I value very highly in this world. Our conversations feel like a huge privilege and one I am so grateful to share with you. If you feel like you’d be a great addition to this series please don’t hesitate to contact me either on my contact page or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading!
H E L L O I’m Christa David. I’m a New York City based collage artist and painter. A year ago, I quite my day job as a public health researcher to make art full-time. It’s been crazy scary and crazy beautiful; I LOVE my Mondays now.
Did you become what you wanted to be as a child?
Nope. Well not exactly. When I was a kid I wanted to be a doctor, specifically a surgeon. I wanted to fix people where they were broken. Medicine didn’t work out but art is working and truthfully, art is the best medicine there is. Art heals us in places we didn’t even know were broken.
What piece of artwork first spoke to you?
Now that’s a good question. My memory tells me Monét’s Lillies. I saw them up close when I was a teenager and was really blown away by the scale.
How did you start making? What was the beginning process like for you?
I first began making art seriously while a high school student at LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts (also known as the FAME school). Prior to age 11 when I first started painting, I had only thought about math and science seriously. I loved both these subjects. But thank God for art teachers! My 7th grade art teacher noticed my watercolor botanicals one day and said,“these are pretty good, have you thought about auditioning for Laguardia.” LaGuardia was some of the best art education I’ve received to date. I rotated through almost all of the disciplines and media — sculpture, painting, ceramics, acrylic, oils, watercolors — before finding comfort and focus in oil painting. When it was time for college, I decided for very practical reasons, that art and being an artist wasn’t serious enough of a career path to follow. So I stopped making art and went back to my first loves — math and science. I was pre-med in college and ended up becoming a public health researcher.
But, when something is for you, it’s for you. Art is for me. About eight years ago I started making art again just as a form of therapy and refuge from the stresses of life and work. My art practice grew more serious and demanding as the years passed until finally I wanted to be in my studio making art more than I wanted to be doing public health research. So a year ago I leapt into full-time art making. Yes, it’s been an emotional rollercoaster trying to work out the business of making art, but I love my crazy beautiful artist life and wouldn’t change a thing.
How does it feel to sell a piece of your artwork? Did it take time to feel comfortable adding a price to your work?
Each piece of art I make is unique and holds so much meaning and memory for me. In the beginning it was incredibly hard to let my art go, but it got easier. The more I reminded myself about why I was making art, the easier it became to let the pieces go. I make art to trigger experiences in myself and others, experiences that will hopefully help us to see ourselves — the depraved parts and the holy parts.
How did your morning Instagram stories begin? What do you get out of them?
I am totally in love with INSTAGRAM! I had been sharing my full-time art making journey via weekly Facebook Live shows called Sunday Summary, but when Instagram Stories and Live were released I quickly jumped ship. Setting up for evening live video shoots in my dark apartment was just a pain. Instagram Stories and Live is so easy to use and so low maintenance. I can still share my process without making it into a big production.
My morning coffee ritual is just that my morning coffee ritual. Making coffee before heading into my home art studio has been my ritual for years. My coffee grounds literally ground me and get me all caffeinated and pumped for work. One day I just started sharing my coffee time on Instagram Stories and the rest is let it bloom history (HA!).
Sharing my process as an artist working daily to figure out the business of making art while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world interest lots of people. Other artists and creatives are curious and I want them to see how hard but rewarding it can be to make art your business.
Most importantly though, I want to make art and the art making process accessible to everyone #fineartforeveryone. I really believe that art enriches our lives in ways that vital but sometimes hard to put into words. Everyone should own a piece of art that speaks to their soul. Everyone. Hopefully, my Instagram Stories and feed invites more folks to embrace art — mine and other artists — and make more art collectors out of us all.
Have you ever had to work harder for something than your male peers? Does that frustrate you?
In my public health career, I was fortunate enough to work in a profession where the ratio of women to men was about 70% to 30%. I didn’t have workplace pressures to work harder than my male counterparts mainly because there weren’t many. I imagine things may be different as I immerse myself in the NYC art world. I generally work hard and compete with myself. I’m a high-achiever and innately driven. I am my biggest competition on any given day.
Who inspires you right now?
Anyone who has decided to live their life awake and on purpose — despite how it feels — inspires me.
What does your work space look like?
My primary work space is a hot mess right now. Thirty-two color studies are strewn about work table number one. I’m prepping these mini original paintings to sell this holiday season. In progress acrylic and oil paintings line the walls and a handout collage, my laptop and Wacom tablet are on work table number two. Thankfully, I recently set up my second bedroom to be a showroom/gallery for all my finished work. Clearing space inspires me to make more! And yes, I share all of this in my Instagram Stories. Come see.
One piece of advice for someone who is just starting out on the creative path?
Here is my daily note to self: make lots and lots of work. Experiment. Take Risks. Play. Don’t expect anything just focus on making the best work you can as often as you can