Thursday, October 9, 2008

October Artist of the Month - Nora Koerber

Basics first, where are you from?

I am a bona fide "Valley Girl." This would specifically and only mean the San Fernando Valley, in L.A. County, California, U.S.A., as so coined by Frank Zappa right about the time I was attending Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Lots of info there, eh?

What was the exact day and time you first picked up a crayon?

I just can't believe this story, but my mother claims I actually drew a face on some toilet paper when I was a year old. Now, if this were true, I'd have become a brain/heart surgeon with that type of dexterity. Actually, unlike most artists, I've been drawing since I can remember; since I was but a child. O.K, I know most all artists say this. I am no different. It's all true. Boring, arrogant, usual, and yet something all we artists LOVE to brag about, even as we know most any other artist says exactly the same thing.

If such statements as, "I always drew as a child. I grew up drawing and painting; my parents had to pull the pencil out of my hand and force a fork in it and order me to eat; that's how OBSESSED about drawing I was, as a child. I drew on my walls. I drew on my shoes. I drew my friends at school. I impressed teachers...such that my Kindergarten teacher swiftly ran out to meet my mother (swiftly, mind you) to show off the amazing elephant with the highly decorated carpet on its back... and that I'd get drinks bought for me when I'd draw on cocktail napkins when I was of drinking age....ah, yes, we can all brag these similar stories, can't we? We're all so very talented, being artists. And why? BECAUSE WE'VE ALL BEEN DOING IT OUR ENTIRE LIVES! O.K, I guess it takes "talent," which I have heard is "the ability to learn rapidly."

At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in this field?

Being that I was such an artistic rock star in school growing up, (unlike all other professional artists I know- ahem), I suppose the notion of my being an artist as a profession was inseparable from the fact that I was already an artist. Gimme italics on the word, 'already', won't 'cha? Thanks. Ah, I like this being interviewed. It's all about me. Ah, well.

I grew up knowing I was an artist. When I was graduating from high school, my school advisor brought out a catalogue from Art Center. I was hooked on that school from the moment I saw that thing. It was the castle on the hill. That was my ticket to artistic paradise and the stairway to heaven as far as becoming a professional artist. So I'd say that essentially, when I saw that catalogue, I knew "what I was going to be when I grew up." (Not that I have, yet, mind you...)

Did you consider any other career paths?

Even though I always drew as a child, I also sang. Yes, and on key. I was simply fabulous, if I do say so, myself. Ahem.

Actually, I WANTED to be a singer when I grew up. But I was so shy around my parents that I thought they would have to first die before I could become a professional singer. No, they are still alive. Yes, I do sing, and have done a few stage thingies, but low key, not so I'd give Stevie Nicks, Cheryl Crow, or Bonnie Rait any competition...

...just while we're on the subject of me and how incredibly great I am, let me just expound on my past endeavors, interests, and childhood pursuits that could have turned me toward any of the following: I played classical guitar, made leather purses and belts and sold them at school, took jiu-jitsu, designed clothes, sewed almost all my own clothes, experimented with recipes, and more! And it was all when I was thirteen. That silly run on sentence is true, but it's not true I could do any of those things, I suppose. I've always been an artist. Just wanted to brag a little more. It makes me feel like such a groovy chick!

Where'd you go to school?

Art Center College of Design, Illus, '84, Honors. C.S.U.L.A., M.F.A., Design, w/ Distinction, '04. (There's more, but that would allow people to more effectively calculate my age). Oh, and more bragging: I was the President of the Society of Illustrators, Los Angeles, '01 and ''02, and have served on the Art Center Alumni Council, as well as having taught for a bit at Otis Art Institute. Currently, alongside my fulltime gig here at IAS, I teach Portraiture through an Adult Education division. The class is well attended; there is a lot of competition, in fact, and models regularly tell me how amazing the level of work is in that unassuming class. It's all because of me, of course.

How long have you been at IAS? Where did you work before?

IAS: three years. I was a freelance illustrator since graduating from Art Center in '84 to right before this job. For the past seven years or so, I have done assorted teaching jobs that took me to a few schools, such as Otis, Cal State Northridge, and Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, (otherwise known as 'LACHSA'), which is located on the campus of C.S.U.L.A. It was very convenient, while I was obtaining my M.F.A. on the same campus. 'Twas fun. I love teaching, but enjoy the college age audience most, as I like challenging students who are ready to immerse themselves in hard, intensive work. (Can you hear the crack of the whip?) What can I say? My last name is German.

What is your favorite style to use and why?

At IAS, I suppose my favorite style is "loose," as it probably most befits my personality. I am a little wild inside, and it's like someone saying, "Hey, step into this masaratti right here and take it for a wild ride, but you've gotta make it real quick!" I'm the woman for that job. Yo.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I imagine that most of those who may randomly choose to read this blog or this interview might possibly be considering getting into this business. If your heart is in your drawing and painting, I would encourage you, as it is so wonderful to work at something you truly love to do. Every day, I am amused, I am challenged, I grow, learn, and get to lay down chops that make me feel groovy, baby. Steady employment also affords a social atmosphere, which was lacking in my freelance years, even though the occasional plum job would mean my earning a ton of money in a very short time. But those 'Golden Days of Illustration' have never resumed to how they were, from around '00 and prior. The computer is here to stay, and 'boutique' art schools are cropping up everywhere. There is a glut of artists out there. But there are only so many who are maniacally driven to support themselves as artists and who are actually good enough to sustain their habit. If you're one of this breed, I'd say, go for it. Don't give up until you get there. But if you find it's taken you ten, fifteen years, ah, well...time to do something else...because work like this doesn't grow on trees anymore, and it takes an immense amount of hard work and talent. Not that I have any, mind you; I think they hired me because I was so good looking and they needed me for blockings. Joking aside, I really enjoy this work and know I am fortunate to be employed with IAS so I can support my habit of choice.

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