Published on August 29th, 2013 | by Marc Londo3
Serena Kovalosky: The Artful Vagabond
Serena Kovalosky can hardly contain her passion for art. Widely known throughout the blogosphere as the Artful Vagabond, Kovalosky has made it her mission to spread her love of art to the far reaches of the world. Working from her studio in the foothills of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, Kovalosky continually engages her readers with uplifting stories of an artist’s life. Her blog is informative and empathetic to the legion of artists in her network. Making art can be a solitary lifestyle, wrought with deep soul-searching and constant barrages to one’s commitment. Kovalosky’s blog recognizes this isolation, and breaks down walls that can be both a comfort and a curse for many artists.
Early on in life, she put her dream of becoming an artist aside for a career in the travel industry, managing major events for travel companies. Despite enjoying the benefits of a financially rewarding career, she felt that something was missing; she couldn’t shake the overwhelming urge to realize her dream of becoming a sculptor, seeing it as a spiritual necessity. Her evolution into a working artist led her to a loft in Montreal, Canada, where she has become widely recognized for her exquisite sculptures.
Since relocating to Montreal, Kovalosky’s life’s work has become to bridge connections between ideas and people. A lover of travel and culture, Kovalosky uses her blog to tell stories of artists from around the world. It has been said that the “act of humanity” is passed on through its storytellers; as the hub of her artistic network, the Artful Vagabond ensures that these “acts of humanity” resonate beyond the walls of an artist’s studio.
Because of her background in business, Kovalosky is involved in all aspects of her craft, from its production to marketing. As an artist, art writer and curator, she is able to address a wide range of issues that affect artists, both directly and indirectly. Her simple words of encouragement and insightful interviews reconnect her readers to their passion for their craft.
Art Animal had the privilege of speaking with Kovalosky about her life as a well-known artist, blogger and curator.
Art Animal: What initially planted the seed in your mind to become an artist?
Serena Kovalosky: I didn’t “become” an artist – it wasn’t a conscious choice. Art was just something I always did. My bedroom was my studio as a child. I drew every chance I could but I never showed my work to anyone because I never considered myself to be an “artist.” For me it was simply my way of being in this world. As I got older, I remember trying to figure out how to capture feelings and put them in my work, rather than just copying what I saw. I never knew at the time that was the path of the artist.
My first hint was during my teenage years on a school trip to my very first art museum: The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY. As I stood in the gallery, surrounded by Rembrandts, and Picassos and Renoirs, I thought to myself, “This feels like home.” Despite that moment, I returned to the real world and set my sights on college and getting a job like everyone else.
It took me 18 years to finally realize that the life I was building was not my own, so I left a perfectly good career to explore the potential of my creative talents. That first day I walked into my artist studio in Montreal, I knew I had made the right decision. I felt like I was finally exactly where I belonged.
AA: In today’s art market, professional artists have to concern themselves with so many other tasks than just making art, such as marketing their art and developing an online presence. How did you transform from Serena Kovalosky the sculptor into the Artful Vagabond?
SK: I love marketing. I did it throughout my 18 years in the travel industry – creating brochures, writing promotional copy. Tourism is great place to learn how to get people interested in going somewhere to experience something. I applied those same principles to my own business when I started working as a sculptor.
Before the days of the internet, artists had to rely on the news media to promote their work. I understood the value of developing “stories” that would get journalists interested in my work but the local news cycle might offer a feature article once every two years. Social media allowed me to expand my marketing potential and take my message to a broader audience.
As my art career evolved, I found I wanted to hone my creative writing skills and eventually incorporate that into my business. Blogging became the perfect vehicle for testing the literary waters. I launched Artful Vagabond as a combination of my two passions: art (Artful) and travel (Vagabond). I started interviewing artists around the world, sharing stories about their creative process and their lives as artists, and people started subscribing to the blog. I added Facebook and Twitter accounts and we now have an incredible community of artists and art-lovers sharing thoughts and ideas.
All that writing has prompted me to start working on my first book – a retrospective of my work – which is scheduled to be published this fall. Subsequent books will expand on some of the blog posts from Artful Vagabond.
AA: As The Artful Vagabond, what unique perspective do you try to bring to the art community?
SK: I want to bust some of the stereotypes about artists and provide a positive, supportive environment where artists can share thoughts and ideas with each other and the general public. If we want to see an increase in the perceived value of art in our society, then that perception has to start with the artists. I encourage artists to drop the “starving artist” excuse and realize that we all have just as much chance of success as any other entrepreneur. Our unique way of doing things is just as valid as the status quo and can provide valuable life lessons.
AA: In your blog, you mention the value of art in a healthy, balanced lifestyle. I agree so much with that statement. How do you see art helping to create a healthy lifestyle?
SK: I had an art mentor who once told me: “I’m not going to teach you how to draw, I’m going to teach you how to see.” Art teaches people how to see, which translates into a greater appreciation for all things in life. When was the last time you stopped to admire a sunset, or noticed how blue the sky was today? Art makes us stop and take the time to truly look, to appreciate beauty, to be curious.
Art appreciation can be a tool. It can relieve stress and spark new ideas. Visitors to my studio become visibly relaxed after a few minutes with my work and as the art opens up their creative mind, I hear them excitedly talking about new ideas for their home and garden projects.
Some art can be challenging. It can change your perceptions. By taking the time to understand more about the art and the artist, you can develop a broader appreciation of the world.
AA: Art appreciation has a lot to do with the narrative tied to an artwork. How important do you consider the ‘story’ of art to its financial success?
SK: The story is everything if you’re talking financial success. When I’m looking for artists to interview for Artful Vagabond, I’m looking for a story. It doesn’t have to be the story of a particular work of art; it can be the artist’s personal journey or creative process, but there has to be something for me to bring to my readers. Publicity provides the path to financial success. Sometimes a piece will get sold on impulse, but over the long term, stories are the marketing engine that sells art. And stories are more readily shared, which increases market potential.
If you take out the financial aspect and just talk about the art itself – you don’t need the story to appreciate great art. The story can enhance the appreciation of the work, but a degree in art history isn’t necessary to enjoy it.
AA: As a blogger, you contribute to the storytelling side of the art community. For artists that are navigating their way through the contemporary art world, what do you think is their best route to getting their stories out to the public?
SK: Know what your stories are. Keep them consistent. Put those stories out there every chance you get. On social media, in interviews, in conversations about your work. Do artist talks. Write a book. Get as many interviews as you can.
AA: As a writer myself, I’m curious as to your perspective on writing about art. Do you feel an artist’s background contributes greatly to the resonance of their stories?
SK: An artist’s background gives stories their depth and integrity. When I’m working with an artist on their press kit, I’ll go through every aspect of their background and creative process and find there is always a thread. All art, no matter what inspired it, passes through the filter of the artist. I may not include the background in every article, but it helps inform how I present the story.