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Beachcomber Interview

Artist Raven Roxanne’s Whirlwind Journey

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Interviewed by Charles Morgan III

 

Your mom is an artist—she and your dad own the Zoo Gallery. You’ve been around art your whole life. Was there ever a chance that you weren’t going to be an artist?

I think the fact that my mom is an artist and I grew up at the Zoo Gallery, it just felt natural to be an artist—it wasn’t a forced decision. My mom never pressured me to become an artist. My parents very much wanted my brother and me to create our own paths, but my identity was heavily influenced by the art surrounding my childhood. I went on to get a BFA in painting at Auburn, and I think that locked me into the practice.

 

In some circles Auburn is known as a football school with an ag department—I think your dad might have played football there. How did you even find the art school?

Auburn has a school of architecture, interior design, graphics and industrial arts, and an arts school. The graphic design and art school share the same building and the same professors. The art school gave me space to create and that was very beneficial to my career.

 

If I had gone to traditional art school, it might have been overwhelming, and having to compete with other artists would have been difficult. Auburn has a creative community that helped nurture my work.

 

You own a home in Charleston now, which has a tremendously strong artist community. Did you ever feel overwhelmed when you moved to Charleston? Were you confident you could make it in such a mature market? 

My husband Thomas and I were living and working in Atlanta when we began to stir for a change of scenery. It had been a couple years since I’d graduated from college, and I was doing merchandising and displays for a Free People store. I loved my job, and it was definitely a creative outlet for me—I loved the brand, the customer service and the liberty to create within the store, but I was ready to do something for me.

 

Thomas had just started his own software consulting business and was flexible to work remotely, so he suggested a move to Charleston. He was a South Carolina native, and I had never been to Charleston, so I was inspired by the spontaneity of the move. Together we agreed that upon the move I would take six months to dive into painting and see if it caught traction. So that’s what I did, in our kitchen for six months.

 

I think I benefited from being “new” to the community as far as maintaining confidence in my start as a full-time artist. As I got more acquainted with the city I started networking with other artists and connected with an old friend, Teil Duncan, who really pushed me to pursue my work. I really loved the challenge of the lifestyle and the self-exploration of starting such a personal business. So from there, I moved into Redux Contemporary Art Center and the rest is history. More at ravenroxanne.com.

 

What inspired you to paint women and flowers, other than women and flowers? It’s a recurring theme, and it seems to work really well.

The figure has always been an important challenge for me as an artist. Fundamentally, I find it to be a good exercise of lines, shapes, textures and movement. The “Girls with Flowers” series is my way of exploring not only the female figure, but also an expression of a woman’s emotions.

 

Typically, my paintings are inspired by women in my life, exuding strength and independence, but I also like to nod to the insecurities and self-doubt that many women struggle with. The flowers are incorporated to enhance the sensuality of the figure, or to be a vessel for the figure to mask themselves from the viewer’s critique.

 

Many artists aren’t particularly good at business. You seem to have figured something out. Your husband is involved in your business, and you’re both savvy with social media. How did y’all figure it out?

As previously mentioned, my husband Thomas owns a software developing, design and marketing business, so I was able to tap into this resource for building a unique and user-friendly website.

 

We began with a Shopify web template and worked from there—Shopify is designed to accommodate small business e-commerce. As far as social media goes, I really enjoy it and like to think that I have a knack for it. I have found it to be most effective for keeping in touch with customers and marketing my work to the public.

 

You basically manage to run a business online. You have a beautiful studio, but do you sell out of the studio or is that just your workspace?

I like to keep it a private workspace because my best work is when I have the place to myself for uninterrupted practice. I do love visitors and am flexible when it comes to making appointments and showing off my little paradise.

 

How did you make the decision to produce prints of your paintings?

I was getting a lot of inquiries for prints of my original works. Prints are obviously more economical options as compared to original works, but also the demand for my original works would sometime leave customers without the opportunity to have the painting they wanted, so this seemed like a good compromise. It’s also a nice way keep up with where my work has been in difference phases of my career.

 

What’s next? More paintings? A family? A gallery? You’ve been involved with going to markets with your family for years, buying product for the Zoo Gallery. I’m pretty sure you know how to do retail.

I am currently working on my Nest series, which will release later this fall, as well as some new holiday products that I am really excited about. I began making limited edition scarves of the woman’s figure two years ago and have been working on the artwork for this year’s scarves recently.

 

It’s a pretty neat way to see my artwork in the world. Textiles are so important to me, and having my work be a utility accessory is pretty neat. I’ll also be rolling out botanical screen prints that are going to be so cool! It’s been a blast drafting the artwork. It’s been a really great experience growing my business into these other ventures of work. I’m eager to see what people think.

 

What is it about Charleston? Do you think it will be home forever? What makes it so special? The people? The scale of the city? What are a few of the things Charleston offers that you don’t see in Destin? 

Charleston is truly a community, and it’s like nothing I’ve been a part of before. While there are a lot of successful people stemming from Charleston, it still holds a romantic small town feel that makes it possible to network with lots of creatives. I plan on being here for the foreseeable future.

 

You’ve achieved what many people dream of. You’ve created a very successful life as an artist, and you’ve managed to turn your passion into a burgeoning business. Do you ever pinch yourself?

There is a point during most days when I just have to take a minute and be thankful, yes. It’s pretty incredible that I can do what I love and share it with the audience that I have. The journey has been a whirlwind, and I can’t wait to keep going.

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