It’s a pleasure to present this interview with artist Marie Hines Cowan, with her advice for artists. The extraordinary figurative painter is widely known for combining mythology with colloquial culture in bold painterly oil paintings. Her narrative, life-sized, representational works of art are compelling and take viewers beyond realism.
In this interview, she shares her inspiration, definition of success, lots of art marketing ideas for artists to apply, and much more.
About Marie Hines Cowan
Marie Hines Cowan, www.mariehinescowan, lives in Westchester, New York, and has exhibited in the U.S. and Europe. Her solo shows include one at the National Association of Women Artists gallery. Her paintings have been featured in NYU’s literary journal Icarus and the Huffington Post. Curator Margarita Aguilar, who worked with Hines Cowan on two exhibitions, wrote the essay, “Men and Women: Marie Hines, Portraits 2004”. She appeared on Artists Forum TV with host Elliot Torres discussing her recent exhibition NY Muse: Book 1.
The artist studied art at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, and art history and Greek literature at New York University. She served as President of the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA), and is a member of the Portrait Society of America.
RP: Marie, what is the inspiration behind your art work?
MHC: The immediate inspiration for my current project is New York City and the people that populate it as well as the instances of popular arts and culture that signify New York mental culture to me, such as, a Public Works Project, the doomed Edie Sedgwick (an Andy Warhol associate), Dr. Seuss, a Vogue Magazine fashion photo spread, Jimi Hendricks, punk music and the New Public Library lions.
On the other end of the inspirational spectrum are those classical tales, the Greek myths. I am influenced, as Ovid was, by the Neoteric poets, bringing colloquial culture into my work, mixing it with the classics and expecting the work to be enjoyed on its many levels.
RP: What is your definition of art career success?
MHC: Success can mean any number of things. For me there are three main definitions.
1. Creating art that is meaningful to me without compromise to my vision.
2. Exhibiting that work and having it appreciated
3. Making a living from that work.
RP: Do you have an essential philosophy that guides you in your creative expression?
MHC: My main philosophical interest is the continuation of archetypical stories and personae that have been around for millennium and are still relevant. I’m working on a series devoted to Greek mythology and archetypical personae that I see every day all around me in the average person.
I read at least five books per week and I often embarrass myself staring at people on the NYC subway. I let everything I read and see filter through my unconscious, percolating there until it pops out one day like Athena from Zeus’ head — a full-fledged idea.
RP: What piece of advice would you like to offer to artists, especially those who are beginning their art careers?
MHC: Learn your medium and everything else you possibly can about the art business. Do everything you can yourself but then accept that there are some things related to the business of art that someone else can do better than you, for you.
RP: That’s so wise and true. Marie, what invaluable art business lesson did you learn in the past year that took your career to the next level?
MHC: In 2016 I finally accepted that social media is the way of the world but I don’t have the time to be as activity involved in it as I need to be. It’s a huge layout of time that I could be in the studio painting. So, I hired Cristiana Pena and Nick Porter from Pena and Porter. They are great. They understand and are interested in social media in a way I never would be able to be.
RP: What art marketing activities do you put into practice regularly that work most successfully for you?
MHC: I spend a lot of time researching galleries, online, in magazines and also utilizing the Artist’s & Graphic Designers’ Market. I refer to many exhibition competition lists such as ArtSlant, NYFA, Professional Artists Magazine.
I also create mailings and use regular snail mail because email must be opened to be appreciated while a postcard with an image is immediately visible.
I do a lot of writing and rewriting about my work and projects for my mailers and for proposals. I am putting together exhibition proposals to send to academic galleries and institutions that are related to the subject that underlays my current work, Greek mythology.
I keep a notebook with a marketing plan and calendar. Every month I add, revise and rethink my plan.
I have developed a group of social media people, with whom I email and discuss thought, and bounce ideas around with several times weekly.
RP: Marie, you are the consummate proactive professional artist. I’m curious, what article did you most enjoy on this website and what did you learn from it?
MHC: I found your article “How to Approach New York Art Galleries” interesting as I have been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of galleries right now.
RP: What is your top career goal for 2017? What steps are you taking to attain that goal?
MHC: I am looking to increase my public presence in the coming year. I’ll be doing a lot of proposal and grant writing and immersing myself, and my artwork in social media. After showing in many group exhibits, I now want to gain the notice of a gallery or curator.
RP: What personality trait do you have that has been most helpful in your art career?
MHC: In one word, DETERMINATION.
RP: Marie, if you could spend a day with a famous artist from art history, who would that be and how would you spend the day?
MHC: This is a tough question. There are so many. But I think I would have to put in the forefront Gustav Klimt and Caravaggio. I would spend the day talking with Klimt about color and Caravaggio about light and shadow.