This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. For the complete interview, you can access here.
Kristine Dizon: Hello, my name is Kristine Dizon and I'm the CEO and founder of The Modern Artist Project. Today, I'm with Angie Emily Joseph. She was born and raised in Naples, Florida to Haitian parents as a visual artist. She uses her art to tell stories that resonate with different groups of people. Currently, she will be releasing three online exhibitions, Women 2023, and Femina 2023 art will feature her work. Everything Is Worse Now at the Las Laguna Art Gallery, her primary medium of choice is watercolor and ink. Thank you, Angie, for joining us today.
Angie Emily Joseph: Thank you, Kristine.
KD: So I know I talk a little bit about your background, and what you do as a visual artist, but I'd like to hear a little bit more about your story and what led you on this path.
AEJ: Sure. So I remember being really involved in the arts and things like that when I was a child, I actually grew up playing the guitar, singing, doing all that stuff in church. And then I got a really strong pull towards the visual arts as you know, I got older and I started to let go of my, you know, guitar playing and really focused more on my visual artwork.
And it got to a certain point where it was time to decide what I wanted to do career-wise. And I felt a really strong pull to go in a traditional career, not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I felt like it was the right thing to do. But then I also had a really awesome set of teachers and mentors who were saying, you know, there are your voice is really important just as being a woman of color and as also being a child of immigrants, being, you know, specifically in the United States as a first-generation kind of a person and that your story could resonate with a lot of people who have similar backgrounds who may want to pursue that kind of career, but are afraid to because of external factors.
So it really became for me, a part of I want to be able to be not only like a role model to people who have similar backgrounds but to also tell stories of people who look like me who have, who may or may not have similar experiences as me and to really open the lens of what it like, what it is to be a woman of color in America but to be a woman of color who is a first generation American as well.
KD: No, this is really great, and I love the fact that you talk about this idea of storytelling in your art. So in regards to, you know, for example, the painting, I love the painting behind you right now because of the fact that it's, you know, the color of the, you know, is so vibrant. Could you tell us, you know, um how you approach the visual arts, and in regards to incorporating that element of storytelling?
AEJ: Yeah. So, you know, my background is being Haitian. It is a culture where we are very, very not afraid of color. We love color in this culture and this piece behind me, this is actually everything is worse now. And even though with the title, you'd think that it's something like super gloomy and everything like that. But a lot of times especially around the women that I've seen growing up, even when they were struggling and had problems and everything, they're still in these bright, vivid, beautiful sorts of colors. But then they would take a moment, especially if things got overwhelming, not showing their faces when they were overwhelmed in these moments. And I found myself doing similar sorts of things in that kind of environment.
I really like to focus on moments like that but also paying homage to my culture by, you know, not being afraid of color and really just going for even if some of the topics that I may want to delve into maybe things that are a little bit darker in subject matter, darker in the sense of how they were created. I still want there to be that light color sort of happiness element to it, even if it's just a little bit of a bright spot. And I think with being Haitian specifically as well, there's a really big tie with the family and the family unit.
A lot of my works feature my family members as well. And I think that in doing so I'm really able to, you know, have this idea of, you know, putting not only just my family on the stand on, how can I say this, putting my family in a positive view as you know, especially with being patient. I think that we tend to get a really bad rep in terms of like how the country is and like, you know, all these different stereotypes and things like that. So, you know, just really framing specifically my family in a positive light and my culture in a positive light and like the brightness and old nous that comes with it.
KD: And I think that's really great that you highlight those things, not only just about your culture but also when we think about the ideas of sadness, and despair that we would usually associate with dark gloomy colors, right? And I know I've been to several museums, and I've seen different artists convey that in different ways.
But what's really interesting is the fact that when we think about the subject, right? And you talked about this idea of not showing your face because of the fact that it's so expressive. You know, our faces are so expressive, we can express joy, we can express sadness, we can even express anger. But at the same time, if there's that despair that we want to hide, we just turn away because of the fact that we don't want to illustrate that to the people around us. I think that's really amazing that you take those ideas and implement them in such a way. And the idea of even just looking at the painting behind you, the fact that she's holding the table as a means of having that type of stability despite, that sadness or despair that she feels, I think that's, that's really amazing.
AEJ: Yeah. And I think as well just also paying attention to body cues as well. I think a lot of things can be hidden in our bodies and how we present and have them. So, in this specific painting, just because it's the one that's behind me, she's sponged over the table, she's really putting all of her weight on the table because she can't in good faith hold up this weight by herself any longer.
She needs that additional stability, that additional support. And it's okay to have that, it's a human emotion, it's okay to not always be so strong, it's strong to have those weak moments as well.
KD: And you know, this idea of vulnerability. I know you talk about this idea of being able to convey these types of stories, these types of emotions, giving the viewer the imagination of being able to say “Okay, this is what I'm getting from this”. Not only because it's a beautiful painting, but the fact that Angie is working and telling a story and I want to be able to understand that story. Throughout your development, how are you able to come to this point? I'm very curious to know in regards to your artistic output.
AEJ: Yeah. I think for me, I have a really interesting sort of artistic process. I think the usual artistic process is to really work in your sketchbooks to really try and play with ideas and things of that nature. But in my sketchbooks, I actually probably draw less and write more about the specific feelings and emotions and what the overall I guess vibe or feeling or emotion that I'm going for is.
A lot of times when I'm thinking of a new painting, what I'll actually do is write out what I can envision in my head and then I'll bullet point it. So I'll kind of outline it in that kind of a way. I might do like quick sorts of like chicken scratch drawings. But really a lot of my work is just sitting and being like “Okay, what is the actual story that I want to tell?”
It's not necessarily a visual thing for me to begin with. It's like, okay, what is the actual purpose of this painting? I don't necessarily want this painting to simply be a pretty thing. What's the story that we're conveying? What's the emotion? What's, what are we trying to go after? And I think, it's not something that I started to do until I was in undergraduate school, and really like, we were encouraged to do those little thumbnails and everything.
And I found myself not really being drawn to doing them the traditional way. I just found myself really sitting and writing and being like, okay, what is this scene supposed to actually be? I used to also do creative writing and when I would do creative writing and things like that, I tended to focus on supermundane, really intimate moments, snapshots in time.
And I think that in general, my pieces followed the same sort of I guess idea or framework in the sense that I want, I don't necessarily want the moments to be things that people can't connect to themselves, right? I want someone to be able to look at the peace and be like, I know what this painting is supposed to convey because I've actually done something very similar or I can understand why she would be this tired.
Maybe I don't understand why she's tired, but I can sit and reflect and be like, yeah, like exhaustion, she's sad or she's this or maybe she's angry when you look at a piece of work. I think that a lot of times people are trying to figure out what the artists mean by this specific thing. Why did they make the choice, the specific choices that they did, which are all great and good?
But I also want everyone who sees my pieces to be able to have that self-reflection moment within themselves, to be able to say why, why does this speak to me so deeply? How do I connect to this as a person and not just look at this as an art fan or an art critic?
KD: And I think these are really great points because of the fact that when we think about the power of art, whether it be the creation of art or being able to experience art, it can be, you can have this very superficial experience where, oh, that's really pretty or actually be like, hey, you know, being able to take in the artwork of being able to reflect on it being able to understand creating an idea or, having the imagination to come up with, oh this is what this is about, or at least it may not be exactly with what you mentioned earlier about what you feel, but being able to relate on it on a personal level so that it's accessible, I think that's really great stuff. So one of the questions that I have is when we think about art in our society, whether it’s visual arts, whether it's theater, whether it's music, how do you feel it's relevant and why, you know, people should really, you know, go for it and support it.
AEJ: I think that at the core art is self-expression, art is what really makes life interesting and worth living Art is all around us. You know, and I think that especially in being in a digital age, we can really appreciate and see that all around people aren't necessarily wanting what big media is showing and producing.
A lot of people are interested in other works and other points of view that may have been more difficult to find without being in this digital age. You know, and I think that's something that's really interesting and special because I think that there is this level of wanting to learn and wanting to at least be more aware, be more cognizant of other people's experiences as well.
And I think art allows for that to happen. It allows it allows the person to be taken out of their own little bubble and put into worlds that they wouldn't necessarily be exposed to otherwise.
KD: And I think that's something really important too. You know, you mentioned this idea of emotion, this idea of feeling, right? And sometimes we can be really scared of our emotions, especially if it's something that doesn't make sense to us. And I feel like, not only for visual artists but for people who experience art, visual arts paintings, and drawings are able to feel something. I always tell people if you go away from a concert or you go away from an experience, right? An artistic experience and you go away feeling indifferent, then there's something wrong, you either can love it or you can hate it and you know, and that's okay to have those extreme emotions. But I feel like, when we talk about education, Angie, how do you encourage your communities to be able to, you know, develop this appreciation for art?
AEJ: Yeah, I mean, I think part of it is that some people are like, at least in my communities and everything like that. I think that there's this element of, oh yeah, this is pretty to look at or look at all the technical skill that has gone into it. But then it's also like, okay, let's look deeper than just like it is an overall pretty image and the technical ability of it.
What do you feel when you see it? What are the things that draw you towards it? What are the emotions that you have towards it? I think as artists or at least maybe speaking for myself here. But there are times when I feel like “Does anyone really care about what I have to say?” And I think that's an emotion that a lot of people feel.
Does anyone really care about what I have to say? Does anyone feel the way that I feel? And I think that art with art, you're able to experience those things and realize, hey, like, it's not just me who are feeling these types of way, it's not just me who may be behaving in a certain kind of way that, you know, isn't the norm. I think it's really, it's something really special when you're able to have that accessibility to art in the way that it's not something that's so far removed. I think that sometimes when people think of art and you know, music and different things, they feel like it's not for them, it's not accessible for them. It's too highbrow, they won't necessarily understand what the art is about and that's not, that shouldn't necessarily be the case. You know, you should be able to experience the art in the way that you experience it.
KD: I agree with you. And that's one of the things that I feel like within our society, be it within the communities that we work with daily, be it with the communities that we work through digital media. The idea that when we think about, how we can make art accessible, it's not like it was 30 years ago when we think about, oh, you know, this, this piece was made by this artist and it costs this much, you know, we should be able to say, okay, there's nothing wrong with putting a value on art, right? Because art should be valued. If anything, art should be cherished, in regards to the emotions, the time, the energy, the overall feelings, that are immersed in this creation. But at the same time, it's one of those things that how do we communicate those to communities, we talk about this idea of different communities.
You talked about having come from Haitian parents and being within that, you know, a mindset of like I want to express who I am and what my identity is. And I know there are people who look like me, who want to share that too. So do you have any suggestions in regards to how we could, you know, better do that?
AEJ: I think in terms of just being able to make things more accessible is especially like with, in my case, people who look like me or even people who look like you are just having more works where they feel represented and seen. I remember going to art galleries and everything like that when I was younger and even now, there are times when they're like specific exhibits to feature people of color and they're like “Whoa!” I can actually see myself here like people that look like me.
I remember about a year ago, there were a few exhibitions at the Ann Norton Museum in West Palm Beach and there was a whole section on black artists and the black figure in the black body and it was beautiful, it was amazing, but it was like, it was a specialty exhibition that's not something that's like consistently there, which is unfortunate because then, if you're going into these spaces and you're not seeing works by people who look like you or works that have that feature, people who look like you, I feel like there is some element of “Oh, then maybe the space isn't for me” and I feel like that's part of the barrier as well. So being involved in the community and being able to show your art in the community and that's something I'm still learning and trying to get more comfortable with, with sharing. I'm being more out into the community and not just the community on, in an online setting but out in the world and being like, hey, like this is not typical to like flirty and a flirty and palm trees and everything. But as you're walking fast, it's like, hey, like this is a figure that could have been me, it could have been my mom, my sister, my dad, anyone that looks like me. And I feel like once we start making things accessible in that way, I feel like there's more of, there's more of a draw to the spaces that we want to see.
KD: I think this is really great, and I feel in a similar place too, especially with my students, being able to say, you don't have to apologize. You are welcome in this space. You can express yourself through this instrument and whether it's like the idea of gender, or the idea of color, you just have to go for it. And without that self-doubt, I feel that sometimes that we have, and I can at least say that I've had it in my career. And, but being able to encourage others, being able to help them to develop that confidence in their own voice, which you've mentioned several times.
And I feel it's so important in the making of art. Now, when we talk about the idea of the digital age, right, social media, and all those things, how do you feel about sharing in those spaces?
AEJ: Yeah, I mean sometimes I have my struggles with it in the sense of like, this is the art that I've created and I'm really excited to share and show this art that I've created and want to get it out to, different communities and people who may be experiencing similar sorts of emotions. But at the same time, I think there's that element of fear that your art can also be taken and then someone else claims your artwork as their own.
I think there's always an element of being like “Yes, I want to put this out here. I'm so so excited” but then also there's an element of will someone then claim their work as my own and especially with like in the AI space, even you know a lot of those AI generators they use, they use outsource images from other artists and everything like that.
So there are artists who have art in those very similar styles and they're just like “Whoa, like this thing that I've created is now just like the click of a button” People are like, “Look at what I've done” and there's this idea of “Okay, does my voice even really matter?” So I think that that's something that's really interesting in the digital age.
But then there's also the idea of being able to get it out to so many more people than you would have been able to without it as well. But then there's also this idea of I guess, critique in the sense of like, you know, people can feel the way that they feel about your art, you know, really, like as long as they feel something you've done your job.
But at the same time, I think as an artist with being in a digital space specifically, it's also then really easy to get caught up on those like negative sorts of comments and things on your artwork, you could have all the positive things that are said and you focus on like the one negative thing. And I think as an artist, it's, that's a very natural sort because you're putting, you're baring your soul and you're baring your heart out there, you know, and then to have your work able to be so openly criticized with people who can't necessarily confront you in their criticisms. And you actually being able to see these multiple criticisms from the different people that you're trying to reach is also really interesting. And it's also like, at least for me, I, I was struggling a little bit ago because I was like, it seems like everyone likes this sort of painting that I do.
So then should I continue painting this way, even if it's not necessarily the emotion that I'm trying to convey the story that I'm trying to tell because it's what people want to see?
KD: And I think with what you've just mentioned, this idea of what people want versus what you want, what you want to share, I think that's like something that's very profound that I think a lot of our audience would be able to relate too when we think about. So if I play this repertoire, uh and this is my repertoire, I'm identified with this repertoire, as a musician or even for acting, like if I'm identified in this role in this type of role, am I going to get casting for only this type of role? Right. And it's so crazy because with what you've mentioned especially in the visual arts, this is something that's really difficult because it's like we want to please our audience, we want to inspire something from them.
Even if we're present or even if we're not present, we want to be able to make them feel something. And what's really interesting is that with what you've mentioned, I feel like that's something that's across the arts.
AEJ: No, definitely. I think at a certain point, you want to be able to express the things that you are feeling or what makes sense for the context of whatever you're doing. But at the same time, like for example, if you're sitting and you're trying to figure out how can I make this more accessible and everything like that?
Are you going to play things from a classical repertoire? Are you going to try and cater to people and play some of the things that you would hear on the radio or things that are more what people are listening to on an everyday basis? In my terms, it's like, am I going to necessarily be? am I gonna always be doing portraits? I don't necessarily always want to do portraits after a while or like, I kind of want to do something different or I want to convey this, this different sort of emotion. Maybe I wanna work and do some landscapes or some plain air sorts of things, but it's like “Do people want to do that?” And as an artist, the question becomes, “Do you cater to what the audience wants or do you go with what is in your gut, what you want to express and hope that you can convince the audience to come along on that journey with you.”
KD: Yeah. These are definitely great questions, and these are also questions that I asked myself, in regards to what people want, because at the end, we also have to think about the value of our art, how we place the value, and putting a price tag on it, even though that's sometimes really uncomfortable for us to do.
So in regards to when you create your art, in regards to the process and being able to say this is what I believe it cost. How do you go about it? I'm just curious, I think our listeners would really love your thoughts on this.
AEJ: So I think that in terms of placing the value of your art, you have to at least the way that I think about it is that I'm like, first and foremost, I have to play, I'm going to pay myself like a base amount, whether that's like 15 20 25, whatever else, right? So I start with that base amount per hour of work and that I've done and I multiply that across however many hours it took to do that.
But then you also have to consider the materials that you've used as well. So that can be materials like your brushes more. Probably you're more thinking about your paints and your brushes. And then you're also thinking of additional costs like shipping, cost, and packaging. And if you're mailing out artwork, you're also thinking about things like insurance as well and placing that on the price as well.
And after putting all of these things together, I think at a certain point, then you're like “Okay, yes”. And if you're doing commissions and things like that as well, then if like, let's say someone you work on this piece and then the client is like “Oh, I want you to change this” having those stipulations in your contract. That is like, okay if you ask for specific changes, this is the amount for like these specific changes that you may ask for after the factor after, like, I've already started the process. So I think part of it is really just being mindful of your time and also not undervaluing yourself at a base. I think every artist should pay themselves at least minimum wage, but you know, especially with things that you're able to do, I think there's an element of being able to be like, yeah, I can pay myself a little bit more because what I'm doing isn't, isn't something that someone else can necessarily do.
And even if it is something that they can do, they haven't done it. You did. And you're the one who's pursuing it. So, putting value on materials. And I think, especially being very mindful of your time.
KD: Yes, because time is really precious, and a lot of time people say “Well, it's not difficult to produce X Y Z” and it's like “No!” it is because it takes thought, it takes you no time to sketch out the idea, it takes time to make sure that you have the materials that you need, being able to use the technique because there, it requires technique to make meaningful art, and art that not only that you feel good, but also to that the client is really appreciative of, I think that's really important.
AEJ: And the thing too is you also have to consider if at least from a visual arts standpoint, if this thing is going to be a print versus if they're getting the original piece in and of itself with a print, you can kind of mess around with the prices being a little bit lower so that it's more accessible so that more people can buy it. But when it's the actual original, there was only ever going to be one version of this, one original version of that.
So that automatically becomes something that's very, very valuable. And I think that you shouldn't be afraid of pricing it in that way. And thinking of it that way, being like this is the only version of this thing that exists, and I think that we don't necessarily always think about it in that way because we're like, oh maybe this was easy to prove, this was easy to produce, or this was just a quick idea.
But at the same time, there's also that element of this is a one-of-a-kind object and being really mindful of the fact that it's one of a kind. I was having a discussion with one of my family members and he was the big thing was talking about like technical ability and things like that and really came what was really interesting about this conversation despite this family member, not necessarily being a visual artist or anything like that.
He was like, what it really comes down to, you can be the most technical person. But what it really comes down to is creativity. Anyone can be an artist realistically, but it's your creativity. That is the selling factor and is the main point and the main characteristic of an artist, especially a successful artist.
KD: No, and I think it's important to have those discussions too, with people who are not visual artists, people who may not know, and what I love about how you handled that was you were explaining to this person. You know, this is what it takes in regards to how to be able to produce art and making it so that it's not in a way that's like “Oh, it's my art” or “It's my music,” but being able to say in a very intelligent way that makes it so that they're able to listen and it goes back to what we've mentioned before, the idea of being heard. And, when we think about being heard, a lot of times people say “One must yell” Not really if anything yelling or increasing the volume of her voice makes it so that way we aren't heard at all, right? But being able to do it in subtle and meaningful ways makes it so we're able to connect with that person to help them understand.
Actually, I think says a lot about the direction of how we're approaching art, whether it be in the visual music theater, or throughout all of the disciplines. So, my question for you is, with people in the visual arts or even the arts in general, what advice would you give to them at this point? In regard to the field and what to expect.
AEJ: Yeah, I would say that my biggest piece of advice for visual artists is to make sure that you are drawing or painting every single day, I think. And this is something that I also struggle with, right? Sometimes you're just like, I have no ideas. There's nothing here. You know, I'll be honest with me, there was a year, I literally didn't paint for a year and my excuse was “Oh, I have no ideas” but I think that they're just sitting and doodling and doing things like that can create so many meaningful sorts of sparks of things that you didn't even realize were possible. I looked back at the old sketchbook I had, I told myself I had no ideas. I looked at this doodle from a year ago and I had this huge idea for the next series of paintings that I want to do focusing on black men and like them being at peace, very excited about it.
But I think, one drawing every day is really important and also trying to figure out where exactly in the art space that you want to do and also just going for it. I think that especially with the digital age and the age that we're in, there's like no excuse for you not to be able to share your work and even make a living off of your work. There are so many ways to get your artwork out there.
So I think the biggest thing I would say at this point is, to draw every day. But also don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Even if you're like, that one cares what I have to say. Or this thing that I'm doing, will anyone care? The right people will care and the right people, your work will find the people that it needs to find.
KD: No. And I think this is really great advice and I think we're gonna leave it on that note, Angie. I want to thank you for joining us today and for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. We look forward to seeing the amazing things that you continue to do for our community.
AEJ: Thank you so much, Kristine.
Kristine Dizon is a multi-faceted performer, teacher, writer, author, linguist, and entrepreneur. She is Founder & CEO of the Music & Language Learning Center, The Modern Artist Project and co-founder of the Gran Canaria International Clarinet Festival and American Single Reed Summit. She is an artist for Uebel Clarinets and Silverstein Works. Learn more at www.kristinedizon.com.