We recently got to sit down with three of our favorites at one of our local bars. As the fly on the wall at Solid, we got to listen to Suzanne Lee Chetwood, Toby Davis and Ed Anderson hash through their young careers. Their styles, subjects and executions could not be more different, yet their parallel insights flowed out with lots of laughs.
For two hours the three wrestled with what it takes to be a professional artist. While none presumed authority on the subject, each of their experiences offered insights. It was clear to us the three all felt the ascendance of their work, but as with most careers, it was clear none had an end game. Toby talked about climbing on a slow roller coaster, suzanne talked about the great voice of her work with certain time constraints and Ed reflected on building a brand with the absence of a body of work. The key for all was certainly “educated” collectors, but where to find them?
Was it in the commision? Both Ed and Suzanne had thrived hustling commissions as their popularity grows. Toby, on the other hand, is letting his original work dictate the pace of commision work. There is a clear plan to his pace and Toby works very hard at cultivating his collectors. They, in turn, are lining up for his fresh compositions of urban landscapes. He credits much of his professional direction to Bill Carmen and the Boise State Illustration Department. “Dan Scott at BSU had a big impact on the technical side of my work.” Toby layers streetscapes with the thought of his place in it, but almost wants it to be forgotten. His beautiful oil compositions remain some of our favorite pieces to adorn the Showroom.
Suzanne on the other hand, is pushing a number of media to make sure her compositions convey a message. But there is the limitation! “I ain’t got time.” Twin daughters… five years old.. full time… she don’t. It is clear she has a sweeping vision for the ceramics, canvas, paint, clay, resin and glaze which all infaltrate the work, but where that evolution of media goes is a process. And we have know doubt, she will tackle it. “I have to be patient.” She does know while the evolution may be slow, client development cannot be. “At the end of the day, it’s a sales job.” With plenty to her resume including a recent cover of the Boise Weekly, her clients love her. You will not meet an artist with a better personality. She rolled into our meeting after 10 hours of lifting wet clay and still managed to be way too cheerful…
Ed does it a bit different. He’s been spinning the globe developing clients in the absence of work. Some say strike while the iron is hot and when he got some covers of Gray’s Sporting Journal, he hit the road. It’s clear the countless trade shows and art fairs have taken their toll. He realizes being a salesman is a must and has been “growing a brand”. His art though, has suffered. He too has twins, four, and finding time to live life, travel and create work has been difficult. He ascribes to build a “commentary on Americana,” but has been able to devote little time to crunch the style to develop that idea. His almost illustrative style is changing fast and its clear Ed has a vision for it much like Suzanne.
Amidst this struggle what do the three agree on? “Take some f’ing business classes.” They believe the landscape for selling art has changed and that in the end the work will speak for itself, but while you’re starving, you won’t get to evolve as an artist. Use every tool available to you. “I wonder if Michaelangelo would have used Photoshop to develop a composition,” Ed asked. Toby, without missing a beat, “Can you imagine what that guy would have done with it!?”
We can’t close without talking about these three as the people they are… cause throughout, it’s why we were interested. “I’ve got my girls onto Star Wars…. and not the crappy George-Lucas-is-on-crack-movies.” Suzanne tells us, “They’re just so stoked Luke and Leah have turned out to be twins.” Toby reflects back to his time in Chicago, “Never was a baseball fan until my ex won a first pitch at Wrigley at a charity auction and gave it to me.” Ed falls off his bar stool. “You threw out the first fucking pitch at Wrigley!?” [Ed used to fancy himself a baseball player.] “Come on, Ed,” Suzanne asks dejected at his enthusiasm, “What’s the best thing you’ve done?” He takes pause, “Hold on…” A deep breath. “My kids.”