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Episode 45: Finding Balance with Andrea Slusarski

Always keep it real. You may know her from Instagram - artist and teacher Andrea Slusarski AKA @drawingfromnature joined us on the show this week! Andrea drops knowledge about teaching, finding balance between the external and internal, and her advice to brands hiring fine artists.

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​Follow Wheelie on Instagram: @wheeliecreative

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Episode Transcript

Lisa: Hey, welcome to episode 4.8 of Outside by Design and it is a new month. It's April.

Iris: Welcome to April.

Lisa: and with a new month means that it's time for a new word of the month.

Iris: and our new word of the month is:

Lisa: negotiation.

Computer Robot Voice: Negotiation. Negotiation.

Lisa: And that is a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement… a conference, debate, dialogue, discussion, consultation, deliberation. What do you think of negotiation, Iris?

Iris: I think it'll be a great word for our many guests this month to discuss. I think there's a lot of different definitions of negotiation, like in a business sense or negotiation with yourself or like literally negotiating over, under, around obstacles.

Lisa; Yes. I'm very comfortable with the concept of negotiation because it is how I spend most of my days, negotiating contracts and projects and Forest Service permits. Oh and insurance companies because we got kicked off our insurance again for our Super Bowl commercial. It’s just negotiation. It's a lifestyle.

Iris: But a lot of creatives maybe aren't necessarily as comfortable with negotiation, or maybe it doesn't come very naturally to them. So it's more of a... something that you have to practice and focus on. So our first guest in this month we're focusing on the word negotiation is Andrea Slusarski and you might recognize her from Instagram. Her Instagram is @drawingfromnature. She's a visual Artist as well as an art teacher and she has a lot to say this week.

Lisa: She would be the best art teacher, those students are so lucky.

Iris: Yeah she’d be so much fun.

Lisa: She is a really fun person and I have started getting to know Andrea this year and she's a magical human being with so much love and positive vibes and she's just a damn good person.

Iris: Yeah, I really love her work and Andrea talks about her thoughts on the word negotiation. She shares her idea of keeping it real with her students and inspiring new artists as well as how she feels about her career in the outdoor industry and a little bit of advice for brands looking to work with visual artists. So this episode is full of information. Enjoy.

Lisa: Welcome to Outside by Design. Thanks for being on the podcast today.

Andrea: Thank you for inviting me Lisa.

Lisa: The first question we ask everyone is to describe where you are and what you're looking at and where you are in the country.

Andrea: Where I am in the country is I am in Denver, Colorado. I am in my bedroom because it is the quietest place currently from my dog. Who decided to just bark as we decided to start podcasting. That's where I am! I'm having a good day.

Lisa: So how did you end up in Denver? I don't, I don't know your story.

Andrea: [laughs] my story. I moved to Denver about seven years ago for the snowboarding, for the gravity here.

Lisa: There's really good gravity.

Andrea: There's a really good gravity and I just always wanted to move here. So I got a job and I did. And it was awesome.

Lisa: And so what is your favorite Mountain to snowboard at?

Andrea: Mmm, I really love anytime I can go to Steamboat.

Lisa: Yeah, Steamboats a good time.

Andrea: It's nice.

Lisa: And what job did you land once got you to Denver?

Andrea: I got a job first as a middle school art teacher which was fun. It's actually just really fun. And then I wanted to move to Denver, that was kind of more south towards Colorado Springs and then I got a job at a high school. And that's where I've been working at currently when I'm not in my studio.

Lisa: Now you teach high school art?

Andrea: Yes, and, well, this year I actually am mentoring new teachers a little bit more which is cool as well.

Lisa: That's really nice. And how does how does this play into your art? Which you can find on Instagram at @drawingfromnature?

Andrea: Yeah. Well, I would say that I've learned a lot from being a teacher and in teaching and exploring my own work I've really grown into you know, what kind of makes me an artist and what I feel good at creating.

Lisa: What makes you an artist?

Andrea: Just thinking creatively man.

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, your work is all very very focused on, you know, nature and landscapes and kind of hand done typography which, I love integrating words into landscapes and I just really like your style. Where did you develop this, does it just happen naturally, or was it a conscious style decision?

Andrea: Well, thank you. Um, you know the words kind of happened, you know, kind of by experience. And they've just been popping up throughout my work and I've, you know, had a lot of people that I've had great conversations with or I've learned from or I've heard some new ideas that really encouraged me to pursue those words and lines and reflect in my own work and how I want to be communicating ideas and stories of the places that I go to.

Lisa: That's very cool. And so your process seems a little bit digital and a little bit hand drawn and how are those worlds colliding for you?

Andrea: Yeah, I am not, you know, very comfortable with computer and learning how to do things digitally. I'm more of a fine artist and really like the hands on painting and drawing. But just as I've explored and tried to push my work into new areas or new concepts, sometimes the digital just is a better medium to go with. And I've enjoyed learning and growing and those areas in my work too.

Lisa: Yeah, do you use like a like an iPad or a stylus or something?

Andrea: No, I actually use... it's all hand drawn. It's all on a piece of Moleskine Adobe paper and I take a photo of the paper with an app and it vectorizes it. Which is awesome because that used to be a huge headache and I don't want to have headaches like that anymore. So I figured it out in a way that I like to do.

Lisa: That's awesome. Yeah, that's super cool. And I love how you still like doodle on things and it kind of elevates their existence in the world like your snowboard helmet or coffee mugs and things like that where you kind of just seem to flow.

Andrea: I love to flow.

Lisa: Yeah. And I noticed you're a big fan of what the kids call guess-o or gesso. [both laugh] That was my favorite moment that I've had with you so far was when someone used the word guess-o and we just looked at each other.

Andrea: Yeah, just like yep. Yep. They did.

Lisa: Yep, guess-o. I kind of like that though because you can turn anything into an archivally stable surface and the world is yours.

Andrea: It's endless opportunities, is what it does.

Lisa: What's the strangest artistic surface that you have created and then drawn on?

Andrea: Ooh, strangest. Yeah, you know, I don't know if it was strange, but I really really enjoyed painting on a Coalition snowboard at a pop-up event recently. That was just fun. Felt really groovy and just flowy. I guess learning how to paint on a backpack just like the different materials. I guess that would be like the strange part. Sometimes there are some workarounds or some experiments that have to happen before you just go straight on it with the marker.

Lisa: Yeah.

Andrea: Yeah.

Lisa: But you can't be scared.

Andrea: No. No, you just gotta go for it. It's permanent marker.

Lisa: Yeah it is and then it's immortalized on Instagram.

Andrea: It's caught. And if I time lapse video it, like, shoot. Like I gotta go for it.

Lisa: Absolutely. That's fun. So yeah, you are on our podcast... your episode airs in April and your topic along with everyone else on the podcast in the month of April is negotiation. And so I'm very excited to talk to you about the ways that we as artists negotiate. Whether that's in business or like negotiations with ourselves.

Andrea: Mmm. You're thinking what I'm thinking!

Lisa: Kind of that like self-talk and how we just how we kind of go around in the world as a creative soul.

Andrea: Just negotiating like inside and outside and inside and outside.

Lisa: Yeah.

Andrea: Inner outer inner outer. It's... there are so many ways.

Lisa: So I'm curious. What does that word negotiation mean to you and how... yeah, let's just start there. What does it mean to you?

Andrea: Okay. Well if there's anything about my work is that I really love to go down a research dive. So I got some definitions for our podcast today.

Lisa: Oh!

Andrea: yeah, and I got I got some thoughts. And I want to say, the first thing that when you hear the word like negotiation is I went straight to the noun of negotiating a project or work of art with a client and like how do you make money? But then like artists, like you were saying at the beginning, we also... there's a verb version that is to move through around or over in a satisfactory manner and I think just living a creative life is, you know, you’re kind of negotiating where your time is where your value is. Are you outside and what are your experiences? Are you reflecting inward? Are you out learning from other people? You're like going in and out.

Lisa: Yeah. What do you think that?

Andrea: Well I think there's a lot of reflection that comes with a creative process and there's lots of areas that you can get that from so you're just kind of negotiating where and when that's happening in your process.

Lisa: Absolutely. What does that look like for you? Or can you think of a specific example of a time where you were had to negotiate inside and then outside, internally and externally?

Andrea: I have a very good one that I dealt with this morning.

Lisa: Ooh. I'm ready.

Andrea: Yeah, and that is: I want to be snowboarding every single day. It is great to my process. It's fun. It's what I love to do. And I also really much enjoy creating work and challenging myself to take on projects and you know, push myself that way creatively. And this morning it was kind of like, do I create, do I go snowboard? Do I create or do I go snowboard? And negotiating with myself where am I going to be best today?

Lisa: What did you come up with?

Andrea: I worked. And it's like, that’s my favorite negotiation that I like to have with myself ever because I want to just like ski ski ski ski, but that's what I'm going to do all weekend. So we had a good negotiation myself and I.

Lisa: Right, and yeah like placing some type of rational thought around what you're doing and I mean, I have to negotiate with myself all the time to try to really place importance around how you spend your time.

Andrea: Yeah.

Lisa: Yeah.

Andrea: And then that feeds into how you negotiate your work. And what's the value of your time and your Creative Energy?

Lisa: That's the ongoing question, right?

Andrea: That's the ongoing question of being a creative and figuring it out every day.

Lisa: Aside from financially, but like what are some types of value that you place on your work?

Andrea: Well, I think... In terms of like, you know looking at the negotiation again is I really negotiate where my values and my views of art negotiate with what sort of business or product that I'm creating or producing. Yeah.

Lisa: Yeah and like sometimes it's weird to think about that time is money, especially when you're creating art and you get so into it that you could like... and I mean, I feel like when I'm really working on Fine Art, I can like time travel where I'm like, whoa that was eight hours.

Andrea: You are literally flowing that is the psychological definition of it.

Lisa: And then it's like, you don't even want to monetize your time, right, because then you…

Andrea: No because I feel so good! Sorry. Sorry to cut you off but it feels good when you're creating. Yeah, and you feel bad taking money for it sometimes.

Lisa: Or like, you know, then it kind of becomes instead of like a time for money exchange. It's like here's here's the product and then that's what I exchange the money for and I don't really care about the time. That's how I have to look at it because I do think creating makes you into a time traveler.

Andrea: It really does.

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Iris: So Andrea talks about how valuing your work as an artist and putting a dollar sign on your own creative time can feel kind of awkward because you're creating art because it feels good not necessarily because you're trying to make money. And so moving into being a professional artist can feel weird.

Lisa; It really can feel weird. Because then your work becomes commercial and your work is… and the intention behind your work is to have an end goal of some sort, whether it's communicating something or making a product look a certain way and it becomes less about what's in your soul and more about the end-user working and interacting with your art. So that is a really big transition that a lot of artists go through.

Iris: And artists particularly more than like almost any other realm of work often get asked to do things like for free or like people assume that they'll do things are free. So you really do have to be almost aggressive about valuing yourself and valuing your time and stand up for yourself and that can be really hard.

Lisa: It can just be awkward because it's not a skill set that you practice in art school. I went to art school and they never were like, “hey and here's how you tell someone to ‘F. You pay me.’”

Iris: Yeah, exactly.

Lisa: They don't do that.

Iris: You should get some negotiation classes maybe.

Lisa: Yeah negotiation classes would be very helpful for art students.

Iris: Yeah, and no one would go up to someone who owns a restaurant and be like, hey, can I get some free tacos? They’d be like no, you can’t.

Lisa: Or, I’ll only pay for these tacos if I like them.

Iris: Yeah. Let me let me try your tacos and then if I really like them, maybe I'll give you some money. That's not how that works. So artists if you feel a little bit awkward about asking for money, it's okay.

Lisa: Do it.

Iris: Yeah. Okay. Let's get back to Andrea.

Lisa: I don't know for me, I have to manage other artists and so I'm sure for you managing students as well, like hey, you're in class for an hour. Here's what we have to get done. And you know, just trying to like be realistic with like guiding that process and putting a period on it at the end of the time section. How do you how do you handle that? Do you just let everybody take their work home or are you like, done. Turn it in.

Andrea: No, I mean, there's like, you know, you just... like you said, you have to be reasonable about what is the time that you're going to be putting in this. And in my classroom, you know, I will give a week and I'll tell students like that means that, you know, for 50 minutes today you can't... like if you're on your phone for ten minutes every day, you've you've wasted an entire day out of your week essentially. And so I have, like, very clear, like, kind of conversations with my students around how are you balancing your time? Where are you getting work done? Where are you creating? Yeah, and just like being truthful.

Lisa: That's amazing. I wish I had you as an art teacher in high school.

Andrea: I keep it very real and just put it into perspective because I don't take the sorry story of “my project’s not done” and I'm like you could have totally done this if I didn't watch you watch YouTube videos everyday.

Lisa: Yeah, because they have their phones in class.

Andrea: Yeah, and YouTube is a great resource. So I'd much rather teach my students how to incorporate that into their processes and I really hope my students try to figure out like, what do they need to create? Because that's the hard part about being an artist is figuring out your own self.

Lisa: Yeah.

Andrea: Yeah.

Lisa: Well, what do you need to create? What do you think?

Andrea: I need an equal balance of being out in my world and also inward and with myself. So inward with myself would be sketching, Plein Air painting out in the woods, spending time outside. That's that's my refuel time. And then outside is getting out and seeing new art, meeting new people, having new experiences. They go... they go hand in hand.

Lisa: I agree. Do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert or work or one of those Omniverts or something? Like how do you, how do you think about yourself in those buckets?

Andrea: I've always kind of thought of myself as the extroverted introvert if you've ever heard that explained. But it's like, I know how to be extroverted and I like being extroverted but there's a time and a place for it for me and it takes a lot of energy.

Lisa: Mhmm. I’m the same way, but you're also very very funny. And I think that…

Andrea: [laughs] I think you’re funny! If I could have a whole podcast of just your... I'm going to pitch this right now because I thought of it before, if I could just have a whole podcast of your Wheelie Creative infomercials that happen… I pull it up like probably frequently because they're good.

Lisa: Thank you. They're really weird. I'm recording a lot more. There's going to be like a dating app one and there's going to be some more food service ones and things like so I'm pretty into it.

Andrea: I love it. Just like fly your freak flag and never stop.

Lisa: But I think I think humor is like this really difficult concept to master and I think you actually have to be pretty introverted and introspective to be able to like point out why something is silly or like make fun of something. And I think that I can kind of see that in your personality that you're like thinking about things, you know, but you're very like funny. So I think you've got a good balance going whatever you're doing.

Andrea: Well, thank you. And I agree with you. There's like an element of just absorbing your every day and finding the funny parts in it that are just fun.

Lisa: Yeah. So question for you because the last time I saw you was around Outdoor Retailer, was at Outdoor Retailer and so how is your outdoor industry career going? And did you always want to work with the brands that you're working with? Or did you always want to be an art teacher or did you just like fall into a bunch of luck? Because people are seeing your work on Instagram. Like how is this whole thing going for you?

Andrea: Whoa. Yeah. So how is it going for me? I feel like it's going great, you know. I first started sharing just my sketchbook images on Instagram in like 2015 and it started as a result of just feeling really disconnected with my artist self. I'd been teaching for a few years and in your first few years of teaching there's you can't really do much else than focus on that job. It takes some experience to feel like you're comfortable enough in your classroom before you're like, I'm gonna go practice more art on the weekends. But that was all kind of the learning and growth and I just started sharing images and from sharing images and from looking deeper into myself and what makes me an artist and how could I be more authentic to my artist self to be a better teacher just a lot of reflection and growth there is led to some really really fun experiences. And my favorite thing about being an artist is the people I get to meet, the people I get to hang out with, learn from… it’s a cool like thing to do in society, like you can meet so many people and connect through art and that's what I'm most thankful for. So the brands that I'm working with, the projects that I'm signing up for, I'm just really excited to be collaborating in a space that I love and that's the outdoors.

Lisa: Yeah. And do you feel that your work raises any questions about nature or solves problems or looks cool like what what purpose do you think that your art serves within the outdoor industry?

Andrea: I really look at you know, the research and the history and the like nerdy dives that I take when I'm exploring a place or experiencing a place or whatever have you that I'm going to do. If I'm, you know, I'm like one of those people at like a state park that reads every single sign of like every species there and like nerd out. And when I'm sketching and when I'm sharing these works, like I always come back to the words of the quotes that I felt or that I learned from that place. And I want people to see my work and kind of see the playful, see the informative, see the wondrous, and start to have those ideas around nature. Because there's a lot of places and a lot of things that we can learn from the people there or the landscapes themselves.

Lisa: Wow.

Andrea: Yeah, I don't know where that came from, but I liked it. [both laugh] But yeah, but I think it's really informative and I think it kind of comes back to I'm just a really big teacher at heart.

Lisa: Yeah.

Andrea: I like to make learning cool.

Lisa: I think that that's exactly what you are doing because I find myself when you like post some, you know, some type of drawing that has words in it, I read every word. And then I go through, I like look at it and I'm like, that's really cool. But I read every single word. And you know, in a fast-paced society where you're just like scrolling and like next, next, next, I find that I linger in like a non stalker way, but just in an appreciative way on your photos that you post.

Andrea: Well, thank you. And I think there's something cool about there's a handwritten element to it. I love snail mail. And so it's just another way that I can connect that way with my viewers.

Lisa: That's so cool.

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Lisa: I really like what Andrea just said about being a teacher at heart and kind of a teacher as a lifestyle and, you know, doing research and educating people and I love her approach on that and I bet she's just the coolest teacher.

Iris: Mmhmm. And I love the way that she incorporates the written word in her pieces. As someone who isn't much of a visual artist, but I like to write, I love reading her art because it's kind of the crossroads of the two, it’s art and it's language, which is an art in itself.

Lisa: I freaking love her theory of collaboration with nature and I think that anybody who works in the outdoor industry can kind of take a little nugget of advice from that and think about how you can collaborate with nature. Even if you're going on a photo shoot and you know, you have to deal with the weather the way it is or models or athletes the way that they are that day, you know viewing it as a stage for collaboration. And not always an end goal.

Iris: Give-and-take instead of just take.

Lisa: Yeah, so I really I really love that approach and I see why her work is so so organically appealing as well.

Iris: Mmm. Let's get back to Andrea.

Lisa: What is your advice to… okay. Well, let me back up. I'm getting ahead of myself. So our audience is largely, like creative, brand managers, marketing managers, entrepreneurs, journalists everybody. That's the people that listen to the podcast. And so what's your advice to someone on the brand side who is going to work with... I'm going to, I consider you a fine artist, you know, but what's your advice to someone who's going to work on an artist?

Andrea: My advice is you know to really look at what collaboration means. And when I'm collaborating I love, you know, learning about the brand, learning about their needs, their wants, and then also being true to what my artist self is. So so kind of seeing the best of both worlds. And looking at collaboration as engaging in the creative process together as opposed to a lot of direction or you know, like a set idea. Because creativity and creative ideas is hard to nail down right ahead. So kind of let the process go and trust that.

Lisa: Yeah, have I told you my thing about like creativity and conflict and how... it kind of comes back to negotiation. But I really don't I don't mind hard conversations and conflict because I view it as an opportunity to create a solution. Or think about things differently. And I mean, I think you're spot on with the... so much of creativity is the process as much as the end result. And you know, do you ever have a hard time bringing creativity into your commercial side of like the business side of your brain?

Andrea: Yeah, and you know, as I continue to work with different projects or stretch where I want to put my art I'm really reflective on how they make me feel and just trying to be true, you know, to the projects that I really enjoy doing and can pursue more like them. And then being truthful in the projects that I didn't necessarily care working on or that, you know, didn't really mesh well with my style and just learning from them.

Lisa: Yeah, it seems like you don't really get held held down and bogged down by, you know feelings of imperfection which a lot of artists struggle with. It seems like you’re pretty good about taking things as a learning opportunity.

Andrea: I think I've spent enough years teaching people to do that I convinced myself.

Lisa: That's good. That's a lot of yeah, that's that's a tough one because I think…

Andrea: Yeah, but it's still hard. It's still hard some days.

Lisa: And having attachment to your work is like so much of what makes artists great.

Andrea: Yeah. There's like a part of you if you're really flowing on something. It's in your work and that's... you want that to represent you as close as it possibly can.

Lisa: So what are three things, three projects that you're just stoked on right now?

Andrea: That I'm just stoked on right now? The first big one that I did a lot today on was working on the next issue of Sisu magazine, doing some cool stuff there. And… top three, I'm really, you know, had a good OR and I really want to get a snowboard design out there. So I'm going to be following up on some things there I'm excited about. And you know, I want to start looking at what my summer is going to look like if I'm going to have any trips planned for some works or just you know, what I want to do in my studio. And I got a mural coming up to that's going to be cool. I like drawing on people's walls. So like if anyone wants me to on their walls, like I love it.

Lisa: We'll probably have you draw on our walls at the Wheelie creative HQ.

Andrea: Oh my gosh, please. I'll... just just give me a marker. That’s all I want, it’s all I need.

Lisa: And then you'd have to come all the way up to Whitefish. So you’d probably have to go to Glacier National Park too.

Andrea: I would be fine if there was like snowboarding and snow involved.

Lisa: Yeah!

Andrea: If we can negotiate something like that.

Lisa: I bet we could. I noticed you're very inspired by landscapes. Is there any landscape that you're not inspired by and you really have no interest in drawing?

Andrea: You know, I don't care to draw man-made things like cityscapes and straight lines. I can but I don't... it's no, I want it to be natural. I want it to be flowy.

Lisa: Mmm-hmm. What about like a yurt? Does a yurt pass or is that too man-made?

Andrea: I could do a yurt, but it have to be like surrounded by a crap ton of trees. And like in a nice cozy spot.

Lisa: Perfect. Yeah, that's cool. I'm just seeing how far these boundaries go. [laughs] I'm just so excited to see what you do next.

Andrea: Oh, thank you. I… yeah, I'm excited to share, you know and just keep following the process and finding what, you know, makes me curious. That's really kind of where I start with a project is am I curious or not? And if I am then like let's go for it.

Lisa: Yeah. Oh gosh. Well, thank you for being on the podcast and being an amazing bright light in our industry and just an all-around badass.

Andrea: Well, thank you and thank you for sharing, you know, the high fives and the stoke and for making me laugh on an afternoon chat here. It’s been really fun.

Lisa: Yeah, really fun.

Lisa: Thanks for being on the podcast today, Andrea. You're awesome. And I'm really glad that you're my new friend because I think we have tons and tons of cool things to talk about every time we hang out. So I look forward to seeing you again in Colorado.

Iris: Thanks so much Andrea, you can follow Andrea on Instagram @drawingfromnature and we have also included her website and a link to the newest Sisu magazine. So you can find those in the show notes. And don't forget to subscribe to our show. We have new episodes every Thursday and for the rest of the month, we'll be talking more about negotiation.

Lisa: Party on party people.

Iris: Have a great week.

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