Artist Interview with Tracy Piper

I sat down with Tracy Piper, an extraordinary, San Francisco-based gallery artist recently to chat about her creative journey. Her current exhibition, “Worthy” is now at Art Attacks in San Francisco! To see more of Tracy’s work, you can click here!

So what kickstarted your painting career?

My love for painting really blossomed while in College at CCA. I thought I was going to be this comic book artist going into school but after some stellar teachers directed me towards painting I fell head over heels for it. I’ve been painting ever since.

What has your career journey been like?

Truthfully it’s been a lot of work, but I’ve also been really blessed in the contacts I’ve made over the course of my career. My first show was at Nieto Fine Art Gallery in Downtown SF before I even graduated college. They took a chance on me and showed me with another painter and it was really successful. From there I’ve steadily just pushed and pushed and had some real big stepping stones. Getting to have a solo in NY with Art Now NY, showing at SCOPE (Miami and NY), SELECT Miami, Spectrum Miami (ALOT of Art Basel Miami), has really helped to put my work on the map. 

I did take a break when I was pregnant and the first year of my son’s life. At the time it felt like I was going backwards in terms of my career but I now realize it was one of the guiding forces into the work I am doing today. Having him really solidified what it is I wanted to put out in the world for the next generation. Once I came back I think my work really just exploded and I’ve had such a great response from the work I am making today. 

What is the message of your art today?

My goal with my work is to shake the normal narrative up and show under-represented communities that they are just as worthy of a spot in a museum as what’s actually up. It’s a radical thing being a woman making work about LGBTQ, POC, and tough social subjects and actually seeing success from it. So I am thankful that I have this little platform to speak my mind about the injustice I see in the world and for it to have an impact.

From what artists did you help find your style?

The three major artists that influenced the painter I am include, Andrew Loomis, Jenny Saville and Shawn Barber (whom I took a class from in school and dang he’s good). I also looked at a ton of 50’s-70’s illustration in college and those looks really informed some of the choices I make today.

What advice can you offer other artists?

Here are some key points of wisdom for other painters:

Define what success means to you, and chase that goal.

DO NOT UNDERSELL YOURSELF. As an artist, I know there are times when you doubt your talent but do not under-price your pieces. Be reasonable when you start out creating, because your goal at the beginning is to gain collectors. But I’ve seen new artists sell their work for almost nothing and you de-value yourself and your hard work when you do that.

Find artists and galleries with similar styles to your’s, and become a regular at their shows. You won’t want to push your art on them initially, but over time, they will notice you, and ask to learn more about your pieces. Keep it casual and get to know your community.

When you do find a gallery that wants to show your work, don’t immediately jump at the first opportunity. You want to find a curator that really likes your style, and wants to find the perfect home for your art. It’s a two-way street and you want to make sure your work will move.

Don’t be afraid to get out there and show your work! Don’t keep old paintings hidden in the vault. Try to sell them if you can, instead of letting them collect dust.

Find a group of friends, family, and other artists to give you honest feedback on your pieces. This is an opportunity to learn, and decide if your work is saying what you think it’s saying. 

Be prepared to invest in yourself. This is a business and you will have to put your own capital into it. If you feel unsure investing in yourself look hard at why.

Selling art is a long game. You won’t sell automatically and it comes in waves. Be prepared to wait out those long times.

If you decide to make prints, NEVER EVER make them the same size as your work. It just de-values the original. 

HAVE FUN! If you are hating every step of the way, you aren’t going to make it. We all go through slumps and periods of doubt and worry, but at the end of the day you have to want to live and breathe painting. If you don’t you won’t make it, because it really is that hard.


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