Ed. Note: Today, we’re speaking with artist Robyn O’Neil whose work is new to me, but I can say with all honesty: her work moves me beyond words. I’m so thrilled she took the time to speak with us.
1) You are an artist. What’s the day-to-day of a working artist like, in real life?
A typical day for me is to wander into my studio which is just a living room transformed into a studio. And then I simply draw all day with a few breaks to eat some food. The last hour or so of my day is always set aside for reading, which I consider vital to being a visual artist. It should be vital to any career actually.
I love the simplicity of my everyday, and would have it no other way. I’ve never needed much aside from solitude and lots of tv while I work. I like to quote writer Patricia Highsmith when thinking about the temperament that led me to being an artist who makes such time-consuming drawings that don’t allow for much else in my daily life:
“My imagination functions much better when I don’t have to speak to people.”
2) What are your preferred subjects, and what would you consider to be the main goal of your work?
I often call myself a landscape painter even though I don’t make paintings. It’s just the easiest way for a person to get a very general idea of what I’m doing. The “painter” part is just completely untrue though because I make only drawings/works on paper. No paint involved. Just a mechanical pencil from the office supply store. People often think of drawings as the thing artists do in order to plan their real work, so it’s uncommon to be an artist who chooses drawing as their sole medium. But I love everything about it and it suits my nature.
There are so many reasons I do this, but the main goal would probably be that I’ve always wanted to show that the unassuming and quiet are just as powerful, if not more-so, as the loud and garish. So I try to prove to viewers that a subtle, black and white drawing can hold its own next to an explosion of color, glitter, or even something as extravagant as a laser show.
3) You also have a very cool project that’s part podcast, part performance art called ME READING STUFF. Can you tell us how it got started?
I don’t see my podcast as performance art, but I suppose it is a sort of side step entry-point into the life of a working artist. An artist who loves writers above all other people. It started a couple of years ago when I began recording myself reading my favorite poems for my friend, the artist Iva Gueorguieva. It was a way to share the things I love with someone I knew would care, and a way to keep her company when I couldn’t be with her in person. After a few of these, I taught myself how to mix and publish podcasts by watching a 4-minute YouTube video made by a 12-year old. (ed. note: this is amazing.)
My goal has always been to keep it short. They’re all 10 minutes or less. I stay as honest as possible; I am emotionally free and do not worry that my vulnerability might be uncomfortable for listeners. I encourage people to support writers and small presses buy simply buying books. And even though my entire life has been spent creating and sharing things, nothing has fed my soul more than producing ME READING STUFF.
4) I’ve actually been surprised that the resurgence in radio plays or serialized audio performance hasn’t been larger. Do you have any goals to expand the podcast, or just keep on keeping on?
I grew up loving radio, radio personalities, and talk radio in general. Radio has kept me company in my studio for countless hours, and I’ve always thought of it as almost uncomfortably intimate. The human voice isolated the way it is in radio and podcasting is staggering in a way not many things are.
I haven’t tried to make money off of the podcast, which is incredibly dumb of me because by some miracle, I’m one of the highest rated literature podcasts out there. I am just not a natural marketer, so I wouldn’t know the first thing about how to expand ME READING STUFF. I just know how to hit record at this point. I’m happy with the sort of grassroots style I’m doing things, so for now I’ll just keep putting them out there every Thursday!
5) If our readers are interested in learning more about your work or supporting your projects, how can they keep in touch with you?
I keep everyone informed of what’s going on with me on Twitter and Instagram. My handle is @robyn_oneil
ME READING STUFF can be found on iTunes and Podomatic: http://mereadingstuff.podomatic.com