In today’s episode, we’re following the incredible, winding road of career pivots, big life changes, and unexpected shifts with my friend Joan LeMay.
Joan is a portraitist, painter and illustrator who is interested in capturing the true soul of the subject she’s painting. She is also the Illustrator for her upcoming book with Alex Pappademas, Quantum Criminals: Ramblers, Wild Gamblers, Babylon Sisters, and Other Soul Survivors from the Songs of Steely Dan.
We also discuss:
Music. Welcome to all up in my lady business I am your host Mary nisi on this podcast all explore the fine line between having it together I'm losing your shit. Here I share my journey as an entrepreneur a mom a wife a DJ and randomly a beekeeper I have no shame and no filter except the ones I use on Instagram my stories of resilience a little structure and a lot of resource Wellness can show you how to take those same things and live your life with your. Music. So John thanks so much for being on today and joining us from England where it's six hours ahead so it's very reasonable hour there I'd love to for you to go into just kind of give us a little bit of a backstory who are you. What like what so you're an artist you worked in the music industry I've known you for a very long time hmm who are you. Who is John LeMay who am I that I've been asking myself that question yeah so I'm from the thriving Metropolis of Katy Texas I which I which I credit I'm I'm thankful that I'm then I'm from. Pretty. Dark suburb small town situation because I think being in those environments causes you to get creative and causes you to make your own fun if you're someone who's naturally inclined to not just accept what. You see as your options and accept what you see is reality so I went into Houston a ton to go to shows I was a you know I'm 43 I would go into Houston to see punk rock shows and all kinds of you know weird bands on what have you play starting from when I was like 14 13 14 years old and Houston's scene at the time bands didn't always make it down bands tend to 22 or through Austin and then and then take a turn up and over so that meant that also the local scene was really really, thriving as to make their own fun absolutely so that was a really good University to come up in. Started making fancy and started playing and you know little bands that didn't really do anything and by do anything I mean like even play actual shows but I started a fanzine when I was a teenager that was called out of order and I had gotten really into reading Richard Meltzer. And decided yeah exactly for all the listeners that's an appropriate phase of like really that was your Turning Point why was weirdly Meltzer writing about bangs was my introduction to bangs which was, put made me want to write about music and I had this fanzine and I figured out and I had a fake ID I was a very entrepreneurial youth AKA I stole a lot of things and sold them back I sold drugs for several years I had a lot of this in high school. This isn't this is when it between the ages of 14 and. Not quite 17 dealing drugs in high school I was dealing drugs in high school I used to have this I was selling acid and weed it was nothing you know nothing this is Suburban Texas sure it was it was the 90s no one was getting into that and it was you know I'll tell you what five bucks, for a hit of acid and all of a sudden High School wasn't the hellscape that you thought it was for the day that you that you took that shit so. So I was doing all of these things had my fans a night and I had a fake ID and I figured out that I could. Talk to all of the musicians that I really admired and whose work I was curious about bike interviewing them and I was shocked by how many and when I was like a 15 16 year old kid how many Pete like Kelley deal talk to me whoa Ultima descendants talk to me all these people gave me were you. Were you email like we weren't emailing them are you writing them letters how are you getting a hold of them I was writing letters and letters in the mail I had a I had a little pin pal ship for a. Hot minute with Kim from Jaw Box who I later later on when I worked with Jessica Hopper who was just on your podcast he. Did PR for DeSoto records and it was really special to be like I remember when I wrote basically a fan letter to like you playing you being a woman playing bass is so inspiring to me blah blah blah blah and now I'm like mildly annoyed with her because I'm waiting on an email or something like that it's funny how that stuff comes around but I yeah so I would write letters and I would also tell I developed a relationship with primarily this club called fitzgeralds that had an all-ages space downstairs called Zelda's and I would. Show up real early and talk to them and be like and I would just hang around outside and wait for a van to pull up and be like hey can I talk to you for my fans and they were like oh this poor little kid sure, see I was doing the same thing and all I was trying to do was get was autographs. Yeah like sure I'm CDs you are actually doing something with it actually making yourself useful being a part of the machine. I was asking I'm sure some hard hidden questions I'll tell you yeah so did that and then that forayed into doing like street team stuff for Grand Royal and holiday matinee if you remember them they were promotions company and putting on little shows and booking little tours whatever Houston was just a great it was just a great I'm getting it super in the weeds with if I stay at this pace I'm never going to get to like where I am now talk about it it's also I think it's very interesting stuff I think that it gives back story that I don't think we think about too much is like me how much the foundation of what we did when we were younger kind of still Echoes throughout our lives in many ways. Don't go for you to people and entrepreneurs I think that we were doing things when we were younger that we didn't realize were important the things our parents were kind of giving a shit for or your friends kind of made fun of you for or the things that you secretly were super into like those are the things that echo through your life and I think it's important to think about and talk about those things and for people to hear it as well. So I don't think this is the way that all I think this is an okay great great great great yeah I fully agree and those times those kind of foundational Times Really set me up. In all the ways you just discussed for sort of the rest of of. Over the next several decades I suppose in terms so you so you graduated from graduating high school assuming yeah yeah and then we're and then where do you go, barely so the week I graduate high school and go I get in a van or no I don't get in a van I get in my car behind a van that is populated. By hardcore band named injury. And we go on tour to although to towards Chicago and I call my father from Tulsa, from a pay phone outside of a gas station and I say Dad I'm not coming home and he goes on no and oh he did that was the end yeah you were amazing. I was unsupervised and I went on this tour I knew I wanted to end up in Chicago I was in love with. The everything was happening there musically and I used to drive back and forth between Houston Chicago all the time on what jokingly got referred to later as the emo Highway because fans would they would come down to Houston all the times like Sarge was playing all the time but all the time promise rings great compound read was playing all the time there was like a giant compound red oh yeah talk to James minor nari but the other day that's how me and Elizabeth Elmer was my roommate we lived together for years and now she's like a lawyer at the Hague yeah. She's yeah she's at she's like living in Jordan or something but she's like doing still like human rights moist law stuff. She's not what I thought was going to be in the bag for her nope nobody ever knows you know it's a cosmic gumbo a rich tapestry yeah she's amazing. So you're you tell your dad you're never coming home and you run off and join the circus that is Chicago. Yeah well yeah and I did I did come home but I didn't I never lived at home again and I was that was when it was May. That was in May and I was 17. I came back to Houston and lived in a bunch of punk houses and put on shows and went to the University of Houston for a couple of years double majoring in journalism and. Art and the double major it was just because I couldn't uh had corporate Columbia had to take and I couldn't stand it and I just in order to like deal with being in school I kept taking art classes and it turned into a double major anyway. Dropped out because I was introduced to Jessica Hopper. From a mutual friend of ours this guy Billy from the blue meanies and. Yep and he was like Joan there's somebody I think you need to know Shira you remind me a lot of each other and she she wants somebody to work with her and we talked on the phone and she was like do you want to be my right-hand person because the person she'd been working with this woman named Teeter was leaving and and I was like yes and then I moved to Chicago and I worked with her for several years and we say I feel like I dated her almost because we worked. You know five feet away from each other 5 days a week and went to shows several times a week like we spent so much concentrated time together for those years and they were really formative Years also. When was this. This was to this was like that ass end of 99 2000 2001 2002 yes and then Dave Lewis who guy named Dave Lewis who had been working with us had left and started his own PR firm called Riot Act I stopped working with hops and wanted to write full-time and I wrote as a freelance music writer full-time for a hot like six months and I was living in a. Really questionable studio apartment. On California Street and there were with an interior doors the exterior door there were gunshots all the time but like I knew that all the dudes and neighborhood were I was cool with them all because I do are you doing and they'd be like hey you all right like checking on me making sure I'm okay and so I felt safe but it was oh boy it was sketch yeah you were using the resources at your disposal to make your life as comfortable as possible. Oh yeah absolutely so yeah writing wasn't going to be a thing and Dave Lewis. Offered me a job with him and which I which I took. To be a partner in his company and then shortly thereafter he got another offer another opportunity and offered me the company and then I took over Riot Act media. And right act was just full-time writing was a PR. It was PR okay I just I missed a huge chunk of my life I just realized that was I was I just told all that and then I was like no that's way later God yeah so NVM scratch that that's wrong what happened it just in a different order walking it happen in a different order so I wrote and then I fell in love with somebody who lived in in Seattle. Okay and I got offered a job booking the Crocodile Cafe and Seattle and I moved to Seattle and this was in 2000 that is a that is a big chunk so you're not medicago at this point you've moved you've moved to Seattle, it's a huge chunk and I had massive things so I moved to Seattle I remember showing up in Seattle at the crocodile because my, boyfriend at the time was on tour and I remember showing up at the crocodile for my first day of work with from, SeaTac with my suitcase that wasn't a rolling through case it was like an old-timey like where does the girl get a hot drink in this town like I don't think I had a suitcase with wheels until like 2010. Yeah no it was really like such a that's what a posh luxury item absolutely this is from a thrift store man yeah yeah but I think tonight. Down three peruse that doesn't it is hobo code days oh yeah God. Absolutely so yeah I moved to Seattle you go to the crocodile you got your your. Duct tape suitcase yeah yeah and I booked the crocodile Coco booked the crocodile I should say for how long probably. 10 months something like that not not super long and then got off her heard a job at sub pop and then I worked at sub pop and this is the time at you, that is when we met worked at sub pop and was there until 2007 this is when I was in touch with Dave Lewis so Dave Lewis was Chicago times but we reconnected in 2007 and he offered me the opportunity to work with him and I took him up on that right act media still exists fantastic Boutique PR company I took it over by it still exists down yes run handily by Nathan Walker do you have a hand give a an interest in that. No no I don't I it was given to me so I gave it to him beautiful, yeah it's both a blessing and a curse to have an indie rock PR Company so it you know what I mean so it I because I mean you know it's like, the whole thing with indie rock and is rock and general is trying to maintain the cred and trying to maintain like the the cool thing that kept you there but like. Money is a real need. And like it's like this concept of selling out is such a terrible thing but the need for money is also a terrible thing and the commodification of Art and we I mean we're going to talk about that but I mean that is to have to promote yourself is antithetical but if you don't promote yourself the no one can find you but then if two people find you then you sold it's like this. Ouroboros like you can't really solve it's a tangled web for super sure it's a whole deal but it was. It was truly truly a joyful experience to get to helm that company when I did and to get to grow it to an eight-person firm. Because we really you know we worked with a ton of baby banz which is such. Difficult work to get an in order to get anybody to care or listen you have to have trust with them you have to have actual relationships with. Writers and be like I think you will use specifically will specifically like this and they have to go on this is coming from Joan I will listen to it or odd this is Nathan I will listen to it and that's amazing to have that kind of. I guess I use that word again the people did trust you and believe in you and you say you're working with baby bands are there any of these baby banz it became like bigger vans, yeah the first thing that pops in - Torres we also worked with like seba do and we worked with, you know we was it wasn't all baby bands but we worked with a wide variety of people we worked with the whole Bloomsbury 33 and a third book series we worked with K we worked with. Screaming females we work with a bunch of people I guess I'm going to ask you to brag about yourself but I mean is there like a through line of like seeing these bands come and their baby bands and they get big because of the the work that you're doing like you're able to take them to the next level. I think what's often tough in or was and I cannot at all because I've been out of the game for long enough that I can't speak to how it is now but how it was then was a band you would work with them to up to a certain point and then once they reached. A certain level of. Once they got signed once they got some really big tours once they got some really big press once they started getting buzzed then other agencies would get interested or if they got signed to a label that had in-house PR so a lot of the time we would. You know. Play our part in helping the awareness seed to sprout and then somebody else would swoop in and. Yeah it's like that story when REM was going from IRS to remember who they were going to but they but they basically it was like they're there. Their contract was up and IRS specifically said that their contract was me with a million dollars that would force the next label to take over for them to have to pay them that much like it was a it was like it was like. What's that called when you price-fixing it's like her or whatever you know the kind of like is it kind of like that you're really trying to get them to the point where they could then become expensive for another label well no it was it was it was like always sad when they were it's always sad it was like this has been great, for the next record so and so said they would work Us free and it's like oh all right well. Okay I can't offer that to you so there you know it wasn't a joyous and it wasn't a good thing I guess from those bands mostly know and and and some band stayed with us for quite a while but others it's cheaper for labels to have an in-house PR person than it is for them to hire out Boutique agencies so. So you've got so how long were you doing Riot Act I did write out when we count when you say so. Seven seven seven years seven years old 14. Eight years something like Stalin Seattle no so I lived in Seattle till 2007 and then I moved to Portland. And I was in and I was doing right act from Portland for four years and then I moved to New York and I was doing right act from New York for a few years and in the very last. See MJ we had we always had our cmj showcase at Pete's Candy Store it was always a delight the very last TMJ what's that I loved Pete's Candy Store that was so whenever go to New York just going there is it still it doesn't exist anymore does it. But yeah it does it does okay all right yeah yeah unless. Unless it doesn't and I've been left the pandemic gobbled it up I just don't hear about it but why would I hear about it I'm a million years old and I live in Chicago anyway moving like so you're so you're living in New York you're running you're doing your last cmj except Showcase of Pete's. And at that showcase it was I had gotten to the point of real burnout with being a publicist and with being in music in general and at that showcase I saw all of the other publicist who work with me really Beyond engaged and really everybody was having a good time and it was a great night and there were tons of writers there and it was this warm lovely thing. And I had this realization that. Right I didn't need me anymore and that it was time to go and that I wasn't doing myself any favors by staying and. I walked home from there and on the walk home I was just like I'm done. And it was a really it was one of those sort of snap snap things for your like this is I this is it. And I've been doing interior Decor work the past the previous couple of years on the side to just diversify also because of said burnout with music industry stuff. And I've always painted and I had been doing more of that as well and so as I go right I'm going to make the decision to retire from music and I'm going to try putting all my eggs in both the interior Decor business. Basket and the painting basket and resting what an interesting pivot it was quite a pivoting it was a there was a lot of like crying on the floor it was a heart-wrenching kind of decision to make and it was an it was interesting it was a decision like usually those kind of pivots are forced on you and it's interesting that you looked around at this success at all of your baby PR people out there doing your work for you and recognizing like I need to move on like that's impressive. But also the fact that it's put you in a new turmoil you know like you you it's like you had to Chrysalis it your way out of it like you came out of a cocoon you became something and then he went back into a cocoon with the crying on the floor because I'm familiar with these moves. Oh yeah they're they're they're time-honored moves I'm doing some of them now how did you quit it were you like hey guys peacing out now I'm leaving you're on your own kid but where were you yeah so the way that the way that I'd set the company up everybody was an independent contractor and everybody was in charge of how many bands they took on who they took on you know there were Nathan and I had veto power if somebody was like I really want to work with this band and then it turned out that there was something that was really terrible about you know but, it was really important to me the way that it was set up that everybody was autonomous and like a collect it wasn't like I was The Matriarch and people were working for me it was more like a collective for everybody was working with me. But I called. Nathan and and told him and I set out a business proposal and was like okay this is I want to hand you the Ran's this is how everything works and then we drafted a then I told everybody else and until the band's and finished out my contracts with the bands that I was working with and we sent out an email and announced the change of ownership and and and and That Was Then, so then you quit did you have like money saved or something no no I said. And we used to like living in New York I was I was married by this point and so yeah so I had you know I had a I had, I was making I had been making a decent amount but. But not like mmm great amount I've never made a great amount of the first money you know it was it was something that was doable because there was the safety net that that being in a partnership with another provides so that provided you the ability to kind of figure some stuff out. Yes and I had some interior Decor jobs already that were happening so I had income coming in from that that was amazing yeah that was modest but and I was Selling paintings and I was having I was doing primarily Pet Portraits at that time yeah yeah people love Pet Portraits and and so I was I was routinely making some money doing that and trusted that that I would be able to continue doing that for you know for for some scoops of side money you could do that forever I mean people pay a lot of money for pet Fortress yes it's true. Yeah I one time a day somebody and it was during this New York time to I made a. Giant giant giant painting of a cat for for a family and by giant I mean it was probably like 7 feet by 5 feet the wow huge day it's massive they loved the cat's name is Simon that isn't Taylor Swift level of cat adoration it was it was really serious. And that was one of my first like. Well over a thousand dollars commissioned paintings which is it was a delight and was very a very funny that kind of thing to be but yeah so I was doing both of those things and I always assumed that the interior Decor work would be the lead horse in the race but I started making more money painting then I was making doing that and so after a while I quit. Doing that and just started painting and I painted for full full of painted full-time doing commissions selling original work and doing illustration work for the past 6 years. Presently like up until now you've been doing that yeah up until up until about the middle of last year and in the middle of love that's great pandemic work like yes yeah so my pandemic project was a book I have coming out in May also again thanks to. Jessica Hopper and also going back to what we were talking about in terms of those formative things coming back around. I decided during the pandemic that I was going to make a fanzine. Wherein I was going to draw or paint every named character and Steely Dan's universe and I made a spreadsheet it was like 163 characters. And I just barely started it and I think I instagrammed it and tell ya Hopper texted me and was like Joanie that's that's a that's a book that's not a fanzine and she put me together with Alex Papa Dimas who had an a sent Dan text they were discussing something. And so she put us together and so we have a book together coming out May 23rd on University of Texas. American music series. I'm so excited for it I mean as you as you mean I've we deemed about this like I'm upsetting silly dance on my favorite bands of all time I've said it a million times like this project was like it was almost like my heart. Manifested it. I cannot and I cannot wait I can't wait for this you will not be disappointed and I say that I can say that because it's not just me it's Alex's. But this man wrote about its out-of-control how incredible. Writer he is which we all know but it's writing particularly, so basically you started making a kind of a pet project of like just you know painting the people you know Peg and you know King Charlemagne Kid Charlemagne the other thing you know the people and then I just was like you should make this a book and then paired with Alex of Alex was the he's writing the text and you're making the images for it rate so we when this was this is conceptual and we got together and talked about kind of what we think what shape we thought it could take and then we worked together we had a giant shared Google doc that was called the Danna verse Master characters and we talked about you know who I was excited to paint. He's writing about the world of the band through the lens of the characters or through the characters as a jumping off point where a starting point to discuss a million things. So it was like you know maybe he had something on this character but he didn't have so much to say about this character and so we together came up with a master list of who we would focus on and then we both synchronously and asynchronously made the way that it turned out this mostly is I had more paintings finished before the text and then when the text was done then I read the text and went back and painted more to the text and then wow that's so awesome it was absolutely yeah it's saved my it's saved my ass during during lockdown. Like financially or mentally Runner but emotionally mentally so can I ask who your favorite do you have a favorite that you've made. Yeah my painting of the holy man from the food I Wanna Be Your holy yeah. What did I just sing on a podcast I love it though I mean it's interesting I was thinking more of named characters but you're right that I mean that's the character that is a person. That's amazing hmm well I do. And so as so many so so many and you know I can I can I can talk in depth more about it when it's like closer to the date but I don't want something that is funny is that there are a lot of friends and family who are painted in as as the faces of some of these people I really. Like you know Hoops McCann came out great dr. Wu came out great Josie came out great I think the face of Josie. Josie was a composite face I also did a lot of like taking pictures of myself and then using. Just sort of the proportions of my face and changing it a bunch to make the faces I did a lot of frankensteining for reference images because I also didn't have I was in a house. I wasn't getting out so for reference images I would use found photos I would use catalog images from the 70s I would make up a bunch of stuff from my head so it's Josie isn't real the vast majority aren't really there like riffs of. Existing in this is amazing so this is like into just the the combination of Art and text and the collaborative effort. That goes into making those things is amazing you're living in Portland at the time that this is all going down and so your I mean so as far as income goes you're just still kind of you're able to do this because your husband's who are you have to do have income during this time yes from from just friends. Well I had moved on from Pet Portraits and started doing just other commission work ethic whole bunch of illustration work and I did illustration work and like. Work for. I made a did this big mural for the women's Olympic qualifying soccer games that like toward a bunch of stadiums and how did you get that commission how did you get that. I was approached by an agency who knew about my stuff through Instagram and and were maybe I was doing a lot of. Work for vice because I had a friend who worked at Vice a friend who I knew from Houston DIY Punk days again circling back around yeah I was very very fortunate that he kicked me a lot of work. So I was making you know talking about like what it talking about art and commerce and talking about what it is to to be a full time I was I was making like 40 45 Grand a year or something like that. Painting. Yep amazing that's like that's your lovable money that's like you're very livable money like so yeah I had that. Which is not bad but yeah it was I would say it was like half. Illustrations stuff and that that all got started through Lenny letter Lena Dunham's newsletter I met. And knew the writer Hazel Sills going also going back to Pete's Candy Store and New York I was doing a music writing reading night at Pete's Candy store called musical words and guitars. Hosted by the music writers Michael Tedder and Zach Lopez and I had written a piece and was reading it and Hazel was there at that night and. I was you know we were just talking about things and Lenny she was writing for linnaean that had just started and I said oh yeah I'm looking for more illustration work are they you know. Are they looking for anybody and she was like he'll pass your stuff on to Lena and and she liked it and so I got to do a lot of work for them and that really made people I got a lot of jobs from that from Lena Dunham are yeah but that's amazing this is. Hey Carol from Lena Dunham's publication and she keep being like being like oh this this I'm their eyeballs on this and I like this image and who made this image so yeah like I'm trying to undertake it seems like you like a lot of you know the the definition I think I've talked about this before but like the definition of like luck is like preparation plus opportunity. Yeah and it feels like you are the manifestation of that of like you know you've been, part of it is being in the right place at the right time and and and having but you put yourself in the right place you put yourself out there and you were out there doing things you ask questions you said whatever Lena Dunham has a newsletter I can I'm a really good artist I could do illustrations for that I've got. You know. Jessica seeing your art and being like there's a book in this and you know kind of it's like the it's like maintaining exactly who you've been the whole time. And just becoming bigger and you know more. I don't know it's like not bankable that's not the word I'm looking for but kind of like that like finding a way to make your art. A thing that has value and wait and. You know and perpetually crafting it to and and you know at times may be going towards interior design because that's a tangible easy way to kind of modify something like there's you know that's that's a way to make your art a thing because that's true work and art and people's living especially during the pandemic it's like you are doing this during the pandemic but like making your house comfortable and yeah you know cool is a thing yeah but so anyway so you're so you're you're doing it you're doing the thing and then how did this England thing kind of come and happen so the last several years were extraordinarily rough and you know in the World At Large and particularly felt to me anyway more intense being in Portland because Portland became the flashpoint that it became politically and there was a time there were also crazy crazy fires One Summer crazy wild fires and Wildfire smoke this was in 2021 the summer of 2021 is that correct no summer 2020 I don't know what time and space are anymore sure especially those three years they're kind of so yeah but I am remembering that there were fires in Portland that were yeah that were really bad and was that was like was that one that was when the when the Chad was happening or what was that oh yeah what is Chad wolf. You boys know it wasn't there like a they told me. Yeah yeah yeah yeah so safe zone or the yes yes that too so there were massive massive. Protests and and just a ton of unrest happening. Downtown and also just tons of there was just a lot of a lot of sort of palpable breast I'm around and smoke. Unrest and smoke and there was a there was a time a 10-day period where I was confined to one room because we were living in a house that was built in I believe it was like 1911 or something and the air quality outside was the same as the air quality inside and and I finally left the room to do the dishes and a gas mask God I like I was like that bad yeah I have asthma also and so it was like if I went to pee by the time I got back to the bedroom I was having an asthma attack it was it was like red fog outside outside all the windows you couldn't see across the street it was like that it just felt so dark and so. So rough and there was a lot of it was just at that was just a really tough time in times like that sometimes you think what if not America what if what if what if what if a scene change and there were other sort of personal things that were happening that that kind of contributed to that as well there were potential job opportunities out there for the household and England. Yes and and so a when that became something that was sort of a path. That that was being looked at I started thinking about school which was something I'd never really considered for myself because. Going to Art School costs 90 billion and you're not going to ever make that 90 billion dollars back and and also in terms of what. Do which is figurative painting that's not something that is really. Prioritized in a lot of American our educational settings today and it's just it wasn't but in London. There are a ton of really really exciting programs and the cost is a fraction of what it would be and so I started looking into going back to school and applied to a bunch of places and to my shock and surprise having always considered myself to be a very poor student I got in everywhere I applied to except for one place and so Generations. Thank you so I am now going to City & Guilds of London art school and it's a very very small. Program out of thousands of people only 21 people are in the program and nine countries and ages 18 to 64 and it's an intense 43 hour a week. Situation with you no homework 40 hours in class. Yeah yeah I mean there's lunch breaks and whatnot there's a big 2 to 4 p.m. but and and is it Studio work like you in a studio of working yeah so it's a combination of a Tilly a style instruction and and gallery Museum research visits and discussions and then on Wednesday There's art history and philosophy of art lectures there are sa is there a large projects we just had our drawing module which was my dream I developed severe back pain and I was thankful that it wasn't just because I'm old you know learning there's a difference between. When you when you write on a desk with your hand and when you write on a chalkboard those are completely different muscles learning how to how to draw. From a drafting table to an easel situation from from life. That kind of Crucible I done life drawing at the art students League of New York before but not not in this way and not being taught. Sort of a Florentine method of it so it's yeah it's it's it's incredible it's incredible this opportunity sounds amazing do you feel like your whole life was leading towards this in some way. No I feel like I'm in a surreal dream I feel like I'm on. A reality TV show where nobody is going to get kicked off nobody's the asshole and everybody's wonderful like everybody else in the program is totally so curious and focused. It's an incredible bunch of people but it just feels very surreal. I and I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to be to be doing this I don't know. I'm deciding I'm in a place of deciding right now of how long I'm going to do it how long I'm going to stay in the program and and and what all that's going to look like how long is the program it could be three years or it could be one year depending okay it is it is it is it a grad school program like what is the DFA because I don't have my ba. Like sometimes this is a bachelor's program yeah I also they offered that I could join the EM a pass and just go straight for my master's because I'm quote-unquote a mature student and because I've been doing this full-time for years but I wanted to start from the beginning I wanted to start from the ground up I wanted to start with. Technical skills and there's you know when you have found a craft that really, is something that is you know it's the center of your life there's a there's a degree to which you can teach yourself. On your own which is how I sort of defensively and offensively have tended to learn things in my life and then there's a point you hit where you have to surrender to the fact that you can't. Do that at. The pace it would take to get you where you want to be I'm a big fan of like knowing the rules before you can break them. Yeah and I think that you know like you know I mean I. I like to take classes I like to like I'm not good at like just go on YouTube and figuring something out like I like to have another person they're showing me how to do things and like learning how like learning the basics because I can fuck my way through anything like I can I can I can do anything and have it be passable and it'll look good enough. But then when I finally take the class and learn like this is actually how like I love sewing like it's like I'm it's like my dumb not sent down Mary it's not that but the negative self top but you know it's like when I actually learn like oh this is actually how you thread the machine not just like me for trying to like you know fuck might like it kind of worked you know and then you kind of learn how you like oh God this is way easier and I think from an art perspective it's like you know this is how you do chiaroscuro or whatever like I was doing it by just putting down some black stuff and kind of smudging it around but if you like you know do the line or whatever I don't I don't know the technique because I am the least artistic person in the world you are not well I mean I'm a, none of them about visual artist I guess is the there is no life my life is art that really there's a lot of cat poop cleaning up and whatnot and that's but so this is just a BFA program just not just but it's a BFA program to kind of give you the basic building blocks it is the plan then do you so you're trying to decide if you want to do the one-year program or the three-year program. I'm I'm so honored for the three-year but I am I'm in I'm in what many would. Call I don't want to call it a midlife crisis but I could I could there's big there's a big re-evaluate of period I'm in a lot of therapy right now I'm 8 months sober again because you know that's thank you you know how that goes where like sometimes you're three years sober and then your 10 years not and then you're eight months sober I am I just crossed one year that's not actually ssion so I am I I know where you're at mentally have you done have you gotten sober before like is it. I did four well and when I when I did before I was still, we'd was still a part of the deal sometimes and this time I've just been raw dogging life I brought a gang life is a it's sort of sucks but it's also so much better. It is it is you know yeah you know it's you know you were to you talk a lot which I love about whole assing things it's crucial for me for the things that I am finding I need to face Within Myself both personally and professionally right now to be completely and totally present to all of the hard things that are underneath when you know okay I engage in this numbing Behavior I do this I do that and you stop and you're like but bitch why like who what what what's there then you can you know I'm saying the most the most common things you can say about about what it is to to to to. Cut those things out and. Well but it's but it's but it's real I mean that's the thing it's like you know it's a cliches exist for a reason there's a kernel of Truth in them and you know it's like. I don't know like I also am going through some serious midlife e staff as well where I'm feeling like what does it all mean and I'm not doing the right shit and I'm you know like I feel like I mean I'm feeling very half a see right now and it's like a whole ass some things but the half-assing kind of sneaks in there in the plays that really shouldn't be and I think that right now I think that the world is almost a midlife crisis America's in a midlife crisis for that's perfect sure. Oh oh it's yeah I mean and that's the other thing too when you're doing when you're in a period of time. Were you doing really really deep inner work and then you use umm from the micro to the macro and you're like oh my gosh you know it's really hard to battle. It's really hard to battle feelings of nihilism it's really hard to battle just it can be. Soul-crushing when you when you let yourself really feel. The things and you must let yourself feel things and you must let your soul get crushed so that you I mean you you don't need to necessarily let your soul get crushed but you need to feel things enough to drive you to figure out what. Your action can be and sometimes what your action is is just making sure your teeth are brushed in the morning so the be a good. Clean mouthed person for your day and for the others and your day that was a very very weird thing you know but but on the other side of that though it's like one of the good things that comes from sobriety is that you feel better more than you feel worse yes and I used to have it my I like the the ratio is the other way around for so long and it's like it's almost like because it's like you know you are able to feel things and things Crush in a different way and things. Hitting a different way but when you're feeling good and the rest of the world is so crappy it's kind of like what's the you know it's like it's there's almost like survivor's guilt built into it hmm and. And you look at the rest of the world nearly got everything is so fucked up what's the point of feeling good right now and everything is so fucked but not for not really but like it's hard to square those two things. And I have to imagine that that kind of can come out in your. Yeah I and I think I mean I think also in terms of you saying survivor's guilt I think that all you know in the face of. Everything in the face of whatever I think that also comes down to the concept of agency and thinking about what it is, 22 Take up your own space in the world and how that is as a woman to take up your own or just anybody who's not a. If I do die guess world would ask you something about so I mean so as your I mean your professional artist, like that's I mean on your tax return it's about taxes it says what it says it's what it says on mine too which I think is funny I love it I would. I don't know how much you can spend because you don't really you haven't done shows or have you done yes yeah I've done shows for like 20 years and so when you do these shows I guess I'm just wondering like I mean you mentioned the white male. Privilege I mean that's something I'm sure I'm going there what have you felt when terms of being like a woman in as an artist. I mean you don't know anything different obviously but you can see how other men are treated or how other people are treated like how what's your play Tech how have you seen as a woman as a professional artist like how does that what is that for you for me personally it has not been anything that I in terms of impact on. Me that I have tangible stories about just I haven't been playing in the gallery system I haven't been so when I say I've been doing shows for 20 years like the vast majority of those are in. Punk spaces and coffee shops and small independently owned Galleries and things like that where there's community and collaboration and. And all of that stuff I think I haven't been in. Spaces I haven't I haven't been professionally active in spaces that are. Deemed important enough by the culture to be adversely affected. Personally by and I aspire to be in those spaces and I will definitely experience that I have seen it. All around me and it exists very deeply the only reason that I don't have a story is because I have just been Scrappy for so long and so your goal would be to be in those places you'd like to be in those places you just haven't done it yet. Yeah I would like to in terms of gallery representation which is a whole other can of worms that I could talk about for a million years I wouldn't like to be in a place where it's bad environment for for I want to be in a place that's right and I want to be in a place that. Values selling art that's meaningful to people who want to buy art because it's meaningful I went into a gallery that I just walked by The Neighborhood I'm staying in and the end it was a you know I'm staying in a fancy neighborhood at the moment the gallerist walked around and talked to me about all of the all the work in terms of what kind of investment it was and oh I just showed this person at fries and this is a there are there a good Blue Chip and dada dada because she thought that I was I don't know why I must have like not had my tattoos showing or I don't know but she thought that you were a posh art buyer. Yeah but I and I was like oh I'm an artist and she saw her face kind of dropped and she was like oh do you can I see your work and I was like sure and I showed her and she could barely kind of mask her disdain you know there I don't want to be yeah and gallery system that you know for many artists that would be the end game and I think you've managed I mean Scrappy is a way to put it but it's also like going where the value is like I mean I you know on Instagram your super super present on Instagram in terms of your art and I you had mentioned early on in our in our pre-interview and the in the notes that the algorithm how the algorithm has affected your life and it's like you know I mean, Instagram is like one big gallery show you can put your stuff up there and that's you know and its really seem to have worked for you yes would you mean how is Instagram been a thing for you. Yeah so Instagram is hands-down how I sell the, vast vast vast vast vast majority of my work and it's that way for I think a lot of artists for that it was Facebook I would I would post something a commission I did and then I would get five inquiries from people like oh can you you know so it's a system through which word of word of mouth and you know people send your stuff around other people so it's it's from whence the clients come but and this does directly relate to being a woman in art and how it affects me so you are right that this is a way the algorithm is always changing we know those blah blah. But it's recently. Been changed really really to prioritize videos and prioritize realism or you know it Instagram is trying to be like okay well how do we how do we be tick-tock. And just be Instagram just be Instagram yeah just fucking be what you are and so it puts the onus on people to make. Pressure on people to make Paula more polished multimedia content so that it's viewed and I'm not. Interested in that at all I'm just not I'm just really not but I my so when I put up I did this painting whereas before I you know would get a lot of people, seeing it and responding to it and I would maybe have conversations with people about it and. Messages where maybe they would want to commissioned me to do something or want to buy it or whatever now I put something up and there's like 60 likes and 3com and nobody nobody sees it it just doesn't it just hello and the other day I posted a picture with myself in front of one of my paintings and there were like six hundred and some odd people who liked it and like 60 comments and I got like 30 or 40 messages because really what do you think that was because I am in it because so it can like it's it can see your face yeah yeah if you're if there's a person in it. And then then that prioritizes it in the algorithm so you'll see increasingly a lot of. Artists particularly a lot of women artists for their lead image holding up their work. So it's like you have to Vanna White yourself oh my God he liked his me I have on lipstick look at my painting I sang it in. Is it the same thing with a man though like if it doesn't do men have the same I don't know enough about the metrics just saying but I see I see a lot more men also putting their face and their images to just to get it to show up you know the algorithm want humanity is that really what's Happening Here, I think they just want to see a human face I have no idea I mean who knows who knows but he's so good yeah. I mean it's that's I mean it is the weird thing it's like Instagram is this quote-unquote free social media site where you know like you know so many of my friends their businesses are all on Instagram as well and it's like well Instagram could change the algorithm and then everything disappears and so they have like spend this time chasing the algorithm trying to figure out how to make it work and. Like I'm just tired and like I don't I don't have the I don't have the bandwidth for that and I have I have a paid social media person she's always like Mary you got to put your face more in this if you were you would you would get so much more traction if you would film things and I'm like but I don't know how first of all I don't know how to make it tick tock I like made a profile I went it was like make your first Tick Tock it was like I push the button it was like all these options filters trim more up and I'm like I don't know nope nope and I just walked away and I'm not respond like do they really want me on there I mean I'm like. You know 47 who needs me. Apparently the algorithm so when you're done with this program is the plan to stay in England is the plan to come back to America. I have plans that I shouldn't yet discuss got it yes I will say London is a dream. I miss New York daily deeply. And when we lived in New York the last time I lived in New York was moved in 20 2018. 27th okay so you were in Portland the New York and then back to Portland yep. And then you get smoked out of Portland and then yeah like a bee as a beekeeper I can definitely speak to that oh yeah that's right. The bees actually get smoked in though that's a year smoking them to keep them in the hive not to get them to go away so this is this has been amazing I feel like we could do this forever we could but then it would turn into basically a book so your book is coming out is it done is your SLI damn book but yeah we should be getting arcs soon clutches, wild like that's what will make it feel real but it's all we've got the cover we've got everything we're talking about marketing we're in that were in that phase. Senor and you're making art now like 40 hours a week in school are you able to do art for pleasure or is your art that you're making in school going to be, what happens to the Earth that you make in school I'm just three weeks into this program and also yeah this is this is this is fresh so it's this is my first time since I worked at sub pop having a. Life schedule where it's like you need to be somewhere Monday through Friday 9 to 5 and and this is what's going to occur when you're in this in this place so that's a big,if left to my own devices I'm up till 4:
00 in the morning drawing and painting that's my deal so I'm I'm adjusting to that and I'm I. School is so intense that when I get home from it around 6 p.m. I had like make my night salad and you you know and all I want to do is have my night salad Mighty my giant chocolate bar I mean I said yogurt commercial can you believe the Sweet Tooth you have when you quit drinking. Oh I didn't give up fuck about chocolate before and now. I'm just I've got some let me hold it up here's a chunk right here for the listeners I just held up a chunk of chocolate I'm a 30% gummy bear. I cannot believe the volume of candy that I eat like it's such a it's such a good like a recovery cliche but who. It's an entire box of Sweet Tarts the other night I was like well who am I I did this before bed like I love it I love it. But yeah yeah so it's so it's that and so you know I have a painting for the wonderful Bruce McCulloch from kids in the home doing at odds. Painting for him what do you mean you're like he's decommissioned you to make something. Yeah he's a friend he's a sweet pea what you don't believe a color was one of my like I had the hugest crush on him he was like my one of my first crushes like I had a para social relationship with him. Oh my God can you. I don't know pass a note to him from me absolutely four months 12 year old Mary nisi oh my God I love him so much he's still I mean he still is my favorite kid I mean if we're gonna go swimming he's that's amazing red pole Myers is book. Have I read Paul Meyers has book yes and it's called one stupid guy and it's kids in the whole book. That's really really phenomenal I will send it to you see you're making you're making commissions for Bruce McCulloch blowing my mind and then what else is in the hopper, four I have been I've been painting this this past ten months I've been painting nude self portraits in the bath lots of them and big ones and so I'm that is my that I've pivoted to that which was unexpected for me was you're painting yourself in naked in the bath. Yeah do you take photographs of yourself and then yep and then I work from the photos yeah. Yep and it's a whole it's Reclamation of self and body and it's about longing a lot about longing and a lot about emotional processing primarily about longing in their Longing For What. Longing for I think at the may be at the core of it for parts of the self and experiences that. That you realize you have put on a side burner. There's a lot wrapped up in a bathtub you know like it's relaxing it's cleansing you know I used to think of Bath's is like Mary gumbo like it was a soup that I was making which is super gross my came in and said that out loud love it. There's a little Superman there exactly there's some carrots some okra but now they've I got this new thing this float device it's from this company called a hundred cents is actually spoke he did have you been targeted by this and Instagram. I believe that I have a new way to take they say yeah you should it I have to tell you I got targeted hardcore I was like there's no way this thing could be as high quality or as good as no it's 100%. Like I've fallen asleep in the bathtub three times in a non scary way wow you're floating and it just your you can feel your vertebrae separating. It's amazing yeah I know it's great and actually I had an inflated for too long and it broke and they sent me a new one so they even have good customer service I'm basically maybe maybe support for you all up in my lady business is brought to you by 100% sir it's intimidation thing but yeah it wouldn't baller that's actually about. Well I can't wait to see these bats are these bath photos are they private are they are you deserve another on Instagram for everybody to see. Are they available for purchase that'd be weird yeah I'm one of them is actually going to Jessica Hopper because she called dibs first mmm but. The rest of them I'm making more in the series and then I want to have a show that's yeah them and then I want to sell them so I have a waiting list right now of a handful of people who inquired and I'm letting them know first but I want to finish. I want to make the whole series and then figure out how they're priced and it's also a different now now that I'm. Living in London to the whole deal of international shipping is a paper so it's not as but they're they're like two feet most from her two feet by 3 feet which is a decent size. You know well this has been amazing yes and I can't wait to see everyone should follow at Joan Lemay, Joan Lemay Lem a why it's it on the old IG and I have a feeling that you're going to be entering into that. Gallery space but you can do it on your own terms and the ones we talked about you in terms of blue chips and my stomach my stomach drop when she when you said that word like. Laugh like there's a lot of that out there so yeah. It needs to stop whatever it's never gonna stop that's part of their team yeah it's fine it's its own its own Universe it's just not mine. It's not yours you're bringing your own it's all right Jen will thank you so much thank you you're just the best. Thanks for listening to all up in my lady business it is written by me Mary nisi. It is produced by Christina sorum Williams and Amelia Ruby with softer sounds it is recorded at the toast and jam offices in Logan Square in Chicago you can find resources and links from this episode in the show notes at all up in my lady business.com if you enjoyed this episode and you did Smash that subscribe button and if you're the kind of person that reviews things on the internet please rate and review us wherever you listen to us it really does help people find us. Follow us on all of your socials and don't forget whatever you do this week do it with your whole ass thanks for listening. Music.