On Community and Creative Collaboration with Local Artist Andrea Soos

Photos by Sarah MacNeill

Andrea Soos is a Victoria-based abstract painter known for her colourful and expressive aesthetic. We chatted with her as the details were coming together for the upcoming POTLUCK collaborative art show…

POTLUCK will be on display at Northern Quarter (1724 Douglas St.) from October 2nd to November 2nd.

You’re participating in an upcoming show at the Northern Quarter in October called POTLUCK – can you please tell me more about the concept and what compelled you to be a part of this exhibit?

POTLUCK was inspired after an exchange of paintings I had worked on and could no longer finish for whatever reason (moved onto something else or forgotten etc). I gave some of these unfinished paintings to other artist friends and they worked on top of my painting, in their own unique way and created a really cool collaboration. I was inspired to reach out to more artists and ask if they would like to do the same. The finished paintings will all be revealed at our show, which like a traditional potluck, will come together to be something that connects us as working artists.

The title/inspiration and venue for POTLUCK are both centred around food – why do you think that food/restaurants and art make good companions?

Food and art have a great relationship and I am always so grateful when restaurant owners see the value in showcasing local art on their walls. It is a win-win situation, in my opinion. Northern Quarter is one of the best at featuring great art and their space is amazing.

What has been your experience with the Victoria art community, so far?

Incredible. I taught art for many years so my focus was less on my own practice and more on instruction, but since working full time as a painter, the support from local artists has been awesome. It really is a small town when you look around and it is nice to feel less isolated.

Why is collaborating with other artists/creative people important, in your opinion? What do you personally take away from this experience?

I feel I am constantly learning so collaboration is key to me pushing myself and expanding my knowledge. I also happen to really love our art community and am grateful for the support they have given me over the years, teaching at my old studio, showing work with me and participating in crazy ideas like POTLUCK.

You’ve recently switched gears to focus solely on your art practice. What triggered that decision?

A desire to move away from teaching so I could develop a stronger personal art practice was my drive. I wanted to also work from home again so my kids could see me more.

What are the most valuable lessons you learned during your time teaching? How does teaching influence your own approach to your creative practice?

Teaching was always about allowing people to learn that making art isn’t out of reach. I really wanted to provide an accessible way to make art. For people of all skills and backgrounds to find the joy in creating.

What have you learned about yourself since making that transition?

That I still have an entrepreneur spirit that includes hard work, dedication and a love of challenging myself at every level.

What words of advice can you offer to other artists looking to make the change and pursuing their art career full-time?

It is a lot of work. The painting is a piece of the puzzle but there is a lot of admin and marketing and shipping etc. Be ready to work hard. It is a dream to make a living creating art but it isn’t an easy road.

Where are your favourite places to go for artistic inspiration?

New York and the California desert are my go to’s other than the beautiful west coast, of course.

What has been the scariest moment in your art career, so far?

My first solo show was definitely scary. A real gallery in the big city (Vancouver). It still feels surreal.

How about the most rewarding moment?

Having my kids come into the studio to paint, or just talk while I paint is something I will never tire of.

You have a very strong artistic brand and you strike me as a very savvy self-marketer. Does this aspect of your practice come naturally? What have you learned about branding and selling your art (and, by extension, your self)?

Being an artistic person with a Fine Arts University degree, I had to be creative about how I made a living. Markets, etsy, sellable art has always been what I do. I have now just transferred that to my art practice only. I am also grateful to live in a time of Instagram, because my reach on social media is much wider than I could have done on my own. I share a lot and I am very authentic and in the moment which I think people enjoy.

You make it very easy for people to purchase your original artworks in a range of price points and formats, via your web shop and by participating in events like the recent Moss Street Paint In. Why is it important to you that your art be so accessible?

I only set up my website a year ago. Before that I was quite shy about my own work so I have had to work hard to figure out that side of the business.

Why did you decide to expand to include tote bags, in particular?

Another collaboration idea began with a talented friend who sews gorgeous bags out of embroidery and leather. She suggested using my paintings as the bag base. It has exploded from there. They are very unique hand painted tote bags which we release only a couple times a year. (Check out Ruth&Nelly Handmade to see Darcie’s incredible work.)

When did you first start painting in the intuitive style? Can you please explain in your own words what exactly that means?

An intuitive painting style is one that is not entirely planned out beforehand. I approach a canvas with an idea of colour and/or some abstracted shapes, but ultimately one layer builds on another until I can feel it is resolved in a way that can be considered finished. The trouble is I could go on and on in the middle stages and not get to the finishing often!

You have a very distinct and consistent style. Do you ever get bored of painting in the same way?

My style is ever changing. If I look back even 3 months, it has changed. But I do love that there is a distinct or familiar thread in all my pieces that is recognizably me. That will always be my goal.

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