Artist Travis Kruse; Greeley, Colorado, USA

QUESTION: What was your biggest challenge?

Travis Kruse: Finding time to be focused because I’m spread pretty thin. Then actually finding that focus once I was there and what my subject matter and audience we’re looking for.

QUESTION: Did you think you had to suffer for your art?

Travis Kruse: What I came to realize is that I have this little voice in the back of my head that’s lying to me about being a martyr. It says, you know; Oh, you should feel bad that you don’t have time to do this, and somebody’s not taking care of you and making it a priority for you to make art, when all those kinds of struggles of having daily duties and daily demands can inform your art-making quite a bit.

QUESTION: Were you being a martyr for your art?

Travis Kruse: I felt like I was using, maybe in the back of my head, that ‘martyr voice’ a little bit too much and just reading about it maybe brought it to the forefront of my consciousness. That, ‘hey, oh, I don’t have time’ or ‘somebody should be handling stuff for me so I could focus on being an artist’ when really those things don’t help me move forward at all. And taking on more of that “trickster” attitude, which I think a lot of artists and myself have that nature anyway; that cunning and that cleverness and that mobility, that would be a lot more productive to put into the forefront of my thinking as I make art because that’s going to move me in a direction. Being a martyr is for your ego or your personality or something. But if you’re a trickster, then you’re doing that to get something done. Or at least the way I’m viewing it right now.

Ann Rea: Well, a martyr is a victim. Right? And victim’s don’t do well.

QUESTION: Where did the suffering artist idea come from?

Speaker 1: That’s a great question that I did not look at. I really rail against people who talk about how artists’ lives are lives of suffering and lives of torment and lives of poverty. For some reason I react really strongly when I hear people saying those things. I think that probably somewhere along the line that maybe our community or society as a big whole kind of has that mentality. And I kept running across it.

QUESTION: Did you believe that you had to suffer?

Travis Kruse: That voice wasn’t loud in my head, but it was there

QUESTION: What do academics think about selling art?

Travis Kruse: For me it probably gets a little bit worse because I’m a school teacher and so that is just the buzz, you know, that you can’t make it as an artist, so you should study something practical, which there’s truth but there’s a lot of lies to that too. What’s practical? Because there’s a ton of engineers out there that are selling insurance.

QUESTION: Do your students become artists?

Travis Kruse: So the program I teach in is very rigorous towards academia. These are, a lot of my students go on to, all of those students go on to some sort of four year institution, some of them go to Harvard and some of them go to wherever. I only have a handful of students who study art after their high school experience and some of them I’ve noticed they don’t like selling their artwork. They don’t want to get rid of it. They want to hold onto it because they know it might be one of their last experiences of doing art or at least they believe that in their head. And I, you know, I just try and encourage them to have creative lives, but a handful go on and do lots of stuff. And a lot of them don’t see it as a practical thing for their life, but they also don’t see it as an avocation for their life. So

QUESTION: Will studying art help your livelihood?

Ann Rea: The fact is that we live in a creative economy. So if you’re just memorizing, right, and you’re not creating how far are you going to get?

Travis Kruse: Right! Yeah. In Colorado, speaking of creative economy, it’s always the creative arts and industries, entertainment have always been in the top five. They beat out gas and oil. So it’s a major boost to our economy and for some reason people don’t make that connection between studying art and having a livelihood that could be, you know, based on art.

Ann Rea: It’s interesting you say that because I actually have had the Colorado Creative Industries, which is your state arts council, They, liked my program a lot. They’ve sent me a number of students.

QUESTION: What would you tell your younger self?

Travis Kruse: Probably not to let other people influence me. I went my own way on a lot of stuff but not on that. And I don’t know why. So I think I would say, you know, get clear on what you want and then don’t let anybody get in your way.

QUESTION: What limited your thinking?

Travis Kruse: A lot of artists that I was around were in academia, and they weren’t really artists, right. And I kept saying, well, how do you sell art? And nobody can answer that question. So I think maybe that kind of conglomerate group idea of all those people just being involved with art but not selling art and making a living from art kind of attached to me. And I was aware of it and I tried to stay away from it. But that’s where I was and I wasn’t finding anything different.

QUESTION: Will art professors teach you how to sell your art?

Ann Rea: Did you listen to my last interview that I did with one of the tenured art professors who’s in our community?

Travis Kruse: I haven’t gotten to that one yet.

Ann Rea: Well let me just say this, you know, I mean she obviously wants to sell her art, but art professors (in general) don’t want to sell their art and they don’t know how to sell their art and they are teaching the next generation of artists so SURPRISE! They can’t sell their art when they graduate.

Travis Kruse: Right! I see that as a disservice. I’ve always, so as an artist, I’ve sold my art since the day I left college and even during college, and I’ve survived a little, but I’ve never thrived and that’s why I signed up for this program is to actually thrive and be what I would consider a success where it’s the driving force in my life.

Ann Rea: So you got to define success for you, not somebody else’s definition of it for you, and also define the progress to success, right? So if success to you is making $100, or $150,000 in sales, I’m making that number up, right? So based on where you are today, what’s the next best step, and then when you get there, the next best step? The mistake I see artists making is they haven’t defined success and then they don’t define the interim milestones clearly enough to get them to success. So that can be the thing that stops them. And that’s so simple, that’s so easily resolved!

QUESTION: What is your take on art education?

Ann Rea: Don’t get me started on art schools.

Travis Kruse: I don’t disagree. I think we’re super in alignment with that. I just like hanging out with high-schoolers because they have awesome energy and they’re hungry for life and they’re really receptive to stuff. But I think that, man, I’ll probably get fired if I say something super loud, but schooling can be a disservice to people that can’t see outside of it’s limited function.

QUESTION: What’s your biggest lesson so far?

Travis Kruse: Focus and passion. So to actually, I guess be present in the time I set aside to do something. To get rid of all the distractions and to be passionate about those things as I do them. Getting organized is a big part of it and that’s based on having priorities. So instead of, like you had mentioned; managing time is not really possible, but managing your priorities is. So I think setting those in, as my friend said about priorities, a violent way so that they act in the right order.

QUESTION: Should other artists apply to enroll?

Travis Kruse: Every step so far you’ve codified a system, but all the steps or actionable. I’m at a kind of crux right now. I just got my Why, so I’m really, I don’t know, my heart’s excited about that. I think I sat on the fence literally for a year watching your videos and the Creative Live course and some other courses, and it just felt like I needed to do it the whole time, but I didn’t trust myself that it was the right decision. But now I can, I can feel all the dispirit parts of my universe starting to focus in and really concentrate on this process. So if they’re anything like me and they need some way to hone in on a target, this is one way to do it. And it’s the only way that I’ve found. And I’ve read all kinds of books about artists and all kinds of books about marketing and all kinds of books about self development. But this has given me a way to put them all together in a holistic puzzle that all the pieces fit in.

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One Response

  1. I think the widely held myth that artists must suffer comes from several popular movies and books about famous artists, especially Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Michaelangelo. Their life stories make for great dramatic theater. Entertaining stories need to have conflict in order to be interesting, and these artists provide the needed conflict through their suffering.

    Note that there is no movie or historical-fictional book written about Peter Paul Rubens, the most successful and wealthiest artist in all of history, who seemed to have happy marriages, a good family life, fame, and prestige.

    The same kind of stereotypes get perpetuated in all sorts of professions. For instance, scientists are almost always portrayed as nutty eccentrics with Albert Einstein hair. Again, it makes for better theater.

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