I chatted with Seattle-based artist Allison Rohland recently. It was an incredibly fun conversation. Her positive energy knows no bounds and she was always laughing and smiling.
Plus, although much of it doesn’t make it into the below Q&A, it was fun to chat with her about our mutual love of early Coldplay as well as her trip to Australia.
I hope you enjoy the chat with Allison as much as I did.
[Featured Artwork: “In Your Own Time” by Allison Rohland.]
The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.
01. Rock, paper, or scissors?
I would do rock just because I like to collect rocks on my walks and I love the Simon & Garfunkel song, “I Am A Rock.“
02. What are three interesting facts about you?
A. I just started my art full time about a year ago when I decided to move across the country from Pennsylvania to Seattle. I sold all my belongings and fit my TV, suitcase, and art supplies in my car, and came out here to do my art.
B. Growing up, my nickname was “Hyena Girl” because my laugh was so obnoxious and loud.
C. I was accepted into The Other Art Fair in Sydney, Australia. So, I’ll soon be an internationally shown artist. It’s at the end of July, but I’m actually going to stay for two weeks. I’ll be painting my work for the show there for those two weeks. I’m so excited.
03. What is the main medium you use in your art?
Definitely, it’s mixed media, but mostly acrylic and joint compound — a building material that I seal with varnish.
I’ve also been working with setting in sculpted pieces within the work, kind of like terrazzo, to have small touches of color. It’s been fun playing around with that concept.
The whole idea of using joint compound is to use a building material because, with this terrazzo idea, it’s kind of like building a new concept of self. I like the connection of the physical and metaphorical “building.”
04. What inspires your art?
A lot of it is what I’m going through and experiencing in life. It’s kind of like my visual journal. I went to school for English but I just think there are some things that words can’t capture.
This whole past year has been huge since I took this move across the country. It’s been a lot of me developing myself. It’s kind of like, “Wherever you go, there you are.” It’s just been this re-building of self and that’s been a huge thing. It informs my work, but I’m definitely an abstract expressionist at heart. When I go up to the panel, canvas, or whatever I’m working on, I don’t have any preconceived notion as to what I’m going to paint or what it’s going to look like. I just move through it and work through it. It’s whatever I’m feeling and whatever needs to be seen.
05. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?
100% at night. I’m totally a night owl. If it’s before 10 am in the morning, nothing is getting done. But I also like the energy of the evening. The world seems quieter and that’s when the energy is calmer–that’s when I feel I can delve into and tune into myself and just channel my next painting and my next idea.
06. What is the most unique thing about the city you live in? (Seattle, WA)
I would say Seattle has everything. I think that’s the most unique thing. There’s this beautiful nature surrounding (the city) and then this really cool metropolitan area. We have these huge mountains wherever you turn and it’s surrounded by this beautiful water and beaches and we have sea lions and orcas.
07. Is art your career or a hobby? Something else?
It’s definitely a career. It’s what I’m working on full time. But definitely it also is just a part of who I am. I don’t feel like I’m myself if I’m not creating. If there’s a time when I’m bogged down with admin work and I’m not creating, I find myself really drained. So, creating is really this fuel for life and living. It’s a good reminder that I am the ultimate creator of my life in this foundation. For me, it’s also like a spiritual practice. It’s a fine balance: Career to make money, but also a spiritual practice I have.
08. The art is one thing, but what’s your secret to generating interest and ultimately selling your art?
The biggest thing to generate interest is that it has to come from an authentic space. I totally feel like it’s just this energetic experience with people. If we can infuse this love and meaning and experience and it’s meaningful to us, then I totally believe that there are other people out there who will connect with it.
So, being genuine in your artistic practice and in your style and creation but also infusing it with this love. That’s just the secret sauce to really making it and generating interest. Whatever you put in, you will get out and it has proven to work.
Generally, as I’ve stepped into myself more and more and gained confidence in my own art, I’ve definitely seen a difference in interest in purchases since I’ve made that shift.
09. Where did your passion for art start?
Definitely when I was younger. I just loved crafting and making things. Seriously, give me a hot glue gun and I could’ve made you anything. *laughs* We had a whole craft room in our house, but I stopped creating when I was young. I let the inner-critic get the best of me.
What really fueled my passion for art again was working at a gallery and studio for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. I just happened to get a job there as an art instructor, but it was very serendipitous. Seeing them expressing themselves so freely ignited that passion inside me again. I thought, “If these guys can unabashedly show up as themselves and put their artwork out there, I can do that too.”
In that time working with them, the things I appreciated the most was the abstraction and different point of view they brought. That just opened up my mind and my heart to creating and owning what was waiting to be birthed out of me.
10. What would be the most annoying thing about having yourself as a roommate?
There would be two things.
First of all, I’m a really disorganized person. I’m definitely the stereotype of a creative (person).
Two: I also like to dance and sing a lot. It definitely gets on people’s nerves and it actually did get on my one roommate’s nerves. One day I was singing and dancing in our two-bedroom apartment. She asked, “What are you doing back there? It sounds like a cat is dying.” I was singing Elton John.
11. What is your go-to band or singer?
12. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t got around to?
Definitely paddle-boarding. Since moving to Seattle I have wanted to paddleboard but I just haven’t done it yet. With summertime and the nicer weather, it’s going to happen.
13. What household chore do you actually enjoy?
*laughs* None. That would be the most truthful answer.
But I will say that I do like cleaning out the sink and loading the dishwasher. Not actually washing the dishes. Having a clean sink is very satisfying to me and also wiping down the counters.
14. What app do you use most often?
15. What is one common misconception about being an artist?
That we have to struggle for our art. I think that’s the biggest misconception.
It comes in two ways: First of all, that we struggle to make money from our art itself and that we need to pursue these multiple income streams. The one stream that can be the most fulfilling is really just your art and going all in on that. People are scared of that, saying, “I can’t make money from my art.” But you totally can. And that’s probably been the most lucrative income stream for me as an artist.
And, two, the struggling artist thing of having to go to this deep, dark place to create our work. We don’t have to be struggling or go to the deep, dark troubles of our past to create good artwork. I think good artwork can also come from the deep space of joy and acceptance and it can still be really meaningful and touch people.
16. What is your favorite drink?
I would say wine and a Chai Tea Latte. Not together.
17. What do you hope people get out of your art?
I think, for me, the biggest thing and something I’ve just been journaling about recently: I hope people have an emotional experience and connection to my art. That’s the most important thing for me. Creating art and having it come from this space inside myself. It’s natural, as a human, to want people to connect to your experience.