We had the good fortune of connecting with Elena Øhlander and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elena, what habits do you feel helped you succeed?
There are many habits that can be beneficial or detrimental to your business as an artist. I truly believe every artist is a small business and its easy to lose sight of that when you are focused on your craft and conveying meaning behind your work. It comes down to a shift in perspective. Showing up is half the battle and even more, to show up every day. I have a regimented routine that places me in the studio every day. Productivity cannot happen if you don’t show up. Productivity is subjective, much like the definition of success. This can span from cleaning/arranging your studio, keeping up with your accounting, applying for grants/residencies, preparing work for exhibition, media interviews, and your regular studio practice. My number one habit that has aided in my success, is working in the studio consistently.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a visual artist, working in the mediums of mixed media illustration and mural-creation. My work bridges the gap between fine art and illustration which is a unique aspect of my work that has a clear and defined style. I am most proud of a collaboration from last year with Pilot Pen USA where I had the opportunity to utilize their Enso line of creative materials to produce a full body of work. Another recent accomplishment is producing my first mural that was 20′ x 37′ feet, in collaboration with several phenomenal community artists – each having their own panel – to highlight a neighborhood in the area in a meaningful way. It is by far the largest work I have created yet and marks the beginning of my mural career. I have only been making art full-time for three years now and in that time I remind myself of several things: Do not compare yourself to others, elevate, empower, and encourage other artists, appreciate your accomplishments and how far you’ve come, and show up to work every day. The biggest challenge as a mother and artist, is balancing my time and finding space for self-care. I actually schedule mandatory time for this now and everything else falls into place unless there is something specific going on. I want other female artists with children to know that they don’t have to give up their career or dreams to find happiness, fulfillment and success in those respects. It certainly is not an easy path but most things worth having, don’t come easy.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When a good friend or family members come to town, the first thing I do is find time in the itinerary to view all the public art in the city. We have it in abundance and there is so much talent right here where we live. I’m proud of that. If we are talking food and drinks, I absolutely would take them to the pockets of town to support local businesses – San Marco, Springfield, Avondale, Murray Hill, Riverside and along the beaches all have such amazing places to dine. If we are talking coffee I would suggest Bold Bean Coffee Roasters or Brew. You want brunch? I would go to the classic Metro Diner or The Fox Restaurant. I absolutely must treat my company to a bowl of Crane Ramen soup for dinner. If we should feel so inclined, a libation (or two) there’s an intimate speak-easy called Grape and Grain Exchange where its a wine bar in the front and hidden behind a book case lies the perfect environment for good conversation and top notch craft cocktails. The Jacksonville Symphony is truly a treat and a show at The Five and Dime Theater is worth every moment. Last but certainly not least, we would make our rounds to The Cummer Museum and Gardens, Museum of Contemporary Art, and CoRK Arts District (filled with over 100 artist studios). Sharing my city with others, is like sharing a piece of myself.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
In the journey to success, mentors, words of encouragement from your circle of support, and recognizing your self-worth is valuable. One of my main mentors, Amer Kobaslija – world renowned painter and Guggenheim award recipient – has guided me in providing constructive criticism, words of encouragement and friendship. Having that kind of support has been monumental. I have gallery representation with Space 42 – a creative incubator and gallery located in the heart of the Arts district in Jacksonville, Florida’s urban core – has supported me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. They promote, elevate and discuss with me my new bodies of work as they are created. If I have an idea, they authentically listen and help me find resources in the community that will aid in implementation. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am without the support of friends, family, colleagues, and admirers.
Linkedin: Elena Øhlander
Chris Jolly (1 – Portrait in front of mural), Sindy Gonzalez (2 portrait at exhibition in floating door frame + accompanying image), Jeffrey Enriquez (1 portrait in front of wooden art piece), Paul Shortt (1 portrait of male in front of diptych)