Making the Best of a SNAP Artist Residency

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In conjunction with the exhibition At a Time: Tender and Tense, throughout the four week duration of the exhibition Artists will respond to each other’s work through writing – which will be made available in the gallery in print and online for the duration of the exhibition. Below is the final instalment of this writing series by Brianna Tosswill.

Making the Best of a SNAP Artist Residency

My residency at SNAP was for a 6 month duration, but more than two years passed between when I started and when I installed my portion of this show. It feels a bit like I’ve been an artist in residence for the whole time. My first 6 months and last 6 months have had a very different feel from one another. In the beginning I was nervous and self-conscious and determined to “prove myself”. More recently, I’ve felt assured, rooted in community, and my output is more substantial. I want to reiterate that physical art is not the only outcome of a residency in a community studio. Especially in this socially isolated time, a 15 minute conversation with a fellow artist can be the difference between feeling lonely and doing okay. Leaning on the doorway of Agata’s studio space to check in, or seeing Riaz’s work on the drying rack (and then commenting on his instagram posts) made me feel connected in a way that I really needed.

So let’s celebrate the completed and in-progress work on display in the Gallery. And let’s acknowledge the scene of its creation. These are all the things I’ve learned, things I wish I knew when I started, advice for new artists in residence. Additional suggestions have been mixed in from Agata Garbowska, Andrew Thorne, and Riaz Mehmood.

  • No one is judging you based on the volume of work you make
  • No one is judging you based on the scale of the work you make
  • No one thinks you’re not being ambitious enough (trust me)
  • No one is counting the days between your studio appearances (everyone has other stuff)
  • You can take the time at the beginning (weeks, a month) to think about and consider what you’re going to make
  • You can adapt your initial proposal, sometimes you don’t know whether something is going to work until you’re really in it
  • Don’t forget to greet people
  • Learn other artists names
  • If someone has to correct your use of equipment, it’s okay, thank them
  • Build time into your studio day to clean
  • Build time into your studio day to get lost in conversations with others
  • Build time into your studio day for everything to go horribly wrong
  • Give any critical feedback 2 days to percolate. It takes that long to decide whether you want to do something about it.
  • If you don’t have any good ideas, make something bad
  • If you don’t have any good ideas, think about doing a collaboration. The ideas may come when you’re not all by yourself.
  • Write down all your inspiration and ideas when you have them, or you WILL forget.
  • Your sketchpad or phone notes are equally good options.
  • If you’ve never done a collaboration, start small.
  • You’re not going to be making work at the same speed/volume you did during your undergraduate and that’s normal, don’t worry
  • Consider taking an essentialist approach to printmaking
  • You do not always improve an artwork by spending time on it
  • Don’t listen when people tell you that everything was better “back in the day”
  • Don’t listen to offhand comments that make you feel small
  • If you heard them anyways, let the spite fuel your creativity
  • Use your studio storage
  • Reorganize your studio storage once every 2 months.
  • If you feel friendly towards someone at the studio, ask them to go for coffee. This is how I’ve made most of my friends in Edmonton.
  • Check out local art supply and related stores/places.
  • Ask for the SNAP discount at the art supply stores.
  • For goodness sake, eat lunch
  • And drink water
  • Go to studio/gallery events (online and in person)
  • Volunteer
  • Ask what other people are doing/ Find inspiration in just how many people are doing so many different things all under the roof of SNAP!
  • Nobody checks bus transfer times, you can use them after they expire!
  • Always try new things! Take workshops offered by SNAP and fall in love with a new technique
  • Spend your time in the studio doing the things that excite you most! If you lose interest in what you’re doing, do something else.
  • Walk to Bean Around the World or Grizzlars for good coffee
  • Marvel at SNAP’s archive of decades of prints
  • Day dream
  • Always follow the things that excite you, and be patient
  • Dream up cool workshops (and then tell people about them)
  • Tell people about all kinds of goals and dream projects. It’s good for motivation and you never know when someone might be in a position to further your goals.
  • Don’t use pigment powder in the studio. It hangs in the air forever like germs.
  • Participate in the print exchange!
  • Participate in the calendar!
  • Explore the neighbourhood around SNAP.
  • Everyone is on your team
  • If someone offers to help you, accept it.
  • Also, ask for help when you need it.
  • Don’t forget, Amanda is available to offer support if you’re learning a new technique or improving current skills!
  • You can iron paper
  • Wear your PPEs!
  • Bring your phone charger to the studio
  • Don’t forget your phone charger at the studio
  • Stop referring to SNAP by the name of your old studio
  • Try one new technique every 6 months.
  • Start things you don’t know how to finish yet
  • The newsprint proof always looks best unfortunately
  • Tag SNAP when you post a photo taken in the printshop or gallery
  • If you’re too overwhelmed/busy to plan a critique, you can sign up for a SNAP virtual visit and get so much valuable feedback!
  • If you first learned a different way of doing things, try the local method, and then decide what works for you.
  • If you make something and it goes horribly wrong, consider whether you can tear it into tiny pieces and make paper out of it.
  • Enjoy the process of art making and don’t focus too much on the end result.
  • In terms of studio rent, SNAP is super affordable. You don’t have to leave when your residency is done.
  • If your residency is interrupted by a studio move, or a global pandemic, let it all pan out.
  • You may end up with extra studio time or opportunities when the dust settles.
  • Don’t think of this as your big break, or your main opportunity to prove yourself. That’s too much pressure and not helpful.
  • No one is grading you on this work, it does ot have to be perfect!!!
  • Any energy you put into the studio comes back to you doubled.
  • If you show up, you can’t really fail.

Covid times:

  • Learn to smile with the top half of your face
  • Learn to love the studio booking system (the biggest surprise)
  • Learn to recognize your studio mates in zoom calls when you realize they have a mustache!?
  • Learn to pack hand-moisturizer.
  • Learn to love your studio again and again when they prioritize your health and safety.
  • Learn to let go of pre-covid creative directions if they no longer apply
  • For all times, really: burnout is not a normal or to-be-expected state. Take care of yourself.

Suggestions/Advice from Brianna Tosswill, Agata Garbowska, Riaz Mehmood, and Andrew Thorne

–Brianna Tosswill