Q + A with Bri Custer
Bri Custer is a landscape artist living in Dover, New Hampshire. She currently works at the University of New Hampshire while studying Secondary Education.
1. Which artists influence your work the most and why?
It's difficult to limit this to a reasonable list, so I'm just going to give you two. I look to Lois Dodd and Richard Diebenkorn as huge influences. Both of them are exceptional at simplifying shapes and using color to create space and form. I think you can see Dodd's compositional influence really clearly in my more recent nasturtium series with the way I'm thinking about shape and space.
2. You're working towards your master's degree in secondary education. How do you think art education will influence your creativity and personal work?
This is a bit of an unknown for me at the moment, and honestly, a little scary as most new things are. I was recently at a show where a fellow exhibiting artist and former teacher told me, "If someone is a good teacher, they shouldn't have time to make their own work." This statement has been bouncing around in my head for months, forcing me to think about my goals as a teacher. While I know it will be difficult to schedule time to make my own work, I feel that it needs to be a priority if I'm trying to encourage my students to develop their own artistic behavior. I strive to think as a teacher as well as an artist in the classroom and to look for inspiration in the discoveries my students make.
3. What struggles do you face as an artist?
I think the biggest thing I struggle with is finding balance between painting and the business of being an artist. The website, photographing work, spreadsheets, and submissions can suck up a lot of time, so there are times when I need to decide to put those things aside and focus on the art.
There's also a lot of doubt that can come with being an emerging artist. There are many times when I question my own artistic decisions or feel imposter syndrome coming over me. However, talking with other artists helps so much to work through those doubts.
4. New Hampshire is a very rural state, with the closest major city being Boston. Do you find this challenging when trying to gain exposure for your work? What are some things you've done to get your work out there?
It may be a little bit more difficult to promote my work in NH than if I were in Boston, but I've never known anything else. The benefit is that local communities in Dover, Durham, and Portsmouth have strong and supportive arts communities. Plus, social media makes engaging with other artists in other parts of the world so much easier! (Go Hope + Easel!)
As an artist in a more rural area, it's especially important to be willing to take opportunities that may be further away. My most recent show was in Worcester, MA, so I was driving a couple hours each way for drop-offs and events, but the experience was totally worth it!
5. What is your artistic mantra?
I have a Picasso quote posted on my studio wall that I continually go back to in my head. "Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." There are times when I feel uninspired and maybe exhausted, but it's important to show up and get to work. That's the only way things happen!
6. What's next for you in 2018?
My husband and I are spending two weeks in Italy, mainly to absorb art and get some painting done. Then I'm starting my student teaching this fall, so I'll be busy learning from my new students and cooperating teacher. I'll be working hard to maintain my own art practice through this transition, but I'm excited to see how this new role inspires my painting.