Can you tell me about the benefits of having a library next to your studio?
Because I’m a chameleon in a way, I’m going to work on a board and think, “Oh, I need to get my shelf pictogram books out” and then I’m going to dig into my library and pull out what I have. need . I have a dozen books that I pulled out before I started drawing my figure of Mother Earth here, “Woman in the Landscape” (2021). I’m going to look for things and then go to work and scramble it all up and make it my own thing.
When you start a new piece, where do you start?
I often start with an idea, a very general idea, like maps. I’ve made maps before, but they’ve always been horizontal, as maps normally would. That was my plan with these cards here behind me, but then I lifted them up to remove them and saw how it really changes the shape of the card – it becomes an organic thing, like a side of beef. It’s a little scary. And then I thought about that, and what else I could do on this card, and I got the idea that maybe I could put some beadwork designs or something on part of it. this one. So I did a little bit of that and it scared me, so I stopped and worked on some other stuff, and then I came back to it and thought, ‘Yeah, that’ is really a little weird. I have to grow taller when I do something like this.
And how do you know when you’re done?
Usually I bring it to a place where I think it could be done and then I will wait a bit before leaving it there. You know it’s like when you write something down and leave it for a while and come back to it and all of a sudden you can see all the things you need to fix. At this point, you’re pretty sure it’s probably OK. Then of course I have my son, Neal Ambrose-Smith, who is an amazing artist, and I’m going to call him up and invite him over to take a look.
What is the first work you sold? And how much did you sell it?
I think it was a pastel, early ’70s, for maybe $ 45.
How many assistants do you have?
Nothing. I mean my son is generous and kind and he helps me with this butterfly mask because he is an amazing maker. But he’s a full-fledged artist, not an assistant. So I don’t have one, but I wish I had. I am very blessed, however. A few times people have come to help me straighten up a bit because I tend to burden myself, and if I’m desperate and need to show someone the studio, my son will come and help me. fix things. .
What music do you play when making art?
It’s often quiet here, but I love native flute music. I like the Spanish guitar. I really like Bach. These are my must-haves.
Is there a meal that you repeatedly eat while working out?
I eat a lot of beans and rice. I’m a vegetarian, so I eat a lot of salad, and my granddaughters will eat it with me.