Who: Heather Day
What: Technology & The Creative Process; Looking Outside the Screen
Where: Piccino, SF
Occupation: Fine Artist
We met up with Heather on a rainy morning at her home studio: a bright, open, work/live space filled with plants and paintings that felt more like a Pinner’s dream than an actual living space. Over cappuccinos and chai lattes, we learned more about the woman behind such beautiful, bold works of art and her current take on the intersection of art and social media.
Q: You've been making art since you were a child. Can you remember one of your earliest artistic creations?
Yes! I have always been making things. When I was a kid I treated our house as an art supply store. I’d go shopping around the kitchen and find things like cereal boxes to cut up into robots. My parents also encouraged me to try more traditional art mediums, like pastel and paint - but I like that my love of art didn’t start with typical art supplies. It was more about exploring household items like cardboard and scotch tape and seeing where my imagination took me.
Q: How did growing up in Hawaii and traveling often as a young child shape your experiences and artwork?
As a kid, traveling seemed like the norm; and it still does. So much about the work I create today is based on emotions and moments from the places I visit. My mom was a Marine for only a short part of my childhood, but we moved fairly often, depending on how her government jobs evolved. I was born in Hawaii, and I’ve spent every summer there visiting my dad since I was in preschool. Visiting him and experiencing his lifestyle as a musician and DJ shaped my views about how people can live their lives and feel fulfilled. There was such a change in perspective between my mom’s middle-class lifestyle and my dad’s working class lifestyle. I found that knowing and understanding both ways of life helped me relate to all types of people.
Q: Do you feel like technology plays a big part in your creative process?
In terms of social media, most definitely. For one thing, it’s how I share my work with the world, and that ultimately grants me opportunities to make a living from my art practice. Currently, I’m exploring the concept of social media further, challenging the mentality behind our need to share everything with the world, but also exploring how social media itself can physically be part of the process of making art.
Q: How do you think social media and technology helps artists today?
I think this question has two sides. First, social media represents a vehicle to furthering your education and gaining connections outside your physical community. It can literally be the tool that opens doors to the art world. But most importantly, social media is the key to getting your work out there without having to establish yourself with a gallery first. That being said, artists today have to carefully consider what content to share and when and how to share it...I’m just glad I didn’t have Instagram in high school.
Q: What does community building mean to you, and what’s your vision for using your ‘influence’ to reach people?
Four years ago I didn’t have any followers on Instagram. My account was private and I used it as a holding tank for photos of my studio. Today things are different. Now Instagram represents community—one that is always evolving. I enjoy social media because it allows me to curate my work into an easily shareable virtual gallery. I like how captioning photos encourages me to articulate the concepts behind the works. And, in general, the art world needs to be more approachable. I’m on a mission to share my view and be as transparent as possible.
Q: You describe your art as a form of "visual storytelling interested in conveying moments of interactions." Do you also see platforms like Instagram as a forum for visual storytelling?
Most definitely. Instagram is a glimpse into my life outside of my paintings and sketchbook pages. I enjoy curating the photo grid and thinking about the story that’s being told.
Q: Tell us about your first Collectively collaboration with Banana Republic and how it shaped your POV on brand partnerships?
This project always makes me giggle a little bit. When I was graduating art school, never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that my photo would be on the windows of Banana Republic Stores across the world. This project, along with many others, helped shaped my understanding of brands and the importance of having conversations with them. Working with companies like BR has been an interesting break from the studio, and in a way, creates a patron situation where these companies support artists like myself.
Q: What was your audience’s response to your decision to partner with brands? Did the open letter you wrote help with that transition?
Initially, I was concerned about how I would be perceived as a fine artist—and I still am. I never want sponsorship to affect how people think about my art, so I’m selective about the companies I choose to work with. The letter was an opportunity to share my perspective with my community and also open up a conversation about what the modern day patron really is.
Q: You mentioned that your “paintings are evidence that something happened.” Does that apply to social media posts, too?
That concept is frightening. I hope our lives haven’t come to the point where everything needs to be proven. But sometimes I’m guilty of wanting to capture a moment solely for the purpose of sharing it on social media. In fact, last month, some friends and I were hiking up to a lookout in Joshua Tree to watch the sunset, but when we got to the top, everyone (including myself) took photo then immediately started to walk back down. Though I felt self-conscious in the moment, I’m glad I paused and said, “You guys! We didn’t even really look at the sunset!” So, we took a moment to enjoy the present. To me, that’s the key. Don’t get too wrapped up into documenting every detail and if you do, make sure you’re still looking outside of the screen.
Q: With a substantial and growing social media audience, do you have plans to expand your digital presence and online initiatives?
I feel very fortunate to have the audience I have and would like to avoid taking advantage of it. If social growth means more people looking at my work, then that’s pretty rad. As for right now, I’m focused on painting and other projects.
Coffee with Collaborators is an interview series featuring the incredibly talented, creative voices in our community. Interested in having coffee? Email us.