A series where we highlight a member of our Minted artist community. Featured this month: artist and illustrator Marta Spendowska, who is from Poland and currently lives in Green Bay, WI.
Growing up in communist Poland, Marta Spendowska loved the arts but never imagined an artistic career would be possible. After moving to the United States in 2005, however, her dream became reality—she was able to study and work in design, illustration, and fine art. Here, Marta shares a glimpse into her life as a working artist.
How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?
Actually, I really thought I’d be a writer but after living in the States for some time, I started to feel like an island—my Polish was useless here and my English was OK but not perfect at all. I grew up with an amateur painter (my father) and have painted all my life, and after moving here, I specifically made a commitment to communicate visually. I think the decision came from a point of sadness about losing that special gift of eloquence. If I think about it now, I almost feel that I came back to painting out of unhappiness. But it was my best decision. I studied design and worked at few agencies as a designer and art director, then eventually started my own design business. Two years later, I transitioned into illustration and, finally, fine art.
Where do you currently reside?
I’m in Green Bay, Wisconsin, right now due to my husband’s business, but we’re moving to South Carolina (hopefully Charleston) or North Carolina very soon.
Can you share the schedule of a typical day in the life?
I love my routines, actually. I get up and work out (HIIT—high intensity interval training) or skip rope for 20 minutes (to sweat off the dreams). Then I drink 20 ounces of water, set my podcasts, boil an egg, boil water and brew organic coffee, eat the egg (with onion, cucumber, and salt), feed my chipmunks, light two incenses, drink coffee while scrolling through Instagram, and I’m all set to go. I check my email and agenda, and divide my work into commission-based and a fine-art time slots. I like to bike for 45 minutes at least every other day and I read a lot to relax in-between working. Dinner at 6 p.m., in bed at midnight. My husband also has his own business so we both have very solitary jobs until 6–7 p.m.
What are some of your own “rules” for living and working?
I’ve always loved Björk, whose life, for me, is a perfect blend of incorporating art and work. I’m sure if I were a banker I would be miserable and I’d suffer being separated from my passions. My work spills into my life, my life spills into my work. There is no real life (or at least a fulfilling one) without my work and there is no work without my life—conscious, mindful, sometimes crazy, sometimes melancholic, but always interesting. I craft my life through working: painting, thinking, observing, feeling.
What does art mean to you?
Art is everything to me. I hope every piece I paint makes my collectors feel joyful and inspired every time they see it on their wall. This is the best job in the whole world.
What medium(s) do you most enjoy working with?
I’ve loved watercolor all my life. Oil paint in Poland used to be expensive and hard to get so I reached for watercolors. I’ve always enjoyed it’s fluid nature. I’m currently working in mixed media, making my own pigments and mediums, so my fine art is moving beyond watercolors.
When did you begin painting?
When I was a toddler. I don’t remember ever not painting and drawing. My mom always said she was very glad to have given birth to a girl who was never bored or moody—all I needed was a set of watercolors.
Is there a movement in art history that speaks to you?
It has to be Fauvism for Matisse and Abstract Expressionism for Lee Krasner and few others.
If you could sit down with any artist past or present, who would it be?
Virginia Woolf, Björk, Ewa Kuryluk.
What objects have been most significant to you lately?
I have a table at my home with old family pictures, notes from psychics or tarot readings, crystals, old Polish books. It’s a sacred corner.
Please describe your last month in one word.
Salt. (P.S. I’m writing these answers from Baltyk Sea in Poland where I’m staying until the end of September.)
Can you share an as-of-yet unrealized project with us?
A lot of my illustration work will finally see the light very soon—I work with many companies on their product lines and it always takes a long time to be released into the world. It’s mainly beauty brands hiring me for watercolor work. I’m also taking part in a three-person show this November at a Sacramento gallery, which excites me beyond belief.
What are you serious about?
My fine art career. Part of my focus is commercial illustration (I consider Minted one of my commercial illustration clients) and I love working on commissions for products and marketing campaigns, so this is important for sure. But I’m growing my fine art career right now, painting big and working on a noncommissioned-based work for galleries. I’m happy to say that my trajectory is rising fast.
How did you first hear about Minted? And when did you join?
I’m a Minted newbie. I joined during the last Domino challenge in October. I saw the call for submissions and noticed that a few of my colleagues were a part of Minted. Because Domino has always been one of my favorite magazines, I knew it was a perfect opportunity.
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Minted community?
The community! Since I joined I’ve connected with a lot of artists with similar careers, and we’ve created a sort of advisory group where we can discuss work with and outside of Minted. We share the ups and downs of the artistic career and it’s been amazingly fun and helpful.
Who inspires you: Currently Katarzyna Kobro (I’m reading her biography right now)
Favorite recent discovery: That I’m blessed—it’s a daily discovery.
Favorite city: Hopefully soon Charleston, SC [ 1 ]
Favorite charity: Room to Read
Favorite movie: The sad and dark film The Hours directed by Stephen Daldry
Favorite colors: Fluorescent pink and orange. Maybe violet. But then also black and white.
Fashion idol: After watching the documentary Advanced Style, Debra Rapoport and Sarah-Jane Adams [ 2 ]
Favorite place in the world: Baltyk Sea/Poland [ 3 ]
Daily website read: I think it’s Instagram
Song in your head: Sia’s “Chandelier”
Favorite Instagram account: @themuseumofmodernart
Favorite art supply store: Jerry’s Artarama
Favorite watercolor paints: Winsor & Newton or M. Grahams
Favorite brushes: From Poland [ 4 ]
Favorite artist: Henri Matisse and Jenny Saville
Favorite works of art: Right before my trip to Poland I saw Modern Rebels exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum and I loved seeing Lee Krasner’s “Milkweed” [ 5 ]. I have to say, nothing compares to seeing works in a museum instead of on a laptop screen.
Favorite pieces of art in your home: Old Catholic crosses from Lwòw—my grandfather gave them to my father, who gave them to me.
Stationery: I create my own line of greeting cards and I must say—I love them! [ 6 ]
Pets: My dachshund Tapsiu and very soon my father’s Maltese CoCo
Favorite flowers: Wild plants
Favorite gadgets: My iPhone. Always and forever.
Favorite neighborhood restaurant: Z Harvest Cafe in Green Bay
Favorite drink: Chocolate smoothies made by my husband or red wine
Coffee-table book: My own—I made a book interspersed family pictures with my illustrations and gave them to family members as gifts.
Favorite snack: 1 chopped tomato, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped avocado, olive oil, lots of balsamic vinegar, salt, and cracked pepper.
What’s in your Netflix queue? I cannot wait for the new season of Bates Motel! Also, these are awaiting me in my queue: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Still Alice, and a lot of old French movies.
More from Marta Spendowska:
• Marta’s Minted Store
• V E R Y M A R T A (her website)
• Marta’s Instagram
• “Watercolor Abstract Flora Series: Fall 1” art print
• “Landsplashes Series: Fields” art print
• “Rose” art print