Yesterday, over much-needed Wednesday afternoon coffee, we caught up with one of our closest friends — professional artist, long-time ArtAttack supporter and Chelsea College of Arts graduate, Charlotte Posner. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll have seen some of Charlotte’s fabulous “Ladies,” which range from classic fashion sketches, to ice cream ladies, afternoon tea ladies, sushi ladies and beyond.
But there was plenty going on with Charlotte before these chicks hatched on the London art scene. As an independent artist who’s made her own way since graduation, she knows what it means to build a career from scratch — from the obligatory positive mindset to the hard work and networking, to perhaps most important, taking care to stay true to yourself.
ArtAttack: Tell us about your first memories of art.
Charlotte Posner: One of my earliest memories in art is doing a course when I was really, really young. I was in a room with lots of old people and I was the youngest by far. They did it in a local church, and we had to copy off photographs. Everyone did them quite realistically but I took the image and I made really fantastical, multi-coloured pictures. I changed the ducks, I changed the colour of the roof, I changed the colour of the trees… And when we laid them out everyone’s was very similar to the postcard and mine was absolutely crazy.
AA: So you’re a Dalí? CP: I was doing a bit of a Dalí, yeah
AA: What did your family say when you told them you wanted to pursue art full time? CP: My family were really supportive of me being an artist. I wasn’t academic at school; I’m dyslexic so art was always my strong point.
AA: Do you think your dyslexia is in any way linked to your creativity? CP: 100%. At my art school, one in three people were dyslexic. I think when you lack something in one aspect, you gain it in another. For me, I turned it around so instead of my dyslexia being a bad thing, I’ve made it a positive attribute of my personality.
AA: What advice would you give any students looking to study at Chelsea or another top art school? CP: You need a strong portfolio to get into art school.
AA: Define a strong portfolio. CP: I think you just need to be yourself and express yourself. Chelsea is very conceptual so it’s about the concepts behind the work. It’s not just about the actual work, it’s about the ideas. And I struggled with that in the beginning because I’m a hands-on painter and I was more about the process of making, rather than the actual ideas behind it, but in the end it worked out for the best.
AA: In terms of finding a route to sell your art, what was your process after school? Did you secure gallery representation immediately? CP: When I graduated from art school I did these huge paintings and I thought they’d be snapped up by a gallery straight away. And it didn’t happen. I had my degree show, and I was so excited. The teachers said paint the floor grey and the walls white, and I was like, mmm that’s not me. So I went and got gold, metallic, shiny paint and painted the floor gold metallic. I also managed to blag £900 worth of wallpaper from Osborne and Little so I decorated the walls in gold wallpaper to hang my jeweled paintings. For my business cards I got a big pot filled with jewels and I put all my cards inside… So I’ve always had a different way of doing things, but there’s no right and wrong way in art. So after that I thought I need to get a gallery, but because my work kept chopping and changing, no one could really see what style I had because I was developing and growing. And it’s so important to keep developing and growing always, and just follow your instinct. And you have to be a doer. I really thoroughly recommend to just do. Don’t think about things. Just actually physically make things and do them.
AA: So how did you move forward without representation? CP: I continued doing my work and I always entered competitions. I entered the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition a few years ago and I got through. I sold my work on buyers’ day and the Dean of the Royal Academy bought some of my work. And whilst I was there, I went up to the BBC while they were filming and I tapped the cameraman on the shoulder and I said, “Excuse me, can you film me for TV?” and he said, “Sorry, no.” Anyway, a year later, I reapplied for the Royal Academy and I ticked a sheet saying I wouldn’t mind being filmed for TV and I got a phone call from the BBC saying, “Would you mind being on the Culture Show?” And I was like, “Of course! Let’s definitely do this!” So I was on the BBC Culture Show and they filmed me through the process of getting into the Royal Academy again and that really helped my career. So I think when you put something out to the universe, and you try, and you keep following the direction you want to go, you get what you. You have to have a vision of what you want but remember it can go all different ways.
AA: So your advice to fellow graduates who don’t secure galleries immediately is to just push on. CP: Yes, but social media is an amazing, amazing platform for selling work also. Through Instagram and through ArtAttack, I will sell loads. It’s such a great way, like I can’t recommend it enough. I think the way forward is through social media. It’s through plugging yourself on Facebook, social media sites like Twitter, Instagram. And ArtAttack will be an amazing, amazing platform to use once it’s launched.
AA: Any other advice you would give to an artist looking to go out on their own after school? CP: I’d say, if you can, don’t get a full-time job. Try and get part-time work so that you can have time to work on your art. If you can, try and have a few days to stick to your art and keep making, keep making your work and keep going. Because if you’ve got the energy and you really, really want to do it, you will do it. And you just have to truly believe in yourself as well, and stick to what’s true to you. Don’t take other people’s advice. You know in your heart of hearts what is good and what isn’t yourself and there will definitely be a market out there for your type of work.
– Interview by: Sam Senchal, Written by: India Irving