Britt Bass ::: Painter ::: Atlanta
I first got to know Britt in Athens, Georgia while we were both students at the University of Georgia. With the addition of our mutual friend, Missy Cargo, we made up a sort of creative trio. Despite the fact that we ran in many of the same social circles, our conversations usually took a detour from talking about those intricacies, and instead focused on art & what it looked like to have a career in a creative field. Britt and Missy often participated in my various side projects and in fact, YELLE was born out of the existing collaboration between Britt & writer Ali Coad. Now, three years after we graduated, Britt is a successful working artist with a brick & mortar studio, charmingly named STUDIO STUDIO, in Buckhead, the uptown district in Atlanta.
Experimentation in Oxford
We started from the beginning. I wanted to know more about her process and uniquely playful approach to abstract painting. Her first year out of college, Britt moved to Oxford, Mississippi. There she worked two day jobs and painted morning, evening, and weekends. Because she had none of the connections an established artist has with gallery owners, this was a highly experimental time for her. She focused on un-learning much of what she had been taught in art school and began to rebel against the idea that work had to be slow & tedious or that a single work needed to take months. Instead, she started & finished paintings within days. She used white paint. She left parts of her canvas bare. She used neon paint straight from the tube. She says that during that time, her palette changed dramatically: from serious tones that reflected the often dour art school environment she’d just graduated from to playful, bright colors that expressed renewed exuberance for her field. These experiments became the foundations of her art practice.
Form & Function
I’m always curious about how a work came to be: how did the artist arrive to the final product? So my next set of questions hinged on Britt’s art-making process. She said that although she used to doodle shapes & ideas in a sketchbook, these days she typically starts a painting when she is standing in front of a blank canvas. She is in love with the mechanics of painting, the discovery, the layering, describing it as "having it, losing it, getting it back, and then reinventing it." She elaborated that her compositions are a series of reactions - each brushstroke a response to the last. Painting is like a train of thought. It cannot have any distractions or interruptions and must be finished within a short time frame. Her art is created from an inner intuition that makes it nearly impossible for Britt to revisit a piece, even a couple weeks later. I asked her when she felt a work was finished? Her first response was, 'When the composition is balanced enough that the eye does not rest on a certain spot, but moves throughout the piece.' But her second response was, ‘When I can Instagram it & list it in the online shop.’ Britt is able to create works very fast & unlike many artists, does not dwell on individual paintings. She is quite focused in that way - works may live or die and she does not develop a strong emotional attachment to them. This approach to painting has allowed her to produce a large body of work and consequently build a commercially viable business. One thing that has surprised her? How much she enjoys the business side. In a digital age, she has found that direct marketing through social media allows her to connect on a personal level with her buyer. Plus, it’s pretty thrilling to sell a work in under 5 minutes.
On Being Collected & Collecting
The rise in popularity of prints has expanded the market for affordable art, fueled by a new customer: the casual art buyer. But the question of whether collectors of prints will become collectors of original artwork remains. I have quite a print collection as do many of my friends. And yet, in talking with Britt, we both agreed that recently, we've become less interested in buying mass produced prints and more interested in substantial, original pieces. I've seen Britt's personal art collection grow and was thrilled to view them in her airy Atlanta loft. Her cache is a mixture of abstract paintings, still life, textiles, you name it! It is not necessarily a cohesive collection, but describes an evolution of her taste. She says almost all of her pieces were made by friends and have stories behind them. For collectors of her own work, Britt says she wants to create pieces that she & her friends would find attractive & want to put up in their own homes. But she also hopes that her audience will grow with her as she matures as a woman & artist.
The art industry, along with music & books, is experiencing a shift in the way it markets & sells to customers. Britt has seen this first hand after interacting with art consultants and online galleries who believe their own eye and expertise will determine an artist’s salability. But in the age of social media & the deluge of information & images, customers feel more entitled to develop their own taste and shop with that alone. The ‘new school’ of art business is all about the unique experience of purchasing a piece of art. Britt talked excitedly about a new business opportunity that is capitalizing on these shifting sands: a space that features artwork from a range of artists, who show their pricier work in the gallery side with more affordable prints in the casual side and no judgment from the salesperson on which you prefer or why.
Britt already has her sleeves rolled up & is ready to take on 2015. This year will be about streamlining her business. While she loves products, she will phase out some items like cell phone & tablet covers, and notebooks and move towards a more lifestyle-focused product line possibly featuring scarves, pillows, and bags. She references artists like Kindah Khalidy, Rebecca Atwood, and Lulie Wallace as inspirations for this new direction. Her husband, Ren has joined the team to add structure and define the business, which will allow her more creative freedom. Ideally, this segue will be done by spring so she can spend the latter part of the year doing something else she loves: traveling. Some things won’t change as we both move through our 20’s. We will always love to talk about creative challenges and compare notes on where our next travel adventure should be!