• Cassandra Vagher

Defining Success



“We try to remind ourselves that we are artists first and foremost; second we are teachers, even though that’s what we’re doing 9-5.” Saturday I joined artist, Angel Estrada, for coffee and Oreos in his snug printmaking studio that he shares with two other artists, residing inside the Globeville Riverfront Art Center (GRACe) in Denver, Colorado. Angel, 25, is a high school art and jewelry teacher. His love for educating others is apparent by how fondly he speaks of his students, but his real passion is the act of creating art, not just teaching it. “The dream is having teaching to be a part of my life, but I’d like to own a building like this, with artisans, jewelers, photographers... I want a place where artisans can work, and they can also teach their craft.”

I have always thought Angel’s name suits him well. He is soft-spoken, intentional, and articulate. His loyalty as a friend is unparalleled; he was a great classmate, and a reliable partner that I depended on throughout college. He is a talented artist, and I’ve always felt that his artwork has been an accurate reflection of his calm and pure persona.

I had caught him on a day off. Instead of working on specific pieces for his two upcoming art shows, he was experimenting with new methods and skill sets he had picked up from another fellow printmaker. I watched him contemplate, try his idea, mumble from a failed attempt, and then go back to refine the process. This trial and error was problem-solving. Although not happy with the outcome of his efforts, Angel was not deterred from the small failure; he adjusted and then tried again, until he’d reach a desirable outcome. Angel demonstrated perseverance.

As he worked and conversed with me about his aspirations, the topic of success arose. Together we considered the topic for an hour or so. What does it mean to be successful as an artist? Is success defined by the art community knowing your name on a global or national scale? Or, is success on a more personal level, and determined by your own goals and standards? How do you know when you’ve succeeded? Do most successful people fail multiple times before they succeed?

It became apparent rather quickly that success is a hard word to describe. I told Angel, "For me success has always been evolving; once I’ve completed a task or reached a goal, I’d quickly move on to establish new goals. I can’t recall ever looking back and saying, 'I’m a successful person,'" and neither could Angel. Are we too hard on ourselves? Neither Angel nor I have a million followers on our social platforms, and we constantly look at other artists who do, comparing ourselves to them. However, we both determined followers doesn’t necessarily mean success.

As for failure, that’s just part of the process. Not allowing that failure to derail your dream, and persevering; that’s where success takes place-- whether it’s in your art studio, business, or other avenues of your life. You get back up, reassess the situation, refine your strategy, and try again.

Angel finds small success every time he refines a new method for creating prints. He’s successful every time he teaches a student a new skill or inspires them to create art. “It would feel like a success if I made something every single day. The act of creating something feels good. That would be success to me.” Success is defined by the individual themselves. Some goals may be large, some may be small, but we can only determine them ourselves. In my eyes Angel is a success for continuing to practice his art beyond his years in college and outside his full time job as a teacher.

Angel’s desire to own his own studio and communal workspace is currently a far off dream. I am excited to see his career as an artist unfold and to see what steps he takes in the future to make his goals a reality. For now, please join me in celebrating his current successes at his two upcoming gallery exhibitions listed below: “Exhibition”

March 10, 2018 from 6-9PM

GRACe Studios

888 E. 50th Ave., Denver, CO 80216

Regis Alumni Show

June 2018

More information to Come

Visit Angels website here

#story #photography #printmaking #art #artist

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© 2019 by Cassandra Vagher.