When Toronto-based artist Frances Sousa and I chatted about her practice and what drives her to make art, she mentioned that she hadn’t gone to art school. Even more than before she mentioned it, I wanted to write about her work. Because, of course, as this blog is generally geared toward early career art students, that by no means implies that everyone must have completed an MFA–or even a BFA–somewhere in order to be considered worthy of sharing.
Frances Sousa is self-taught, making a ton of work, and kicking ass up there in Toronto, and it’s worth mentioning that she is looking for artists and photographers worldwide to collaborate with. This brings attention to the unique position that an artist is in when they don’t have a built-in school network to rely on, or resources that degree programs offer which students may take for granted. Artists like Sousa have to work from the ground up themselves, so in that way, collaboration and constant outreach is essential.
Sousa was raised in Toronto, and when I asked her if she attended art school, she replied, “I’ve had a lot going on in daily life that made art school difficult to fit in.” And I find this significant because while she lacks a comparable degree, she compensates by simply making work that speaks to her, and by independently studying and constantly experimenting. It’s that latter part that is the bit worth taking special note of, as experimentation and constant trial and error lead to discoveries along the way. She says, “I am drawn to the work I do because it is a way I can materialize and express my imagination, which often results in dreamy, avant-garde imagery.” She cites an interest in fashion, and aspects of her cultural and family background that continually influence her aesthetic.
I asked her what her process is like. She explains that it “begins where I spontaneously have an idea of a technique or general imagery. Next, I try to figure out how to manifest the idea. Typically it can take anywhere from two days to a few weeks. However the more complex pieces in the Free Stitch series can take over a month to complete.”
Not attending art school does present certain challenges when trying to get work seen. She says that the biggest challenge she’s encountered as an early career artist is making connections. “Since I missed out on school, I started with no one I knew who was into art. Luckily, we live in the age of the internet so I am able to get my work seen and exhibited.”
And there have been some successes too! She says that her biggest success so far was a commission to make work for The Debrief, a division of Bauer Media Group, where she worked on creating imagery for some of their articles. And influenced by various art forms such as photography, collage, fashion, painting, and other media, Sousa continues to explore new and different ways she can combine materials and ideas to make work that is uniquely her own.
More information can be found at francessousa.com.
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