CSA co-founder, Ann Simmons, had the pleasure of interviewing spring season mixed media artist Tina Hirsig.  She is a busy lady, balancing being a full time artist, educator, and mother. Read on to learn more about her process, what inspires her, and what drives her to keep creating.

AS: How would you describe your work in 3 words?

TH: Intuitive, layered, assemblage

AS: Much of your formal art training is in painting and printmaking. How did you become interested in mixed media and assemblage and when did you begin consistently incorporating found objects into your work?

TH: My interest in mixed media work began in graduate school when I studied artists such as Joseph Cornell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Betye Saar.  Growing up with antique dealer parents I have always been surrounded with interesting objects.  To see artists using objects in their work along with traditional art materials was like finding my home in the arts.  This layering of objects, drawings, and printed imagery has me fascinated still today.

AS: You are a mother of two young boys, a full time arts educator, and you maintain a consistent studio practice. Has there ever been a time when you’ve wanted to give up making art professionally? How do you find balance?

TH: Being an artist is a way of thinking and being in the world, so I would say I am always an artist (and to risk being a bit cliche). While I may have stopped producing actual artwork during times in my life, I have always sketched, written, and reflected on what was making me curious.  Balance is always a work in progress.  I don’t always get it right but one thing is for sure that my family is my priority over all else. I keep a very organized planner that I write every commitment for the week, often hour by hour.  I schedule studio time and protect it fiercely so it does not get pushed aside.  The balance comes with leaving Saturdays and Sundays open for play. My husband and I work hard to not overschedule these days.  You will find me working in the garden, reading a book, watching movies, finding adventure with the kids, getting in my kayak, or doing whatever sparks my interest those days.

AS: Collaboration is a fundamental component of your practice as an artist and teacher. Can you speak of a time when collaboration made a significant impact on you and your work from that point forward?

TH: Collaborating with my friend and fellow artist/teacher Laura Gaffke inspires me every week.  Our work together has had a significant impact on how and why I make the work I do today.

For example, our Vision/ReVision project started in 2010 when we began our website.  We designed this project to keep in regular contact about our studio work long distance (she lives in Connecticut) and it continues today with over 200 pieces of art created.  The “Vision” is a photograph documenting what is inspiring us. The “ReVision” is a mixed media piece of art responding to one another’s Vision.  Laura responds to my Vision and I respond to Laura’s Vision.  Each piece of original art is 5″x7″ and sent through the mail in unique handcrafted envelopes.  The ReVisions are widely varied because we use this project as a way of experimenting with new materials and methods.  Sometimes they are flops and sometimes we discover something fantastic that feeds into our own artwork.  We don’t always literally use the imagery in one another’s photographs, but will often pick out a color, shape, line, pattern, texture, or work off the concept behind the photograph. For this reason we always post a collage of the work in process in our studios and a written reflection along with the final piece.

This project is a story about the two of us pushing beyond what is known into that vulnerable place of learning.

To see the work visit our website www.lauratwotina.com

AS: You grew up in Illinois, and then spent over a decade in Boston before moving to Charleston in 2003. What brought you here? Did the change in your surroundings significantly impact your work?

TH: We came here because my husband had a job opportunity.  I never thought I would end up in South Carolina, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the inspiration I have drawn from the landscape here.  There is just something about the quiet stillness of the marsh that moves me. I have always been an outdoor kind of person so the easy access to nature by simply putting a boat in the water down the street from my house is bliss.

AS: You’ve stated that your artwork investigates the connection and disconnection between humans and the earth. Technology’s exponential growth and influence plays a large part in that dis/connection. How has technology positively affected your work? Negatively?

TH: My work lately has been exploring the impact of technology on my art practice as well as how it is changing the relationships around me. Some of this is literal in how I share my artwork more fully with others online to more subtly in how I incorporate digitally altered imagery into my printmaking.  Photoshop has an amazing way of creating “sketches” for compositions, which I enjoy.  Recently in a drawing class at the College of Charleston, I encouraged students to take pictures with their phones to investigate possible compositions for their landscape drawing.  I didn’t want them to draw from their phone, but to draw while in the landscape responding to their surroundings, however why not use the phone as a tool in this process.  I am open to using technology but I am often frustrated about how I am becoming more and more reliant on it.  The last ten years have had some incredible innovations with technology, but I remain a skeptic.  I don’t want it to interfere with my intuitive experiences in nature and personal relationships which inspire much of my artwork.   I worry how my student’s and children’s connection with the natural world around them is being disconnected by technology in their hands.  I see this disconnection not just with the natural world, but also to other living beings around them.  What will be the long-term consequence mentally and physically as our experiences happen online more?

AS: Can you describe your studio practice?

TH: The work always starts with drawing.  The drawing process of pencil to paper offers an unhurried way of seeing and listening in a fast-paced world. These drawings are sometimes incorporated into sculpture and mixed media work, while other times serve simply as a process of learning and thinking.  The spontaneity of this process allows me the freedom to follow a question and add layer upon layer of found objects, drawings, and digitally crafted images as transfer prints.

AS: Your artistic process begins with a lot of reading and writing. What was the last great book you read?

TH: I will often read a few books at a time depending on time and other life commitments.  I really enjoyed Ann Pachett’s  State of Wonder.  I am always drawn toward books with strong female characters that are often historically based.  This book captivated me with how she described the Amazon jungle and it’s relevant story about reproduction in modern times.

AS: Outside of creating art, what do you love to do?

TH: Kayaking, playing roller derby, yoga, watching my favorite sport and team…the Red Sox, traveling with my family, sharing small moments with my children every day, reading, tasting new craft brews, and sharing what I know through teaching.




Tina Hirsig is one of the Spring Season artists.