artist interview

Symbiotic, acrylic on canvas, 24" x30"
Introducing artist, Tiffany Besonen...  

Is there a particular rhythm you have around your creative work time?  If so, what does it look like? Not really, rhythm implies a pattern and I wouldn't say I have a predictable routine. I am an artist, but also a high school art teacher and mother of two--so I get interrupted often and that is the just the random variety of my life. There are month stretches without making art at times, but then I can feel myself getting physically ill and mentally foggy. Other artists understand this, I NEED to create. It is best for me to create a little every day and I am happy in the summer doing that, but I only seem to set aside large chunks of studio time lately when I have a deadline to meet. I need deadlines, otherwise I will start 20 different projects and not finish one.

How many work spaces do you have and how/why do they work for you?
Soon, I will have a studio space of my own again. I work in the back of my classroom, in the garage, in the kitchen, outside, etc. The more I have read about productive artists, the more I have realized that few of them have ideal conditions. You can not allow limitations to stop you from making art. There will always be limitations. 

Do you do any "cross training" (activities that may enhance or spark your creativity)?
Reading, watching movies, writing, running, teaching, spending time in the outside, field trips to second-hand stores. 

Where do you seek inspiration for your work?
Motherhood and family has been a huge inspiration for me, but also nature, dreams, memories, art history, experimenting with materials and processes, and the poetry of my friend LouAnn Shepard Muhm. LouAnn and I are currently collaborating on an incantation bowl projectShe is writing the incantation poems. I am constructing the bowls out of sewing pattern paper and then will inscribe the inside of the bowls with the poems, as well as adding an illustration on each bowl. In 2011, we attended a conference at Concordia College in Moorhead together, entitled 'The Role of the Artist in Society' and found out about ancient incantation bowls. Instantaneously, an idea for modern day incantation bowls was sparked and grew. (So cool when that happens!) LouAnn was awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board grant for this incantation bowl project. 

Do you suffer from perfectionism and if so, what techniques do you use to manage this?
I call myself a recovered perfectionist. Creating art actually has helped me with that, since I truly believe that making art is about being imperfect, being human. I watch for this in students too, because I truly think that perfectionism leads to depression and anxiety. When I tense up with my work and feel the perfectionism surfacing, I take it a small step at a time and take breaks. It is amazing how differently I view my work after some rest.

Do you have a creative support system?  How important is this to your process?
I have much better support from family and other creatives than 10 years ago, but still working on actually asking for help when I need it. I realized recently that I would prefer people to read my mind and just know I need help, but that doesn't work! So, I am working on this. I recently hired a high school student to assist me with constructing the incantation bowls. I have done this once before when a college student did an internship with me five years ago. I love working that closely with someone else on a common goal, and getting that level of help is liberating.

I See You, 24" x 30", acrylic on canvas

          More about Tiffany:
I work both two and three-dimensionally; my sculptures 
and paintings seem to fuel one another. I work intuitively 
with materials, colors, images, and forms. Creating personal 
metaphors is a process of soothing my own anxieties and 
discovering how everything is connected. My most 
recent work has surfaced with surreal narratives of 
sheep, pears and birds. Also, I am currently working on 
series of modern day incantation bowls made from 
sewing pattern paper, a collaboration with poet, 
LouAnn Sheperd Muhm. 

I grew up on a sheep farm in North-Central Minnesota, 

left rural life for ten years and returned fifteen years 
ago when my suburban boyfriend (now husband) 
proposed and then shocked me by wanting to live in 
the middle of nowhere Minnesota, yet in the center 
of everything I truly need.

I teach art to brilliant middle and high schoolers in a
small school, about 40 students per grade level. I ama mom to two creative young girls, and that suburbanboy has transformed into quite a renaissance man. Imake art in the back of my classroom, in our century-old farmhouse kitchen, outside in the summer, andsometimes in the winter, when suffering from lightdeprivation, I drag my work into the woods, suspend itfrom trees and document how the elements deteriorateit, as I slowly come back to life.Having once belonged to an artists' cooperative inChelsea, Manhattan and flying to New York a coupletimes a year, I had my ear on the pulse of the art world.It was a great experience, but when I stepped awayfrom that artist cooperative six years ago, I began tomore clearly hear my own pulse and voice. Perhaps itcomes with age no matter where you are, but trulylistening to my own pulse means that I am no longer drowning it out with the static of constantly seeking far-away muses. I know what I am missing out on, and itcan wait so that I don’t have to miss out on nearbysubtleties--the everyday, heart-twinging beauty thatquietly begs to be heard. 


  1. I would love to spend a day help you with your bowls!



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