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Saturday December 16th 2017

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Art is life, not just a hobby

Shea2By Jen Noel — An artist is stereotyped in a couple different ways.  Some visualize a broke hippie getting in touch with his or her inner feelings and putting it on a canvas. Others think of fine wine and arrogant artists in a New York City gallery. However, an artist does not have to be either or; at least not for Shea Hartman-Hodges.

“I knew I wanted to be an artist around the age of 25,” Hodges says. She adds that she had lost her job at a bank, had three kids, a husband and had already tried lots of things. She says, “At this point, I didn’t care what I did, I just wanted to enjoy what I did.” Therefore, she began studying at Morningside College to earn a degree in studio art and creative writing.

Hodges says, “Most people told me I couldn’t get a degree in art or writing. Especially writing, because I have dyslexia. That was all more reason for me to prove them wrong.”

Today, Shea sits in her downtown studio in Sioux City. Her long brown hair is down, and she is dressed in jeans and a crochet sweater. Her smile is always more than welcoming.

Terry McGaffin, a professor at Morningside, says, “I was set up to be her advisor for art classes. She made a strong first impression, a very positive force. Her confidence and self knowledge just leaves you in awe.”

Shea talks about what it means to be a modern day artist. She says, “When I’m asked what I do, and I reply that I’m an artist, they say, ‘OK, but what’s your real job?’” She laughs and says that she usually tells them she also bartends downtown. “People look at art like it’s just a hobby,” explains Hodges.

She feels this is why it is so financially hard to keep up. Most people in the area do not buy professional artwork. You can’t buy paint and supplies to continue to do art, when no money from your work is coming in. Other struggles she has found include finding places to show her work and knowing how to promote herself. “The huge thing I learned in school was confidence and how to take criticism, but no one taught me how to promote myself to the public,” she says.

McGaffin feels that one thing Shea does best is keeping herself informed. Sitting on Shea’s desk is a copy of “I’d Rather Be in the Studio,” a book on self-promotion. She looks at it and says, with a large grin on her face, that it’s “her Bible.”

She never regrets her line of work choice. “I love my job. I don’t have to make excuses for being eccentric. Most of all, I can show my kids no matter what, you can go after your dreams,” says Hodges.