Trusting the process: Chicago artist Andrea Slaughter talks about coming into her own craft
South Side native Andrea Slaughter laughs as she explains she’s a few days late getting into Inktober, a popular social media-inspired challenge that encourages artists to create something – no matter how small or big – every day during the month of October. And, the idea behind it is simple: practice makes perfect.
“I haven’t done it yet,” said the 30-year-old Slaughter, while scrolling through her art portfolio on Facebook and making a promise to herself that she’ll do it soon.
Slaughter glances up from her laptop and looks at the paintings hung on Hope Cafe’s walls. She wants to find out who she needs to talk to, so she, too, can display some of her pieces around the North Lawndale-based coffee shop.
Last month, Slaughter was among a small group of midwestern artists featured at the Chicago Urban Art Retreat Center’s event, Emerging Artists Stirring the Pot. Since then she has been trying to put herself, as well as her art, out there more. For Slaughter, the hardest part about being an artist is believing in herself and her dreams.
Aside from being an illustrator, Slaughter splits her time between volunteering at various art galleries across the city and working at UCAN, an organization also in North Lawndale that offers support services for area families and youth facing trauma.
“It’s still a process because I still have little talks with myself,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You can do this girl!’”
The Real Chi chatted with Slaughter just days ahead of her upcoming show at Caldwell’s Wellness Center on Friday, Oct. 12. In the conversation, Slaughter opens up about finding herself through the Urban Art Retreat Center, transforming career lows into lessons, and making a comeback.
The Realat Chi: Talk to me about your journey to art. How did you get started?
Slaughter: I would sketch, and then in fifth-grade, [I had] my first art class. It was like an after school class. I went to North Kenwood/Oakland Charter School, and there was an artist there who saw talent in me. He was like, “You’re doing really good,” and it kind of inspired me to keep going.
At Daley College, they have little youth art classes, so my parents put me in that. After that, I just kept drawing. I went to Curie [Metro High School], and I was an art major at Curie, and then I went to college and kept doing art.
The Real Chi: And, how did the Chicago Urban Art Retreat Center come into play?
Slaughter: At one point, I graduated from college. It was really difficult finding jobs, and I was kind of discouraged, and I didn’t do art for awhile. A friend of mine told me about a class that Ms. Dianna [Long] teaches on Saturdays, and I signed up for it because I wanted the opportunity to be around other people and then do art again. It’s like, I’m not doing it on my own, so being in a class maybe I would push myself to get back into it.
The Real Chi: You host your own workshops and classes for young artists around Chicago. What do you enjoy most about working with children as your students?
Slaughter: The interaction, the mentorship. It’s so great to see how their minds work. It’s interesting just to see the light in them, how creative they are. A lot of them are so creative, especially kids sixth-grade or under. Their minds work in crazy different ways, and it kind of makes me open my mind more to see things in different ways. As you get older ... like I’m creative, but sometimes, my mind doesn’t go out of the box as much as I would like for it to go, and they just don’t have those limitations yet.
The Real Chi: You’re a first-generation college student, and you chose to pursue a career in the creative industry. What did your journey to becoming an artist look like?
Slaughter: My family has always been my support. They’re like, “You can do it!” or “Did you draw today?” It was more so doing the research myself and then constantly pushing myself, and that was the hardest part. So, that’s where I lack sometimes, just not knowing the resources, not knowing where to look – just not knowing anything. … I felt lost a lot of times, and I still feel lost a lot of times. Now, I’m not afraid to say I’m lost. I’m not afraid to reach out for help. I just want all the knowledge that I can get.
So, the people that I meet who are artists, I try to keep in contact. I try to network. I just try to figure out how they went about doing it, what they’re doing and what I can incorporate in my own career and my own path. That’s really what I’ve been doing, and I’ve been trying to keep going. I always have something going on.
The Real Chi: And what’s been your biggest challenge?
Slaughter: Just the whole finding a job thing. I was kind of depressed for awhile. That was before I took the class [at the Urban Art Retreat Center]. I love art, but I wasn’t trying to do it, especially after I graduated. I applied to so many jobs, and I got so many rejection letters because I didn’t have any experience to work.
The Real Chi: What did you learn from that experience?
Slaughter: I work at a transitional living facility for teenagers. They’re like 17 through 20. So, once you turn 21, you’re emancipated. I try to tell them just keep going because I wish that’s what I did.
I’m going now, but at one point, for a year, I stopped. I stopped trying to push myself. I stopped trying to motivate myself. I was just in this little box, and I was kind of depressed. And I was like, ‘No.’ It took awhile for me to get out of there. … That was like the worst part. Just that getting off my little depression and not continuing what I love doing.
The Real Chi: So, how did you bounce back?
Slaughter: Taking the class at the Urban Art Retreat. That kind of opened the doors. And then, I started to do a lot of volunteering. The place I volunteered at was the South Side Community Art Center on 48th and Michigan. I volunteered there for a year straight. Volunteering there, I met a lot of people. I networked a lot. And then, I met this lady right here – Dorian Sylvain. She’s an artist. She introduced me to the Hyde Park Art Center, so I also work there too. That opened that door, and I met more people at the Hyde Park Art Center.
That’s kind of how I started coming out of that little hole. Just networking, volunteering. A lot of people don’t want to volunteer, but I feel it helped me a lot and just know what’s going on in art and try get into that little bubble.
The Real Chi: You’re diving back into your art career and building yourself back up. So, what’s something you’ve discovered about yourself?
Slaughter: It’s more realizing something — that my work is good. That I can do whatever I set my mind to. That it’s OK to talk about yourself and to tell people what you’ve accomplished because I always didn’t want to do that.
I didn’t want to be showy, but now, it’s like, “What do you want to know?” I think it’s confidence, too. It’s better than it was prior. That’s another thing I’ve learned about myself.
The Real Chi: Where do you see yourself?
Slaughter: If I can do this full time and be able to sustain myself, I would love that. I want to travel, maybe do shows out of town. Do a project out of town, or out of the country that would be more awesome. I just want to expand and get my name out there.
The Real Chi: What advice do you have for younger artists?
Slaughter: Keep going. Keep drawing. Practice. That’s what people used to tell me all the time. Just practice, practice, practice. Draw everything. Draw a pencil on the table. Own your craft, and try to get your work out there. They have youth shows, no matter what level you are. Don’t be afraid to just put it out there because you don’t know what people’s response may be.
Andrea Slaughter will be a guest artist at Caldwell’s Wellness Center, 5835 W. Madison St., on Friday, Oct. 12. The event will start at 7:30 p.m. and is to also include a performance by singer and comedian Kilpatrick Taylor. For more information, view the details here.