RAINA “RI” ANDERSON
When did you first think about what you wanted to do as an adult? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
As a kid I loved drawing and painting. I was encouraged by my parents, relatives and friends. My mother and her friends were creative and whenever we visited them I was guided through art projects from collage to puppet making, painting and sculpting.
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What or who were your influences?
I was an extremely shy kid who loved spending time drawing, spying on other people, and doing cartwheels in the back yard. Until the age of 12, I moved every year or two, from Boston to Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, Minnesota and Connecticut. After that my parents settled outside Hartford, CT and then moved to New York City. I was influenced by books like Harriet the Spy, Betty & Veronica comics, rock and roll, especially the Rolling Stones and The Beatles,and jazz dance. When I started photographing as an adult, I was influenced by photographers
such as Diane Arbus, Sally Mann and Cindy Sherman, and by painters including Hieronymus Bosch, Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington.
Tell us how your backgrounds played a part in your choice to be an artist/photographer?
I think that I always used photography as a way of orienting myself to what was going on both around me and inside me. Being behind a camera gave me an excuse to hide myself, and also a way of focusing in and seeing things in new ways. I love spending long hours in the dark room with the magenta toned safe light, where I was mesmerized by images floating to the surface of the chemical filled trays.
How did you get started in business and what did you do?
When friends knew I was a photographer, they would ask me to make portraits of them, and to photograph events and weddings. I started doing this to make money, but found that my idea of an interesting portrait didn’t usually correlate with their idea of a flattering picture. As I began exhibiting my photographs in galleries I began working as a photographer reproducing art. A lot of my friends were artists, and I lived in art studios all over Boston, so much of my paying work was making slides of artists’ work. I also worked as a
photographer at the DeCordova Museum, taught art photography classes at colleges and universities, museums and high school.
Has the evolution of technology and social media affected your career? but instead used existing photographs which I merged and morphed into new forms in photoshop. When I do go out to photograph now, it is mostly to gather imagery to put into collage work.
Why did you move from America to San Miguel? How did you start up your printing business?
Yes. The changing technology affected my career a lot. When I moved to Mexico in 2005 I was shooting with 4x5 color negative film and making c-prints in the darkroom. As it became more and more difficult to find labs to process my film, I gradually moved to digital. And, I opened a digital fine art printing studio with my friend and colleague Jod Lourie a few years after I moved to SMA. Also, as a mother with two young children, I found myself working on the computer whenever they napped or slept at night. My method of working changed a lot. I began compositing images that I already had to create new forms. I did this more and more, to the point where I almost never went out and photographed, We had spent the previous 2 summers in San Miguel after an extended road trip together when I was on maternity leave after having our first daughter. So the idea was, yes, we’d go to San Miguel for a year. That year I gave birth to our second daughter in San Miguel, and life here was good. So one year became two, and then San Miguel became home. I started up a printing business with friend and artist Jod Lourie who I met soon after I moved to San Miguel. She had moved here at about the same time as I had, and we became close friends. She was splitting her time between SMA and LA, and she had the idea of starting a printing business. She is an artist and wanted a digital printer for her personal work. Because I couldn’t afford to rent a separate studio space, we decided to use the printer
we decided to use the printer to start a business thatwould pay for the space. The business gave both of us the ability to work on our personal work, and also to generate income. It has also provided a way of experimenting with all kinds of media and led me to create new lines of design products like wallpapers, lampshades, fabric prints, and more.
Tell us about your circus experience and how that came to be?
When my daughters were 6 and 3, I saw an ad in the local newspaper for a performance by the local circus troupe Gravityworks. I took my kids and I loved it. Dance had always been a big part of my life. As a kid I loved gymnastics, I was part of a jazz dance troupe in high school, danced throughout college, and always did some kind of movement including dance and yoga as an adult. In the Gravityworks program I discovered that they were offering kids’ classes, so I enrolled my 6 year old in the classes. I would take her and watch every week, and thought how fun it looked! A couple other moms and I approached the
“In my late teens I wanted to try to become a pro tennis player!”
teacher, Ceci Corona, and asked if she would teach an adult class. She agreed and I signed up. While most of the other moms dropped out, I couldn’t get enough! I loved the feeling of dancing in the air, and learned tricks on the fabrics, the static trapeze, and the hoop. I started adding more and more classes to my week.
About a year later Nisha Ferguson, the founder and director of the adult circus troupe, invited me to join. The rest is history. I was a member of Gravityworks from 2009 onward. It became a big part of my life, not just because we trained for 12 hours a week, performed many shows in and around San Miguel, and basically spent a lot of time in trainings and rehearsals, but also because of the community it created. Because the kind of work was fun, specialized, and also dangerous, it required a lot of energy, trust, and dedication. We all became very tight knit, and supported each other through all kinds of personal growths and traumas. It was like a second family.
How did the pandemic affect you and your business ?
In the beginning of the pandemic, my printing business basically shut down. Because all the galleries and museum were on hiatus, no one was printing anything. I did continue printing personal projects for peoples’ homes, and did some scanning of negatives and photo restorations. With the extra time I had, I began some new work such as producing face masks and handbags from my designs and those were both fun new projects. I also did some work for a local film production company, where I created physical and digital film decks which are used to promote creative films. And, I settled into Zoom to teach private photoshop classes and offer online consultations for printing, photoshop work, and digital portraits. I moved my studio right at the beginning of the pandemic, which was a big project, and so spent a good amount of time setting up my new space and settling in. I did a lot of projects during the pandemic that had been shoved to the background, like, updating my various websites, completing products that had been in the works for some time, and creating catalogues and promos for many of my design and art series. I amped up the store on my riandersondesigns.com website and linked it to Facebook and Instagram, and opened an Etsy store.
Do you exhibit your work? How do you prepare for showings?
Yes, I do exhibit my work. Before I have a showing, I always edit my photographs by printing work prints, hanging them up on my walls, and deciding which ones work and which ones don’t work. I look at groupings and move them around to see around to see how they should
be ordered and which groupings work best. I also like to show work prints to curators if they are choosing the work. I create mockups of the show in Photoshop using room plans for measurements. I generally print and frame at least 5 extra works than will fit so I have the flexibility of moving things around or changing them in the physical space during installation.
My 2020 had been scheduled with a lot of shows, most all of which were cancelled due to the pandemic. Theses shows are being rescheduled for 2022. These include three solo shows at Casa de la Cultura in Monterrey, MX, a solo show at Museo de la Mujer in CDMX, and a group exhibit at Worcester Center for Crafts.
Tell us about the projects you’re working on?
My most recent project is called “Betwixt.” It is the latest work that I have exhibited (at Galería Intersección, SMA in 2019) and the work that is being rescheduled for showings in 2022. It is a series of sepia toned digitally collaged photographs. The subjects of these photographs are nests, birds, my two daughters and myself. The work is about the shifting parameters of home. This work has been influenced by surrealism and magical realism that have surrounded my life raising kids as an expat in Mexico. I have created a few new pieces during the pandemic, and am working on some video projections to accompany the prints as well.
How has your business changed from when you first started out? What advice do you give to young creatives who want to pursue projects like you have?
My art has changed a lot from where I first started out. I started out with 35 mm documentary work. I used to believe that cropping an image was a crime. I didn’t even like to print photographs without a filed out negative carrier to show every millimeter of the negative. Now I work almost exclusively in photoshop, often creating forms that don’t have any semblance of a photograph (for instancemy series of “Mariposas”).
For young creatives, I would advise doing what has meaning. Do projects that scare you. And do projects that reveal some kind of feeling even if you don’t know what that is or can’t explain it.
How has your family been affected by your career??
Well, my daughters have been involved in my art career from the moment they were born. I actually made pinhole photographs of both daughters’ deliveries. I went to grad school when my first daughter was one. While in graduate school, she became my thesis project, along with my mother who spent a lot of time with me to help, and myself. While I hadn’t planned this, I knew that I couldn’t pull myself away to photograph anything else. And, this is what I was interested in. I have always been introspective, and it was only natural that my work focused more and more inward. When my daughters were young, photography shoots were just a part of home life. As they became adolescents, they didn’t want to be involved. This is one of the reasons I turned to digital, and began combining existing photographs to create new work. Now, I ask them if I can use photographs from old shoots and sometimes they say no. My 15 year old does not like to see photographs of her as a nude baby and sometimes I have to exclude photographs from shows. My older daughter is 18 and I think she is proud of being in some of the photographs, even if she doesn’t particularly like the way she looks. She and my younger daughter are both creative, and while I don’t think they will become fine artists as they have seen my financial struggles throughout their lives, I do believe they will both use art or design in their lives. I always took them to my shows as well as to galleries and museums, and their father is also an artist. I don’t think they realize yet how unusual their childhoods have been, growing up with two expat artists in San Miguel de Allende, but since they are growing up it is yet to be seen!
What do or did you do to promote yourself?
Like most visual artist, promotion is not my strong suit. I have social media pages – insta and fb - to promote my art business, my design business, and another offshoot pet art business. I do my best to send out mailings. I have hired assistants to help me contact galleries and museums. I keep my websites updated but getting eyes there is another skill. When I have shows I find writers/ reviewers to write about them. Today it seems you need influencers to repost so I’m going to have to get my daughters to help me with that!
What are your ultimate goals and how do they factor into your life?
My ultimate goal is to enjoy my life, to enjoy my work, and to achieve financial stability. The first two are easy, I have a great home, studio, and kids. I love creating and am grateful to be able to do what I love. And, I do yoga every morning and dance many times a week. Doing something physical and connecting with other people is important, and for the last few years I have pursued ballroom dance -- salsa, cha-cha, bachata, tango, waltz, foxtrot, and more. The pandemic has both given me the time and focus to work on the ongoing financial stability part. For me, creating and enjoying my life are easy. Getting paying work rolling in is not as much fun, but this last year has allowed me to focus on getting my various projects into marketable positions.
GILLISS GwynAn Interview with Lon Levin
Gwyn studied theater and play writing at Carnegie-Mellon University, and was an Emmy Award nominated Daytime TV actress with over a dozen contract and recurring roles- as well as appearing on Primetime TV series and pilots.
When did you first think about what you wanted to do as an adult? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
As a child, I was very shy and so it was suggested that I try out for a school play. I did in Junior high school- middle school- got cast and loved the experience of performing, the communication with a large audience, the camaraderie working with a cast-all close friends- together to create something fun. It was Fun! And I got over being shy. And when I was 12, I was discovered while shopping with a great aunt. Being very tall and thin I was asked to be a model in a fashion show for a department store which led to a teen modeling career- print work and commercials. So besides painting- my Mother taught me how to a paint in watercolors- it was my favorite thing to do- paint and act. Modeling was fun and highly lucrative. I was very fortunate to have a mother who not only supported but inspired me. And I had a brilliant Mentor in my high school drama coach- his advice and influence got me into the best drama program at the time at Carnegie-Mellon.
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
Besides ballet and art I was a fairly quiet child-no drama. We spent the summers on a cousin’s farm-learning how to grow things - fruits & vegetables, feed chickens, pigs,
milking cows, running wild in the cornfields. We went fishing and camping, ice skating in the winter, tobogganing, snowball fights - very free as children. We lived in a suburb of Cleveland Ohio, Shaker Heights but all of my friends were wealthy and they and their parents invited me to concerts, theatre and opera. It opened a whole world of the arts that an average child wouldn’t have known about necessarily. My mother took me to museums- I even studied painting and puppetry - we made our own puppets!
Tell us how your background played a part in your choice to be an actress?
There was a renowned summer musical tent theatre nearby and my parents took me to productions there. I fell in love with the magic of it all, that and being active at school- in every play in high school, cinched it for me. So by the time I had to choose college- I went for the drama program and attended Carnegie.
“My Mother taught me how to a paint in watercolors- it was my favorite thing to do - paint and act”
What kind of roadblocks did you encounter along the way to success? When did you start thinking about helping others become successful? Tell us what you did to facilitate that? How do you feel about being the “Go-to-Goddess of Marketing for Actors?”
Everybody in the arts has obstacles- roadblocks...mostly when you’re starting out. Making a living as an actor is impossible in those beginning years-at least it was for me in New York. I married my college boyfriend, a fellow student at Carnegie who was a playwright so it was a double whammy-neither one of us could do our “art” and get paid. It was years and years of free showcases, non-paying short films and struggling to find an agent, get major auditions and break in. That’s the norm for everyone. Luckily I had done commercials in my teens and could find a commercial agent- I was the “pretty, blonde, girl next door, the image for the Ivory Snow girl” for P & G (Proctor & Gamble).
When I started booking major market spots, ( and making a lot of money) my agent walked me down the hall to the Theater/TV/film department. Then, I got an theatrical agent. Not because I was a brilliant
actress, trained at the best theater school, Carnegie-Mellon with instructors from Yale- (same as Meryl Streep), had done a dozen roles in classical and modern plays-NO- but because I was WORKING & MAKING MONEY. Good lesson for idealist-drama-students!!
They sent me out for more TV - only it was soap operas- daytime and then primetime. And I got Broadway and off-Broadway shows...I spent 10 years doing classical theater in Rep companies from Atlanta to Allentown between TV series. The rest is history- ups and downs, rich and poor- absolutely no security or consistent income but slow progress. You have to be insanely persistent or just insane to choose that but if it’s what you really love- then it works out. At least it did for me. I had over 18 contract and starring roles in two decades... with gaps and unemployment in between. It was never easy...ever. from it in recent years. The platforms I still post on some I do use social media, although I’ve been gravitating away what regularly are Instagram, Behance, and Dribble.
Can any artist thrive if they are not on social media?
That's a really interesting question. Given more people are aware of the evils of social media, I'd like to think fewer art directors are sourcing artists exclusively through social media platforms. So I'd like to say yes. Someone, I really can’t remember who it was, suggested during a down time that I teach or coach. Several friends who didn’t have an agent wanted my advice on- headshots, resumes, screentests, auditions, marketing tools, referrals to agents...so I started helping them and then I created a paying program which led to a consulting
business. I found that I had a skill in coaching and most actors need guidance and mentoring. My second husband was British so while living a while in England, I attracted British actors and eventually as word spread I was coaching marketing - not acting- to many international actors. The “Goddess” title I think was created by a client being amusing but it stuck.
How has the evolution of technology and social media affected your career?
SKYPE and now ZOOM have been a boon...I used to see clients in my home office on the upper West side in Manhattan and in Beverly Hills- I had an apartment on both coasts- a true bi-coastal entrepreneur but with clients in Europe, Asia, South America- even Moscow it’s neat to just sit at my desk and chat LIVE on my laptop.
How did your evolution from Acting Goddess of Marketing to screenwriter/Producer come to be? And how did you grow your 3rd career to become what it is now?
I don’t think anyone grows up dreaming of becoming a business entrepreneur or career coach/ mentor. Things just evolve usually out of necessity and a sense of generosity. Initially I just needed a supplemental income and then I was just helping friends . The writing came out of...I don’t really know. Perhaps it was because I read an article about people mistreating other people and I was incensed enough to structure and write a screenplay about it. Many drafts later, a dozen screenwriting seminars, courses, books, private coaching, YEARS OF REWRITES....the script was entered in my first competition and won! And it won again! Beginners luck probably. Several films , pilots, series later I’m still writing and usually because I’m passionate or angry about something. And inspired. I write really fun characters I love (some I could play), have a good ear for dialogue and have come a long way since that first script. My work has been described -from the last pitch session with Network Exec’s- as “heartbreakingly funny”.
It’s a long haul as a writer- harder than getting booked as an actor. Much harder. Right now, 3 projects are in limbo- a prime time series, ENRAPTURED optioned for production in Australia, a comedy pilot, HOT AIR, due to shoot in New York/New Jersey and a comedy film, HEAVENLY HEIST optioned for a British-French production in London. The last year has put these scripts (took me over 10 years to write) on HOLD but still... still, writing is my new love.
“Everybody in the arts has obstacles- roadblocks...mostly when you’re starting out. ”
Well, after over 2000 hours of on-camera work I learned about dialogue and structure, character development, weaving a second and third plot/subplot, beats and more...there is a lot to put together a script- very challenging like building a house or ten houses.
How has the business of selling productions/projects over the internet changed from when you started out? What advice do you give to young entrepreneurs who want to pursue projects like you have?
I’m a firm believer that entrepreneurs are born... there’s an instinct to sell things, offer help, give advice, know about stuff that others don’t know about, communicate and relate to people. This can’t always be taught even at Harvard Business school. I attended a program there- the professors had written a ton of best- selling books and taught “case studies” of successful companies-but they didn’t seem to know basic things I knew as a child. I doubt they could have run a business or survived in NYC as I had as an actress. As far as starting out? As an entrepreneur, I started at 8. I had a paper route, getting up at dawn to deliver the Sun Press to 100 households sometimes on a sled in the snow (this was in Cleveland). That was fun. I was voted the best “newsboy “and won an award and a cash prize... Of course I sold Girl Scout cookies but I returned to the same clients who bought the cookies and the newspapers-- door-to-door- with my hand make jewelry and then home-made Greeting cards...and the classic, a lemonade stand with my twin brothers. I had a bank account and I knew how to make money early on. During high school I regularly skipped school to do photo shoots-modeling jobs. I was already an entrepreneur then.
Learning to work hard is the best advice I could give anyone. Being independent- my siblings and I were allowed to go anywhere and do anything -we were used to handling problems ourselves. So my advice? Develop a free spirit, learn to work hard, be persistent and resilient. It’s hard- everything is hard-I just learned to make it fun....don’t follow the rules, well, bend them to fit your situation. The Internet just makes selling stuff so much easier.
How has your family been affected by your career? CD’s and DVD’s. His twin repeated ever anecdote about my on-camera comedic moments to his close friends and when I met them they reminded me of the experiences...What laughs! My sister invited friends over where she played back my commercials for entertainment (Columbus is a big test market). My parents always introduced me in the same sentence/breath - This is our daughter, she’s a Daytime Emmy award soap star and a New York actress/entrepreneur. My niece, nephews, grandkids and grand-nieces/nephews think it’s all terribly funny but follow me on Social media with constant likes and hearts....
What do or did you do to promote yourself? What exciting projects are you working on now?
Outside of writing monthly Marketing Tips on Backstage, the trade publication (following 654,000) and for The Stage (London) as well as my own weekly Monday Morning Marketing Tips I produce a bi-monthly free Wednesday Workshop for International actors on Zoom. I don’t advertise per se -just give free info and offer a free 15 minute career consult for those who have a specific question about working with me as their Mentor/Coach. We have a new Live Stream program on Instagram coming up, actortalk where I interview an industry guest every Friday. And of course I have private clients in my Olympic Gold Mentoring program, and the yearlong ActorPreneur Academy. Monday and Wednesday I do small group coaching-Stragtegy Circle ( $10/week for any actor who signs up). My mission for many decades is to pay back for the career I had by helping others succeed as well. I’m currently producing The International Actors Summit where 24 actors from six countries meet 50 top agents, casting directors, screenwriters and other Industry Professionals from 7 markets - London, Vancouver, Toronto, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and Los Angeles in a three day on line auditioning/networking Event. (August 13th,14th,15th).
Doing what I’m doing now.