How did I get my start?
This is an interesting question. I didn’t seek art out my whole life like most artists have, I actually spent a lot of time avoiding how much I loved it. It didn’t seem like the “logical” choice for a career, so I graduated with two science degrees intending on doing something in the medical field.
My senior year in college, I got it in my mind that I was going to move to Colorado, no matter what it took. It was around this time that I had started spending all my extra time looking at art, doodling my notes in class, and finally accepting that art was a huge passion of mine. So, I applied for an internship at the Denver Art Museum.
This opportunity changed my life. I was teaching children about the art in the galleries as well as helping them relate projects of their own to what they had seen. The other half of the internship was creating interactive experiences to go along with the pieces in the museum. It was watching one of the teachers who has worked there for almost 40 years (!), one of the foremost pioneers of museum education, miss patty, that I realized what my problem with art had been.
She was explaining to us that we should’t let the kids start over any time they came to us saying they “messed up” and instead teach them about “happy accidents.” Happy accidents are what happens when you do something unintentional, it isn’t what you originally wanted, but you go from there and make it beautiful.
I realized that my problem had been just like the kids’. I was so afraid that I wasn’t the greatest artist and because of it I shouldn’t make art. There was only fear in my mind and I let it take over the part of me that loved making, looking at, and living a life completely surrounded by art.
This is when I started making art every day. It wasn’t good. The pieces were rarely finished. They weren’t huge, but they were there. I still took on some (pretty awesome) part time jobs to support myself, (I was still so poor, but I was making it work) the last of which was another art teaching job. Being around kids who have 0 inhibitions when they make their art is so inspiring. It taught me that being an artist isn’t about the finished product, it’s about the process. People are going to love your work, or they’re not, thats not why an artist does what they do. Thank goodness had roommates at the time who a. Encouraged me to pursue this career, and b. Didn’t mind a dining room absolutely covered in paintings.
Before I found my last art teaching job, I was at home constantly searching for jobs, but also making art. My roommate came to me one day and showed me society6 and something she had purchased from it. She said, “ I think you could sell your work here - you should try it!” And, due to the fact that I wasn’t doing much of anything anyway, I dove headfirst into it. It turns out that you need to be pretty proficient in photoshop and also have a good eye for what will print well. I spent a couple months of sleepless nights teaching myself how all those things worked and posting things (I have since taken down) that were very rudimentary. I couldn’t tell you why I kept at this as long as I did, because my first pieces were …. Not good. But I remember the day, probably 6 months later, I sold my first piece from that site. 4 whole dollars! I could buy coffee! I was ecstatic. (I repeat this story a lot because I think it matters to remember when I wanted so badly what I have now.) The first month I realized I made a “real” living, I left my job and dedicated my whole life to art - It was a no brainer for me, even though a lot of people would call it irresponsible. Flash forward almost two years, and society6 supports me while I make originals for the love of it, selling those when the opportunity arises.
I’ve recently been doing all the necessary, logistical, behind-the-scenes type things like making a website, listing work, taking interviews, and all the “business-y” type deals. I couldn’t tell you the physical moment I became an artist, but I do know that the minute I told myself “ I am an artist,” everything fell into place.
Building a life as a creative isn’t for everyone, because it requires doing absolutely everything without an exact plan. When people go to work at a 9-5 ( and good for them, I just couldn’t do it!) they are given their set of tasks inside a set structure, they know what time to be there every day and generally whats expected of them. There is none of that security in this career. You have to motivate yourself, set your own “hours,” your own tasks, you have to figure out what needs to be done and how to do it. You are essentially building your own company, but you’re selling your love for the art you make and the life you live. If you ask me, it’s totally worth all the time and energy to be able to live this life I only dreamed about a few years ago.
Photo by Rachel Zierke Photography