How I Started my Art Career

September 7, 2015

When I'm teaching a painting class, students frequently ask me, "Where do you go to art school?" or, "What's your background in art?"


I used to be embarassed to admit I haven't gone to art school. In admitting that, it feels like I don't have qualifications to teach. However, as I have taught more and practiced more art, I realize that my skill speaks for itself.


I am even arriving at a place where I am proud to call myself an Artist. I don't feel I chose this profession. I feel life brought it to me. 


After my mother died, I felt I suddenly had my life back. That I was able to make choices without considering her health. However, I then felt this huge obligation to make something of my life. Swirling amidst these emotions was the feeling that my life had little meaning and purpose.


I ended a relationship, quit my job, and moved from Hawaii to Arizona to be near my family on September 23, 2014. I moved in with my dad (I think the poor guy thought I was only going to stay a month), who seemed to be having a pretty rough go of it as well.


I was so happy to have free time to do what I wanted. I flew to California to visit my grandma. While she was at work, I decided to start a website with my art, Baby Bird. My intention was to create cards and little gifts with my art that I could sell online. 


Although I've never studied art, I've always loved creating things. Furthermore, I made multiple illustrated comic books for my family - on topics such as vegetarianism, my sister's dog, the Air Force, Chemotherapy, and the like. I thought I could take my humorous art and translate them into cards and gifts available online. 


When I came back to Arizona, I applied for jobs. I was extremely picky though. I was so depressed and miserable that I refused to apply for any job that didn't excite me. 


When I saw the ad for a painting instructor, I jumped. Luckily, the only they didn't care about my qualifications - they just wanted to know if I could teach and paint. The interview was the scariest interview I've ever had - they gave me a painting and asked me to replicate it while pretending to teach a class in front of them. For the second interview, they just asked me to paint. 


I got the job and began teaching 1-2 classes a week. 


Meanwhile, I soon realized that creating cards and gifts online was more complicated than I thought. The creation part was easy, it was the producing, shipping, and such that was a nightmare. So, I dropped the card/gift idea and concentrated on making illustrations.  


Through Facebook connections, Lorna Ellis saw my artwork and asked if I'd be interested in creating the artwork for her book. That was a turning point in my life. It was the first time I thought I could actually have a career as an artist.


As time went by, I became the primary teacher where I worked. Throughout this time, I used my website to experiment with different styles of art and themes. I also began work on my illustrated book about grief. 


In May, my father announced he would be getting married in 6 weeks. Although completely unsure about how I would pay my bills, I decided to move out. You can read about how I came to that decision in my previous blog post, "Art is an Act of Faith.


Deciding to move out was one of the best things for me. I couldn't just pick and choose what I worked on anymore - I had to find jobs to pay my new bills.


I quickly learned how to market myself as a freelancer online. I picked up a new contract for a book, as well as a continual project making activities for a teacher's curriculum. Granted, these little successes were amidst the dozens of jobs I submitted bids for or contracts that were started and then didn't continue.


I also began marketing myself as a painting teacher. Through this, I started teaching at the Artistry Academy. I also got a job at Jo-Ann Fabrics to teach painting classes.


I enjoy teaching and appreciate the income from contracts, I'm still trying to discern where to take my art career. I ultimately want to be creating art that helps others.


I don't know how to get to that point, but I want to be there now. Continual questions seem to slow me down: what themes to address with my art, what medium to best use, what exact purpose do I want the art to have, how to market my art, how to support myself at the same time, and other perpetual questions remain up in the air.


Try as I might, these are not questions that I can think-out an answer for. The only road to progress seems to be the same as when I started my Art Career: try new things, see how they go, and adjust my course yet again.  



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