I have been an artist my entire life. But, I have only made a portion of my money through my art. I mainly have created art for myself and my amusement since I could hold a crayon.
I started by doodling, then painting t-shirts when I was younger, then submitting little clip art drawings to magazines, and eventually submitted them to be included in advertisements, greeting cards, catalogs, and more. Later, while in college for Environmental Studies, I took to science illustration, drawing the details of plants and landscapes. I thought that would be my career.
But things don’t always happen as we plan. Among numerous jobs and career paths years and years later, I eventually taught myself graphic and web design. Now, my husband and I own a small graphic and web design firm where I get to be very creative for clients and help their businesses grow. Occasionally I sell a painting or an illustration. But my main goal with my own fine art is to use it as a way to express myself. This means painting or drawing the things I want to draw or paint, not just painting something that I think other people will like.
My grandmother was a courtroom artist in the 1960’s and 1970’s for many very famous courtroom cases here in the USA. She also was an oil painter who painted what SHE wanted to paint. She was my mentor. One day she pulled me aside and asked me, “Do you want to be a commercial artist or a REAL artist?” The idea she was trying to teach me was that I needed to make a decision who I was painting for when creating a piece of art. If I wanted to paint to sell it, that’s fine. But there’s a difference in painting for someone else to like/buy it versus painting in order to express an emotion or feeling. When creating a drawing or painting for oneself, there is no one to try to satisfy besides yourself, there is no one you are guessing for how to please other than in pleasing yourself, and there is no purpose to really create it other than to have the experience of expression and the experience of enjoying it afterwards.
As I grow older, I am finally starting to test out this principle more and more in my own personal collection of artwork. It can be hard because it is always so nice to hear “I love it,” or “Great job!” from others regarding my art and comics. But in the end, I have noticed that my best work is the work I do for me, from deep inside. It is the most satisfying.
When I had my daughter, my family had a very tough time with deaths in the family, my parents separated, money problems, and both my daughter and I had terrible health issues. I was having a really tough time and was very depressed. But, the thing that pulled me out of it was painting. It was then that I painted my entire “Woman in Raw” series. Friends donated house paint and other paints they could find and I just poured paint onto raw, unstretched canvas, scraping, painting, scratching my way until out of the mess came images of me! What a surprise! And from that process, I learned so very much.
Then, 1.5 years ago someone I trusted stole from me. It not only hurt my feelings, but it also made me doubt myself. I was devastated and was really grumpy for a long time. But soon I got bored with feeling sorry for myself and realized I needed to do something about it. So I started drawing silly comics about the situation. Now, 1.5 years later, I have a comic strip called Unearthed Comics with over 17 thousand fans on Facebook, and continue to do it as a way to keep being silly and make fun of the things I take so seriously in life. I don’t really make much money from that either, but it is fun for me to do and is a way to bring more levity into the world on an international level. I self-published two books and get to giggle about things other people choose to get (and stay) sad about.
One of the best lessons in my life has been what my grandmother taught me. It helps me remember who I am and that what I have to say is very important. It also helps me feel good about using art as a way to express all of my feelings, not always just the good ones. I have used it to help me through my life, during all of the good and hard times, too. It’s important to keep creating. And don’t worry about how it looks or what it means to someone else; practice doing the art for the sake of making art and what the process gives to you. Who knows where it will take you? The main thing is to really enjoy the process of creating and to use it as a means to express your voice, whatever you have to say.