This year marks my 25th year as an artist! It’s so hard to believe it’s been that long! I have been an artist since childhood, but at the young age of 21 I decided it was what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was actually a Tony Robbins infomercial in the middle of the night that inspired me.
Covered Bridge drawing, the first image I printed/sold on postcards
I was working graveyard shift at a Comfort Inn in Clarksville, Tennessee after finishing my time in the Army. I was disgusted and frustrated because I was back at basically the same job I had left for the Army. New town, different state, but that same graveyard shift, minimum wage paying, sleep depriving job. I worked graveyard because my husband worked mornings and it was the only way we could have a second income without paying for child care. My two eldest sons were 5 years and 9 months old at the time. The third son hadn’t joined the family just yet.
I was at work, killing time watching cable TV in the lobby, when the Tony Robbins infomercial came on. I decided to watch it all the way through and by the end I thought, I can’t afford his book right now, but surely I can think of some way to make a living doing something I love to do. (I eventually bought that book at a yard sale many years later and I highly recommend Tony Robbins to anyone looking for motivation!)
After watching the infomercial, I thought of how much I used to love drawing and painting in high school. The next night, I brought paper and pencils with me and spent the graveyard shift drawing a local covered bridge that I found a photo of in a local magazine.
That drawing changed my life forever. (Little did I know at the time!) I showed it to my husband, grudgingly as he always told me my art from high school wasn’t that good, and he was blown away. It wasn’t long before we found a printer to make postcards of the covered bridge drawing and my husband took them to his job at a local convenience store where he sold them to people who came in for gas and cigarettes.
Before long, I had drawn several other local historical buildings and had quite an array of postcards of local drawings. I was invited to show my drawings at the local Chamber of Commerce, a local bank and eventually the local tour of historic homes commissioned me to draw several other local buildings and I sold art prints and postcards at the tour event.
That event helped me to really get my art business going. I ended up getting several commissions for other historical homes as well as portraits. After the buildings I started my portrait series and the rest is history! Of course, there is so much more to this story, but this is the story of how it all began.
A word to any young artists who are reading this post. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t make a living as an artist. Sure, it’s not an easy life, sure, it takes time to build a name for yourself and a portfolio of art that you are proud to share, but it is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. The first most rewarding thing I’ve done was having 3 beautiful sons!
Artists starting out today have it much easier than I had it starting out. You have the internet and so many avenues to get your art work out there (Twitter, Instagram, weblogs like this one, and an infinity of other sites with a plethora of information). When I first started, the internet was out there, but not for the masses. I didn’t even have a computer until 6 years after I started!
One of the things I always wished I had starting out, was other artists to ask advice of. I was very isolated in a small town in Tennessee with no art scene to speak of. There were no smart phones or digital cameras. Thank goodness for the internet! There is so much information available in a simple Google search!
If you have any questions about starting out as an artist, please ask away in the comments and I promise to write another blog post in answer to any and all questions I receive.