I recently had a friend on Facebook suggest to me that I tell you my story. I promise not to make it too long. Really! As with a lot of artists especially my generation, I didn't pursue art as a career even though it was really the only thing that I wanted to do since I was a little girl. I made a lot of art at home with my family. They even owned a craft store.
I took the "safe" route. I got married young and got a "real" job. I went to beauty school and worked as a hairdresser for 19 years even when I was bored out of my mind. I created art on the side. It was the extra money.
Coming from Oregon I didn't know any professional artists, so it never seemed like an option to become an artist. When I was about 43, I moved to Arizona in a second home with my daughter, who was in high school, my son was starting college and my husband remained in Oregon most of the time with his business traveling back and forth for several years.
It was after I moved to Arizona that I became aware of a large art community and artists that were actually able to make a living. After a couple of years in Arizona, I started participating in outdoor art shows with my watercolor paintings and oils. I sold a little and thought I was pretty good. It wasn't until I stepped into a larger arena, my first year at the Celebration of Fine Art, that I realized I really didn't know very much about art.
In 2000 I attended my first workshop with Ray Roberts. I attended a few more. By then I was spending more money experimenting and learning. I had a husband that wasn't very supportive of this new direction. He thought if I couldn't paint really good from the beginning, then I wasn't very good and money was the barometer of success. He kept pressuring me to abandon the art and get a "real" job again.
I tried working other jobs that I hated. I tried to paint on the side and not enter very many shows. I found a few things that I could paint well enough to get by and make some extra money. I got into a rut. After a few years, I no longer had the drive and enthusiasm that I had for art. I was trying to live my life for someone else.
Eventually and slowly I sank into depression. Before I realized what happened to me, I had retreated into my own little world, my confidence (which was always shaky) was almost nonexistent and I had sunk pretty deep into depression for about 3 or 4 years. I no longer communicated with my friends. I just lived a life that was expected of me.
I continued to participate in the Celebration of Fine Art, the artists that I met there were a lifeline for me. I made some very good friends that helped me a lot. I eventually got on medication for a short time, exercised like crazy, and went to a couple of councellors.
I started to regain my confidence, like myself and enjoy life. I spent 2 or 3 years just trying to get my life back in order and live a little. I also realized that I needed to make more art. I divorced my husband (long overdue) and got on with living and rebuilding my life. The first thing I did was take a composition workshop at Scottsdale Artists School about 6 years ago.
I then flew to Minnesota to take a plein air workshop with Joe Paquet. I was on a roll. I made a commitment to myself to take at least one workshop a year to learn, keep my enthusiasm and enjoy myself. After continually participating in the Celebration of Fine Art, I came to a screeching halt when the economy took a dive. I had just gotten my divorce, was ready to dive into art and work harder and the income stopped.
I was at a crossroads. Since I was supporting myself I had to make a decision. I took a leap of faith and went for the art career. I assessed my money from my divorce and decided to give myself two years to work as hard as I could to improve as an artist.
At the beginning of the recession, I knew the economy wouldn't be OK the next year, but I also didn't think it would be as deep and go on as long as it has. I did know that I didn't want to live my life with regrets. I wanted to be an artist and I wanted to be the best I could be. I had my enthusiasm back!
Instead of two years, I took three years off from the Celebration. In that three years I entered my first national show, the Oil Painters of America in Scottsdale. I had never been to an OPA show. I didn't even know it was such a big deal. When I walked into the show I was overwhelmed with all the wonderful art. It was incredible, I was there in that show.
It was at this time that I met my good friend Deb Groesser. Through her I learned more about the art world and shows. The OPA show gave me the confidence to enter more shows, the American Women Artists, Salon International and Paint America. I was accepted to all of them and a few more. I continued to study. I felt like I had to catch up to everyone else and make up for lost time.
Two years ago I entered my first American Impressionist Society National show. I've been accepted to both of them that I have entered. This year I went back to the Celebration after three years off working on my painting, improving, networking, meeting artists, entering more shows and gaining more confidence in myself.
It was like starting all over at the show for me. After three years, I really was a new artist. After working at the show everyday for 10 weeks, this is the first time that I felt good about me and my art and enjoyed every day.
I am now living my life the way I was meant to live and absolutely enjoying every minute of it. I am so lucky to be living something so wonderful. And one of the best things, my two kids and my parents have said they are so proud of me and love that I "went for it." It has been and continues to be a struggle financially, but I wouldn't live a different life.
This year the finances look a lot better, but it is hard work and that's OK. I love it! Well, it was a little longer than I intended. :) Becky