The Makings of an Art Career


I started thinking of myself as a professional artist in 2006, but I've made art since I was a toddler. There's a picture we found of me as a child, maybe 2 or 3 years old, standing on a chair so I could reach the counter, paintbrush in hand, paints before me. I didn't think of myself as an artist growing up, because I was just making use of the art supplies my mom had around and bought for herself anyway. I would get my own occasionally, whenever I asked, but that was just for my own entertainment. It wasn't Art. Or was it?

Either way, I generally had a rehearsal to get to or an audition to prepare for, so I didn't have time to think of all the art I was making outside of performance as Art.

Ironically, I remember seeing artists and their little studios and lofts in movies and thinking it was just the coolest thing ever, and I knew at some point I wanted to live in an artist's loft, with paintings stacked against the wall and supplies strewn about everywhere. I didn't specifically want to be an artist, but I definitely wanted to live in an artist's studio. Ha.

[Anyone remember Jordan from the movie Cocktail? That.]

Looking back, I realize now that I even had my first real "art studio" in 2003. It was my closet, of course, but it was the only space I had for making "real" paintings, as I called them. Stuff I was serious about.

Between 2003 and 2006, aside from painting, I arranged a couple of large scale art installations, walk-through sculptures you might even call them, but we didn't photograph the events properly or even know to think of them as art installations, because that was before we realized I was already having an art career.

I was just making stuff. I had lots of ideas. I had help and people who believed in my ideas, and a bit of funding even, and together we made some awesome and artsy experiences. It was through some of these art installations that those around me began referring to me as an artist. I was still catching up to that knowledge, and what it meant.

My painting mentor at the time, Ray Friesz, upon viewing one of these large scale installations, commented that he wished he'd known ahead of time what it was, so that he could have invited a bunch of his important Art World friends, because this was "just the kind of stuff people in New York were doing nowadays." What? Really?

He knew I was an artist. I didn't. I was, however, getting suspicious about the way everyone kept referring to my work as "Art."

At some point soon after that, I realized that I was, in fact, an artist, and more than that I wanted to pursue a career in Art. Staggering. It was a revelation for me, if not anyone else.

That was many years ago now. I've been doing this almost full time for years. With intention. With purpose. I feel liberated in it now. People ask what I do, and I boldly, proudly explain that I'm an artist. Generally people don't know what that means, and assume I paint stuff every now and then with hopes of being an Artist one day. I know this because they follow up by asking me what I "do for a living." It's perplexing for them to comprehend that Art is my career.

For me, at this point, it's just natural. The career happened because I was pursuing Art to begin with. I was always working toward this. Now I know.

3 comments:

Jessica Doyle said...

Someday soon, I'll buy one of your large paintings to hang in my own art studio.

I think you are an amazing insightful artist that will only continue to grow spreading your iridescence everywhere!

PS - you look so pretty painting in the photo!

Love you xo

shayla said...

Awwwshucks. Thanks, Jessica. That made my day! Love you! xo

Jessica Doyle said...

You make my day too sweetie! Someday soon I'll fly off to visit you!