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Paint or Die

Ok, I know that title is a bit dramatic, but bear with me.

My weeknights and weekends have been looking more and more like this:

Sweat pants, messy hair, sitting on the edge of my couch with my easel in front of me, a paper towel on my lap, my paint supplies on both sides of me, including some cut up dish sponges and a messy looking palette/ You know, artist stuff. Husband and sometimes including the son, on the couch watching TV behind me. Most nights that I'm painting, Paul will have travel blog videos on YouTube. I wish I can watch them with him, educating myself on our upcominng travels to Rome, Palermo, Athens, and Santorini, but I focus on my painting instead. I make less plans with friends and family and more time with acrylics and canvas. I have even scheduled early morning paint sessions before work, a couple times a week. This means, wake up at 5am, meditate for 10-15 minutes, drink coffee, paint, breakfast, shower, get ready for work. I'm happy to give up my social life, I HAVE given up most self care (getting hair done, mani/pedi's, etc.), and on occasion, a workout. I have traded in the bad habit of over shopping and baking cookies for painting instead. It's all I want to do. It's all I care to do, and when I have to stop, it bums me out. This is ambition and dedication and it's taken me quite awhile to get here.

Am I supposed to look glamorous as I paint?

I had always been an artist but never saw it as my calling. A couple decades too late. I mean, sure, I suppose I have applied some art in my line of work at the jobs I've had in the last 15 years, but completely all digital and minimally creative at best. Speaking of digital art.....

Image of Twiggy, enhanced with prints I scanned from a print book, Alexander McQueen statement earrings I photoshopped in and a fun play of colors.
Twiggy in Alexander McQueen earrings. February 6, 2011, Photoshop and scanned prints from a print swatch book.

Sid & Nancy, digital art, February 8, 2011. Photoshopped in a Fijian village (actual photo taken by Paul from our honeymoon to Fiji in 2010). Nancy is wearing a Philip Treacy hat and carrying one of my own Chouette by Cosette handbags. Sid is wearing a gorgeous Marni necklace and face paint. I added a little pink goat with a tattoo on its butt.

In my The Canvas Confessional Instagam account, I follow many contemporary artists that I am very inspired by. I see how consistently they have been producing and how good they are and it only increases my ambition. All this ambition and slow momentum, except I am running out of hours in my week! I don't want to burn out from this, but all I want to do for 10 hours a day is paint, paint, paint. I have probably put in 25 hours on this current "Joker" 30"x40" piece I'm doing and I probably have 15 more hours to go. When you break up that time, it's like an hour to an hour and a half daily during the week, and maybe 5 hours on the weekends (if I'm lucky). After this commissioned piece, I have two more large commissions to get working on. I'm over the moon thrilled to have this work! Beyond blessed that I can count on this fulfilling talent to bring in more cash flow. However, here's the thing. I'm plagued by great collection ideas. It's all I can think about. A couple of fun collections of paintings that will one day be shown at an art show. A couple pieces possibly getting sold. Who knows? It feels like such a luxury thing to be able too do. It feels like I'd have to quit my 9-5 to achieve this. . No, I know that's what would have to happen. And there lies my real dilemma. My struggle. How can I leave my well paying job that helps provide for our family and leave my husband to figure out 100% of the income until I start to really generate some profit?

We don't know how long that will take and it's not like I don't have huge debts to still pay off, or a large savings that will last me more than a couple of months. I keep hearing motivational speakers and life coaches encourage us to jump off the bridge and follow our dreams! To take that plunge and kiss our fears goodbye. To not doubt yourself and that it will all work out. (Right, Jen Sincero, author of "You Are A Badass"?) But who will pay for the $800 family insurance every month? How will THAT all work out on itself? Who will be spending $500+ on monthly groceries? How do I shamelessly justify not being able to afford a birthday gift for my son's friends at their birthdays? Who is going to help pay for half of the family vacation to Italy and Greece? Full disclosure: my husband does and always has taken care of most of the bills and family expenses but we are still a dual income family and this is what works and has always worked for us.

If I absolutely HATED my job and the people I work with, this decision would be a little easier and would motivate way more hustle and way more tears. I'm lucky that I don't hate my job or the wonderful people I work with. LUCKY as fuck. Grateful as fuck. Dilemma as fuck, too. Only I can answer all my aforementioned questions and self created dilemmas.


That's my answer. I gave myself a very realistic goal. Come June, after I get back from our family vacation, I will work 4 days a week instead of 5. It's not a huge significant loss of income and I can slowly make it up with commissioned paintings. Also, this provides an extra 10 hour uninterrupted day of painting which is a dream! I have a back up plan as well. When finances seem to be getting more dire and commissioned work isn't coming in as much, I have eBay to fall back on. EBay is a lot of work, I know, but it's there and I have at least $1000 of goods I can get rid of. I have faith in this. I have faith in myself and I have faith in the Universe which will always provide. Things might get harder and I may have to hustle more for a bit, but I will also be happier and more fulfilled.

Once in a while you get a calling to do something and you have to listen to it and trust it. I love working on the "Joker" and feel really excited as I progress on it, however one night I took a break. I didn't take a break because painting is burning me out (which isn't happening, just so you know). Nope, I still painted. My good friend from work, Emily, had to put her beloved dog, Uno, down last week and she and her husband were devastated. I can't relate to losing a pet but I definitely empathize with loss of a loved one. She was in tears in our office the following day which was Wednesday. That night I felt inspired to cheer her up with a 5"x7" mini portrait of Uno. I found a cute photo on her Instagram and did a little artistic editing and cropping on Photoshop. Thursday night, after dinner and putting Luke to bed, I pulled out all my acrylic colors and small paintbrushes, set up my phone on the tripod I just purchased on Amazon for a time lapse video, and I worked without pausing from 9:30pm to 1am. IT WAS SO GRATIFYING! Wrapped up in brown paper, I was so excited to give the little painting of Uno to Emily at work. As I was coyly handing it to her half an hour after I arrived, she knowingly smiled without completely having seen what was inside. That tiny but BIG reaction from her before having seen what was inside actually means a lot to me. It shows that she just gets the kind of person I am and that validates why I would even do something like that for her. It's a mutual understanding and respect. See what I mean? I love the people I work with. I digress. Not even 1 second of her eyes on what I had painted, and they filled up with heartfelt tears. Like sobbing tears. Tears for Uno and missing his energy in the home and tears for the gesture. Please don't misunderstand my sentiments for boasting about what a wonderful person I think I am. HA! I have never been comfortable with that and I do realize it might sound that way, yet still I'm not hesitating out of insecurity for what people think. My point is, I do what I do because it also fulfills me. Painting is a my passion and generosity is just something I learned from my parents. It's something I want Luke to learn as well. Someone I love is hurting. I have a passion for something. Why not put two and two together, you know? It's my little way of helping. We all have our own little way.

The charming little, Uno. 5"x7", acrylic on canvas.

Side by side with the actual photo I put through in Photoshop.

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