Everyone knows the saying “Don’t quit your day job.” Typically it’s said to people who maybe aren’t very good at something or as a comment on that person’s lack of faith that the venture you want to pursue won’t pan out like you think it will. This is fear-based thinking at its finest and to be honest, I’ve told myself some version of this phrase for many years.
It took me a long time to even give myself permission to go to art school for graphic design because the narrative that is still commonly peddled is that you can’t make money in the arts. Graphic arts are maybe a bit of an exception to this which is why I figured that career path would be a bit more stable. It certainly was in many ways, but graphic design while satisfying from a creative problem-solving perspective, left me feeling like something was always missing. I don’t regret choosing that career path because the things I learned in the last 16 years between school and my career as a professional have been a big part of why I believe I can be successful as an artist today.
There has always been this nagging inside of me wondering what would happen if I could really focus my efforts on art full-time and give it a solid effort. I’ve turned down projects that I otherwise would have taken because the reality of my situation was that I didn’t have the time or wasn’t available during the day to take something on. I’ve spoken before about The Power of Yes and it felt like more often than not I kept having to say ‘No’.
A few months ago, I decided that I didn’t want to ignore that nagging voice anymore and I started looking seriously at what transitioning to a full-time artist would look like. During that time, I also had a great conversation with my friend and fellow colored pencil artist John Middick. Having already taken on an occasional co-host role on his Sharpened Artist Colored Pencil Podcast we also discussed what partnering might look like and me potentially taking on a bigger role there as well.
With a lot of thought and consideration given to how this would affect every aspect of my life, the potential rewards just started seeming greater than the risks. To be honest, I also knew that if I didn’t try I would always wonder anyway. After making the needed preparations to transition I gave my notice at the job I have been at for almost 8 years and to my amazement have been met with an enormous amount of support from those around me.
I think the part that surprised me most was how excited and supportive everyone was. I was actually full-on expecting people to question me or gasp in horror at the ridiculousness of what I was about to do. Sometimes you really have no idea how others see you and even how much people are in your corner cheering you on, even if it’s silently. Knowing the people closest to me in my life were not only on board but willing to be my personal cheerleaders made me realize that all of these doubts and fears I kept feeding myself were not valid. That’s not to say that I should have done this years ago because to be honest, I don’t think I was ready then. The stars in many ways aligned for me to be in this place now and to not have a total meltdown at leaving a career that has sustained me for over a decade.
This last month has been exceptionally busy as I made plans to transition, took on caring for a brand new puppy who has brought so much joy to our lives, and also tried to still find time for family and myself. Starting this month I will still be freelancing part-time as a graphic designer for a short period of time as part of my transition. The new availability I will have will allow me to take on more mentoring clients, commission projects, work on tutorials and workshops that I’ve had brewing in notepad form, and of course and most importantly – create more art! My dreams have never been bigger and I actually feel like I have the time now to make some of them happen.
While understandably there are some nerves in taking on this new chapter, I am also beyond excited that I have a chance at really following my passion and reaching goals I thought would only ever continue to live as dreams. The road ahead won’t be easy or perfect, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take. We only get one shot at this life for all we know, and I plan to make my time here count and feel meaningful to me.