I'm not where I thought I would be at this age.
I started with not one, but two fine arts degrees. Go ahead and say it; "what a waste." At the time, 1986, it wasn't such a waste, though, and I was able to consistently land jobs as a set designer and art director for mostly small motion pictures and made-for-tv movies. It was an awesome time, and I enjoyed the work immensely.
After meeting my husband on a movie set, we married and welcomed a daughter and adopted a son. I left work and became a homeschooling mom. In my spare time, I began working much more seriously on my art, looking at that as my next career.
I struggled. A lot. I juggled raising the kids, entering art shows, making and framing my work, photographing it and querying galleries, and generally getting nowhere while working myself to death. I showed a lot, but sold very little. I just couldn't seem to find my audience in the sleepy southern coastal town where we lived at the time.
Then the internet entered my life.
Suddenly, I could find ways to get exposure beyond the quiet confines of coastal Carolina. I sold pieces mostly through eBay for several years. Still, I wasn't making a whole lot of money, no one was "discovering" my work, and when I was too busy with the kids to make any art, then I wasn't making any money, either, because I was still essentially trading time for money. It was 2007, and that's when I discovered Print-on-Demand.
Desperate to make better money, I learned how to make designs for t-shirts. I got into CafePress, and the next year I got in with Zazzle. My first designs, by and large, sucked, but I kept at it. As I became more proficient, I began to find pockets of time to make products: during the kids' violin and guitar lessons, scout meetings, and at night when I declared that "Mom is off the clock." Slowly, my designs went from just t-shirts to a whole host of products, and 60,000+ products later, I was earning a fairly decent monthly paycheck.
Life comes at you fast.
Then, in late December 2013, my husband was diagnosed with cancer and was too sick to work. What followed were over 3 years of surgeries, chemotherapy, experimental treatments, and a whole host of life threatening complications. I worked several soul sucking jobs in order to keep us insured and afloat, and my art went on autopilot. The thing was, even though I rarely had the time or energy to create work for my online shops, the income from the things I had already made kept coming in, and that is what saved us.
Taking time to reflect is good.
While we lost a lot individually and as a family during those years, we have been able to gain some clarity in hindsight. My husband, even after losing his leg to the cancer, is back at work. The kids are mostly grown, and I have finally escaped data hell. I've found several new outlets for my work, and began streamlining my efforts to make the most of the art I create.
If I can do it, so can you.
A lot of people helped me out when my husband was sick, from the boss that allowed me to work at all kinds of crazy hours to friends that sent small jobs my way that I could do as I was able, and they never complained. I want to give back, so I decided to build this site to help fellow artists learn to make the most of their work. If something here helps you, please share it with me as well as your friends. You can make a living as an artist. I believe in you!
Blessings - Natalie