The Best Birthday Gift Ever

This year I gave myself the best Birthday/ Holiday gift ever: time. Because some other events totally outside of my control fell perfectly into place, I was able to leave my day job. It was a scary jump to make but I think it was important that I finally take control over my life and make this commitment to myself and my art. I had reached the point where it was becoming either one or the other and, after pouring so much hard work into my artistic development over the past decade and a half or even more, I owed it to myself.

This was not a spontaneous decision. I had spent most of 2017 working towards reaching this seemingly unattainable goal. I began by giving myself another awesome Christmas gift last year when I finally decided to enroll in Crista Cloutier’s online course, The Working Artist. I had first met Crista back in 2012 as a grad student when she came to SCAD with artists Kiki Smith and Valerie Hammond who were working on several printed editions with the SCAD Printmaking Department. Shortly after that she developed the online version of the Working Artist Course and I knew I wanted to take it, you know, someday when I could afford to quit my day job.

And then, by the end of 2016, I was beginning to feel like I was running in place. With family and financial obligations I had little time to make art. It would take me months to finish things that should have taken a week at the most. My boredom with my day job turned into a general feeling of frustration and unfulfillment that eventually blossomed into a genuine sense of dread about what my life was becoming. It was getting bad. And then I got an email about a holiday promotion for the Working Artist course that was coming up in January. I thought about it for a few days. I was worried about wasting money. I was worried that I wouldn’t have the time to put into it. And then I realized that what I was really worried about was failure and I pressed that button and signed up for the course. I thought that maybe if I could make this one small commitment now it would help me get to the point I wanted to get to later.

So I spent most of my free time this year working on the professional development and strategy components of the class. And it WAS hard to get through the material and it WAS difficult to keep up with the pace of the class. So when she offered the class again over the summer, I re-enrolled. Over the course of the year, I revamped my Etsy shop, I made a real website, I updated my e-mail list and vowed to actually keep up with a monthly newsletter as well as regular art related social media posts. I began to go to more art events and get more involved with art centers and shared studios including the Center for Book Arts and Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop. I applied for even more juried shows and artist’s residencies. It was exhausting but I was doing things that actually made me happy and that I felt were helping me to get where I wanted to be.

In September I was accepted to the Center for Book Arts Scholar program, which gave me a huge boost in confidence, but also quickly began to take up what little spare time I still had, which made the need to leave my job feel even more pressing. In October I had a personal strategy session with Crista and we discussed ways to work towards my goal of leaving my job and fully committing to my art practice. This conversation as well as what I learned in the class gave me the confidence that I could really do this and helped me to outline ways to be successful at reaching that goal.

I did a lot of work to prepare myself, but being able to finally take the leap from working full time to making MY work full time was made financially possible because my wonderfully talented husband Joe Flood was contracted by Lion Forge Publishing to create two great comic projects that will support us over the next year or two. And now my new goal is to get to a place where making my art is somewhat financially viable and sustainable in the long term.

So far, its been just over one work week and I’ve actually been able to finish some things and make progress on a few projects for the first time in a while. I was able to work on some art and clean my studio a bit. I made a custom sketchbook for a client. I updated my website and added a pdf with a price list for my work. I renewed my health insurance. It’s been nice to have a real breakfast at home plus I got to cook a few meals, which I missed. I went to an event to support and march with DREAMERS. I got to send more time with my daughter and mornings were actually pleasant because I didn’t have a train to catch. This past weekend we went to a Christmas tree farm and had an early Hanukkah celebration with my family. Friday we are planning a trip to see some museum and gallery exhibitions. This first week and a half has probably been the most fulfilling real feeling week for me in a while.

So I am happy I made that jump. I am nervous but I am also excited. I have a to do list that is two miles long, but its also wonderful that I can finally focus on the things I am passionate about and work towards truly being my best self. I feel like there is meaning and potential. I am actually excited to get up in the morning.