I declared visual art as a major at the University of Washington as a freshman so I could take a few collegiate level art classes and then drop the major and maintain focus on my journalism degree. Or so I thought. The amazing teacher of my figure drawing class, Helen O'Toole, pleaded with me to finish my art degree. She took me on a tour of her painting students' studios and inspired me to graduate with a double-major. The last course I took before graduating was intro to oil painting, and guess what? I fell in love with the medium. Alas, with a diploma in hand, I filed that love of painting into the recesses of my conditioned brain.
You see, my conditioned brain told me art was impractical as an academic study and would not result in a "successful" career, save for the very lucky few. I also heard this feedback from others. I had never met a working artist. And now I am one, not one of the lucky few, but one of many who eek out a humble living. I spent seven years working good-paying jobs primarily for software companies after college. One day, the suit of skin i zipped up every morning before heading to work felt too heavy to don.
When people are pushed to exchange their passion and their effort for the false solace of giving up and lowering their expectations, we all lose. --Seth Godin
I realized I was working someone else's job. The pain of neglecting my favorite talent--visual art--ran deep. It negatively affected my relationships and my confidence and compassion for myself. So I figured out how to return to the easel while working a steady part-time job for my father as a project manager (a fortunate experience in itself).
I posted these two paintings because they represent a milestone for me. The 2005 version of a bowl of oranges with one on the loose took place in the UW art building, my last painting as an undergraduate. I revisited the subject this year after returning to my studio from a leave to care for my first child, Olive.
Doubt kept rearing its ugly head causing me to again question art as a career choice. A funny thing happened. in the vein of finding inspiration in the oddest of places, I forced myself to take a spin class at the gym (the post-baby attempt to return to fitness), and the instructor said something that stuck with me: "I'm not telling you it's going to be easy; I'm telling you it's going to be worth it."
A vision of a bowl of oranges appeared clearly in my otherwise sweaty head. One orange sat on the edge of a table, outside the bowl, outside its comfort zone, debating a leap of courage or a return to safety. I returned home, showered, zipped over to Whole Foods to buy a bag of oranges and then made this vision a reality in paint. (Okay, it took a few days and help from a nanny.)
Whenever doubt clouds my thoughts, I remind myself pursuing art as a career was never going to be easy. And then I think, wow, it is so very worth it.