We all long to live by our passion. To run that restaurant in the country, to pursue that desire to sing, to travel the world, write a best-selling novel or follow our artistic passion.
Yet for most of us the desire remains a dream – something we ponder, whilst sitting in traffic, or mull over when lying restlessly awake at night. The reason we don’t follow our dream is normally because it just doesn’t seem feasible. With a bond to pay, children to educate and the usual day to day expenses involved in living, throwing it all up to take the road less travelled, is a luxury few of us can afford. And because there is a part of each of us that fears that we might fail, so rather than face failure, we avoid embracing what inspires us.
Yet the unfulfilled dream remains.
I was in the same situation – a freelance art director longing to be an artist. Deciding to go into advertising rather than art had seemed a way to do what was close to what I really wanted to do. I did paint as a hobby and actually was selling roughly a painting a month for about six years, but the income was hardly enough to pay for the art materials, let alone imagine retiring into creative paradise.
Sometimes life throws us these curved balls – things that at the outset appear to be negative experiences and which later prove to have been the opposite. It’s as if our angels have to kick-start a process we are unwilling to enter into voluntarily, simply because change is not something that most of us humans embrace too readily. (A bit like being kicked off the top of a cliff and hoping that you’ll learn how to fly before you reach the rocks at the bottom.)
When the universe dismantles your life it often tends to do so fairly rapidly. Within six months I had lost my major client (85% of my business) my husband, Anthony’s advertising agency had been forced to close after 12 years and a new business venture had failed dismally. In middle age we found ourselves wondering what path represented the way forward. Problem was, the dream was to both be full-time artists. Reality and society said we should start job hunting.
Pulling in our belts to the last notch, we gave ourselves six months to explore the dream in a sort of ‘do or die in a boring, meaningless job’ approach.
In the fifth month, exhausted from teaching art/painting/writing/doing whatever freelance work I could find and unsure of where to head creatively, I started playing with paint in the studio/garage. The result was the first of my ‘sheep’ series of paintings. I took the first seven to a new gallery in Constantia on a Thursday. On the Monday I received a call from the curator asking me how soon I could bring more work, as those had sold. Other galleries had similar responses.
Anthony’s, nudes and landscapes also started selling and commissions started coming in. Just one month before we had agreed to call it quits and look for other ways to survive, (of which the options were extremely limited) our lives seemed to be turning around.
It’s a wonderful feeling as an artist to paint not into a vacuum, but rather into a host of receptive collectors. Word got around and galleries started calling us asking for work and prepared to buy it up front (the ultimate compliment for any artist). A large commission was approved for a hotel in Ireland and various corporations started commissioning work. I was working seven days a week and loving every moment.
Then an invite arrived asking me to exhibit at the Florence Biennale in Italy, another one from a London gallery and galleries in New Zealand started selling work (they like sheep there!) With family help, I was able to not only exhibit in Florence, but actually go there and experience the event, meeting artists from around the world. (And let’s face it staying in one of the most romantic cities in the world for 10 days wasn’t exactly hell!)
There were setbacks for sure, such as investing the money earned from Ireland into Fidentia and a large commission cancelled due to recession cutbacks, but we had proven to ourselves that we could live our passion.
Sure, we may not drive the latest in four-by-four luxury, live in Bishopscourt or take regular overseas holidays, but as one client said: “you have a lifestyle I’d pay a huge amount for.” Walking on the beach early this morning with the dog, having a cappuccino with a friend, before heading to the studio to paint, knowing I can be there to greet my teenagers when they return from school, I believe he’s right.
It was hard to believe just how much our lives had changed. We had truly dreamt it and are now doing it!