I just love the expressions on peoples faces when they ask, "What do you do for a living?" and I say, "I'm an artist!". Their face shows surprise or concern. "Do you make enough money to live?" My answer is, "Sometimes." I often have other odd jobs I pick up here and there to help with paying the bills. However, for a few years in Maui I was a full time artist and my income from being an artist did pay the bills. I am not afraid of working for other companies though to help me along. I have been a baker, cook, photographer, wedding coordinator, bartender, server, retail salesperson, the list goes on. But how and when did I become a full time artist?
I started my art career at the young age of 12 years old. I drew a mango with colored pencils and gave it depth and texture. My mom was like, "wow! You drew that?" After that, my mom helped me draw more and hone in my talent of creating tones and shadows with colored pencils and graphite. I started to get into realistic portraits, then started to paint surreal and weird things. In high school, the art teacher pretty much told me I was on my own. He just passed me and let me draw and paint whatever I wanted. That worked for me as I hated school and always just wanted to do my own thing anyway. I loved drawing in high school.
After high school, I was going to go to college in NYC for photography. I backed out because of nerves and then decided to go to school for hair. I became a cosmetologist for about 5 years in Upstate New York, where I am originally from. As a young adult, I got more into painting. I used acrylics as they were fast drying and easy to learn. My paintings were mediocre at best, but I enjoyed painting and sold a few paintings in my early 20's. At 25 I moved to Massachusetts and stopped doing hair. I worked in the restaurant business and was a pie baker at a local apple orchard. I still painted, but I got more into photography during that time. Mostly landscapes as well as weddings and some commercial work. I traveled from Maine to Florida then back up Maine after living in Florida for 6 months. Photographed so much along the way. The next year I went to Iceland, France, Luxembourg, and Germany. What an amazing experience that was. Iceland was by far the most picturesque place I have ever been to at that point in my life. Germany was amazing and the people were so friendly and the culture was just incredible. The cheese and bread!!
The following year I went to Hawaii. Maui to be exact. Absolutely fell in love with the place. Paradise on earth is an understatement. It is a place of healing and growing. They say that Haleakala is the heart chakra of the planet, and I can see why. A couple years later after visiting Hawaii, I went back again to just visit for a few month, but then ended up just moving there.
The first year I worked at a Cafe in Paia. Cafe Mambo is a cute little eclectic cafe in the heart of the surf town in the North Shore of Maui. My boyfriend started pushing me a little to start an art business, since I loved it so much. So, I sat down with my new watercolor set and created my very first Sticker. A silhouette of a Pineapple with views of West Maui and Palm Trees. A few weeks later I created another sticker. The island of Maui's silhouette with again, the West Maui Mountains and a turtle and whale in the water.
I was hooked. I literally became obsessed. I went online and figured out how to start my business, get an LLC, Bank Account, register my business in Hawaii, everything. Within a week, I had it all set up. I started my Etsy shop and got a few orders here and there. (It took a couple of years to get multiple orders a week.) The cafe I worked at allowed me to hang up some of my paintings to sell. I sold a lot of artwork there. A little while later, a friend of mine opened up a jewelry shop in Kihei and asked if I wanted to work there a couple days a week and sell my work there. Absolutely! Every day I worked there I would set up my easel and live paint. I did really well there, but eventually my friend had to close up shop.
While there, I made friends with another shop owner who asked if she could sell my stickers and cards in her shop. She has the cutest shop in the Kalama Village in Kihei called Sunkissed Wahine. If you are ever in Kihei, make sure to visit her shop as all of her items are designed or made in Hawaii. After that, I started to go around to multiple shops and galleries in Maui and most said yes to selling my work in the their shops. Then covid happened and everything came to a halt. I got pretty depressed as I am a purpose driven person, and I felt like my purpose was taken from me. I created a few charcoal pieces that helped me get out those unwanted emotions, and boom, the same friend that made jewelry got an offer to set up on Front Street in Lahaina and offered me the spot a few days a week. I set up two tables right on Front Street in front of Badass Coffee behind the Pioneer Inn. I would live paint there as well and did extremely well there art wise as well as made a few amazing friends. As more people were coming to the island, the real estate owners for that spot decided to raise the rent by almost double, so I had to give up that spot.
Thankfully, by then I was a full time photographer as well for my own photography business capturing families on their vacations on Maui as well as selling my sticker, cards, and prints to 15 shops in Maui! I started selling my work instead at local farmers markets and resorts in Wailea. A year ago, my boyfriend and I decided to move away from Maui to where he grew up in Virginia to take care of family and build a farm. I still sell my work in several shops on Maui, 1 on Oahu, 3 in Virginia, and 1 in Massachusetts.
Everyday I am learning new techniques and business approaches for my art business. It is a struggle for sure, and I have my ups and downs, but I love owning my own business and watching it change. Having started my business in Maui, most of my work is tropical and Hawaii themed. Now having lived in Virginia for 6 months, I have changed my style to more birds and flowers. Who knows where my art will take me next. So, that is how I became an artist. The encouragement of my parents, a couple of teachers, friends, and my boyfriend as well as my stubbornness and perseverance. I love creating and designing new things all the time. It's so fulfilling to start something, finish it, and help others have a moment of joy.