Sunday, May 11, 2014

40-Something and Hitting My Stride as an Artist

There is an entry on the Redbubble blog talking about 6 Artists Who Started (Very) Late In Life. It has got me thinking about my own life as an artist. While I truly believe that artistic talent is inherent, and I know I displayed aptitude for art at an early age, I didn't really begin my art career until fairly recently.

I've been drawing most of my life, but for many years my art remained on the sidelines. Sure, back in the late 80s/early 90s, I made a half-hearted attempt at trying to get some art (as well as a handful of stories and several poems) published, but it went nowhere. Even though I received at least one encouraging rejection that said my bold style would reproduce well in print, I didn't keep at it. For a time, real life got in the way while I worked at various "day jobs".  

In my standard contributor's bio for publications, I like to say that I was a "laboratory technician-turned-home educator". After working in various retail positions, I earned a B.S. in Biology, and then spent several years working for the NYS Museum and then for the NYS Health Department. Then circumstances changed, and I found myself home-schooling my daughter for almost a decade.

However, becoming a home-educator wasn't the reason I left my position as a health lab tech. During off times in the lab, I used to doodle and sketch. People started asking me the age-old question "with your talent, what are you doing here?" I also began selling my art to the public. From 1999 to 2001, I sold framed art and bookmarks at a few local medieval fairs and arts and crafts fairs. Having sold some examples of my art at each of these venues, and realizing that the daily grind of the health lab wasn't for me, I decided to leave the lab to pursue an art career. Then I ended up becoming a home educator as well.

Art still seemed to be a sideline as home-school became the focus of my life. Even so, educating my daughter roused the slumbering writer in me, and I began writing again. I worked on rewriting a (currently shelved) fantasy novel. When no publisher seemed interested in my manuscript, I started writing poetry again. Then, in 2007, I caught a break which changed my creative life forever. An editor accepted a poem of mine. Then another editor accepted another poem, And it happened again, and again, and again.

One of those editors that was one of the first to accept a poem of mine noticed that I said I was also an artist. She nudged me into sending some illustrations her way. It took a couple of tries, but she liked one of my poem/illustration combos enough to publish both my poem and my artwork. Prior to that, one of the poem/illustration combos she had rejected was picked up by another editor for another publication. And then another publication accepted an artwork of mine, and then another, and then another.

One editor/publisher who voiced interest in my artwork wished to use some of my works on merchandise in her online stores. I would get a cut of the royalties. I agreed. Some items featuring my art actually sold. I remember my 14th Century Saint George was particularly popular. In June 2010, I opened my own Zazzle Store. Since then, I've opened shops over at CafePress and Redbubble.

Even though I had interior illustrations published from 2007 on, it took me a couple more years to see my art on the cover of a publication. As it was, my first cover art was a double. "
A Leviathan Ascendant" appeared on the cover of Abandoned Towers, Issue #3, published in July 2009, and also appeared on the cover page of the November 2009 issue of the e-zine MindFlights. Since then, I've seen my art on the covers of a number of publications.

Why go on about all this? Well, I turned 40 in the Summer of 2008. So, I was a few months shy of 39 when I sold my first illustration to a publication back in Spring 2007. I was almost 41 when my art appeared on a zine cover for the first time. I was almost 42 when I started running my own Zazzle store. I'm now receiving regular illustrations assignments from the editor of Sorcerous Signals/The Lorelei Signal. In some ways, the art I'm creating now is the best I've ever created. I now have numerous interior illustration and several cover artwork credits to my name. The roll that began rolling in 2007 keeps on rolling.

I'm 40-something, and I'm just hitting my stride as an artist. I guess you could say that I started later in life, considering that I've had a lot more success in my 40s than I ever saw in my 20s and 30s.

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