What Does it Take to Realize a dream?
This month marks a special anniversary for me. In March of 2015 I had my first art exhibit. It was a dream I had carried my whole life. I’d never shown my work in public before and I was holding out for a real gallery (not a restaurant or coffee shop).
Now I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember. As a kid, art was the only elective I ever signed up for. In college I majored in art until my parents pushed me in the direction of a “real job” so I got my degree in graphic design, but my heart longed to create. I continued to take classes over the years – even enrolling in the art program at Metro State College for two years in 1996 when I was working part time. But as life got in the way, I put my passion aside. Art seemed selfish and trivial at a time when I needed the paycheck so I threw myself into my work. Eventually I lost my health and in 2009 I stepped away from a stressful marriage. I had slowly misaligned my life in a direction that wasn’t true to myself. I needed to recenter and I returned to my first love – art. I took classes at night after work, found my way back to health and made new friends I could ski with, bike with, laugh with. I finally felt aligned with my very being.
Realizing a dream requires aligning with your dream.
Then in 2015, I had the opportunity to exhibit in my first group show in Denver’s RiNo Arts District at aBuzz Gallery. The owner of the gallery, Carol Ann Waugh, asked what my artistic goal was. I said “To hang my work in a gallery,” to which Carol replied, “Well now you’ve got it. I guess you’re gonna need a new goal!”
I blinked for a moment realizing she was right. Being in the gallery was a dream come true and it felt so amazing to have that first show – I was on cloud nine. But at that moment I dared to dream bigger – to change my career and become a full-time artist. I had no idea how I was going to do it. I hadn’t planned for it financially. But Carol provided guidance about how to work with galleries and to treat my art as I would any other business. I followed her advice and that of other successful artists I met along the way. I was open to learning everything I could about the art world.
Realizing a dream requires setting goals.
For the next two years, I went back to school. I took every art class I could get my hands on. I was admittedly a little rusty after more than a decade away and I needed to sharpen my skills. After those two years, I realized I needed to take the final step alone to find my own unique voice and artistic vision. I stopped taking classes and got a studio where I could contemplate, write, sing, make bad paintings, make good paintings, grow and develop. I had a community of artists at the studio I could talk with in the hallway or chat up over wine at the end of the week. Having space to create while being surround by a creative community was invaluable to me and I thrived. I worked hard and participated in as many shows as I could. I also reached out for mentors, like Andrew Speer, my former teacher at Metro, and Ken Elliott, whose counsel I valued.
Realizing a dream requires help from other people.
While the studio was perfect in many ways, it was in an urban setting. Problem was, I really connected with the mountains we visited on the weekends. My art was aligned there too, as I had settled into a series I was calling Art of the Backcountry. When we finally had the opportunity to live in the mountains, we moved to Salida, Colorado, a quaint, funky little art town. After spending some months painting in my garage, I set about getting a studio space and the perfect one opened up. I sought opportunities for shows and found them. After awhile, galleries began approaching me and I found a great fit with one in Breckenridge, called Portfolio Gallery (www.portfoliobreck.com).
Just the other day, the owners of that gallery, Carol and Alan Kelly, asked me a question: “What are your goals as an artist?” It made me stop and think. I realized I’ve met my goal from 5 years ago and arrived at a place where I can live life as a full-time artist. I realized once again I need a new goal. And so it begins again.