When I was little (in the younger sense as I am still little in the physical sense), I drove my parents absolutely bonkers. Because I didn’t have to learn to crawl or walk, I learned to talk very quickly, and was speaking in full sentences at ten months old. Ordering people around came as a natural skill, and I was bored all the time. That got a bit better when my mother insisted that my doctor help us get my first motorized wheelchair when I was two, but when I didn’t have something to keep me occupied, I got cranky.
Even though I had lots of friends in pre-school, it was pretty obvious that I would not be able to take part in most of the activities they did, like soccer, kick ball, rock climbing, and running. My mother was continuously on the hunt for hobbies I actually could do, so I learned to do things like read and write a bit ahead of schedule. I loved computers and was allowed to play educational computer games every day as well as board games with family and friends. In pre-school, I was often a bit “ahead” of my peers when it came to educational activities because I did so much of them at home. (My mom made me do Hooked-On-Phonics too. God I hated that crap! Who else had to do those stupid reading exercises??)
When I was five, everything changed when my mother bought me my first watercolor set. Although I was probably as good at it as any other five-year-old, I absolutely loved it and went through my first pad of paper in a very short period of time. I was fortunate to have an incredibly gifted art teacher at my grade school who started teaching me about different mediums and really got my creative juices flowing. From then on my parents made sure I was enrolled in art at school as well as private classes at home. I even attended specialty summer camps that taught techniques like glassblowing, print making, and stained glass. My father had a client (who my dogs now call “Aunt Ellan”), that got me interested in jewelry design when I was about fourteen. I obviously never stopped.
People often ask me if I was born with a natural talent for art and just “knew” that that’s what I wanted to do when I “grew” up. The truth is that at least at first, art was simply a cure for boredom. It was something I could physically do that kept me busy, and over time, I did find that I really enjoyed it and wanted to develop my skills as much as possible. When I found out I could actually make MONEY on my art, well, that sealed the deal. I sold my first painting when I was ten (which my dad was actually outbid on in a fundraising art show), and the idea that I could maybe make this art thing into something that would help me support myself when I was older was pretty cool. Plus, at the time, it let me buy more Barbies and horses that my mother refused to spend money on, so it was all good.
I don’t think you can be a successful artist without some natural talent, or at least an affinity for art. At the same time, I don’t think you can be a successful artist without a little bit of training, some business sense, and good people skills. As with any successful career, having a strong support system is also key. I was extremely lucky that my parents, family, and friends supported and pushed me to develop my art skills at such a young age.
I plan to give you guys many “behind the scenes” looks into my painting and design process in coming blogs. Make sure you sign up for my mailing list below so that you don’t miss a post! And tell your friends too!