We were lucky to catch up with Annie Ingram recently and have shared our conversation below.
Annie, appreciate you joining us today. Can you open up about a risk you’ve taken – what it was like taking that risk, why you took the risk and how it turned out?
I have always been a worker. Growing up in the Midwest as a descendant of farmers, work was wrapped up in my identity and self-worth. It didn’t matter if I worked at a gas station, or as a waitress, doing good work no matter the wage, was a significant aspect of my confidence.
As an adult, I ended up working for a large health insurance company in the claims department. I learned a lot and was promoted. It was a secure job. It had good benefits and a 401k. I knew my job and did it well. I had confidence in my ability to excel. So not only was it a financially secure position, it was a mental security blanket as I knew my hard work was recognized and appreciated. Enter Covid… with it came endless mandatory overtime. I needed a release, something completely different to take my mind off work and the pandemic. A good friend and fine artist started teaching art classes via Zoom. I had zero confidence in my creative ability to paint, but like many during the pandemic I thought “What the heck!” My friend was an excellent cheerleader and painting quickly became a weekly release from the monotony of claims and staring at computer screens. I never thought I would be able to become a professional artist. My friend always spoke with such confidence about others’ abilities, that art is appreciated in its own way, and no matter your style there are people out there that will like and purchase your work. After a year or so of listening to his cheerleading, I worked up the confidence to enroll in an art course. By the end of it, I knew I wanted to start putting my work out there. I started by posting to Instagram and people liked my work! Someone reached out and wanted to buy a painting. That was a thrilling experience! I knew in my heart that art was ‘the thing.’ It was the first time in my life I did something that I truly enjoyed for work. Not because I knew I was good at it, or that it would safely pay the bills each month. I loved it. I loved creating things out of thin air with canvas and paint, things that other people would look at and would spark a happy memory.
Art isn’t ‘hard work,’ it isn’t some kind of drudgery I know I excel at where I can tick all the boxes and feel good about it. It is exciting, fun, and terrifying all at the same time. One piece can turn out, the next piece can look like junk! There are no guarantees that if I paint something, someone in the world will like it. In my head, ‘enjoyable’ and ‘work’ are not two words that go together. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my previous jobs. I relied on my known abilities, so I gained a level of self-confidence and security from my work. In art, I have found work that isn’t work, and by switching careers in my early 40’s I had lost the mental and financial security I once had working in a ‘safe’ position. I quit my full-time corporate position in February 2022, and started working towards being a true blue full-time artist.
This was my risk, and taking it has been a roller coaster experience of highs and lows. Is it terrifying? Yes. Do I have a 401k? No. Do I have self-confidence in my artistic ability? No! But I have had amazing success in my first year as an emerging artist. It has been a whirlwind of a year. If you are out there working for financial and mental security, why not be a crazy person like me and give that all up to pursue something that doesn’t feel like work? Something you have a passion for? Something that is tangible and creative? It might not pay the mortgage or your car payment, but it’s an amazing ride!
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
I have lived across the U.S. from Minnesota, Arkansas, California, New York, and now North Carolina. I am a bit quirky and sarcastic, with a penchant for self-deprecation. I have made a home with my husband and two dachshunds in coastal North Carolina. Living in this area the beauty inspires my creativity every day. I primarily use oils applied with pallet knives. This forces me to suggest things, so in my art, I refer to myself as an imperfectionist!. I enjoy that each piece is unique to the viewer as they complete the work with their imagination. My goal with every piece is to spark a happy memory. I am primarily self-taught and have collectors across the U.S. and Canada.
What can society do to ensure an environment that’s helpful to artists and creatives?
I think the best way to support artists and creatives is to think small. Sometimes we think, “Oh, I can’t afford to buy this huge piece of art and make a difference to support this artist!” Buying one small piece of art from an artist supports them in many little ways. Of course, we think financially, but it also gives them a morale boost to keep going and keep creating. We buy a lot of mass-produced cookie-cutter art that everyone else has. Buying an original work of art touches you and connects you with the artist. It makes their week, month, or year to have someone invest in a piece even if it is an inexpensive painting or print. It spurs them onward to want to create more and better themselves. They continue to create and improve their work, which in the end is a benefit to the person that collected their work. It’s a warm and fuzzy thing to connect with someone on this level. When I hear feedback like “Your art makes my heart happy” it feels like a big bear hug!
Looking back, are there any resources you wish you knew about earlier in your creative journey?
I wish I knew that you could buy canvas in bulk! (Michael’s Pro Packs) I also wish I knew about shipping services like Pirate Ship. Both of these saved me so much money once I found them!