We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Michelle Penington a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Michelle thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Are you able to earn a full-time living from your creative work? If so, can you walk us through your journey and how you made it happen?
A question we artists get asked a lot is ‘You’re a full time artist, how do you pay your bills?’ I suppose the life of the “starving artist” is a little more intreguing than learning you can make income from your passion! An art career requires more than just talent. Some of the most intelligent and well rounded people I know are fellow artists. My story begins by turning what was an innate need to create from the time I was a child on. I spent most of my childhoood dancing ballet and drawing. I would create faces, paper dolls, set up paintable scenes and had the opportuinity to take up photography and learn the dark room at the age of 12. Fast forward to college I decided to put art aside and pursue a BS in Psychology and a minor in Business Administration. After college I decided to move just outside of Santa Fe, NM where I learned that my passion for creating was what dream I really wanted to pursue as a career. From day one I knew that my talent would most definitley not be the only thing that would help build my busniess. The hardest part to learn was moving from creative brain to marketing business brain and learning how to work through the ruts. As a creatvie passionate person, I had a hard time wanting to work on the promtion side…I wanted it to work itself! Fast forward a lot of blood, sweat and many tears later I have created not only a successul business, but have evolved into something better. If I could have sped up any process it would have been the marketing side! I wish I knew then what I do now. Currently I do about 20 plus commissions a year, sell my originals at various places around Cave Creek, AZ and now for a fun side business I teach paint classes at venues around town. We artists are always growing and changing and I am looking forward to new adventures that are coming my way. I am always learning in all areas of my life and career.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I am a self taught artist/oil painter first and foremost. I have been described as an expressionist modern artists with a whimsical side. I am a sucker for romance and storytelling. I create art that makes you think, describes a story and had a lot of hidden detail. I started as a child creating and dancing ballet. I learned composition at an early age by having the opportunity to pursue photography with dark room experience at 12. My art is original and comes from my imagination and love of creating stories in my compositions. I have grown my art business into one that is based on selling originals at my studio or in various places in Cave Creek, AZ. I have a strong commission base and do about 20 plus a year. Currently my dog/pet portraits are very popular. What sets me apart is that I am self taught and my style is something I am proud of and am continually growing and reinventing my art so it grows with me. My art is as original as you can get. I think my collectors over the years would agree.
For you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative?
The most rewarding aspect of being an artist is learning your years of hard work and forever mastering your craft are paying off. When people let me know they are familiar with my art and not only that but appreciate and admire it enough to purchase an original or have me create a commission for them. I am very proud of that.
How can we best help foster a strong, supportive environment for artists and creatives?
Originals of any kind are so much more special and appreciated than something with no thought bought at store. I believe that artists and art are the basis of culture and creativity in any community. Supporting the arts by purchasing, commissioning, going to shows, sharing their favorite artist work… all the above helps sustain this creative culture and helps future generations learn the same.