The path to becoming a professional West Coast abstract artist was there all along. I just didn’t see it until it all came full circle and I had a change of perspective on the day job.
I have been an artist by trade for approximately 4 months. Prior to that I had worked as an Executive Assistant for a husband and wife team who ran both for profit and non-profit companies. I was their right-hand woman for over 8 years and it was hard to say goodbye, but I was finally ready to take the leap to follow my passion. They’ve gotten unexpectedly slammed busy, so I’ve been doing a little work for them this week and as I was working on their schedules this morning, I started thinking about all of the different jobs that I’ve had.
My studio office. Only the best high tech ergonomic office equipment for this artist.
At one point, I described my resume as looking like it belonged to a crazy person. I’ve been a Yoga teacher, a stock broker, an advertising sales exec, a restaurant worker (front of house and cooking), an education programs coordinator…I could go on and on. But now that I’m having to jump back into a supportive admin roll (albeit temporarily) it’s really got me thinking about how all of those different jobs support me on my path to becoming a career artist.
So, I thought I’d reflect on the many careers of Marigny Goodyear and explain what each one has taught me and how that’s applicable to my life as an artist. For all those artists out there who are still dragging themselves out of bed each day to get to the day job: it is serving you beyond a pay check.
Feeling like I was seen as a quitter because I was a serial career changer was tough on my confidence, but actually each job was a learning experience that lead back to one thing…life and work as an abstract artist.
The Hospitality Industry – “How may I be of service?”
I worked in fine dining restaurants, caterers, event planners and 5 star hotels cooking, serving, and managing and I loved it. It was hard working and hard playing life style. In those fast pace environments, I learned A LOT. So much in fact, that I feel the need to use bullets:
- How to anticipate the needs of others and give them what they need before they ask
- Attention to detail and how to be efficient in my movements.
- How to work on my own and also in a team.
- The importance of forward thinking. What do I need to do today to better serve me tomorrow?
- How to multi-task (for better or for worse) and to be prepared and organized (you’d better know where everything is at all times when you’re moving 100 miles per hour).
- And the most important take-away: The value of good customer service. That includes doing what I say I’m going to do in a timely manner, following up even when I think it’s not necessary, taking the words “I assume” out of my vocabulary and showing gratitude…even when you’d rather give the customer a good eye poke.
Having a baby was what ultimately made me leave the restaurant industry. The hours were hard and I realized that once my daughter started school, I would never see her, so when a friend of a friend offered me sales job at a magazine, I jumped at the opportunity to become a…
…Advertising Executive – “We don’t take no for an answer!”
Oy…my least favorite job. I always took no for an answer. When my boss would call me on it, I’d say “but they said no….what I’m I supposed to do?” Great sales person, right? I assumed that I just sucked at sales but really what was going on is that I didn’t feel genuine in the importance of what I was trying to sell. I learned about dealing with clients and the necessity of follow up, follow through, organization and meeting deadlines. But what I ultimately learned from this experience is that unless I am passionate about what I am selling, sales are a waste of time for me.
To be honest, the whole thing just stressed me out and so I decided to take a hobby and make it my job and I quit to become…
…A Yoga Instructor – “Let’s get our Om on, Y’all!”
I loved Yoga. I did it all of the time and so when my teacher suggested that I become a teacher, I jumped at the opportunity. I went to a month-long teacher training course in the Bahamas (because WHY NOT?) and started teaching immediately when I got home. Private clients trickled in and I was gaining a little following at a few Yoga studios but really what I was gaining was a massive amount of debt.
Nora and I practicing Yoga along the Mississippi River
In the few years that I taught Yoga I learned how business can grow if you stick with it although I didn’t have the time or money saved to stick with it very long. I also learned the importance of breathing. This is where my meditation practice began and hear me when I say that I would be a crazy person without my daily meditation practice.
I still do Yoga sometimes but not like I used to as I also learned that sometimes taking something I love and making it a job can beat the love for it right out of me. I ended up taking another part-time job with a very successful money manager, organizing receipts in order to figure out how much money his wife had spent on their new house renovation. That led me to become a…
…Junior Stock Broker - “$$$$$$$$$$$”
I learned how to talk to a different type of clientele…one with money. I also learned how to make a mean spreadsheet, a tool that I use frequently and may one day make an art project out of. I learned about stocks, bonds, money markets, mutual funds, basic analysis and became a licensed stock and bond broker. Ok…so I admit that a lot of that stuff oozed right on out my ears when I quit, but basic finance will always be with me and I will never forget learning the importance of nurturing your clients….again…back to good customer service. Sending birthday cards, holiday gifts, email updates, whatever it takes to make them feel special and attended to. It’s mandatory.
Artists use spreadsheets too...at least this one does. I would be lost without my spreadsheets.
I was on my way to getting an additional license to sell insurance and I actually would have stayed longer in the finance industry but two life changing things happened within 6 months of each other: I fell in love and hurricane Katrina (aka The Storm) hit New Orleans. My job moved from New Orleans to Birmingham, Alabama. I stayed for 9 months but when my now husband proposed to me, I chose love over the career and moved back to Post Katrina New Orleans where I had trouble finding work. A good friend of mine’s father took pity and hired me to…
…Organize financials to be used in divorce litigation
I worked at his CPA firm for about a year and I learned that I NEVER wanted to get a divorce…But being as far away from the arts as this job brought me and wanting to support New Orleans artists who were struggling after The Storm led me to open my own business and, in a way, back to the arts.
B-native.com…”Buy New Orleans Art Y’all!”
My logo for (now closed)b-native. An online art market for New Orleans artists.
My first business venture. B-native was a web site where NOLA artists could have a platform to sell their art online since New Orleans tourism was suddenly non-existent. It was a juried online art market that I kept alive for 5 years. It was quite the experience and labor of love. Here I learned to be careful about going into business with friends and if you do, get it in writing. Not having a formal partnership agreement from the get go was the ultimate demise of my little on-line gallery. The other thing I learned is that the marketing I learned in college changed super-fast with the introduction of social media and SEO. I was in over my head and didn’t have a clue as to how to get the world to pay attention to b-native. I gave it up after 5-years.
This is what this artist looks like after spending a few hours learning about marketing and PR. Ouch...it hurts.
Then my childhood best friend moved back home to New Orleans and hired me to work with her as an…
Education Programs Coordinator - “Party planning with lots of presentations and no booze.”
Here my hospitality education was applied in a different way but those lessons about attention to detail, follow up, customer service…it’s all really the same thing. I also learned that I’m a terrible proof reader. Again, this only lasted about a year because we upped and moved to Oregon where I became…
…Executive Assistant - “I do it ALL”
I did…I did it all. I loved my bosses and the people I worked with. I stayed with them over 8 years which was a record for me, by far. I learned how to change hats quickly and as needed (even if it’s not on my schedule) and how to juggle the demands of two different people who have two different sets of needs. When I began working for them, they didn’t even own a filing cabinet. I built their organization and scheduling systems, helped with fund raising, planned events, I even got to travel a bit. Here I became an organizational master. I kept myself, and them, on task and knowing what’s coming up next, without question. I was really good at it and I enjoyed it until it just wasn’t challenging anymore.
While I was with them, I started doing art on the side and 4 years later, I left to pursue art as my career. When I started painting and experiencing the joy and remembering how important art is in my life, I got a bit sad. I thought “Wow, I’ve really wasted a lot of time.” But now, that I’m actually pursuing art as a business, I realize that all of these different roles that I’ve taken on over time have allowed me to come full circle back to art.
In this world of endless information choices, it is hard to see that we are on a path. For me, all of the day jobs were a road to abstract art.
We live in a time when the 40-year career at one company and retiring with a pension is pretty much dead. Being bombarded by so much information and options, it is really hard to focus on what we are “meant” to do. I believe that all of us have that thing that we are blessed with and meant to share with the world.
The challenge is to see beyond the pay check, the obligations, the Joneses… What is our gift to give and how can all the different experiences in life allow us to grow that gift into a career? I am an artist. I am also a business woman with an organizational mind. Two things I grew up thinking couldn’t possibly work together in one brain. But here I am.
So, now that I’m done updating my financial spreadsheet and my marketing tasks for the day, I’m heading into the studio where my structured brain can release into a creative space. I’m realizing that all of my different talents can be applied not just to my art, but to my art business. They actually complement each other quite well. All of it wasn’t a waste of time at all. In fact, it was necessity in order to pursue my passion.
If you experience day-job frustration, I urge you to make a list of all the things that you’ve learned at each jobby-job, and write how they can benefit you and your passion. It may shift your thinking. I’d love to see what you write. Hit reply and let me know, or answer in the comments below and if you know someone who is frustrated by the time their day job takes from their passion, please share this with them. Onward!