How I became an artist

I’m not one of those artists who has been painting all of my life. I started painting in December 2013 at the age of 41.  Now, almost three years later, I am a full-time artist and have sold my art to collectors around the world.

If you had asked me seven years ago if I could be artist, my answer would definitely have been NO! (probably accompanied by an eye-roll).

So, what was the route that led me to becoming an artist in my 40’s?

Green(wo)man by Tracy Algar
Green(wo)man (2013)
Green(wo)man was the very first painting I sold in 2013 to an art collector in the USA

I had a creative childhood

I embraced the crafts that my mother taught me and was enthusiastic about taking part in creative pursuits at school.  As a teen in the 80s, I collected jacaranda pods, persuaded my  mom to buy me some enamel paint and made some bright, bold and BIG earrings.  I sold them alongside my mother at her Windhoek Morning Market stall.  It was the first time I sold my handmade work and it was a very good feeling.  

All this lovely creativity stopped dead when I left home and started work in the travel industry.  Years passed… jobs changed… I moved from Windhoek, to Cape Town, to London, to Cape Town, to London, to Cape Town…

Back in South Africa in 2008, I was writing content part-time for a couple of environmental blogs.  At this time I was feeling quite disconnected from myself, and I didn’t know very many people in Cape Town anymore either.  I was happy to be back and it felt like a new start, but I needed to connect with locals and to find some new interests.

I started interacting with a few Cape Town bloggers and met Pia of Mother City Living blog.  I entered a giveaway on her blogand although I didn’t know it at the time, it was a pivotal moment in my life.

I won two sessions with a life coach.

My prize was two coaching sessions with Passion Test facilitator and life coach Russel Brownlee.  Russel gently guided me as I made a list and compared one thing on it to another.  After the first session it became apparent that I needed to make some changes.  At the end of the second session I had a list of what I really wanted from my life.

Making art, living a permaculture lifestyle and leaving the city were top of the list.

What I’d previously thought were impossible dreams now started to seem possible.

At around this time, a friend lent me a copy of Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It was my second attempt at reading this book. The first time round (in my twenties) it hadn’t made much sense to me and I’d given up shortly after starting. This time I was hooked… I finally understood and consciously embraced the importance of creativity in my life. I learned about setting boundaries and doing important work for myself.

I started making changes and trying new things.  

  • joined an evening class to learn to draw,
  • turned my hair into dreadlocks,
  • started to paint  and
  • opened an Etsy shop.

It was then that I began to notice that synchronicity was giving me a helping hand…

  • I started meeting artists everywhere!
  • Collectors were finding and buying my art from my Etsy shop
  • I was offered free studio space to work in
  • I was offered wall space at The Millstone Farmstall & Cafe to hang my work
  • I was given all manner of reclaimed things to paint onunfinished school woodwork projects, old shelves, pieces of wood…  etc…
  • I was offered a home on a farm, close enough to a popular tourist route for me to sell me art at local art markets and festivals.  It is also close enough to the nearest village to allow easy access to the post office for me to post my art to buyers.

It seems to me that when I am striving to be myself, living a real life that feeds my soul and am feeling gratitude in any given moment, that there is no shortage of synchronicity.  The world seems to flow better, things happen.

My art hanging at The Millstone at Oude Molen Eco Village in 2014

Over the past year I have embraced country living in the Overberg.  Wonderful people continue to come into my life and help me along my artist’s path.  It’s not always easy, change is uncomfortable and there is uncertainty in any new pursuit.  Life is quieter and less demanding here on the farm, I have more time to paint and  I have adjusted my lifestyle to fit my income (which is also not easy, but definitely worth it).  I love being an artist!  

I don’t forget Russel Brownlee‘s words every time I have an important decision to make:

“Will this decision take your life in the direction of your passions? Or not?”

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