Art enables us
to find ourselves
& lose ourselves
at the same time
~ Thomas Kincaid
What is an Emerging Artist?
By the traditional AFTA Network definition an emerging artist is an arts professional with less than ten years of experience, coming into the field as a subsequent career.
My prior careers - photographer, web designer/developer, and graphic designer - all had a visual art component but I'm a relative newcomer to the professional art world. I began creating art full-time in 2017, but it was 2018 before I sold my first painting and painted my first two public murals.
How did I become an emerging artist? One could say, I "fell" into it.
Two years after I graduated college a cousin invited me to a sip and paint night in Massachusetts. The experience awoke in me a love of art that had been dormant for some time. That revived connection to art and a chance to bond with loved ones lead me to attend four more paint nights with friends and family before moving to North Carolina in April 2016.
Two weeks after moving to NC I fell down a flight of stairs, sustaining serious injuries. It was a long thirteen-month healing process. I was going to many doctor visits, scans, surgery, and physical therapy appointments three to five times per week for multiple hours a day. I couldn’t do much physically while I was healing and, except for all my appointments, I was home by myself a lot. In that downtime, I remembered my newly ignited interest in art and began reacquainting myself with acrylic painting. It was something I could do sitting at a table without aggravating injuries.
Soon after that, someone asked me about painting a mural. I wanted to do it but had to postpone because, I couldn’t lift my left arm and needed to regain use of that limb before attempting something of that magnitude. In the interim, I began sketching concept art for that future mural.
Lacking proper tools, training, and practical skills, the first renditions for my art concept were incredibly rough. I tried graphite but the client wasn't able to understand what I envisioned, especially the color palette I planned to use. I tried color pencils which were a slightly better indication for color but too sketchy and still not enough for the client to get a full picture. I tried markers but the brand/type I had on hand had disappointing results (I chose not to show the client that version). I tried acrylic paint on canvas sheets measured to scale.
The acrylic on canvas sheets provided the best concept but were a lot of work to create and that particular client changed their mind on a few of their asks which required me to complete more paintings.
It was during that iterative process, working with acrylic paints on those concepts, that I learned where my skills needed improvement and decided that it would be in my best interest to become a better painter.
In March 2017, I began taking classes. At first it was just basic skills such as familiarizing myself with acrylics again, how to mix colors, and how to better paint some of the elements I planned to include in the mural.
While taking those classes I realized the more I learned, the more I needed to learn. Suddenly, I was on my way to becoming a “real” artist and a future muralist! I was on a path to pursue my artistic aspirations and I have been fully immersed in that endeavor ever since.
In 2018, after that experience (the painted mock ups) I began using digital art to create concept art and either printed out my design or used a screenshot of it on my phone to reference while painting murals onsite. I do the same for chalk drawings now too.