In my ongoing effort to pass along ideas that might encourage others to consider the value of following their passion – to take the leap – I recently caught up with a former business associate, Angela Bruskotter, who has done just that – embarked on a major career transition. For the third year in a row, she’s been immersed in creating and presenting her paintings at local art shows. She, therefore, only had a few hours to commit to being “interviewed” about her own career transition. I thought her experience, what she’s learned through that experience, her process, her perspective on business and passion and so much more might be worthwhile to others.
I understand you have quite a solid business background. Can you share some details?
Sure. In 1988, I earned a B.S. degree in Finance from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. I was Valedictorian of my graduating class and graduated Summa Cum Laude – top student in Finance. I was recruited by IBM-New York City to sell computers to Fortune 500 companies. Up until three years ago,I held various high level marketing and sales positions in large and small, public and private companies.
Although an outdated theory, many are still drawn to the concept of dominant abilities and patterns (left brain = logic, language, and analytic, and right brain = creative and expressive). What’s your own perspective
on that theory as it impacts your career change?
I’ve always had a strong balance between left- and right-brain abilities. I tried to find jobs that incorporated both sets of skills but that was difficult in a corporate environment. For the first time I feel that I’m using all the talents I possess including all the things I learned over the years. Being an artist isn’t just about the creative process but it’s also a business I have to manage and market.
The definition of business is “one’s occupation” or “a commercial enterprise.” I’m a conscientious business person following a passion. The big difference for me these days is that I don’t actually feel as if I’m working because I love just about every aspect of my job. If “CEO” or “Business Owner” were to be inserted in place of “Artist” in the traditional list below…what would the difference actually be?
– Artist’s MOTTO If I can picture it, I can create it.
– Artist’s DESIRE To create something that will last throughout the ages, long after I’m gone.
– Artist’s GOAL To be recognized for my talent and to make a living at doing what I love.
– Artist’s GREATEST FEAR To create something mediocre or to fail completely.
– Artist’s STRATEGY: To develop my skill and continually improve my talent.
– Artist’s TASK: To express my vision.
– Artist’s WEAKNESS To expect too much or take on too many projects.
– Artist’s TALENT Creativity, discipline, perseverance, ability, imagination and daring.
– Artist’s SUCCESS To provide joy, happiness, peace, ease or clarity with my product
Some might say that too much order and organization might stifle creativity. Actually, for me, it’s quite the opposite. When I know mundane tasks are done or are scheduled for another time, then my mind is free to think only about the piece I am working on. Nothing nags at me and I’m free to create.
Do you work as hard or as many hours as you used to when you were working for someone else?
It’s different. I probably work more because the work is always there in front of me. The job has become my life and vice versa. Probably like most small business owners, I’m always thinking about cash flow, what I’m going to do next, the next sale, the latest project and on and on. But being an artist isn’t just about the business side of things. When I’m out and about I constantly observe and register details. I often find myself staring at the sky, a building, flowers or people and thinking to myself, “What colors am I seeing? How would I paint that? Is that a scene worth attempting and if so, what would I take out/add?” Sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it. Now that I’m doing my art full-time, I’m looking at the world in a completely different way.
That’s a very interesting visual of you in the midst of your creative process – staring at and becoming absorbed in the nature and essence of items around you. What do you think others around you might think when they see you in this “state of creation”?
Most people probably just think I’m daydreaming. I’ve usually tuned out everything around me, but I try not to do it when I’m supposed to be paying attention to someone else. We have all heard the myth or stereotype of the artist. Artists aren’t normal; they are bohemian, unkempt, flaky, tortured, right-brained, liberal, poor, maniacal lunatics probably alcoholic or drug-addicted to boot. I hope I don’t come across as any of that because that couldn’t be further from who I am. I’m just a regular businessperson always looking for the next thing that inspires me.
In a corporate setting, directors and managers generally assign work and projects – and, therefore, set the tempo and pace for one’s day. How do you organize your own day, week, etc.? Have skills acquired during your time in corporate settings helped in any way?
Finding balance among business tasks, creating, family, friends and many of life’s other demands is very important. The best way for me to do this is to compartmentalize things. I am a great planner and list builder. I still keep a paper agenda and itemize weekly to-do’s as well as goals for the week. I try to relegate all business tasks to one day a week. I try to do my home chores on the weekend. I minimize time with friends to no more than two or three visits per week – usually at the end of the work day. I don’t carry my cell phone with me everywhere, and I only check email in the morning.
What goal do you set for yourself in your paintings?
With my paintings, I seek to create places that take people away from their everyday troubles. It may be a scene they remember from a vacation where they were able to leave work worries behind. It might be a beautiful sunset that brings them peace after a long day of chasing kids. Maybe it’s a brilliantly colored tree in fall that reminds them of the place they grew up and of loved ones that are no longer with them. My goal is to present ideas, thoughts, memories or maybe a glimpse of an ideal world.
I understand you also do commission work. How do you stay true to yourself while creating for others?
Because my product is a part of me – a vision that comes from who I am – I can only allow myself just so much leeway to adjust what I do to fit a certain buyer. I can only paint like me and only paint what I feel good about painting. If I move too far out of my comfort zone, the heart of the work disappears. A painting without heart is a technical exercise. You might admire the skill but there is no emotion.
Do you encounter challenges with the day-to-day of your new job/career – maybe the solitude, the need (or demand) to continually create or other issues? Also, are there aspects of your new career that you absolutely love?
After the challenge of giving up a steady income, a blank canvas is the most daunting. Like a commissioned salesperson that starts each month at zero, there is fear around whether one can do it all over again. That concern, though, is also a challenge. Will it be good? Will I have something to say this time? Will it sell? You also need to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone; do something you haven’t done before. It’s the best way to grow, get better and progress but it’s also a difficult thing to force yourself to do.
One of the best things and oftentimes one of the most difficult about being an artist is the solitude. I love working alone, being by myself in my home studio and spending days on my work without interruptions. However, it also means there is no one to bounce ideas off of, to critique work in progress or to learn from. I am nudged to seek out knowledge and education both on the artistic side and on the business front. Fortunately many resources exist on the internet plus I’m able to connect with other artists at shows and events. Art, however, is subjective – there is no playbook to follow. While steps may be similar for many artists, results may be completely different. This means each artist has to find and develop their own unique style.
Do you have any final words to share with those considering the pursuit of their passion…and possibly a career transition?
Pursuing my passion (and changing careers) is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done – not because it’s difficult to paint, but because it’s so important to me. Disappointments are devastating – a bad painting, a bad show, rejection. The highs, though, are glorious. When someone loves my work, when it makes them smile or cry or feel peace, I feel I’ve gotten the best compliment of my life. That roller coaster – those highs and lows – are tough sometimes but it makes me feel more alive than I’ve felt in years. And after all, we’re not here to merely exist, we’re here to live, to soar, to dream and to realize our full potential and make the best use of all the talents we have Now that I’m here, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Most of my working life I’ve felt like a square peg in a round hole. I finally feel that the pieces fit. I’ve only just started but every day I seem to come up with a new idea or new project. My biggest fear is that I won’t have time to do them all. I hope to never stop working.
Crafted, researched and written by: LIZ CARLOCK
The Write Resources, LLC™
© 2014 EM Carlock
Graphic credits: http://www.angelabruskotter.com/joomla/