Thoughts on Being a Full Time Artist after quitting my job 3 Years ago

This has been part of my March Newsletter but I feel it is important enough to also post it on my blog :) I cannot believe I missed my 3 year mark last month  – In fact I totally forgot I was something else before until I talked on the phone with someone about how I became an artist and then I remembered. Strange ;)

It has been 3 years this February since I quit my job as a paralegal and become a full time artist. I wrote a blog post if it was worth quitting a well paid job to become an artist about two years ago. When I initially quit my job I told myself to try it for three years and see what happens. If I would not be able to  sustain, survive, be happy with it, I would go back and work as a paralegal again. Well…now after three years, I guess it is time to reflect on this :)

1. Making my life as an artist work is not the main goal

It had been quite a journey. Funny enough the obstacles were and are different from what I thought they would be. I have been extremely lucky that I have an amazing support team behind me. My husband, my friends, my family, my readers and students and my artist friends are the best support ever, cheering me on, listening, helping with advice,  I have no idea how I would have been able to get further in this journey without them.

I posted already about the money part of being a full time artist- nothing has changed here. You are not getting rich (yeah- you won’t believe how many people and companies are just assuming artists love to work for nothing and store products in their fridge) but getting rich has never been my goal either. Making an income that makes you feel you can sustain your work and yourself…that is a goal.

The challenges I faced and face is getting in a routine and balancing creative time with paper work, consulting, traveling, photo editing, working out classes, making samples, writing blog posts, answering emails  etc etc. I am still working on this  -I am getting better in putting away time each week for doing something creative just for myself – wether it be creating nonstop the whole day or going to MoMA. I learned for myself that I get very unhappy if I do not fuel my arting time and just try to make my life as an artist work …making my life as an artist work is part of the journey but not the main goal!


2. My former career was not useless

I have never been one to look back and regret things I did in my life. I loved studying law (ok that is a lie) and working in the law offices I worked at (that is true – I chose pro bono law offices and I had a great time there!). I do not regret this also for other reasons. I wouldn’t be who I am as an artist if it wasn’t for those experiences at the law office. A lot of my art journaling or my canvases are part  of this. On top knowing how to deal with stress, deadlines, grumpy emails, paperwork and taxes comes pretty much in handy.

3. I can do it – bring it on!
Becoming a full time artist and quitting my safe job has been the biggest and scariest decision in my life…until….I moved to the States.
I have had many sleepless nights and discussions with close friends before I quit my job – I have had many sleepless nights afterwards wondering if that was a good move too …mostly anytime something big and cool is about to happen falls through like a coin into the street gutter.  I tend to question all when this happens instead of counting the coins that are still remaining in my hand.
But I learned some other , often times even way better opportunities will open up and that the best thing about life is…that it goes on ;) And so I think that this helped me with being cool with the decision of moving to a foreign country. I can do it, I will work it out and I will enjoy the journey. So far I have. enjoyed this journey a lot.
Becoming a full time artist has made me more fearless in bigger life decisions.

4, Make Art …not war
I learned a lot about creating art itself the last three years. I learned that creating art is an argument with the attempt to work it out and not with the attempt to battle.
It is a state of mind how I like my work,  and enjoy the process It is not about “tackling” the canvas – it is about making the canvas my friend, introducing it to other art supplies aka  friends  and have them have a nice civilized discussion.

4. I have never been happier 
I truly can say this! Every time I get in the zone working on a big canvas, with cranked up music and into my elbows in paint. Every time I see my students being inspired by something I showed. Every time I see art work by other artist friends or in a museum and it touches my heart because I am the lucky one who can see this. Every time I see something on a stroll in the hood or hear something that inspires me and makes me want to run home to my studio and create. Every time I take my second cup of coffee into my studio seeing my supplies and itching to get started.
I have never been happier – I never want to quit being a full time artist!

So, I guess the verdict after the three years is…I will keep on being a full time artist – it was a good decision and rock on- that was the best decision ever ;) I will work on making it work even better in the next three years :) Time to finish this post and introduce a new canvas to some of my friends. See you soon!

huge hugs
Nat

Comments (24)

  • Brad

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    I really needed this inspirational read today, so THANK YOU! I underwent dialysis this summer up until October when I had my kidney transplant. After a few months of dialysis I didn’t think I could return to my office job. Well, after the successful transplant I now realize that I crave something more than a reliable paycheck. I just couldn’t think of any reasons to return to that job, other than the money. Thankfully, my wife is very supportive, so that has given me the final push. I can focus on my art. Now I see that I wasn’t born as an artist to spend my years sitting in an office, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Who knows how long this kidney will last, time to make the most of my time. Very nice to read of others that it has worked for. Cheers and thanks!

    Reply

    • Nathalie Kalbach

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      Brad, thank you for stopping by! I say go for it!!! It was the best decision ever and it is now another 3 years since I wrote the post. Having a partner supporting you is amazing! Everything will work out! Thank you for sharing your story – I wish you all the best in the future- do what you love and all the best in any of your decisions. Nat

      Reply

  • Donna

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    Very happy to read this article as I am about to embark on this same journey in a month! Very scary but it seems to me that everyone says the same thing: I have never been happier. I hope all is still going well.

    Reply

  • Sofia Gaal

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    Dear Nat, congrats! From the heart! And thanks for sharing it all!

    Reply

  • Laura Strack

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    You are such a talented artist, Nathalie! Thanks for sharing, not only your Uber talent with us, but also your knowledge of so many wonderful art tools and so many other wonderful artist, as well. Cheers to a very happy and successful future ahead. You deserve it!!

    Reply

  • Krista

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    So glad that you made the decision…love, love your art and you are such a fun teacher! Thanks and congrats!

    Reply

  • Denise Spillane

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    What a wonderful post. You express yourself so well that I feel so happy. I am glad for your decisions too as I get to see and be inspired by your work and strolls and visits. I am so glad you are happy too.

    Reply

  • Merilee

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    Dear Nat,

    What an inspirational blog post! I am so happy to hear that your life decisions have worked out in a wonderful way–even more wonderful than you imagined! I have been contemplating taking a step forward in the art world, but I don’t know where exactly to begin. Where do I fit in?? I’m not sure yet. My journey remains in the dreaming stage. But dreams are the beginning of making a goal, and goals are the process of creating reality. I couldn’t be happier for your success and I wish you much success as you move forward. Art is your life now and you are happy. That is a wonderful thing! :-)

    Thank you for sharing,
    Merilee

    Reply

  • Deborah A. Pierro

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    Hi Nat. That was quite an analysis … written like a paralegal! I used to be one, too, but in the corporate world. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe I’ll be able to meet you in person at Create NJ!

    Reply

  • jean marmo

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    Sounds like it was the right decision!!

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  • jennifer tucker

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    Such a great reflection Nat! It’s true, doing what we love may never earn us money, but I loved the last paragraph, the best for last, that when we do get to create, there is nothing better and all the paper work / email is worth it. Art does take business. Cheers, with a very very good beer, to the next three years!

    Reply

  • Michelle Salazar

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    I am happy that you are happy. One of the things I learned during by cancer journey is to do what makes me happy and it is art and creating that make me happy and I try to make sure that I have time to play with paper or canvas or something every day it makes me happy that is a priceless lesson in life!

    Reply

  • Winnie

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    So happy that you have found yourself “never been happier”, that is something very special. Your work is amazing, and it is great to read how much you are enjoying yourself on this journey. I am smiling as I am a receptionist at a firm in Manhattan, and can’t wait to go home and get my fingers inky!

    Reply

  • Cecilia

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    “I have never been hapier”. This says it all!!
    When I grow up I want to be like you!!! ;)

    Reply

  • Marjie Kemper

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    What a wonderful update… I am so glad these big moves have been positive for you. Love your style, Nat!

    Reply

  • Nancy

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    so glad you made the decision to be an artist full time. i appreciate all you do, all the inspiration. you are amazing.

    Reply

  • Sara Jansen

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    I literally have goose bumps. So cool. I am so far in debt I don’t see this happening for me for a while, but it’s my goal – of course mine is more retirement oriented, but same thing..lol. I have never been happier since I decided to become an artist. i LOVE number 4 on your list!! So true. I am a HUGE fan of you and your and check the Seattle Create schedule frequently so I can take a class from you…in the mean time I’m so thrilled you are happy, healthy and productive!!! Hope to meet you this fall.

    Reply

  • finnabair

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    Amen, girl!!! All the things you said – it is as if I was writing it myself. Thank you for being what you are – and be BOLD, right?

    Reply

  • Minna

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    I’m so happy for you Nat!

    Reply

  • cynde jackson clarke

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    Nathalie,
    First, a big congratulations for reaching the three year mark. When I quit my full time job three years ago to focus on my art I was surprised to discover I was far from alone in this.
    I haven’t yet read your full blog post but wanted to say thanks for writing about your journey.
    Best regards,
    cynde

    Reply

  • Amante del Papel

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    There are an amazing jobs!

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    • Andrea Southey

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      Hi Nat

      It was great to read this and very timely having handed in my notice today from a stable job in healthcare!

      Having occasional panics but I know I’ve done the right thing and it’s so nice to hear others who’ve been on the edge looking into the abyss of uncertainty!

      I set up my own business a couple of months ago delivering art sessions in care homes which is slow but steadily making progress as well as working on my own paintings.

      Hope the last 2 years have been great for you – I’m enjoying making my way through your site.

      Thanks for sharing

      Andrea

      Reply

      • Nathalie Kalbach

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        Hi Andrea, how wonderful to hear you are doing what you love and started your own business! It is an ongoing process of panicking and then enjoying it- but it is so worth it. I never regret it and yes the past two years since I wrote this have been good to me. Wishing you all the best- just remember “everything will work out!” and don’t forget the “WHY” – it will get you going in the not so glamorous times! Nat

        Reply

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