Scientist to Artist – what did it take?

Fifteen years ago, when I migrated from one field of Psychology to another, I anchored my new world of work in Career Coaching. I had made a vocational jump myself and thought I would apply what I had learned to assist others. It was a deeply rewarding period of my career working with teens and adults to make leaps in their work lives. I strongly believe that when people are pursuing their true talents and passions, we have the potential to more enduringly change the world.  My observation is often the opposite – far too many people have made career decisions based on virtually no credible data or exploratory work and thus end up disillusioned and lost, often taking their frustrations out on others. My focus at the time was to help individuals find courage and confidence in their own capability and judgement to follow their true gifts.

Within a few years of working my way across career lanes, my wife Shaune made a leap bigger than most – from being a double honours science graduate to a full-time, fine artist.

What I have learned from her has shaped my understanding of how to successfully change careers. Shaune’s journey is a remarkable story, that has developed like an unfurling flower. It has been an inspiration to me, and I believe strongly supports our children to think of their future work-life in an equal balance of passions, dreams, interests and aptitudes.

My wife’s decision to change tack was more of a jolt than a gentle glide. She has always loved the creative arts, but at a time when art was not seen as a viable career, she chose other options. Then her father unexpectedly passed away and everything changed.

The shock of his death thrust her into a long period of mourning, and while confronting the meaning of mortality, decided there was no time to waste. She had to follow her dream, and dive boldly into fine art. Without formal training, experience and confidence – the decision was a daunting. It took her more than two years to sell her first piece of art, and she did not give up on her dream. By the fourth year, she was selling an average of three pieces a month. That number has continued to steadily rise.

Here are the key insights I’ve learned from her inspirational story:

  1. Let you Uniqueness Guide you

Define what makes you unique, not different. Shaune combined two great passions, painting and nature – particular her love of the Fynbos Biome in the Cape. This encouraged her to spend hours on the mountains exploring for material to paint and allowing her to fill her week with a combination of her favourite interests. This synergy shines through in each of her brush strokes.

  1. Find a Mentor with recognised Mastery

Shaune surrounded herself with a handful of excellent and experienced artists and art teachers. She has always had an innate talent, but mastery is a lifelong pursuit in the art world, and for that journey she wanted warm, kind teachers who could push her gently beyond self-imposed limitations. These relationships are the source of much joy, gratitude and deep learning.

  1. Invest in your Tribe

My wife joined a community of like-minded artists by attending art classes that provided space for practice, experimentation and play. Her tribe has expanded to include a network of supporters, including mentors, buyers, gallerists and other artists.  Shaune gives back to the art community as much as possible and has signed up with art societies where she volunteers her time to support activities that showcase other artists works.

  1. Invite regular Feedback.

Invite feedback and invest in learning – all the time! Shaune has invited constant feedback, first from those who she trusted and respected in the art world, and then from a wide range of art judges in competitions and art society events.  This has not always been easy, but it has supported her artistic transformation.

  1. Remain Humble and Persevere with Passion

Creative and entrepreneurial ventures are often a test of self-confidence and self-esteem. Shaune has learned how to manage her inner critic and strives towards excellence. She works hard not to allow her self-worth to be attached to how much money she makes from her creations or how quickly they sell. Each day and week I watch my wife juggle two young children and a blossoming career. At times she is exhausted and drained but will invariably return from a session in her studio, doing what she loves, more inspired and energised than before she entered it.

It’s not always easy, and doubt has a habit of still creeping up on Shaune, but she is in career flow and there is absolutely no turning back. In the beginning, her paintings were small and timid, as if her brush strokes couldn’t be bold enough in the world. As her confidence and resolve has grown, so has the size and scale of her work. Its been 8 years and whilst the trajectory of success has been remarkable, it feels like it is still very much the beginning of the journey too.

Have a look at her work:  www.mybrushwithlife.co.za

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