How a Self-taught Artist Found Her Creative Path Later In Life

Hey-o everyone!

This is my first blog post EVER! I’d like to use it to tell you a bit about myself and my unconventional path to becoming an artist…

I grew up near the ocean in East Coast Canada where I went to the beach lots, did gymnastics, played in various bands (I still play music) and drew or painted on a daily basis.

I was a very energetic kid (read: hyper as heck) who was only really able to settle down and focus when it came to arts and crafts, and teaching myself how to play musical instruments (I play bass, guitar, drums). This is of course because these are the things I feel genuinely interested in and passionate about.

I am completely self-taught when it comes to art and music, unless you count the art classes I took throughout grade school up until high school, and that three month stint when I took piano lessons at age 8 where I insisted that I really only wanted to learn how to play “The Muppets theme song” and Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” “Screw the fundamentals” was my attitude at the time (and still can be although I’m not so sure it always serves me).

When it came time to consider university, I wanted to go to art school (although admittedly I wasn’t super sold on going to university period) but my incredibly pragmatic parents – I’m the daughter of health professionals with very little passion for the arts – wouldn’t hear anything of it. They’re responses were unanimous and we’re generally along the lines of…

“How can you make a living from making art?”, “The expression ‘starving artist’ exists for a reason,” “But you’re so smart, you could easily be a doctor or anything you put your mind to,” and my personal fave, “Art and music should be treated as hobbies.”

I was conditioned to think that I shouldn’t strive for what feeds one’s soul, but rather what feeds one’s belly (that’s not to say that this isn’t important too!).

These thoughts swirled in my head, and evolved into a voice that I internalized which spoke up loud and clear when it came to making university/career-related decisions all throughout my 20s…

Like a lot of people, I tried to straddle the line between what I thought was expected of me and what I thought I could stomach as far as financially secure, respectable jobs/careers go.

Thus commenced an extensive and relatively unhappy process of elimination period in my life where I thought art and music had to take a backseat… Mind you this period was at least punctuated with bouts of drawing, painting, embroidering and playing in bands. Without these things I think my soul surely would’ve died!

Through much suffering and constant second-guessing, I completed a BSc. in biology in my early 20s and went on to complete a graduate diploma in ecology/environmental studies in my late 20s/early 30s because I mistakenly rationalized that my love for nature and wildlife and a steady paycheque would be enough to motivate me to work in an environment and discipline I wasn’t truly passionate about and didn’t thrive in (ie -academia and/or an office setting).

Thus upon completing my second degree, I landed a job in a totally unrelated field as an english editor for cinema and TV which I still do as a freelancer. While I don’t feel particularly passionate about this job, it is what afforded me the flexibility to get back into making art since I work from home.

Gradually carving out time for making art, traveling with my sister in New Zealand and Australia earlier this year which freed up some much needed mental and emotional headspace, and becoming PREGNANT have been the significant events that prompted me to re-evaluate my life and really ask myself what I wanted to do be doing with it.

Once I honestly asked myself this question, I realized that the little voice inside my head had been screaming…

“You want to be an artist, dummy! YOU ARE AN ARTIST“

all along, but I just wasn’t able to hear it over all the overwhelming competing negative internal chatter and static which is now gradually starting to subside.

I began to acknowledged that I had indeed always wanted to be artist and that I always felt most like myself and best able to express my ideas and feelings through art (and music).

A strong desire to get back into watercolor, specifically, overcame me and so I pulled out my old art supplies and even bought some shiny news ones.

As I watched my paintings come to life on the page with each brushstroke, I felt myself coming back to life with a renewed sense of purpose and passion. I fell in love with the medium… (sounds cheesy, I know, but this is no exaggeration!)

I even started to wake up every morning feeling excited, with fresh ideas percolating in my brain I couldn’t wait to put to paper!

With my newfound insight, passion and motivation, I gradually built up the courage, confidence and skillset to begin to pursue my dream career, which lead to me opening my Etsy shop earlier this summer.

I owe a lot of my courage and confidence for doing so to Andy J Pizza’s inspiring and insightful podcast, Creative Pep Talk which I highly recommend to any creative entrepreneur/aspiring artist, and from hearing about Lisa Congdon’s unconventional path which lead to her very successful creative career.

Lisa’s story was the confirmation I needed to know that it was possible to become a successful self-taught artist later in life. I recommend listening to any interview or podcast you can find with her. Also, read her book, Art Inc. It’s chock-full of indispensable tools and insights for building your creative career.

Today, I can say that I am a working artist and that my creative dreams and aspirations have begun to unfold. I sell my original watercolor art, art prints, and stationery in my Etsy shop, Kerri Sheila Design, and I have even more ideas and goals mapped out for the future, although I am open to other opportunities that may come my way!

My work and process are ever evolving (as they should be!). I am inspired by the beauty and complexity of the natural world, botanicals and geometric patterns. Watercolor is my chosen medium because I love its immediacy of expression through color, texture and brush strokes.

It makes me happy to be able to share my passion with others, and it is my hope that my work inspires and brings beauty, joy and vibrancy to the homes and lives of others.

Perhaps I didn’t take the most direct path to get where I am today but it is MY path and I’ve learned and continue to learn invaluable lessons, experience personal growth and explore my creative potential by following it.

Soooo, remember, there’s no such thing as too late but it is later than you think, so get to it! Do what you want to do, and not what others want or expect of you (much less what you think they might expect of you)

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Much love,



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