It's never too late to follow your dream

Full disclosure.  I didn't sell my first painting until just before my 50th birthday.  My first solo exhibition was in a local café last winter.  I set up my first basic website last year.  Very few people outside my immediate family knew that I painted this time last year. 

I've learnt that it's never too late to follow your dreams.  

What did you want to be when you were eight? I painted all the time when I was young.  I had complete confidence in my abilities when I was eight. I knew exactly what I wanted to be. A writer, an artist and an actress. All three maybe. 

In First Year in secondary school when I was 12, the teacher went around the classroom asking everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Most of the girls said they wanted to be a nurse.  The boys were a bit more varied - a doctor, an engineer, an electrician...  I was bursting with excitement for my turn.  I knew exactly what I was going to say.  Finally it was my turn - 'an actress!' I proudly declared.  The whole class burst out laughing.  I went red.  I felt embarrassed.  I'd said the wrong thing.  Why did they laugh? 

I loved art class and won a place in Art college. Aged 17, I couldn't decide between a place in art college or going to university.  So the night before I had to decide, I tossed a coin. It landed for university and I followed that path, grandly declaring to myself that if I wasn't going to paint professionally, I would never paint again.   I turned my back on painting for a very long time. 

I studied English and French literature, did a Masters in French poetry and had an amazing year living in Paris visiting art galleries. 

I acted in plays in school and university and I loved the theatre world but I decided I wasn't good enough to make it as an actress, working in theatre administration for a while.  

I was a bit lost in my twenties.  I studied Business.  I gravitated towards to 'creative' side of business, marketing and advertising.   

I got a job. Several jobs. I travelled. I got married. I had three beautiful children. I was very busy being a mum, a wife and working.  

There was always a yearning for something else. For something more. For something creative. Year after year, I kept writing 'make space for creativity' and pinning it on my noticeboard. 

Eventually, I started painting again - slowly, privately, at home, in the corner of our living room. 

I had to be selfish to paint.  I think women, especially when we become mothers are naturally selfless, putting our children in front of our own needs.  I found it very. difficult to make the time to paint.  I painted at the weekends when my husband was around to take care of the children.

Slowly, I gained confidence. I joined an art class one evening a week.  That was a huge leap for me.  I was terrified to paint outside my home.  It felt incredibly exposing for others to see my work.  During that first class, I was so nervous but I loved the time it gave me to paint during the week.  

Every small act of bravery gave me confidence to take another step.  

I took another giant step by entering a painting into an open call in local art gallery.  Amazingly, it was accepted and I was in a real proper exhibition with real artists for the first time!  The painting even sold! How amazing was that? What a confidence boost! 

Each act of bravery led to another. Each step I took propelled me along to the next.  

Looking back, this time last year, I had sold that first painting in a group exhibition. I didn't yet have a website. Most people who knew me didn't know I painted but I was slowly returning back to the inner confidence I had when I was eight. I felt like I was returning to me.

It was like a light had gone on and I knew that this is what I wanted to do, that this is who I wanted to be.  

As a late starter, I felt I had no time to lose.  I worked incredibly hard. I put every spare hour I had into painting. I took over an attic bedroom as a studio, my precious messy space.  

I'm grateful for every moment I spend painting.  I love all parts of my fledging art career - not just the painting part, but every email inquiry, every new artist connection I make, even packaging and sending paintings is fun because this is my dream job.  Each step I take is leading me to the next just as each painting is leading me to the next one.  

Some of the lessons I've learned along this journey:

  • Every tiny step of bravery is rewarded.  
  • Even the smallest action towards your dream will lead to something positive.
  • Rejection is a necessary part of the process but remember, every time you get a 'no' you are increasing the chance of getting a 'yes' the next time.
  • It can be terrifying to show your work - but most people are so kind and generous.  
  • Find time to create, even a half hour is enough to do something. If you have time to watch TV, you have time to create.  
  • Creating might mean putting yourself first sometimes and that's ok.  
  • Ask for help - when I've been stuck, low or full of self doubt, I've asked for help on Instagram and have been overwhelmed by the positive support I've received.  
  • I cannot recommend Julia Cameron's 'The Artist's Way' more highly.  It's very powerful.
  • When I'm finding it hard to start painting, tidying my studio helps.
  • Take a step towards your dream, whatever it is - it's not too late!  

I hope this helps you.  I'd love to hear about your creative journey.  

Éadaoin x