Erin Donahue Tice spent more than a decade working in PR, climbing her way up the corporate ladder at agencies in big cities around the country. “I got my start in Chicago,” she explains. “I later moved to New York and was always in corporate communications, and loved my career.”
By 2014, Erin had become a senior vice president at her firm, and she and her husband made the move to Austin, TX, for his job. She was able to continue working remotely, but other life changes began to take priority over her career. “Very quickly after we moved here … we had our first child,” she says. “Twenty months later, we had our second child.” After baby number two arrived, Erin decided it was time to take a pause from PR and concentrate on being a mother.
“I focused on being a mom with two little boys under 2 — and it was wild,” she recalls. “[It was] a lot harder than my job in PR, and my second son George was a real handful. He had colic and was crying all the time and was just a lot to handle. Not to mention, I had a 20-month-old who was also very needy, and my husband was traveling all the time for work. It just kind of got me into a funk.”
She began feeling this way around the time George was 8 months old. Though Erin loves her sons more than anything, she says she knew she desperately needed an outlet that would have her feeling energized and inspired once again. During this time, Erin was also looking for artwork to decorate their home. “I knew I wanted to abstract art, but I couldn’t really find what I wanted locally,” she explains. “I saw stuff online, but I really wanted to buy something in person. I just couldn’t really find [what I wanted]. I figured, what the heck, why don’t I try to make something myself?”
Erin had never tried to paint before, but she’d loved writing and acting and was a dancer growing up, so she felt confident about having innate creativity. “I had a creative bone in my body, but I’d never painted,” she says. “I ended up going to the art store, buying a bunch of stuff, and just experimenting. This went on for six months of me becoming almost obsessed with painting. When my kids were napping, when they were in bed at night, I would go out to our little guest house in the back of our yard, and I would paint — and it was getting better and better.”
One day, Erin had some friends over. They took one look at her paintings and suggested she try to sell them. Initially, she was hesitant; she’d never intended to build a business with her artwork — it was just a hobby. But her friends were insistent, and finally, Erin decided to give it a go. “I built a website, I launched my Instagram, and I just said, you know, I’m going to see what happens,” she recalls. “Within a week, I sold my first piece — and then it just kind of took off from there.”
Erin utilized her PR and marketing expertise to get her name out, and before she knew it, she’d gained the attention of galleries asking to represent her. “I was having so much fun not only being an entrepreneur and building a business and a brand, but painting and having this release from being a mom,” she says. “I was able to kind of do both. And even though it was so much that was on my plate, I was happier than ever.”
That was three years ago. Today, Erin sells her mixed-media works to people all over the country. Working primarily with acrylics as her base, she utilizes various other mediums in her pieces. “I layer on all kinds of other materials,” she explains. “From oil pastels to charcoal; sometimes paper [or] foam. I’ve put newspaper on pieces before. I’m kind of always just looking for different materials that I can put on the canvases to add interest.”
Regardless of the materials used, Erin says a lot of her work is inspired by various places she has traveled to. Everything she creates is abstract, so they aren’t literal interpretations — but the hues she uses are often influenced by a particular place or memory. “We have a second home in East Hampton, and that’s my happy place, my very favorite place in the world,” she says. “A lot of the colors there — from the ocean to the trees, to the flowers, to the hydrangea blooming in the summer — those are all colors that I was dreaming up in my mind. So, that was one [place that has inspired me] … Travel is a big inspiration.”
Erin’s second source of major inspiration is interior design. After all, she initially began painting to furnish her own home with art. “The marriage of art and design is so intertwined that looking at pictures of design inspiration that I was attracted to gave me jumping-off points for my art,” she says.
Commissioned pieces are Erin’s primary focus, but her work is also available online at well + wonder and bows & blue; as well as in Houston at Paloma & Co.; in Dallas at The Collective; in Austin at Bay Hill Design, Warden Art Agency, and Austin Design House; and in Richmond, VA, at Liza Pruitt.
“I really want people to know that it’s not too late to have a second act,” she adds. “Even though I did PR for most of my career; that’s what I went to college for. I was a mom, and now, all of a sudden I’m an artist. Just because you haven’t done something before doesn’t mean that you can’t try it and succeed. I think that a lot of people get stuck in what they’re doing, and they don’t really see that maybe there’s something else out there that you can do as a side hustle until it becomes your main hustle.”
Learn more about Erin and explore her work at erindonahuetice.com.
Enter this month’s Southern Artist Giveaway to win a $2,700 26×26 piece of Erin Donahue Tice’s art. Click HERE to enter!
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