Southern Artist Collectives celebrate the South’s growing art scene while creating a community for artists. In Nashville, the artist collective is an online gallery in which local artists can display and sell their work. The collective also partners with non-profits and donates a percentage of monthly proceeds to benefit their community. Those represented in the collective are artists, of course, but they are also mothers, teachers, marketing specialists and former funeral home employees (we will get to that). Each artist has sacrificed and strived for the opportunity to create art. Today, six members of the Nashville Artist Collective answer questions about pursuing their passion for art, and oftentimes making it a full-time career.

Whitney St. Pierre

What is the biggest challenge in balancing art with a full-time job?

Just last year, after seventeen years of being in a full-time marketing role in the healthcare industry, I decided to scale back at work. I left my full-time job to pursue part-time consulting, part-time painting and more time mothering. I am still running at full-steam, but now I’m going in different directions, which keeps things interesting. The biggest challenge for me is finding time to be an attentive wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, entrepreneur, volunteer and more. I must remind myself not to let work or art or anything else come before those I care about most. Ensuring their health and happiness is my most important job.

What’s the craziest job you have done to fund your dream of being an artist?

I don’t know if I’ve necessarily taken a ‘crazy’ job to fund my dream of being an artist but certainly, I’ve worked hard to get to this point. I first starting working as a server at 15 years old. I then worked throughout college and moved to Nashville only one week after graduating to start a career in marketing. I’ve always worked and worked hard! These efforts have allowed me to get to where I am today, which is to be working part-time doing something I really enjoy and pursuing an art career on the side. Who knows, maybe one day I will do something crazy like quit my day-job in pursuit of a full-time art career!

Lipstick and Mascara, 40×40, $950, by Whitney St. Pierre

Susie Elder

What is the biggest challenge in balancing art with a full-time job?

One of the biggest challenges in balancing art with a full-time job is finding the time to create. People say that time is the most valuable gift you can give yourself. Having the time to create helps me feel centered, inspired and more connected to the world. I have learned to make time in the late evening or on the weekends to paint since my days are filled with teaching others to create and connect to art.

One of the things I appreciate about being a part of the Nashville Artist Collective is the deadline. I work loosely on a theme with limited time to create three to five pieces each month. I embrace this time limitation as an opportunity to create a regular painting routine. Most importantly, being part of the collective makes me make art; it’s the process of doing that makes me evolve as an artist. The contemporary artist Chuck Close said, “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work … All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.”

What advice do you have for others looking to pursue their passion as a career – whether it be art or something else?

My advice comes from something that I have posted in my school art room for my students. It reads: keep moving forward; remember “yet”; failure is good; don’t copy, synthesize; use patience and persistence.

Lastly, I would add to have an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude can shift your perception and drive happiness. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach and create art for a living. I am especially thankful to be a part of the Nashville Artist Collective!

Musicians, 9×12, $200, by Susie Elder

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Lauren Ossolinski

How did you make the shift to art full-time?

Gradually. I took a plein air painting class when I moved back to Nashville 15 years ago. It was a great way to get back into painting while I was home raising small children. Over time, friends asked to buy my work. Then I hung paintings in my mom’s shop, Pembroke Antiques, and strangers bought them. Slowly, it became more than a hobby – it became a second career.

What’s the craziest job you’ve ever done to fund your dream of being an artist?

That’s tricky because the whole thing happened so much later for me. I’m not sure I would have had the courage to “be an artist” in my 20s. I guess I can speak to the “stay at home” moms or dads who have gotten out of the working world to take care of children. If you have the urge to do something artistic or creative, carve out time for that and nurture that need. One of these days you will have time! And then, be brave enough to share your work with others. You never know what could happen!

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received and how did it affect your path?

Here’s some advice I didn’t receive and I wish I had – if you are fortunate enough to get your work into a gallery, do your research and make sure they are reputable! Call or email their artists and see how they feel about their representation. And sign a contract before handing over your work to them. Once they have your paintings, especially if they are located in another city than you, it is very hard to know what is happening to your work — when it is selling, etc. I got into a gallery early that seemed very prestigious only to have them sell my work (and that of many other artists) and declare bankruptcy. We never got paid for our paintings. It was a hard lesson to learn but very valuable.

Flower Bus, by Lauren Ossolinski

Gina Julian

How did you make the shift to do art full-time?

I’ve been an art director for most of my adult life, so making the shift into art as a full-time career was not a huge stretch. In the beginning, I used my graphics skills to create computer-illustrated portraits and also created paintings on paper during my time off after work. I did this for almost two years until I felt I had some momentum going with my sales. Then, I took the leap of faith and started painting full-time.

What’s the craziest job you have done to fund your dream of being an artist?

I’ve had crazy jobs when I was younger (one of my first jobs was working in a funeral home), but I don’t think I’ve ever had to take on a crazy job to fund my dream of being an artist. I tend to find the creativity in whatever job I have!

What’s the worst advice you ever received and how did it affect your path?

After I sold out my first release of paintings, a friend of mine gave me some advice that was once given to her. She said “You’re on fire! And now that you’ve had your first hit, don’t wait too long before you have your next one.” In other words, don’t let people forget about you. I remember that it gave me the most uneasy feeling, and it didn’t sit well with me at all. It made me fearful for the future, and I’m not the kind of girl who is motivated by fear. I decided instantly that, while that advice might be applicable to her career, that it would not be applicable to mine. I prefer to think that I will attract those who appreciate my art, no matter when I release it or how long it takes for me to create. I know she had every good intention giving me that advice, but I dismissed it immediately and decided to make my own rules. I’m so glad I did!

Magnetic Personality, 24×24, $900, by Gina Julian | Image: Shannon Fontaine

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Katherine Stratton Miller

How did you make the shift to do art full-time?

As I do with many things in my life, I got excited and jumped right in! I was a Fine Arts major in college and began a career as a Graphic Designer and Art Director in the music industry upon my return to Nashville. Once I had children, I continued on as a freelance designer and illustrator from home, so I have never really left the creative world. Because my children are older and more self-sufficient, I have had the freedom to return to my love of painting. I tested the market last year at the Harding Art Show where I had an incredible experience and an almost sold-out show! The ball started rolling from there, and here I am as an artist in the Nashville Artist Collective with Rowanne McKnight, who is so lovely and supportive. It’s been an amazing ride, and I cannot wait to see what happens next!

What’s the craziest job you’ve ever done to fund your dream of being an artist?

Oh my gosh, this is an easy question: I waited tables at 12th & Porter, and I was terrible at it! All the servers could balance plates on their arms and hold three drinks in one hand with ease, and there I was “in the weeds” if I had more than two tables. Luckily, my dear friend, Sarah, who got me the job, worked there as well, and I feel certain she was the only reason I wasn’t fired! I tried my best to act cool and wear blue lipstick to fit in, but it was obvious I did not know what in the world I was doing! However, it was definitely one of the most fun jobs I have ever had. My co-workers were so authentic and kind to me.

What’s the worst advice you ever received and how did it affect your path?

I told a friend once I was going to be a graphic designer. She proceeded to tell me the market was saturated and that I’d never be able to get a job. Then, she advised me to go back to school for nursing. I guess she wasn’t that good of a friend because how in the world did she not know that I faint at the sight of blood! Needless to say, I did not take that piece of advice!

6 Women Share Advice About Pursuing Their Passion: Nashville Artist Collective

Vintage Specs, 10.25×12.25, $225, by Katherine Stratton Miller

Hannah Lane

How did you make the shift to do art as a full-time career?

I received my BFA from SCAD and had no doubt I would be a full-time professional artist. I started with freelance illustration projects while I was still in college and when I graduated, I had to supplement my income with babysitting and teaching yoga on the side while I built up my career. After about a year of illustration work, I decided that I didn’t want to work for anyone else and switched to painting. That was 12 years ago, and I’ve never looked back.

What advice do you have for others looking to pursue their passion as a career – whether it be art or something else?

I feel really lucky that I’ve had unwavering support from my parents to follow my dreams from day one. If it isn’t your parents, find other mentors who can guide and encourage you along your journey.

I think it is also really important to write down your dreams and hold a vision for where you are going – a mission statement of sorts. Even if they don’t all happen, you have a blueprint to refer back to as guidance. When you are presented with business decisions, you can answer based on if it aligns with your mission statement.

Lastly, and probably most important is a gratitude practice. It is so easy to focus on all the things that didn’t go right, the bumps in the road or always feeling like you should be doing more. Focusing positive energy on what you have accomplished each day can bring you back to the present moment and restore clarity in your mission.

What’s the worst advice you ever received and how did it affect your path?

I heard this time and time again in the early days: “If you don’t make it as a starving artist you can always become an art teacher.” It just fueled my fire to go for it and prove to myself and others that I will always be a thriving (not starving) artist and definitely not an art teacher.

6 Women Share Advice About Pursuing Their Passion: Nashville Artist Collective

Mindscape 3, 30×22, $600 by Hannah Lane | Image: Meredith Teasley

Carey Haynes

How did you make the shift to do art full-time?

It was a slow progression, and the art community in Nashville was a great platform for emerging artist. I’ve loved art all my life. When my children were born I started drawing their sweet faces and creating art for their rooms. I was recruited by the preschools to create art for fundraising projects and the next thing I knew I was creating art for my friends. I applied to my first art show at Harding Academy, and I feel like that was my first break into the transition into real selling. The first show any artist does is the most difficult, like anything in life, but once it’s done, you’re off to explore more opportunities. I continued to do more shows in Nashville, Knoxville and Atlanta and through those ended up in several galleries, stores and a website. It’s been a fun, rewarding adventure, and I feel like I still have so much to learn.

What’s the craziest job you have done to fund your dream of being an artist?

It wasn’t a monetary funding but was potential for art exposure. HGTV contacted me several years ago and said they wanted a mural created at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in the cancer room. The room was where the children received their chemo shots, and because of its location, it did not have any windows. It was a last-minute request — I was asked on Thursday and needed to be completed by the following Tuesday. The room was large so I recruited Elizabeth Foster, another artist friend, to help. We worked non stop over the weekend and created walls filled with images of the outdoors and happy animals. We were exhausted. It was so much work and such a quick turn around. Elizabeth Foster’s work was beautiful and so happy, but I think both of us would say creating art for this purpose is the greatest joy. I loved how it turned out, but I am not sure that the episode ever aired or if the mural still exists. With television, you never know, and I never asked out of respect for the family involved, but I do hope the happy art is giving some joy and strength to the children at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. We loved creating the work.

What advice do you have for others looking to pursue their passion as a career – whether it be art or something else?

I think following your passion as a career can be tricky. A career as an artist (or with any passion) requires time, effort, consistency and a willingness to put yourself out there. Focus on enjoying your passion and broaden your perspective about where your work could be presented and sold. Keep your work fresh and evolving, and create with your style and perspective versus your peers or trends. Be intentional with websites and social media opportunities to promote your work, and connect with your audience. Enjoy the process, just create and the career may take shape as you go.

6 Women Share Advice About Pursuing Their Passion: Nashville Artist Collective

Working Together, 36×60 by Carey Haynes

If this doesn’t motivate you to pursue your passion, I don’t know what will! 

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