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Go the Distance: An Artist’s Journey Towards Success.

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

I have wanted to create since I remember existing. It is because my mind has always felt too chaotic, too impulsive. I must be an artist, or go mad, become unemployable, and lose all the relationships that matter to me. Art is my way of expressing myself and communicating with the world outside of my mind. If the earth must rotate and I must breathe, then logically the only thing left for me to do is make art to decorate them both with the pigment of my life.

I know I am an artist because when I am in front of an easel, the feeling of chaos melts into the canvass. The canvass holds all my hyperactivity, my restless, scattered thoughts. I am separate from the creative mania that comes from my learning disorders, and that separation helps me stay centered and focused. Art has become my coping mechanism. When I make things, I have a place to be physical, which is a massive part of my personality, and it is how I stay focused on what matters most to me.

Midway through preschool I was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I had a teacher was, thankfully, well versed in learning disorders. She asked my parents to have me tested because she was concerned without intervention; my education and career choices could be negatively affected.

ADHD is very much linked to physicality, and therefore I am more interested in becoming a fine art major than a graphic designer. Suffers of ADHD like me are not suitable for extended periods of low-to-no-movement in highly stimulating situations such as an office or classroom.

Being physical and working intensely for short bursts of time with lots of breaks works best for the brains of people with ADHD because they help us receive dopamine, a chemical our brains lack. However, this kind of work method is not always advantageous to the standard workplace environment. When people with ADHD are less physically active, their brains' nervous system receptors slow down and will not pass dopamine accurately through the body.

This Creates higher rates of forgetfulness, procrastination, boredom, depression, and aggressive behaviors.

It is a human resources nightmare hiding in the maintenance closet, biding its time, like the moment that makes you jump in a horror film. You know it is coming, but you also know you are going to jump anyway. I know I would never survive well in the traditional work environment. So, I never took much thought in pursuing careers such as graphic design or other creative "Cube Jobs" that would not allow me the freedom to move around the room or take brainstorming breaks when I need to so I can produce my best work.

I know I am not alone, and since the 2010 Equality act, I am entitled to work without the repercussions due to my neurological disabilities. But I would prefer like to love my job, where I work, and who I work for as a client or boss. I want to build strong, lasting relationships with those I work with and for in my career and in my field. Based on my past experiences, I do better work under an independent sequential work model:

We meet up, show our work, agree on edits, fix them, and repeat until the project is complete. These short single-minded meets make things less distracting for me and stop procrastination from creeping into my work schedule due to overstimulation. (Kolin, 116-117).

I can work for someone, but dang, man, I would rather to be my own boss. Being an independent artist allows me to control my work environment and take breaks when I need them, not when an office sanctions or schedules them. I can create my own timetables to hit deadlines my way, without bothering my fellow collaborators and patrons with my weird, sometimes awkward OCD habits.

(Modeling below is Chelle Bristow. Final drawing, that may turn into a painting later this year called Staggering Strength.)

Yet for all my madness, mental melodies have made me become a better artist. Often, I am told I am great on one-on-one meetings and work well when given only one task at a time. I excel at allowing models, clients, patrons, and gallery owners feel like they are a central part of my artworks’ progress.

Similarly, creating art that bring viewers joy is a substantive chunk of why I became an artist. I love the challenge of making them feel unexpectedly happy with the result. Also, because physicality is such an innate part of how I express life, the act of showing my work gives me the thrills, which is like the chills, but instead of cold vibrating my body it is pure pouncing excitement. I can physically feel the dopamine thrushing through my body as I place it on the wall.

(A thrush is a kind of bird. Artists are sometimes referred to as thrushes, especially singers. It's not always a complementarity term, but it's honest because what artist doesn't want attention focused on their art? I do! Thrushes are noisy birds and are, at times considered annoying. If I was a bird, I think I would be a thrush. I am somewhat pale, attracted to bright, vivid colour, I am loud and happy to announce to the whole world what I just did to a canvas. "Look-it what I made!" It's half the point of this Blog.)

Below is a commissioned painting by a fellow Southwest Minnesota Student, Art Bower, called "Art's Strom".

A notable example of this was at my first art show opening at a small coffee shop, a television reporter stopped for a coffee. While there he asked who the artist was, I walked up to him, and my whole body roared along with my voice "ME!" He asked me a few questions, took my picture, came back later, and purchased one of my paintings in honor of my first grand opening. He told me it was nice to see someone "So focused on being aggressively graceful as they reached for their career goals and dreams". That was the first work of art I ever sold, and I cannot remember what it looked like, I do not even recall the reporter's name. I only recall the thrush of watching him taking the work to his car and later, when he emailed me a photo of my artwork on his wall. The sense of utter victory riding through my complete shape could only be described by the childish words enthusiastically squally screamed at the top of the lungs: "EEEEE! Let us Do That Again!" This same excitement rides over my gut before an idea is put on paper or canvas. I love the slime of oils on my skin mixed with ground pigments. It feels good; things like this are an affirmation that I am an artist. I never want to do anything else.

(Below is my 2017 show, "Spain or Somewhere".)

In my efforts to become a more distinguished artist, I am currently working towards my MFA (Master of Fine Arts). I plan on graduating summa cum laude. I will have to take classes about using social media correctly. I will need to work towards a bachelor's in English and take extra business courses, minor in history. I will have to suck up my tech fears, dive into the worlds of computer programing, and be well-versed in the art education system. I want to be a well-rounded, highly employable artist.

In the near future I will continue to exchange portfolio work with other people in the arts, like models, costume or web designers, photographers, and backstage workers. I will learn about artist grants, how to apply for them, what they require, and how to find them. Government and public grants are one of the main ways for an independent artist acquire a steady income.

There are other avenues of a steady income apart from becoming a well-rounded contemporary artist that, are not naturally my cup of tea. Still, I want to grow, so I will have to learn about the graphic arts and find a companionable way to participate. Quite a few opportunities exist for fine artists to place their work in online games. Just a cursory look for independent artists' jobs on the internet will turn up quite a few jobs and internships. I feel I may enjoy working with the techies if I could keep my primary focus on the physical side of the gaming canvass.

I also would consider going into art restoration or becoming an art dealer or art consultant. But If I entered these fields, including working for the gaming or commercial art industries, I would view them all as secondary carrier choices to gain ground towards my goal of becoming a blue-chip artist working for specific clients. A Blue-chip artist is an artist who is considered an expert in their craft and "Whose art's value has had consistent years of sales that have been confirmed at auction."

According to the United Kingdom government website, independent fine artists earn 20,000-40,000 pounds (about twice the weight of a school bus) a year (28,000-55,600 dollars per year.) I am an artist; I am not a hobbyist. I will make it or die happy, skinny, and trying. I have the fortunate circumstance of living in a steady two-income house. I do not have to work, for my husband and I to be able put food on the table or even live comfortably. But I want to be an artist, so I will take my shot and go the distance.

Works Cited

Animated TV Series. “Hercules OST ‘Go The Distance’ by Michael Bolton.” YouTube, 30 Nov. 2017,

Arden, Derek. Win, Win: How to Get a Winning Result from Persuasive Negotiations. 1st ed., Ft PR, 2015.

“Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants | Arts Council England.” Arts Council, England, Arts Council England, 2021,

Crouch, Linda. “What Is Blue Chip Art?” Seaside Art Gallery, Seaside Art Gallery, 12 Apr. 2019,

“Definition of Disability under the Equality Act 2010.” GOV.UK, UK Government, 23 Sept. 2015,

Flippin, Royce. “ADHD at Work: Time Wasters and Productivity Killers.” ADDitude, inside the ADHD MIND, ADDitude, inside the ADHD MIND, 25 Jan. 2021,

Kolin, Philip. “Collaborative Writing and Meetings at Work.” Successful Writing at Work, 10th, 10th ed., Boston, Cengage Learning, 2012, pp. 116–17.

Lynch, Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “2010 ADA Regulations.” ADA, USA (UNITED STATES) Government, 2010,

M.D., Hallowell Edward, and Ratey John M.D. Driven to Distraction (Revised): Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder. Revised ed., Anchor, 2011.

“Mental Health Conditions in the Workplace and the ADA.” ADA National Network, US (UNITED STATES) Government, Accessed 16 Feb. 2021.

Smee, Sebastian. The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art. Illustrated, Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2017.

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