A Career as an Artist or Why Horses Wear Blinders          

Planning a career as an artist? Then, bring your sense of humor. It will be as important as your talent. It’s a good idea to wear blinders too. Why? For the same reasons horses wear them — if you could see all the obstacles and distractions around and ahead of you at the start chances are you’d get spooked and never get much past the gate. With blinders on, you dive in with blind optimism. That’s when you’ll need your sense of humor.

The Beginning of a New Career

I’d retired after selling my business and suddenly I was cut adrift — I didn’t have a goal to accomplish. Without that, who was I? I had to find something new to aim for — a new career. And money would be good too — retirement is expensive. I decided I would be an artist — a proposition not quite as out of the blue as it seems. It had been one of my dreams when I was a kid — that and being on Broadway. And I’d been illustrating my blog with cartoons for years. So, with my declaration — and blind optimism — my art career was launched.

All I’d have to do was make art people would want. But what?

Animals with Attitude

              Do you like to look at cartoons of funny animals? Lots of people do, so there would be a huge market for funny animals — animals with attitude — my animals. I started with cats because we all know cats are rich in attitude — from pampered, entitled cats 

or from the other side of the tracks to rough, tough alley cats.

Dogs are both our friends and our consciences — sometimes they’re joyful and loving, then sad-eyed, guilt-inflicting.

Then I discovered red-eyed tree frogs and knew I had a winner. Who wouldn’t want to hang in their homes pictures of bright blue and yellow and green frogs leapfrogging into the sky? This was fun.

Carried Away With My Art

Have you ever gotten carried away, working on something you loved? That was me. I threw myself into my art, working seven days a week. In a few months, I had amassed over two hundred original drawings and greeting cards — feisty cats, sweet dogs, and frolicking frogs plus irresistibly grumpy geese…

lovable horses…

and revenge-seeking turkeys.

I hadn’t yet planned how to get people to see them — which is pretty important if you’re going to sell them. I had to get down to business. of selling art, and I had a lot to learn.

Ah, Technology — and Vegan Lasagna!

Where do you sell art today? I knew the answer — in online stores. But that meant moving beyond my pens and pencils and into the technology universe. I’m not friends with technology.

In fact, I’d had several bad encounters with it — like the time I tried to register online for a friend’s wedding and ended up with vegan lasagna instead of steak or chicken — I hate vegan lasagna. I still don’t know how I sent her one dish towel instead of a set of sheets.

Clearly, technology scared me. And what’s the first thing you do when you’re about to go someplace scary? Procrastinate. I did that. My house has never been so clean. When I finally couldn’t find anything else to do, I went to the computer and watched videos about setting up a store. The nice people in the videos said it would be easy. I knew it wasn’t true, but I clicked on a site and started. It took many tries, but I finally figured out how to sign on and fill out the forms. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to fill out the same form over and over if I hadn’t kept forgetting the password.

More Technology! You Have to Get Paid.

At last, I thought I was ready to open my store. But then the government stepped in and said, halt — no store without a tax number! Oh no — not only technology but government technology. It was terrifying. So, I weeded the garden. When I bit the bullet and got a tax number — all by myself, I was so proud.

Next question — how will people pay you? With Money? Don’t be silly. People don’t have money. They have credit cards. I thought I’d have to get a credit card processor — expensive, more tech, plus a box I’d have to keep up with. Was there no other way?

Have you ever noticed that answers can come from the most unexpected places? This answer came from a manicurist. She asked if I wanted to put my bill on Venmo. Really? Venmo is not a candy vending machine? I went to my son for help. In twenty minutes I’d gained the ability to take your money with not only Venmo, but PayPal, Apple Pay, and Wallet.

Still More Technology!

My son also told me to get something called a QR code. I googled. It’s a squiggly black box to put on a sign or business card. Any person who holds their phone up to my code is magically transported to my store. Who knew? All the people who have been using them for years knew — as my son tells me.

Setting up my Store — the Addictive Part

Once I had the techie stuff done, came a seriously addictive part — filling my store. Just click, and my feisty animals were on actual products. What fun! I was a kid in Toy Land. My dogs and cats, grumpy geese, and turkeys on greeting cards, totes, pillows, tee shirts, hoodies, and journals. And Frogs on everything including a clock, flip-flops, and Christmas ornaments. Pretty soon, my store was so crowded with products, even I couldn’t navigate it. But when customers discovered it they’d be overwhelmed with treasures.


By the way, if you have a friend who opens an online store, remember this. It’s really annoying to ask, “Has anybody bought anything yet?”

My Career as an Artist on Social Media

How do you get people to your store? Social media of course. I was sure when people saw my cartoons, they’d flock to my site to buy them. I started posting on Facebook and Instagram — two or three cartoons every day — and with hashtags (I’d done my homework). After a few months, my posts were consistently getting between as many as two or three likes. I got no shares.

But I got quite a few messages from people who said they were lonely and wanted to know me better.

Money, Money, Money

“You have to get your art in front of people. Go to arts and craft fairs.” A great idea! I found that Freedom Hill Horse Rescue had their big event coming up and I registered to have a booth. The next step was to spend money. Have you visited arts and crafts fairs? Do you have any idea you’d need to set up a booth? The answer is Money! Money for a white, ten-by-ten tent with sides (art fair people are picky), tables, metal display grids, racks, and easels.

I went shopping in my basement and found a few items, but the rest took money. With the booth taken care of, I still had to have signs, banners, and business cards (with my QR code of course) printed. I saw a lot of money going out. On went the blinders again — I’d make it back when my art started to sell.

Dress Rehearsal for the Big Day

This was the final preparation! I laid out a mock store on my dining room table. It was jam-packed with drawings, paintings, and hand-drawn greeting cards. Cats, dogs, grumpy geese, cows, and horses. But my frogs were the stars of the show — frogs in every color under the rainbow —jumping, diving into ponds hiding behind branches, and driving speedboats! I bet nobody would have more to offer than I did.

I imagined the fair — imagined people coming into my booth, seeing my huge variety of cartoons and drawings, and taking them home. What I didn’t imagine was rain.

My Career as an Artist Launched — The Show

There was a light rain that morning, but I was confident that it would stop in time for my show. I arrived at the fair and found my spot in the sand of the riding arena. The rain was coming down harder — but it would soon rain itself out. I put on my raincoat and carried box after box to my booth. Once every inch of my booth was covered, I was ready for customers. 

Through the constant downpour, people trickled into the fair. One or two at a time came into my booth. That’s okay because there wasn’t enough room for more to squeeze in. I didn’t understand why no one stayed to look through my many boxes of animal drawings or greeting cards.

Don’t Take Frogs to a Horse Show

Can you guess what kinds of people will show up in the pouring rain for the Freedom Hill Horse Rescue arts and crafts fair? Right! Die-hard horse lovers. And I had frogs! Ever heard the saying, don’t take a knife to a gunfight? Well, don’t take frogs to a horse show either. Luckily I did have some horses because they were all people bought. At least it covered the cost of my banner.

My Career as an Artist — A Work in Progress

After the show, when I was asked how it went, what I could say was, “It was a learning experience.” It’s not what I wanted to say, but … There’s another old saying, “When you fall off, get back up on the horse.” That’s just what I did. I signed up for two more shows and put the blinders back on — I’m sure it won’t rain next time. And I’ll bring more horses.

So, if you’re planning a career as an artist, bring your sense of humor and keep it handy. It will be as important as your talent. And blinders help too so you can dive in with enthusiasm and not get spooked by the distractions. Then, just keep going — and laughing.

If you would like an original, signed drawing, please contact me at ruthibirch@gmail.com.

And for more about animals with attitude click here https://lifefunscripted.com/imagine-what-animals-think/



November 8, 2023