Blessings in the Meanwhile
As I was getting documents ready for taxes, it hit me how much I was blessed by unexpected business in the last year as I was finishing up treatment, having surgery, and recovering. I feel like this is appropriate to write about today especially because today is the two-year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. I am now a two-year survivor!
There is much I can say about how blessed we were with so much love and support from friends and family during that very difficult time and I still get moved to tears at times when I think about how appreciative I am for that. However, today, I’m writing about a different aspect of being ill – trusting that my business would not die while I was struggling through treatment and recovery. It can be easy to quote the scripture of being still and knowing that God is God but it’s a very different thing to be forced to do just that.
I had worked hard for about four years at being a self-employed artist - building a body of work, entering juried exhibits and artist groups, producing and marketing reproductions, building up a small client base, soliciting representation by galleries and gift shops, continuing to learn by going to workshops, and painting, painting, painting. By the end of 2016, I was beginning to feel like the ball was starting to roll for my new business and I was looking forward to the year ahead. On February 8, 2017, I received a call confirming that I had breast cancer. Oh, did my world feel like it was spinning and careening all off course - the course that I had believed I was planning and building with God’s leading. Along with the fear of what would happen to me physically was the fear of what would happen to my business. Through the very difficult months of chemotherapy, I tried to get to my studio on the few good days I had between treatments. I was not prepared for the very real brain fog that happens because of chemo and became frustrated that I couldn’t focus to work on my website, keep up with social media, or even read. I sat in my recliner talking to my Father in heaven about my frustration and fear. He made it clear to me that, even through this, He had me and everything about me in His loving hands. He gave me a peace that eludes all understanding, a peace that I could never muster up on my own - the overwhelming peace in my soul that knew that God had led me this far on this path, He did have a plan, and He would not forsake me. I learned to rest in that. I had said earlier that I was forced be still but that isn’t exactly true. Yes, I was forced to be motionless, but “stillness” is a choice. With God’s help, I chose to be quiet in my spirit and trust.
Back to the year of what happened in my business.... Here are just some things that were brought to my mind as I went through the year of 2018 receipts just last week and caused me to ponder how grateful I am for all of it.
January 2018 had me coming off from a wonderful Christmas season in which I sold an original painting, and had an amazingly attended open house in my studio with dear friends and clients who had driven miles to support me and my art. Just before Christmas, I received a call from someone who I had never met who told me that her sister had bought my art at a Christmas event; she liked my style and wondered if I would paint a portrait of her boyfriend’s dog as a gift for him. Well, two things here – I had never painted a dog portrait before because I had avoided the complication of trying to portray a form covered by hair. The other thing was that I could not get that done by Christmas which was the request. The kind lady was willing to wait for it, so I gave her a good price since it would be my first animal portrait and it would be good to have in my portfolio. I enjoyed the challenge and worked on it on the days that I felt well enough to paint. When she received it in February, she ended up loving it so much that she paid me more than I had quoted her. Knowing how happy it made her and her boyfriend brought me such joy.
The same time I was working on that, I picked up another painting that I had started and put aside a couple years previous. It was of a leaf-covered, wooded trail in the fall that I was aiming to try to do in a looser style than what is my norm. I had put it aside because I kept getting too detailed with it. Well, it was perfect to work on it at a time when I was feeling less than good because I was able to keep it pretty loose (compared to my usual style). I finished it in time to enter it into an exhibit at Tamarack and a few weeks after the opening of the show received a check in the mail because it had sold! That was in March.
In April, I promoted the new release of the print of that painting, Walk with Me, and it was probably my best seller to date.
In May, Ray took a new job and we would be moving from Summersville to Morgantown, so I had a big studio open-house/sale which was a huge success. I loved that so many dear people dropped by to see me and to purchase my art.
In June, a new restaurant opened and the owners wanted to promote local arts by featuring art in their windows and asked me to be their first featured artist. Through the next couple of months, I had more sales there than I’ve had at any event in which I’ve participated.
Also in June, I received an email out of the blue from an advertising agency who had found my work on the Allied Artists of WV website. They were looking for West Virginia artists to enter their competition to put art on a new fleet of Sheetz trucks. At first, I thought this was a scam of some kind. So, I looked it up and sure enough, it was real. I am not a graphic artist and would not have thought to enter such a contest, but this agency had sought me out because they liked my work. So, I figured there was nothing to lose and, if I made it to the second round, the pay was pretty good. I gave them permission to submit my website for the contest and made it to the second round! I worked on a sketch for them with specific guidelines of using the slogan “Sheetz Run & Done” with art that represented my area in my style. It was another challenge for me and I was thankful that I somehow had the strength (but it did take ALL of my strength at the time) to get it done by the July deadline. I didn’t end up winning in the end to have my art on the trucks but that’s okay. The pay was very good for a sketch and I felt like it was a gift - something that I hadn’t even sought out.
In August, I had entered another contest to be featured in a national art blog. I wasn’t selected to become one of their featured artists but they did select me to be interviewed for an artist profile and the article is permanently on their site. You can read the article in Arts Business Institute here.
In September my work was selected into the Allied Artist of WV Juried exhibition and my painting was featured in an article advertising the show at the gallery.
In October, I was honored to be asked by the organizer of the Mountain Color Art Show if I would be the featured artist for that year’s exhibit.
In October and November, I had a lot of sales for my calendar including a pretty big order from the Capital Market gift shop.
My Christmas sales in December were wonderful and that completed a pretty amazing year. I say amazing because I am just amazed at how so much happened that I did not plan. Maybe my sales would have been better had I been healthy and been able to accomplish more, but I was just amazed that things did keep rolling and so many things came about that were surprises to me.
I am not writing any of this to boast at all but to bear witness to the truth that even in my weakness, my business did not die but actually had some flourishing moments and, I know that I can trust my loving Father to complete all of the good work that He has started. I am trying to be faithful to work as hard as I am able but not to worry. I am still recovering and my energy isn’t what it used to be but, I am only called to be faithful and work as hard as I am able. I can have a “still” heart and know that He is God! “Cease striving and know that I am God...." (Ps. 46:10 NASB)
My hope for you, my friend, is that whatever you might be facing, whether minor irritations or something terribly heavy, you will still your heart and rest in "Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us." (Eph. 3:20)