How a Breakup Launched My Art Career

“Just wait. Give it six months, and Chelsea will be dating someone new and totally wrapped up in whatever thing that guy is into.”

This was the last thing I heard that an ex-boyfriend had said about me.

As unfair as I thought this was, because let’s face it — as much as we don’ want to be gossiped about, our only solace is usually that the gossip is unfounded, there was one thing that rang true: I wasn’t spending time on my one passion. I had cultivated enthusiasm for everything from video games to classical music or ballroom dancing because I had a partner who shared those interests, but when it came to the one thing that I really wanted to pour myself into, I was afraid.

At the time I was a competitive ballroom dancer: I had won a national championship, and I was determined to break through to the next level, and everything inside of me screamed that I couldn’t give it up. Not now. Not when he was telling everyone I would. Not when I loved it as much as I did.

But dancing meant I wasn’t painting. And as much as I loved it, it wasn’t anything I ever planned to make a career out of. But painting was. It was the thing that scared me, the thing I avoided as hard as I could because trying at the thing I truly wanted was petrifying.

So I quit. I quit, and resolved to spend the countless practice hours that would have been spent at the studio instead in the studio. And it was going to work.

Diving In

By August, 2018 I had done the next two important things that frightened me: I introduced myself to an artist I wanted to have as a mentor, and at his suggestion I booked a space for a pop-art exhibition one month later.

I made about 20 paintings in 30 days and, with the help of friends, managed to get all of them (some of them still wet) on the wall. I sold seven paintings at that show, and friends wound up keeping the room packed. Most sales went to friends or family, but it was the most I had ever made from my art. 

And best of all, the largest piece went to someone entirely new: a young, talented tattoo artist who had never invested in an original painting before. I didn’t entirely realize it at the time, but that experience changed me. It showed me the joy in sharing a part of yourself with someone totally new. A stranger who sees themselves in your art.

Want to stay in the loop for future blog posts? Or just want early access to new artwork? Sign up for my newsletter here.