First, a “Thank you!” to Taina for posting a link to the Southwest Art article about my paintings!
It’s been quite a process to shift to painting, especially as there’s no good one-size-fits all roadmap to doing this. Perhaps that’s true with most changes of this nature. I’d say it took a good five years to get the ball rolling and to figure out what imagery would be my main focus. And it took a couple years more to begin feeling I had a solid foundation for doing this longterm. While I decided not to actively market my astronomical illustration during these years, I had commissions coming in from time to time. I accepted these to help pay the bills. It was hard to do both. For me, anyway, being at the top of my game in either science illustration or painting is a full-time endeavor.
Right now I’d say 95% of my time involves painting and 5% is illustration-related. The latter involves occasional reuse of existing art, offering a quote for something science, based, etc. (I was asked for comments just the other day regarding Dr. Sian Proctor, who does space art and was part of the SpaceX Inspiration4 mission.)
Most certainly, my background as a scientific illustrator provided excellent skills for painting. In many respects I feel what I am doing now isn’t all that different. Fundamentally, all the art I’ve done is about paying attention to the light source (i.e. the sun) and how its brightness and location in the sky interact with the objects in the scene.
Britt, you are correct that there are people in San Francisco who have money to buy such work for their homes and offices. This said, my work is getting “out there” in a larger sense. In addition to going into local collections it has gone to buyers in Idaho, the East Coast, England, and more.
I’m very grateful to have my Shadows and Silhouettes Series (the fire escapes and laundry hanging out to dry in Chinatown) represented by an excellent gallery, the Andra Norris Gallery. Though I don’t rely on sales alone to promote my work and provide income. I also apply for grants, enter juried competitions, etc., and with some success to show for it. As examples: in 2016 I was awarded a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and earlier this year I won the Grand Prize in the annual show of American Women Artists (which came with $10,000 cash).
If any of the rest of you are considering a shift of some kind, related to art or something entirely different, here are a few words of wisdom, from me to you:
1) Though “right timing” is important and it’s hard, if not impossible, to know ahead of time if “now” is it, remember that it’s usually easier to change something when you’re younger than when you’re older. In other words, if your gut is talking to you and giving you that urge, get a move on.
2) You don’t have to see the whole process laid out ahead of you. All you need to see is the very next step. Once you take that step, then you figure out the next one, and so forth.
3) It won’t always be easy, even if you are certain you are doing what’s right for you. Challenges come to everybody. The hard part is figuring out if it’s hard because it was the wrong decision, or if it’s hard because life just is hard sometimes. But remember: obstacles don’t always mean you should do a U-turn.
4) Be your own best friend. If that inner voice tells you that jumping out on a limb is stupid, thank it for its opinion and then remind yourself that you can do this!
In case people are wondering why we have not heard much from Lynette Cook (staff illustrator at Cal Acad. of Science for 26 years) through GNSI lately - READ THIS and check out her work.
I am so happy for her!