How sweet is (s)he? It’s a custom pet portrait by Adriana Willsie next to the lovely lady herself!
Adriana Willsie is a painter & food writer who contacted me about hosting a giveaway on my blog. She was so charming and sweet, and her work was so good, that I immediately said, “Duh!”, but with one stipulation: She’d have to answer some Grown-Up Gig questions! I’m always so fascinated by “slashes” (people who build their career from more than one title, especially when they’re unrelated to each other), and Adriana was no exception. Check out the gems she dropped below (I especially like how she compliments her younger self on her clothes!) and, when you’re done, leave a comment to win a custom pet portrait!
1. What did you wanna be when you grew up? When I was little, I don’t think ‘growing up’ ever even occurred to me. I spent my days writing and illustrating stories about exotic birds, sewing clothes for the little elves I was convinced lived in my backyard, and designing elaborate contraptions to catch robbers (I considered my sticker collection to be very valuable). And I assumed I would be doing just that for the rest of my life. Would this make more sense if I told you I was raised in rural Washington State by parents who didn’t believe in owning a television?
When I got to be a teenager, however, my big plan was to go into commercial advertising (gotta love teenage rebellion in all its forms, right?) Let’s just say that phase didn’t last, and I was soon back to imagining a life as an artist/crafter/traveler/seamstress/language learner/cook.
2. Most artists want to build their business around their niche, but have trouble deciding where to put their focus. How did you find your niche (painting pets), and do you feel like having a niche is important for being a successful artist? That’s a great question! But, to be perfectly honest, I almost feel like my niche found me. The first pet portrait I ever did was an anniversary present for my boyfriend’s parents. It was a big hit, and soon friends of theirs were asking where they got the painting. This gave me the boost of confidence I needed to start marketing the pet portraits as my specialty.
When you find your right niche, things just seem to fall into place. I knew painting pets would be a great place for me, because it’s just so darn rewarding. I get to have long conversations with my clients about the personality and eccentricities of their pet, and I often get to meet the fur-ball in person. Then I get to bring their personality to life during the painting process. The best part of all? Presenting a client with a painting that doesn’t just look like their pet, but really feels like their pet. I think a key part of succeeding as an artist is finding a niche that isn’t just strategic, but that also feeds your soul.
I do feel that having a niche was crucial for my business model. Having a narrowly defined sense of what I do means I have guidance in answering the toughest questions like: Who should I market to and where should I market to them? What products should I offer? How much should I charge for them? And where do I go from here? These are still big questions to answer, but knowing my niche gets me 80% of the way there.
3. I was virtually introduced to you through Kylie Springman, who you write a food blog with that I can’t visit anymore because it makes me hungry every time I lay eyes on it. You also mention on your About Me page that you’re team-writing a cookbook in addition to your work as an artist. I talk a lot about being a Renaissance Soul on this blog, as I’m one and about 90% of my clients are, too! Did you struggle, and/or do you struggle currently, with balancing both parts of your creative passions? Wow, “Renaissance Soul” sounds a lot better than some of the others words I’ve heard used to describe my multi-passionate approach to life. You know, it definitely can be a challenge to balance the two, mostly because I want to be working on everything at once (not such a bad situation to have, I suppose). I try and sit down each morning to block out different parts of my day. This helps me to get to the most important pieces of each project before the day is over. But there will always be days when I simply refuse to put down my paintbrush or tasting spoons at the end of the allotted time, and then I just roll with it! I’ve learned that forcing myself to write when I want to paint, or paint when I want to write usually ends poorly…
4. You tell a story, also on your About Me page (oh yes, I do my research pre-interview) about how a bully beat on your artistic talents and got ya down at the ripe ol’ age of 5. Obviously it left quite an impression on you. How did you respond to The Haters and get over their negativity in order to make the plunge into being a full-time artist and food writer? You know, “The Haters” can only do so much when you go home everyday to a mom / partner / kid / dad / dog / etc. who thinks you totally rock. It’s funny, though, to reflect on the exact moment that gave me the courage to make the leap. I was filling out Kylie’s Effervesence pre-coaching questionnaire that asked the following: If you reach the age of 95 and continue to live your life the way you do right now, what regrets do you think you will have? Before I had time to think, I’d written down “I’d regret having never tried to sell a painting.” I made my first sale three weeks later.
Going solo full time was definitely scary, but I’m becoming a big believer in taking the risk and just watching the pieces fall into place. For instance, 3 days after I left my full time position, I met a women who asked me to become an editorial consultant and food writer on an up-and-coming teen health website. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’d like to think that part of it was just the universe giving me a congratulatory pat on the rump for having the audacity to do my own thing.
5. If you could have your present self give your pre-artist/food writer self one piece of advice, what would it be? I’d say, “Hi Young Adriana, I love your outfit! Anyhow, I just want you to know that it’s fine to be scared of building your own dream job, but don’t let that stop you. Don’t even let that slow you down. Accept that it’s scary and then get right to work!”
Can I repeat that last gem for a second: Accept that it’s scary and then get right to work! Sorry for the boldness, but I thought it was absolutely appropriate.
OK, now you can leave a comment to win a 6”x6” custom pet portrait (a $150 value!) by Adriana herself! I’m gonna make ya work for it by having you answer the question, “If you reach the age of 95 and continue to live your life the way you do right now, what regrets do you think you will have?” by midnight Eastern on Wednesday, February 2nd to be entered to win! Break a leg!