Be Everything You Were Meant to Be • by Joanne Sharpe
Paintbrushes in Hand as a Young Child
If there’s a cliché about artists starting out as a young child with a paintbrush in hand, I guess that would be me. I grew up with an uncle who was a sales rep for an art supply distributor in Manhattan. At age 11, I was painting raw canvas with his samples, using expensive tubes of oils and $65 paintbrushes! That was the beginning of my love affair with really good art supplies. An artist is what I was truly born to be. After majoring in art, I graduated from college with a degree in Art Education.
A Stay-at-Home Mom & An Artist
I was an art teacher for 18 years in public and private schools and summer camps. There was a shift in my “art path” when I had my children. My teaching career was put on hold for a few years, after bringing home newborn twin boys to an 11-month-old son and 3-year-old daughter. (Yes, that’s four kids in 3 years, a set of “Irish triplets.”) Everyone was reluctant to babysit four kids under 4 that weren’t their own, and day care was more than my salary. I loved being a stay-at-home mom.
Fast forward a year, and art saves me in my “not quite dream job” as a Tupperware lady. (You gotta’ do what you gotta’ do!) I could do parties at night while my husband cared for the kids after work. It turned out to be a great gig. I earned the free Tupperware company car (a brand new mini van every two years) and had it for 8 years. But, all along in Tupperware, my heart was haunted by my thoughts, “I AM AN ARTIST! I have to do my art!” I needed my art!
So, in addition to bouncing from house to house selling plastic, I designed a line of fun, funky illustrated Tupperware-themed party invitations and had them professionally printed. They were a huge success selling at national conventions and worldwide through mail order. It was the right job at the right time in my life. I was able to make my art, even if it was creating crazy invitations for a “Burp a Bowl Bash.” Art saved me, even as a Tupperware lady!
Art Is Me
As my children got older I was able to devote more time to my art as a career, exhibiting at shows, selling art at festivals, and freelancing with an agent. I licensed my designs to dozens of manufacturers and was still able to be home for my kids. My success in art licensing gave me confidence to pursue art full-time, as a career. Art allowed me to have an income and be present to my children on a daily basis.
Now that my kids are all in their twenties, my energy and focus is my art as a career and lifestyle. I teach online lettering and art journaling classes, as well as numerous creative workshops from coast to coast. I just signed a contract with a large publisher and I’m writing an art book! I’ll be teaching in Italy in 2013!
My whole life has centered around the identity of being an artist, living what I was created to be. Lady Gaga has it right when she proclaims, “I was born this way.” To me, art is intuitive. I’m very blessed with the skills and tenacity to “be everything I was meant to be.” Art not only “saves,” art “is”… art “IS” me.
To learn more about Joanne Sharpe, visit joannezsharpe.blogspot.com.