Roopa is an artist and author of the book, A Strategic Painter – Mastermind Your Craft. Below, she wrote, “Where I come from, being an artist is another word for being a loser.” Read her story to learn about how job loss and the benefits of marriage helped her find her way back to being a painter.
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Here is Roopa’s artist story:
Painter at Forty: Resistance is Futile
I, Roopa Dudley, used to love my job. I was a language analyst with a prestigious intelligence agency. However, I got laid-off right at the peak of my career, right before my 40th birthday. At first, being unemployed was frightening. I suffered a number of anxiety attacks. Life changing events can sometimes do this to the best of us. Each day I hoped to find a new job as a linguist. It never happened.
When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade. Before I lost my job, I was bringing home 100k as a contractor. So having lost it, there was a huge financial impact on my family. We had a baby who was only a year old at the time. Luckily I was covered under my husband’s health insurance, and he gave me his full support, emotionally and financially. We are happy with four children and do not want any more. Losing my job earlier, however, might have greatly impacted our decision to have our last little girl, who we both really wanted to have.
I tried finding a job as a linguist, but I could not find one that paid anywhere near what I had earned. Taking a job paying a quarter of what I had been making would have been counterproductive, so my husband encouraged me to stay home, enjoy motherhood, and pursue what else came naturally. I would have eventually gone back to painting after my retirement, but I believe that God wants me to do this now. It was still a hard choice to make. I had to reinvent my identity. I had never considered myself to be a professional artist, but more of a recreational artist. After I lost my job, I went back to painting to divert my attention from anxiety attacks. It was all I could do to help myself, which also helped me to accept the fact that I am a painter.
The Drudgery of Assembly Line Work. Let’s go back in time twenty-two years. My father, who was also a painter, wanted me to learn technical skills, like computer science or engineering. My mother just wanted me to get a job and work my way up. She even got me a job in a factory as an assembler bending glass tubes all day long. There was no support or encouragement from my nuclear family for me to become a painter despite the awards I won in painting while growing up. To this day, however, my mother would rather see me work at a daycare or as a baby sitter. Where I come from, being an artist is another word for being a loser.
In order to get out of that miserable job as an assembler I went back to school. I was in my mid-twenties. I attended Florida International University, and graduated with a B.A. in humanities, and minors in art history and psychology. But the aversion and dread of going back to that assembly line was so intense that it kept me in college despite my difficult financial situation at the time.
Having a B.A. in humanities helped me hugely and got my foot in the door as a language analyst, which afforded me a cushy living for over ten years of my life. But it was my growing anxiety from being unemployed that prompted me to go back and seek my sanctuary in painting. After I started painting again, I came across a book that changed my life, Alyson B. Stanfield’s I’d Rather Be in the Studio! One chapter suggested that I launch a Facebook page as an artist, and the rest is history. The moment I started getting more and more likes on my work, the more confidence I gained and continued painting. After one of my paintings got juried for a local art exhibit, I had an epiphany: I should be a professional painter.
Coming to Terms with My New Reality. Things started to move rapidly once my decision was made and I was left to be all that I can be as a painter. I read several books to gain insight and knowledge about the art world and art business, which were rather new to me. Alan Bamberger’s book The Art of Buying Art, as well articles on his website http://www.artbusiness.com/artists.html, was a huge help. Seth Godin’s Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) was helpful. I also recommend his other books like Purple Cow, Linchpin, Tribes and Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?
So here I am. A strategic painter at forty-something and surviving yet another stellar year selling a good portion of my art, gaining loyal collectors, and not looking back at a 9 to 5 job. I am also a blogger, an art reviewer, and an author of my soon-to-be published book A Strategic Painter – Mastermind Your Craft (coming out in 2014). My nature is now permanently altered and, in my opinion, for the better. Right now, life is better than good. It is great.
More About Roopa
Roopa Dudley, artist and author of the book, A Strategic Painter – Mastermind Your Craft, considers herself a painter gravitating towards steampunk and conceptual art. In 1999, she graduated from Florida International University with a B.A. in humanities, with minors in art history and psychology. She prefers to paint in acrylics. Her paintings are painted with saturated colors and usually have a story to tell, which she regularly posts about on her art blog. She is a huge fan of dark humor, so most of her artwork has that in some shape or form. Her paintings are created to appeal aesthetically as well as intellectually. Her paintings have been published in local newspapers like Sunpost (of Miami Beach, FL), Capital Gazette (of Annapolis, MD), as well as Studio Visit Art Magazine (volume 23), Stonehighway Review (literary journal), and The Painter’s Tongue (visual art journal), and is a participating member of The Vagina Project (online art project). To connect with Roopa, visit her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/Roopa.Dudley.Paintings, her blog http://roopadudley-artblog.blogspot.com/, or email her at RoopaDudley@gmail.com.