Believe it or not, I haven't always been confident enough to call myself an artist or an illustrator. That sounds ridiculous as I type it, because I have been making art since I was physically able to hold a crayon. I was constantly drawing pictures, designing characters and writing stories. I knew what I wanted to be when my friends still wanted to grow up to be inanimate objects, or horses.
Mine is a fairly common tale though, I'm sure. Young person wants to go to art school, but doesn't get to. Ends up at a religious school (with a then-miniscule art department) to please parents, is super unhappy, and drops out. I also know a lot of artists who DID go to art school, but got their souls crushed so hard it took them decades to make art again too.
In my early twenties, I found myself with a bad case of circumstantial depression, a dangerously un-constructive professor, and a rapid onslaught of major health issues that knocked me on my ass. I packed a backpack and, still tremendously deficient in my required chapel credits, I flew to to Jamaica and then to Cuba for a month with no plans to return to university.
I returned to the states with no job, and no place to live. I ended up moving to Portland, Oregon with a friend with whom I'd just traveled, and spent the next couple of months embarrassing myself at all manner of job interviews. Nothing panned out, and I was out of money. Another friend came to my rescue, and I moved back to my hometown of Newberg, Oregon to crash in her guest room while I looked for work.
It was then I re-discovered photography. I still had no inclination to draw or paint, but photography was a way to still be an artist. I landed a job as an apprentice at a wedding photographer's studio with whom I had zero things in common. I worked there for three years, until they discriminated against a gay couple looking for a photographer. I offered to do it, and then spent the next hour being grilled by my boss about my dating history, religious beliefs, and sexual orientation. I thought they were going to fire me. In retrospect, I should have quit on the spot, but I didn't yet know I was gay, and I still suffered from Chronic Niceness. I stayed through the busy season, building up my own photography business on the side before giving my notice.
Another several years passed before I picked up a paint brush or a colored pencil. I did everything else. I ran (and still run!) my photography business. I made and sold mixed media key+mail holders. I bought old sweaters, turned them into hats that looked like monsters, and sold them in my aunt's toy store. I baked. I was the artsiest nanny ever. I did interior design (I tried going to school for that, too. I dropped out). I made and sold super realistic miniature foods out of clay (I'm closing that business this year - 2018). I did every kind of art I could think of that didn't involve my original dream of being an illustrator. I let the bad college experience and the depression get to me, and it weighed me down for a decade.
Finally, at 33 years old, I came out. I'd been married to a very sweet man for 10 years. On one singularly unexpected day, I fell in love with my now-fiancé Nicol, with whom I'd been friends for 8 years. My husband was not entirely straight either, and we proceeded to have the kindest divorce I've ever witnessed. Coming out unleashed me. I've stopped wasting time filtering myself, and trying to please literally everyone. I've faced the traumas I experienced as a child and as an adult, which I believe directly resulted in the battery of health issues I've dealt with. I found a doctor with brains. I got therapy, and medication, and a rainbow onesie. I started drawing again, and painting. I'm now the grown-up version of little Kindergarten me, who would sit on the floor with her box of crayons, making picture books. Welcome.