A look back at my first year as an artist.

I suppose that title really isn't all that accurate.  The truth is, this has been my first year to bravely call myself an artist.  The handful of times I've uttered it to a stranger when they've asked what I do (besides being mama which obviously comes out of my mouth first), when I've said "A mixed media artist" I've felt a mix of both strangeness and excitement at the same time.

I can think back to moments throughout childhood and even college where it now all makes sense…I was an artist, waiting in the wings.  I just didn't know it yet.  From trying to rearrange my college dorm room or decorate my childhood room……to the sketches I did in art class as a child, I guess I just always knew something was there.

Fast forward to about a year ago, zooming past my years as an elementary teacher and then becoming a new stay-at-home mama.  I decided I wanted to learn to paint.  For the life of me I honestly can't remember what put such a notion in my head.  I'd already been dabbling in photography and a very creative life the past two years but something about the paint specifically called out to me.

My very first class to sign up for was Christy Tomlinson's She Art class, all about learning to paint girls.  She had you sketch some ideas first and I sat in the craft room for hours one evening, with a basic set of cheap colored pencils.  I sketched and sketched and kept having the resounding thought "I didn't know I could do that!"  The "girls" weren't perfect, but they were mine.  Straight from my own brain and soul and imagination and right onto the paper.   Once I then began to put paint on paper and canvas, I was definitely in love.
A few months later I was boldly trying some of my own ideas, using techniques I had learned in Christy's class.  One night after watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I made this.
After receiving several questions about me selling an art print of it, I decided to open my own Etsy business.  This was a bit hard for me to do, not because of the logistics, but because this would be my THIRD Etsy shop to have.  The first being a handmade business, the second a photography business, and now..painting.  I pushed the fears aside and "she did it anyway".

There were several steps that had to happen logistically, in order for me to be able to open.  Something I don't think others are always aware of is how much work it truly takes, even just to have a small shop! I first read Kelly Rae Robert's Flying Lessons Business Course after I purchased it for half off, which she only does once a year.  She shared so many valuable tips I don't think I could have opened the shop without her course.  It was like having a friend around to answer my questions.
I also bought a very expensive, high-quality printer and very good archival quality ink and paper.  This was after researching whether I should have someone else make the prints or do them myself.  I am 100% pleased that I chose to do them myself! The quality is exceptional and I am able to print on demand.

Once I had everything in place (printer, art prints in shop, business cards ordered, etc) I opened up!

And here's where the biggest question of all time comes in that I get from others and that I am puzzled by myself.  "Is it hard to run an Etsy shop?"  Yes, and no.
The "hard" part to me comes in two parts actually.  I find it hard sometimes to know how to market my shop.  I've read just about every book or online article out there on how to authentically and effectively market yourself.  And I see other shops or gals with thousands upon thousands of sales and I wonder what their trick is?  I honestly don't know.  I've made hundreds of pieces of SWAG for different craft retreats and had very little response for how much time was put in.  I've done paid advertising and had a bit of a response, but not much.  The biggest thing that seems to be working for me is to simply remain myself and keep blogging away.  I don't do that for a marketing trick or scam, I do it because I just simply love to blog.  But that's where most of my sales have come from….people who have read my blog or followed me on IG.

I have also learned to respond (and do it well) when other blogs ask me to guest post for them.  I've done this a handful of times and had a great response to my shop!
The second hard part for me has been the business side of things.  WHOA. It can be extremely overwhelming to know what to do.  Especially for someone like me who doesn't have a huge business yet, but I certainly have a whole list of ideas (like the children's book I've written) up my sleeve, to where I want to be prepared if a big opportunity comes along.

So all that to say my business is registered and I am a sole proprietor.  I also have a Tax ID, save receipts and all paperwork for my business, and have my own bank account.  In my opinion, no one else will take you seriously until you do.  So even if my business is quite small right now, it's not something I plan on leaving or quitting.  I take myself seriously, even if others don't.  And I think you should too!
Now onto the fun part.  Want to know my most favorite part, ever about this whole journey?!

The painting and learning and community.  I mean, I just love to paint and draw.  Like I could probably do it 8 hours a day.  When days are filled with more of the business side of things my fingers just ache to paint.  When I finally do get my hands on a paintbrush something inside of me just breaks free….I can feel my soul let out the biggest breath.
This little (big) journey of being an artist hasn't been easy.  There have been many days where opportunities haven't worked out and I've told Brett I was quitting.  People haven't called back, or canceled on me last minute.  My self-worth immediately plummets.  But then, I pray and remember who God made me to be.  And you know what?  It's been the very next day (or few minutes even!) after those rough, low moments that here comes another opportunity rolling around.  A person extending grace (like Alisa Burke asking me to do a studio tour on her blog), a YES to my request at being in Vintage Market Days…or sign-ups trickling in for my photography retreat.
Wherever you are on your dream journey…I want you to keep going.  I'm guessing the whole "Dream Big" message has befuddled you a time or two as well.  Because the truth of the matter is with big dreams comes big work.  It isn't always easy.  You won't always have the cheerleaders you want. But go on anyway.  Your gifts are needed for just the right people at just the right time.  God created you for it!  I believe that.  I applaud you for bravely stepping out on your journey.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Photography Retreat Workbook (sneak peek!)

Photography is such a passion of mine.  I mean, it is dear (so dear) to my heart.  It's been the very lens through which I've been able to seek out the beauty in the darkest times of my life.  It's my light-catcher, my joy-seeker, my hope record-keeper.  You get me talking about photography and using this wonderful tool to capture the beauty that I just know is a part of our lives and it just all comes so naturally to me.  I can think of nothing greater to do with this gift of story-telling than share it with others.   Behind-the-scenes the past few weeks I've been writing the workbook for my upcoming Photography Rosy Retreat.  Think of it like The Rosy Life's guide to capturing the rosy in your routine.  The workbook is full of practical tips, inspirational thoughts and reflections, tons of photos and ideas, resources like my favorite books, websites, and apps, suggestions for props and themes to keep your own passion flowing and more! 

I have spent hours pouring my heart and soul into this workbook in preparation for the retreat coming up in just a few weeks! The page above is a sneak peek!  I look forward to artfully preparing details for the retreat in the next few weeks.  I want beauty to be tucked into every corner and each lady to know what an honor it is they've decided to free up their day and come learn on the farm with me. 

It's not too late to sign up! The cost is $100 which covers snacks, coffee, and tea in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, a retreat workbook, and plenty of teaching from me from 9:30-2:30!  The retreat date is Saturday, May 16th and will take place on my farm!  

To sign up, comment below letting me know you're interested or send me an email at sunshinebysara@hotmail.com! I'd love to have you! 

The art of noticing

Mornings are my favorite. 
You can add that statement to the list of things I thought I would never, ever, EVER say.  I mean, it's right up there with my deep and sincere love for cows.  I used to shudder if one even came within 20 feet of me and look at me now! So back to mornings.  They are my fave.
I think it must be the thought of all that possibility ahead.  The world is still and relatively quiet.  I've started a habit of waking before everyone else.  One day this week I was busy as a bee in the studio, packaging art prints for the upcoming sale.  I happened to glance up and immediately gasped.
The fairy houses were back.  No, I don't suppose that's what these are really called but who wants to know what that is anyway?  I don't.  I just want to take in the magic of the little webs spread all over every pasture.  I'm sure there' s a logical explanation for such a phenomena but I sure don't care to know what it is. 
All I know is, come spring, these magic webs appear. 

They're intricate, detailed, so fragile looking yet so strong. 

As I wandered around the pastures, alone with just my camera and God, I had the thought yet again.  That I might not know a lot sometimes, but I know the art of noticing is worth……well, noticing.

I know this because as I got down on my hands and knees I spotted this little web, hung as proud as a handmade quilt.  
Then things got even better.  
As I crouched down by the quilt web, I looked over to see this.
You all know how much a web speaks to me.  
"Don't you think the web itself is a miracle?"

Oh yes, a mighty miracle indeed.

There's an art to this noticing business you know.  A lot of guts and bravery to show up and notice with your own original eyes , heart, and soul.  But when you do……it is heaven on earth. 

I felt and saw and heard God everywhere I looked among the fairy houses. 
And then I got to come in and watch Anna Ruth care for our dog and I saw God there too. 

I pray you notice today.

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