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  • Nicole Walsh

My Journey to Full-time Artist

“There is freedom waiting for you,

On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask "What if I fall?"

Oh but my darling,

What if you fly?”  

― Erin Hanson


I first came across this quote in early 2018 and it made me cry. Possibly because I was pregnant, sleep-deprived with an almost two-year-old, uncertain where my career was going, and dealing with some pretty major autoimmune issues. But also because deep down I knew it was true. For so long I had been choosing the safe routes. If you don’t take the big chances and really put yourself out there you can’t get burned, right? Turns out, in doing so, you also miss out on big moments of joy, passion & excitement.


As I sit down to write this and reflect on the past few years, a few tears have been trickling down my face, but this time they are tears of gratitude. I am SO incredibly grateful to my past self for taking those first few scary steps toward her dreams at a time when they didn’t even seem possible.


I’ll start at the beginning…


I have loved making art for as long as I can remember.  My childhood was spent drawing, painting, crafting and creating in whatever other new ways I felt like exploring.

Creating art is what lights me up. It’s where I find that magical flow state, where I lose track of time and get lost in the pure joy of the process.

Off to school with dreams of becoming an Artist

I briefly considered art school after high school, but I had it ingrained in my head that “art is a hobby”, “artists don’t make money” and that it would be frivolous to pursue something like that as a career.

So with that in mind, I went on to get a degree in business from our local University, with a major in Marketing (no regrets there, it’s honestly been so helpful). I met a lot of wonderful people, spent many Thursday nights at “The Longbranch” and was mindful to take as many Entrepreneurship classes as I could “just in case” I ever pursued my art again.

After getting my B.Comm, I worked at the University in a few different marketing, event planning & program coordinating roles that I enjoyed. For quite a few years, I kind of stopped creating art, or even thinking about it much.


In 2015, after putting down roots with marriage, our first house, and my career, I started painting more again just for fun. I got really into inks on tiles for a while and created so many that I decided to try selling them at a few local markets (if anyone remembers this, thank you so much for supporting me early on!).

Broadway Artfest 2015: I love this picture because it’s the first one I have of me having the confidence to share my art publicly AND I had just found out that I was pregnant with my oldest son.

After my son was born in early 2016, I painted a little bit from time to time but didn’t really have the time or energy for too much more than that.

It wasn’t until 2018, while pregnant with my daughter that I started to seriously consider shifting to a career in art. My health was not good. I felt on the verge of passing out all the time and my body ached so badly it was like having a bad flu that never went away. Then came the big, black bruises all over my legs.

I went to the doctor and my bloodwork showed a platelet count of 3 (normal would be 150-400) and I was diagnosed with Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), meaning that my blood could not clot properly. The side effects from the treatments of high-dose steroids proved to be worse than the disorder itself and none of the longer-term treatment options were working for me. 

I was struggling hard to be the mom my one-year-old son needed, worried like crazy about the health of my unborn daughter, in a career that was no longer fulfilling me, (but we relied on with my husband back in school), and basically everything felt super chaotic and out of control.

Cue the inspirational quote at the start of this post. I needed hope.

This was around the time I started journaling and really allowing myself to think about what I wanted my life to look like and why.

Don’t get me wrong, in so many ways I already had a great life: a loving marriage, healthy kids, close family, friends, a good job, and a nice roof over my head. I was privileged in so many ways.  I think that’s partially why, when my inner voice started whispering, then yelling, “Hey, remember how you always wanted to be an artist?” or “You could live a bigger, more aligned life than what you’ve been allowing yourself” I was quick to stomp it down. I had decided that this was as good as it gets, and I felt selfish at the thought of asking for even more.

The recent downturn of my health in 2018 was the push I needed to take the leap. After some soul searching, I decided screw it, life is short, I’m going to quit my job, stay home with my babies and pursue a career in art.

I had no idea what it would look like, or if it was even possible, but for the first time I had the courage to fully admit what I wanted and try. I painted obsessively every nap time, and evenings after the kids went to bed. I said yes to every opportunity that came my way and learned a lot more about which styles of art & types of creative projects I enjoyed the most.


Here are a few photos from throughout these first few years…

Summer 2018: Painting on the floor of our tiny kitchen because it had the best light

Summer 2018: I painted this piece on our deck while my kids napped, and it was picked up by West Elm! This early success gave me a much needed nudge that I was on the right track and to keep going.

Spring 2019: My first solo Art Show at a café called "Drift". I was still just starting to find my style and it meant so much to have my family & friends all come out and support me.


Art in the Park 2019: I was painting quite a bit by this point, putting myself out there at local events, and starting to take on commissions

Summer 2020 we moved to our acreage! This was the first time I had a studio space of my own! At this point, it was also our laundry room, but it was still a welcomed upgrade from the dark basement or kitchen floor I had been painting on up until this point.

Spring 2021 with some of my recent landscape paintings

Fall 2021: I'm discovering my love for licensing & stationery design and really enjoying the combination of hand painted elements & digital design. One of my greeting cards is in Target through a partnership with Minted!

2022: One of my Minted Fine Art Prints "Lifting Fog" in a beautiful room designed by Paige Loperfido of Decor and More Designs


We renovated & expanded my home studio in the summer of 2023! Here it is December 2023, ready for an Open House

There’s been a lot of trial and error, growth, and a few “what was I thinking” moments along the way, but I am now a full-time artist, supporting my family, with the flexibility to work around my kids schedules, AND I have my health back. I have collaborated with big brands on projects that inspire me and allow me to share my art & creativity on a large scale from the comfort of my own home studio. I don’t say this to brag but so that whoever is reading this knows that it could be possible for you too.

Looking back, it’s crazy to see how everything has unfolded. Since I allowed myself to start fully embracing my dreams, all of the goals I wrote down as some kind of unlikely best-case scenario have all come true in less than five years and I still feel like I’m just getting started. I really do believe that the dreams you hold are inside of you for a reason, and slow steady progress day over day compounds into pretty incredible results.


If you take one thing away from this post I hope it’s this: If there’s something you would love to do, please do your future self a favor and start taking baby steps towards whatever it is that lights you up. I promise you won't regret it.


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