How I Became an Artist: The Job That Changed My Life

I am a visual artist living in Southwestern Indiana who publishes art related blog posts regularly. Sign up to receive updates from my blog at the bottom of this page. 🙂

I never thought taking a job as the Coordinator of a peer-run recovery center would change the course of my life as it did. I took the Coordinator position in December 2012 and my favorite program at the center was our arts empowerment program, which promoted art as a healing tool. At the center, we helped individuals who struggled with mental health issues, and I, too, struggle with depression.

I began painting in 2009 but took a prolonged break from creating while my daughter was in her infant and toddler years. I picked up a paintbrush again during my employment at the recovery center in 2013, and after two years of not painting, I fell in love, once again, with the creative process and the healing benefits it provides. I continued to paint as much as my time afforded, and in 2014 we held the first “Art of Recovery”, an art show featuring artworks created by individuals in recovery.

A piece of mine that sold in the “Art of Recovery” 2015 show:


While I enjoyed my job, I was also being strongly called in a different direction at the same time — to be an artist. I eventually took the leap of faith in 2016 to pursue art full-time and I have never regretted this decision. Would painting have chosen me otherwise had I not worked there? I know it would have; however, I think the process of becoming an artist was sped up by the nature of my day job. Being surrounded by art and artists was so inspiring. I also say that art chose me rather than I chose art. If you are born to be an artist, art will find you one way or another, sometime during your life.

Art has really saved my life in many ways. When I am creating, it is like time stands still and I enter another dimension – one in which my work and I exist and all my despair and worries disappear. Even when I’m depressed and the thought of picking up a paintbrush sounds like the most tedious task in the world, once I get going, I really do feel somewhat better. My depression doesn’t disappear necessarily, but for the moment in time that I am creating, things don’t seem quite as difficult.

I do find, however, that creating is something I need to do daily, or at least almost daily, to keep the momentum going. Art is like anything else. It is easy to push aside and skip out while your other life responsibilities take precedence. Due to this, I must make sure I stay on some type of art-making schedule.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe one of the reasons I had my job at the recovery center was to help me develop as an artist and find my way a little faster. Who knows where I would be today had I not held that position. I think I’d be an artist of some kind, but I think that job put me on the right path.

Art has helped me so much in life that I try to pass this on to my daughter. My husband and I have her in art classes and I am hoping art will be an outlet for her as it is for me.

If you are an artist who struggles with anxiety, depression, or another issue, I’d love to hear how art has helped you in your journey, and also how you became an artist.


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year in review

2018 Year in Review

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Much can happen in one year…shows, growth, disappointments, and more. I’d like to reflect on this past year, celebrating all the positive things that transpired, and learning from setbacks.

In January, I began my first ever series — “Contain & Release.” It was a series of six paintings that focused on the containment and release of emotions, with each having at least one container of some sort. I ended up keeping just four in the series and dropping two of them. This was my favorite of the four. I felt as though this series provided some breakthroughs in my technique, mostly in the way I create abstract art. I realized through these paintings the importance of painting in series and plan to work this way more often in the future.

Contain & Release III, 24 X 30, 2018

Also in January, I decided to start using the name Rain for art purposes, and later around the month of May I chose D’Lay as my last name. By the time November came around, I had learned the hard way that it creates confusion having an artist name separate from your real name, so I decided to transition back to using my real name. Just a few months before my name change back, this beautiful butterfly appeared outside my studio. It was a gentle reminder to always be open to change.

And finally in January, I attended my first long pose figure painting/drawing session at Gamut Gallery. Below is the painting I created that day. It was challenging as I normally don’t paint figures, yet it was so enjoyable as well.


Stac Art Gallery

At the beginning of summer, I had several pieces on display in StaC Art Gallery, where I also sold my favorite piece of the year. Despite its small size of 10×10 inches, it’s a powerhouse of color and composition. My favorite piece — “Rings of Fire” — below.

Rings of Fire, 10 X 10, 2018

Last year I had an idea to start an art co-op with art created by individuals with mental health issues. After a group formed, we secured space at Zion Center for Spiritual Development & Healing. Below are a couple photos from the opening reception, including a photo of me with Cynthia Watson, a dear friend and art mentor.



Below are some of my favorite brushes and a note from my daughter that she wrote on my studio wall. What a nice surprise! ❤ Also shown is my favorite color – turquoise!


Funk in the City was a juried show for the first time and I was honored to be a part of it this year. This left picture was before I set up my booth with all my art and supplies in the car, and on the right is my booth in the September event. Unfortunately, it rained nearly the entire day so it wasn’t as busy as it would have been normally. It was quite a chore trying to keep my paintings dry, but since they are acrylic, the water didn’t hurt them anyway. The rain was more annoying than anything else.


I was glad to participate in my first YART show in October. I had a small setup at that event in which I took mostly smaller pieces. YART is a unique show where everything is priced $50 or below. BRRRRR – it was cold that day, but a good day nonetheless!


The Art Hop took place in September in downtown Henderson businesses where artists had little pop up galleries. My pop up gallery was located in the office of Kevin A. Francke, Attorney at Law. This was my first time participating in this show as well.


I participated in three nonprofit events this year: 1) Peace Zone Art of Recovery, 2) You Matter Suicide Prevention and Awareness Art Show, and 3) Mental Health America of Vanderburgh County’s symposium silent auction. Below is a picture of me with “Tears I Cry” at the You Matter Show at 22 Jefferson Gallery.



In November I participated in the Winter Festival at the Evansville Museum — my last and final show of the year!

I did apply to two juried exhibits this year, but didn’t get selected for either. I will try again next year! I’m sure that’s just the beginning of many rejections but I’m ready to tackle this journey. In the art world, you must have tough skin to be successful because oftentimes you are faced with many rejections.

I am looking forward to 2019 as I plan to enter some national juried exhibits, get established with an online gallery, and further develop my techniques and style. This year it seemed I was focused on both nonrepresentational abstract pieces and florals and I am pleased with the progress I made.


MeWorkingInStudioPainting in My Studio