Almost exactly three years ago a friend posted my artwork onto Reddit and it completely changed my life. Not only did it get me through some really rough times, it allowed me to quit a corporate job to paint full time and do what I love on a daily basis
My friend had posted my artwork A Portrait of Hong Kong three years ago on this Reddit thread:
I had never heard of Reddit, but my friend explained that I apparently I won many internet points and reached the front page of the site. I had a huge outpouring of support, kind messages which really brought me through and brightened up what was an extremely horrible month for me as I had just discovered my mother had terminal stage 4 liver cancer.
As a single mother, we decided it was best for her to move in with me while she was going through treatment. While helping her move home, I discovered she had kept almost every artwork I had created since I was two. I was like hey this reddit thing was nice, maybe I should post this online as well.
And holy shit so many internet points!
It went completely viral. I was interviewed live on huffington post. I was in the daily mail. I had features on Viral Nova, Bored Panda, local tabloids in Hong Kong and other websites and paper publications worldwide.
This lead to my first exhibitions and gallery representation. Radio interviews and magazine features. Working with high end brands and businesses. I also got a fair bit of hate mail as well! A tried and true sign of interneting correctly. Friends even started spotting counterfeits of my art in Vietnam, Thailand, China and even New York!
It was honestly one of the only silver linings with everything our family was going through. At the time I was in a corporate finance job, which treated me extremely well and had great prospects but was not my passion by any stretch of the imagination. Although suddenly I was getting huge new audience and influx of sales, I had to take responsibility for my mother’s medical bills, a mortgage and other financial worries, it was irresponsible to even consider an art career as an alternative.
I spent the next three years answering art related emails at lunch time, promoting social media during bathroom breaks, painting in the evenings and weekends and using days off to try and finish commissions and new work. To be honest, without the added income from art, I probably would have been in quite a bit of financial trouble. But much more importantly, it was huge source of emotional encouragement for both my mother and I. She had always supported my creativity and it was a constant source of happiness for her to see me succeeding in something I had wanted to do since I could basically hold a pencil. It was also hugely therapeutic for me and an outlet for what at times could be all consuming stress and worry.
Cancer is a pretty fucking horrible disease and sadly, mother passed away after an 18 month battle. Thankfully, she was able to see that my dreams were very much coming into fruition. That was a little over a year ago and again, being able to do something I loved every day and having that work appreciated by so many people really helped me push through a lot of inner turmoil. My mother passing made me re-evaluate a lot of my priorities in life, and I felt I would deeply regret not giving an art career a proper go. Earlier this year, I finally decided to quit corporate and become a full time artist, and I am now the happiest I have been in a very long time and thankfully, able to support myself quite comfortably.
I was extremely ridiculously fabulously lucky. I think there are so many more artists with infinitely more skill, creativity, and talent who haven’t been able to catch a break. It does take a lot of luck, but to be fair succeeding in the artworld requires a lot of elbow grease, sleepless nights, and burning the candle at both ends...but it can happen. It’s a bit of a war of attrition at times, but I think the take away is keep at it!