Jacquelyn Wheeler (above) recently sent us this post about what she’s been up to since graduating from Whitworth in May 2012. She also submitted the photos.
When I first graduated, I made business cards that defined me as a freelancer of my various skills: oil painting, editing, writing, and layout design. I got some business advice from a family friend who asked me a lot of specific questions about my target clientele for my new freelance editing business. The more we narrowed it down, the more I realized that I wasn’t ready to narrow anything down.
I applied for jobs here and there. Website copywriter, bookstore salesperson, restaurant server, apple store salesperson, production studio intern. There was enough cushion in my bank account that I wasn’t buckling down just yet. Possibility was in the air and the smell was too sweet to trade in for monotony and security.
Thom Caraway gave me a graphic design contact of his, Derek, who then offered me a chance to volunteer for an art show and film shoot, an opportunity that I gladly took him up on. Derek also said he would be happy to look at my work or mentor me on design-related projects.
All the talk about editing and graphics made me begin to miss painting, so when I heard about a studio space with a non-profit called Commonspace Arts, I took a look at the space, bought a nice easel, and moved my art supplies there.
During this time, I mentioned to a property owner in my neighborhood (whom I knew from the time I served as Concert Series Coordinator for the neighborhood council) that I was a painter and might be able to help the artist she had hired with murals in her new restaurant.
When she found out I was jobless, she told me to come by the next day dressed for dirty work. I worked in her garden during the first week. I helped served breakfast for her B&B. I catered a high school reunion she hosted.
Eventually, I met the artist she’d hired to do the mural: Carmen. I showed them both a picture of one of my paintings on my phone, and Carmen responded saying that she may have found herself a new apprentice (meaning me). I worked on some samples for the owner, but in the end, communication between us broke down, and Carmen finished the mural on her own. Nevertheless, I walked away from that opportunity with one more artist contact saying she would be happy to help me make my way.
When the need arose for a faux finisher to paint wood grain on the window frames from which the paint could not be easily stripped, the same property owner and her interior decorator Carolyn, called me up. I spent hours working minimum wage for a job at which trained and experienced finishers can make $100 per hour, but along the way I picked up a new skill and scraped by financially.
The faux finishing I did—like Carmen’s mural—was in an old house that was about to be turned into a restaurant. A lot of the finishing work took place on the stairway where I could hear almost every conversation that happened in the place. One day, I heard something about formatting the menus in Microsoft Word. That was my cue: I bounced up the stairs, plopped myself down on a bar stool next to Carmen and Carolyn and said, What’s up? They showed me their ideas, and I mentioned that I would be happy to lay everything out in InDesign. Carmen pointed to me, looked at Carolyn, and said, There is your graphic artist!
During the soft opening someone suggested I manage all the social media accounts. I don’t know how they knew, but I am not a complete novice at using twitter to generate a buzz.
I now work the hours I want just designing and printing menus, managing social media accounts, and running the website and blog. What I do now is precisely what I had imagined myself doing. It’s a position I would have happily applied for, but it didn’t even exist until I was in the midst of the situation and armed with the skills to handle it.
The manager and owner here at EJ’s Garden Bistro are constantly adding to my lists of networks to run and documents to design, Derek has been a huge help in my learning how to use Adobe Illustrator and fixing some of my rougher designs, and people are constantly trying to hook me up with more experienced painters that I can learn from. I have two First Friday art shows booked so far (both with businesses with owners in the neighborhood council), and I expect that there are more to come.
Moral of this story: networking rocks.
[You can follow EJ’s Garden Bistro on twitter @ejsgardenbistro and like EJ’s Garden Bistro on the facebooks, too.]