Erin Gregory says she’s been interested in art for as long as she can remember. “I used to sit at the kitchen table as young as age 3 and draw for hours. I would have my mother to carry pens in her purse in case we went to a restaurant with paper menus. Any time we were in the car, I was drawing in the backseat. Sometimes I would refuse to get out until I had finished my drawing.” When she was 10 years old, Erin began taking private lessons from a local artist. From these classes, she learning professional, advanced techniques that most students aren’t exposed to until college.
“In school, I was never given many options on the career path I could take with art,” she says. “It was usually either an art teacher or a fine artist. I had been familiar with the term ‘starving artist’ by the time I was old enough to start seriously thinking about art as a future. That was enough to scare me off from a career in art, and I pursued a career in marketing. I interned for a marketing firm while attending college. I could be somewhat creative with the marketing, but never felt like it was a proper fit.”
She began college as a liberal arts major, then enrolled in a graphic design program. There her studies included basic drawing, painting, color theory and photography, all of which contributed to her development as an artist. Despite her fears of starving, she decided to pursue a career in the fine arts rather than digital art and marketing.
Now she earns her living doing what she most enjoys. Her primary business is creating hand-drawn portraits, and her work is in high demand, particularly in the months leading up to the holidays as her drawings are often purchased as gifts. She does a lot of pet portraits, portraits created from wedding photos as well as portraits of children and homes.
She also teaches private lessons in her studio and has started a Paint and Party business, which has her traveling to bars and restaurants, birthday parties, nursing homes and bachelorette parties to give two-hour group lessons. She says she always has a side project in the works. She recently completed a mural depicting Adirondack scenery and wildlife in the dining room of a Lake George, New York restaurant.
What does she enjoy most about her career? “Art has always been a relaxing down time for me,” says Erin. “Now that I can have my down time also be my career, it never feels like work. As cliché as it sounds, what I love most about being an artist is making my customers happy. Most of my portraits are very sentimental to people, as they’re usually of a cherished memory or a beloved relative.”
Making a career out of the fine arts is hard work, says Erin, “…but it is doable.” Her advice to those seeking a career in art is to “Get your work exposed at any opportunity you can — online, art shows, charities, auctions, etc. There are also so many different art-related fields I never knew about when I was in high school such as animation, video game design, art therapy, and so many more. Do your research. Find your passion, and then GO FOR IT!”