How I Turned My Love of Art into a Business
Image credit: VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia
ESME’s VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia unleashes her inner artist
I’m obsessed with making art. That didn’t happen overnight. I was born this way. As a kid, my imagination ran wild. I did very odd things, such as make the salt-and-pepper shakers talk to each other, as well as line up each and every one of my 64 box of crayons and pretend they were the choir in my Baptist church congregation.
But I didn’t stop there. My mother kept several bottles of nail polish on her dresser, and for hours I would stand there and pretend the nail-polish bottles were having full-blown conversations. It felt very natural, and I easily could get lost in a world of my own for quite a bit of time.
And then there was the doodling. I doodled in school. I doodled in church. I doodled in the doctor’s office. Creativity seemed to flow through my veins, and by the time I was an adult, it had become so second nature that I took it for granted.
I never viewed myself as an artist—even when I spent hours creating collages from old magazines, even when I would paint in journals and sketchbooks and write poems to my boyfriends. I wrote my first poem at 11, and my primary language always seemed to be color and metaphor. I even saw it in my children, and I nurtured it by sitting down to paint with them.
Once in my 20s, I went so far as to declare that someday I wanted all the walls of my home to be filled with my own art. That was far-reaching for someone who didn’t have any formal training, but, eventually, I did it anyway. I had this burning desire to always be surrounded by color. In my opinion, a house with blank walls was highly depressing. And it was obvious to me that art was everywhere. I could pick up a fallen leaf outside and lay it on a piece of card stock and frame it. Sometimes the ads in the magazines had the prettiest pictures. I’d cut them out and frame them. Oh, and making vision boards for fun was my favorite hobby by the time I was in my 30s.
So it should have come as no surprise to me that during some of the most challenging seasons in my life, I’d always turn to making art. It was so therapeutic and freeing, and I could get completely lost in the process without worrying about the outcome. One weekend three years ago was pivotal. I got an e-mail from the director of the Creative Cafe at my church, looking to fill a last-minute spot for an artist showcase. She invited me to show poetry, but I saw this as an opportunity to manifest my dream. I told her I’d display some art! The funny thing was that I had nothing to show, nor did I have a plan. So I did what any crazy person would do: I ran to the nearest art store; bought canvases and acrylic paint; and for the next 72 hours, I painted and painted and explored, and it was exhilarating!
Although I was not at all impressed with what I made, I took my five canvases and displayed them proudly. What happened next surprised me. Someone approached me and asked if she could purchase a painting. I politely declined because this had to be a joke, right? But she wasn’t kidding. A few months later, I displayed more art at a fundraiser. It sold. I was both shocked and confused. Was it possible for me to be a visual artist and just not know it? The good news is I was curious enough to find out.
Over the next year, I painted, watched videos, and even went to a four-day art workshop in North Carolina called “Paint Like an Artist.” By the time I left the workshop, I realized I do have what it takes to make art for a living, and thank goodness I did because at that point, I was fully obsessed with making art.
When I’m painting, I get so captivated by the process that my thinking brain seems to dissipate, and my soul steps forward to express itself. I avoid any planning and allow my intuition to guide me. My inclination toward bold, vibrant hues has a lot to do with my personality. I am warm, nurturing, energetically fierce, and radically passionate. I think those qualities are communicated in my work. One of the biggest responses I’ve heard about my work is that it moves people’s souls. I’m honored.
I knew from the beginning that the journey into being a full-time artist wouldn’t always be easy. There are many steps involved: registering as a business, choosing a name, creating and maintaining a website as well as keeping a strong and consistent social-media presence are key factors. Having to put myself out there, be willing to ask for the sale, submit my work to galleries for shows, and networking with other artists have all been crucial to the growth of my business.
Three years later, I’m still here doing what I love and earning an income from it. In the past six months, I have exhibited work in more than 10 shows, including in New York and Los Angeles; I have work in several Chicago restaurants, have been featured in a few small publications, and was interviewed for a podcast. I have a steady social-media presence and belong to communities of other artists. I am so honored and grateful to be where I am.
Outside my accomplishments, what keeps me in the game is that my work is really meaningful. I realize I’m not just selling colors on canvas but sharing energy and connection. To pour my heart out in artistic expression and have it resonate with others is a powerful thing. It’s not just the art; it’s how the art makes them feel. The freedom, abundant love, and infinite joy I get from creating are things I wish for everyone in this world to have. I intend to continue offering up work that moves people as long as I have breath in my body.
Former Solo Mom VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia, ESME’s Resource Guide for Domestic Violence, is a painter, published poet, speaker, and facilitator. Through her business, Soul Revival Healing Arts, she offers original paintings and products, and teaches workshops. Her first poetry collection, Butterfly Spirit, was published in 2015. VersAnnette is passionate about empowering women, eating great food, and traveling the world. She and her family currently reside near Chicago.
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