Today, I uploaded my 70th commissioned pet portrait to my website. Number 7-0. There’s no real significance in that particular number. It doesn’t represent any pre-meditated goal or benchmark. But after I hit upload and refresh, and as I watched that 70th pet portrait pop into the front of the line, something felt…heavy.

70.

The number sat solidly in my belly. As I looked at it, digesting it, the funniest thought bubbled up into my head.

“Well, heck. I’m actually doing this, aren’t I?”

I’m living as a working artist. I’m buying groceries and paying rent with money I earn from my artwork. My hands have worked canvases that are now scattered across the continent. This thing that I love, my small painting business, is real.

It sounds silly to put that in writing. Of course my painting business is real.

And yet, for the longest time I’ve had the uneasy sensation that I’ve been ‘playing house’ in my own art business. Doing the things I’d watched others do, trying out a new role, playing dress up even. I sometimes feel as though any minute someone might simply say, “play time’s over,” and expose the fact that I’m just a little kid wearing clothes that are too big for her, pretending to be all grown up. Artist Kelly Rae Roberts in her e-book “Flying Lessons” refers to this as “Impostor syndrome.” It’s the icky feeling that we’ve succeeded only because we’ve hoodwinked our fans into thinking we’re something we’re not.

This is me as a kid, wearing my dad’s socks and making some art.
I know that I never actually misrepresented myself. It’s just that the first year of my business whooshed by in a blur of twitter feeds, facebook updates, email blasts, and website revamps. At each step, I was desperate to project the image of success, to keep up with the big kids and the ‘real’ professional artists. In other words, to fake it until I could make it.

Am I ready to put that mentality to rest? To be at peace with the amount of work I’ve done? To accept that my business is so much more than a game I created to pass the time?

I think so, yes.

But, I have plenty ways to go. I have big dreams for my small business, and visions of the artwork I will one day make. There are so many people I have yet to connect with. Classes I want to take. Website improvements to put in place. New mediums with which to experiment.

Yet, at the same time, I’m suddenly comfortable with where I am, proud of the progress I’ve made, and ready to be honest about where I stand today.

And as of today, I’ve sold 70 pet portraits.

*P.S. I just treated myself to Kelly Rae Roberts’ e-book Flying Lessons. It’s all kinds of amazing. If you’re an artist who needs an injection of inspiration straight to the heart, I’d highly recommend taking a look.