It dawned on me the other day that 2018 marks the tenth year that I have been doing decorative painting full time. In 2008 I left the security of my teaching job behind and embarked on the most terrifying and rewarding journey of my life.
I set out after graduating from Towson University to teach high school art and was at two high schools for a total of 8 years. I had gone into the profession not because I loved kids or wanted to be a teacher, but to ensure that I had a steady paycheck. I know, not the best reason. But despite that, I did really enjoy parts of my job. I loved my students (ok, some were real pains) and I really liked being able to share my knowledge of art with them. The other perk? Summers off of course. But as I spent more years teaching, the more restless I got. See, I'm not one for authority. I like to make my own rules, and being a faux finisher was a way I discovered how to accomplish that while also making a living as an artist.
During my first year teaching in 2001 my former neighbor asked me to paint her daughter's bedroom with fairies, castles, princesses, and unicorns. I charged her $20 per hour and finished in 24 hours. Even though $480 really wasn't a lot of money, I was so excited that I could get paid to paint! So I continued to paint murals for friends and family, some for free so that I could build up my portfolio.
I did a few projects for my hairdresser, one for her pool which I visited recently. Surprisingly its still in good condition! I then discovered a faux studio in Rockville that taught classes and so I signed up.
After that there was no turning back. I pedaled my portfolio wherever I could and slowly began filling weekends, holidays, and summer breaks with projects. When I was in my 3rd year at FSK, the principal told me that they couldn't keep me full time so they cut me to part time, which was a real blessing because then I had weekday afternoons that I could fill with work.
Finally, I was called in the middle of my last year to be told that they no longer had a position for me and they could cobble together a few elementary postings if I wanted. I had already made the decision that it was time for me to transition into a full time decorative painter so I respectfully declined. What a feeling that was!
I remember the last day of school I had driven my motorcycle to work and when I left that afternoon it was the most exhilarating feeling in the world. As I pulled away from the school I knew that I had made the best decision of my life.
A few of my favorite projects-
It hasn't been all puppy dogs and ice cream though. I put a lot of pressure on myself to bring in as much income as I did when I taught. I suffered a lot from anxiety and when the bottom fell out in October of 2008 I was really questioning my decision. I did anything I could to promote myself and that fall I participated in my first Decorator Showhouse where I met a few interior designers that would end up becoming some of my closest colleagues.
I did home shows around Baltimore, free work in restaurants, anything I could to get my name out there. My mom helped me when she could, often taping and washing brushes for me. She was really nervous for me when I quit teaching but after seeing my dedication and subsequent success she couldn't have been prouder.
In 2012 I made the decision to get a real studio. I was splitting my time between my basement and my parent's basement where my dad and I had built a wall for my murals. I was searching on craigslist and came across the perfect space! It was a huge garage with a little office in the back.
It had tall ceilings and it was less than 5 miles from my home. Even better, it was within walking distance of Old Ellicott City. The West End soon became my second home and I loved working there.
Unfortunately the flood of 2016 ended that. Combined with the death of my mom, and the failure of my marriage I found myself at rock bottom. With the help of my dad I purchased a home in Catonsville that had an old garage that was able to tear down to built my new studio.
Rebuilding both literally and figuratively has been the hardest part of this whole journey. I know where I have been and the successes I have had and that knowledge has been both a blessing and a curse because I know what I am capable of and therefore have very high expectations for myself. The journey back hasn't been easy, but failure is not an option for me.
This journey certainly has had its share of ups and downs but I would not change a single thing. I get so much joy from adding beauty to my client's homes. The appreciation I feel when I reveal a project that they commissioned is something I will never tire of.
My mind overflows with creative ideas so much that I can't see myself doing anything else. I'm so fortunate to have the trust of my clients and the interior designers I work for. Without their support, and the support of my family and friends, I would not be here today. Thank you for making Lenehan Studios a success story! I hope I am fortunate enough to keep at it for another 10 years.