Tia Sunshine Dye is an artist living in Ann Arbor, MI. This is her first installment in a 4-part series as Artist Strong’s Artist in Residence. You can enjoy more of her art over on Instagram @tia.sunshine.studio. Visit her website and subscribe to Studio Updates at www.tiasunshine.art

The Practice of Giving Yourself Permission, part 1

Giving yourself permission to be a creator takes practice. Not just the physical practice of learning to create, but the mindset to allow yourself the time. That is why this series of posts for this digital residency is titled, The Practice of Giving Yourself Permission.

I am not a writer, and so I will approach this digital residency more like a journal with bullet points and lists. I am an artist, and at times my head starts spinning with projects. Lists help me feel organized and in control. For this first of four posts on the practice of giving yourself permission, I’ll look back a little bit at an overview of my artistic confidence in 5 stages.

1 Commitment & Accountability
I started off with a longing to be creative and to make time to learn. I started with Bullet Journaling. It was an excellent combination of organization, listing, and just a touch of art and color. It was a creative gateway for me. There are so many accountability charts in journaling, and I was drawn to filling in boxes for 60 hours of art practice. I often had to fill it in 30 minutes at a time, because I hadn’t learned to set aside time, only steal it as I could.

I did paint a couple of cards. I used a kids’ watercolor set from a local retail store and had no idea what I was doing. This was my first one. A Thank You card for a social event where we made egg rolls.

2 Financial Commitment as an Excuse
One day I came across an advertisement for a set of lessons from a handful of watercolor artists called Watercolor Summit. As an absolute beginner in watercolor (in 2018), I finally made a commitment. And what made a big difference was that it involved a financial commitment. The fact that I had saved my fun money and chose to invest in classes and supplies gave me the excuse to set aside dedicated time to take the lessons and practice.

Did I need the excuse? In my head, yes. I felt justified to create when people were around. I was comfortable saying, “Today I need to take my class and practice for the feedback session tomorrow.” What I didn’t realize is that by using my excuse and committing to those lessons, and investing in professional supplies, I was able to paint in a way that shocked me.

3 Social Media & Learning Community
The lessons and program I had invested in also encouraged sharing and posting on social media. I participated because I wanted to learn all I could and take full advantage of the program, including various forms of instructor Q&As & peer feedback. But, I still wasn’t sharing with family and friends.

As my first set of lessons came to an end, I was looking for more mentorship and found Carrie and Artist Strong. It was less than a year since I started to find time for my artwork, and thanks to online teachers and mentors (plus the support of my family), I was all in.

4 Going Public & Local
Carrie encouraged me to go public with my artwork & join local art groups. Soon I was joining groups, open paints, in-person classes, local exhibiting opportunities, painting gifts for family, and requests for commissions from friends and acquaintances started coming in. It was a flurry of putting myself out there and learning about the art community and how it operates.

Tia Sunshine at a Saline Painter's Guild exhibit with her paintings

This is when I jumped into owning a business. I was selling at a couple of art events, and I decided that if I was going to sell, I wanted to set it up right from the start. It has taken a lot of time and research, but I finally feel like a real business owner.

5 Doing My Own Thing
With a couple of years of experience with exhibiting, selling, and creating, I finally feel I understand enough of the business of being an artist to start taking ownership of the process and doing my own thing.

What can I do, and what do I want to do? Well, I am making different commitments and using a different kind of accountability. I now pay for studio space outside of my home where I spend 3-4 days each week with nothing to do but paint. 

This is where I start our October digital residency with Artist Strong. Honestly, I have so much going on that my head is spinning. So, one goal of my residency will be finding my focus. Thank you for joining me on my digital artists’ residency. Perhaps next week I will say a little more about my own exploration of mindset toward finances and giving myself permission to create.

Tia Sunshine at an exhibit including her painting, She Rises.

Every month, 1-3 artists show up in our Artist Strong community to share their artistic process, journey, explorations with us over the course of a month.

The goal is to normalize the MANY, VARIED experiences of being an artist.

And if YOU  want to apply to be an Artist Strong Artist Resident, subscribe to our weekly updates to hear about the next time applications are open.