Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Toronto-based artist Erin Armstrong, who took all the necessary risks of pursuing her creative dream to build a career for herself that’s fulfilling on the highest level. We caught up with her to find out what advice she would share with other young professionals and where she loves to wine and dine in the city…
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I’m a figurative expressionist artist.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
I have always been an eccentric and creative person and I tried to find a career that fit around these traits. Since I was a kid I wanted to be a painter, but it seemed like an unattainable and almost archaic job – something that just doesn’t happen.
Nonetheless, after graduating university I was determined to land in some kind of creative environment. A whole host of experiences ensued – work at an ad agency, a fashion magazine, even a stint as a production intern for a jewelry line. I had fun, learned a lot, and met some great people, but it wasn’t enough. I found myself asking the question, “Why not try what I’ve always wanted?”
That was just a little over two years ago and, honestly, I can’t really believe where it’s taken me. I took a chance pursuing what mattered to me, worked really hard, and it paid off. Now I’m my own boss and doing what I love.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Probably when Rebecca Wilson, the chief curator for Saatchi Art in Los Angeles, chose me as their “One to Watch Artist” and picked me as one of the “Top 20 Emerging Artists Around the World to Follow.” I’m also pretty excited to have been asked by The Drake Hotel’s curator to paint a 100-foot wall that wraps the Drake Devonshire location, which I’m working on right now.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
Covered in paint.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Yes. It’s important that you constantly challenge yourself. Be a little vulnerable. You and your work will stagnate if you stay in comfort zones too long. Corny as it sounds, it is possible to live your dream as long as you stop waiting for things to happen or expect others to make it a reality. Make connections, be uncomfortable – whatever you want to achieve will happen only when you stop thinking about it and just do it.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I believe it’s very important to give back. I’ve started to donate some of my work to charity auctions that I’m passionate about and believe in. On May 25th my work will be up for auction via the Angell Gallery at the Spoke Club in support of the AFCY (Arts for Children and Youth).
I will also be donating a painting that will be auctioned off May 31st to a charity event in support of Free the Children, which is an organization I believe in and have volunteered with over the years. Both charities support great causes, and if my work can attract any funds to help, I’m more than happy to do so.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
I think all entrepreneurs have moments of doubt where they say to themselves, “Uh oh, what have I done?” It can be scary, and it can be solitary. There’s not a lot of certainty and there’s very little security, especially in a creative field.
My nightmare scenario is waking up when I’m 35, realizing it’s all been a huge mistake and I have to start over again from scratch. The interesting thing, though, is the more I push on, the further I go, the more I leave those thoughts behind. I am acutely aware that the alternative is to work for someone else doing a job I’ll probably hate and live with regret. I’d rather take the path less travelled, with all its risks and pitfalls, than play it safe and give into the fear and need for a conventional life. This is a huge adventure and I want to experience it with decisiveness and confidence.
Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Wine: Cocktail Bar… or my studio floor while my girlfriends make me give them painting lessons drunk.
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
Internet: Netflix and the Huffington Post Weird News section
Song: “Falling Short” by Lapsley and anything Otis Redding
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
Aside from me (@erinaart, @erinarmstrongg)…. @itsnicethat, @thejealouscurator @chicojefferson, @watts.on, @miguel_laino_ , @buttonfruit, @lexiquette, @stacklab_design.
What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
It’s tough to narrow down just one place, so I’ll give my top 3.
London; because of the art scene and my sister Kelly lives there.
Alaska; I took a road trip this fall through Alaska right up to Denali and Mt. McKinley, which was so beautiful.
Ecuador; because I went and lived alone in a hut in the jungle on the Amazon for two weeks without power – a really crazy adventure and an awesome place.
I’ll be travelling next to Kauai, Hawaii.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
The fact that I don’t yet have five or more dogs.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Serial killer documentaries.
What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Spend too much on: Shipping paintings to other countries. Wish I was spending more on: Shipping myself to other countries.
And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Success is the ability to look back at the end of all of this and say I lead a really interesting life.