Have you ever been in a bar, chatting away to someone about what they do, and said, “Yes, you do that for your day job, but what do you really want to do?”
No? Well, I ask that sort of thing. A lot. So does an artist who sold her artwork to Kanye West.
But enough about me and how I’m basically a rapper now.
This week I’m interviewing CJ Hendry. She is a Brisbane based visual artist who boasts over 100,000 instagram followers and makes her living selling her artwork… FROM INSTAGRAM. To people like Kanye West. Have I mentioned that?
CJ is someone, who by her own admission, has tried and failed many things – while she was always obsessed with having that ‘dream job’, her plans never seemed to follow through the way she wanted.
I found out about CJ and her work at Tedx Brisbane, she was the first speaker up and a few minutes into her talk, my boyfriend kept nudging me saying, “that’s so you! that’s so you”! I found this annoying because at that part of the talk she was only listing her bad qualities and failures, so I started thinking of ways to make fun of something he’s sensitive about at a later stage. #TrueLove
In between planning my revenge, I also listened to CJ speak and discovered she hasn’t done a degree in visual art, nor has she followed any kind of conventional path of finding galleries or representation.
She just started drawing, put her stuff up on instagram and now makes her living from her high end artwork.
I don’t mean to make it sound easy, she’s got a hell of a story of all the different things she’s tried. You can see more about that here:
BUT. The main point I want to focus on here is that CJ finally realised having a plan wasn’t working for her – and once she realised what she wanted to do, it was just about sticking to her guns and going for it.
Ever since discovering her drawing, she’s taken a chance on herself and wants to make her life about doing what she really wants to do.
“But CJ,” I ask in my devil’s advocate cynical voice, “What do you mean you draw all day and still manage to survive? You must realise that sounds crazy to the people you’re asking what they really want to do?”
She’s quick to reply, and kind of shocks me with her response, “Actually, my parents have always taught me to be financially focused. So I went into this drawing thing with enough money to survive for a time, and then after 6 months, I sold my first bit of art and it’s just kind of snowballed from there”.
“The other thing I did was just name my price and stick to it. One time, someone offered me half, and my money was running out but I still stuck to my guns and inside I was screaming YOU NEED THE MONEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! But that attitude paid off and I regularly sell work now”.
The thing I love about CJ, is that she just STARTED. She took the risk. Often that’s the scariest part. And she wasn’t flaky about it at all.
She made sure she had enough money, and then stuck to her instincts.
“For me, it was about understanding it may not work and not having any expectations on it. Also, Instagram gives you that instant gratification, I’m not waiting for a show. What do you mean you like it?! It’s great”.
CJ is full of quick, punchy little gems of wisdom that I just have to share with you:
- You know the term Bridezilla? Well, I was a Plan-zilla . CJ says not having a plan is a good thing because, “When you don’t have a full on plan, you don’t know your full potential”.
- That idea of being frustrated, “actually means you’re on the brink of figuring something out, so it’s not such a bad place to be in”.
- Name your price and stick to it
- Plans make you anxious and anxiety is numbing
- Do you think Beyonce knew she was going to be Beyonce?
- On meeting Kanye, “I said to him, f*** the handshake, bring it in for a hug”. He was very humble, and very softly spoken.
We may not all be visual artists, but the awesome thing I think we can all take away from CJ is that we can gamble, if only safely (my favourite kind of gambling) on ourselves. We don’t have to throw everything away, we can get there bit by bit.
Not only that, but perhaps thinking you have to have a perfect plan and follow it through exactly ,isn’t going to work. Boiling it down to a few key points and then plugging away at it seems like it’s working a treat for CJ!
Check out the rest of her work here: http://instagram.com/cj_hendry