Transition from Proficiency to Passion

Written by Margaret Lipsey


    I kind of fell into becoming a chef, partly because I was good at cooking, partly due to a romanticized vision of cooking while listening to jazz, and partly because I couldn't think of what else to do. I was a good student and excelled, if I felt so inclined as to actually commit myself to learning, but I wasn't really drawn to any particular subject so I spent my learning years dabbling. After graduating university, I decided to head off to culinary school in Vermont. The program was amazing and intense and I came out of school a confident and competent chef. I spent the next 15 years in that profession. People loved my work. I was really good at it. I didn't mind the crazy long hours or working holidays and weekends. I was good under pressure. I could focus
on the larger picture and the details of an event. And yet....something
big was missing. I would spend New Year's Eve lamenting my choices. Wondering, very melodramatically, what I was doing with my life. I didn't try and grow my business. I got to the point near the end where I refused more jobs than I took. And then one day, I was done. I couldn't continue any longer. I stopped.

    Up to that point, I had had very little time for any sort of real hobby. My creative outlet was my work and it was usually confined to the limits of the event or the client. I did dabble with various things, painting, poetry, sewing, knitting, etc. but nothing stuck longer than a few months and then I would get caught up in work again. After I stopped cooking, I really didn’t do anything for about a year. I continued to work part time at a cooking store, which I’d been doing for a couple years. I spent time with my family and I waited.

Holidays in Blue | 2016 | 20x24 | Acrylic on Paper

Holidays in Blue | 2016 | 20x24 | Acrylic on Paper

    The year I turned forty was monumental. In March, I decided I would try and teach myself calligraphy, I wasn’t getting any younger and I had always wanted to learn. The wonderful thing about calligraphy is it takes very little space, you can practice for 10 minutes or an hour, and if you a persistent you see improvement. I spent all of April practicing a little bit every day and I saw that improvement. In May, I decided to try out watercolours. I opted for brushes and paper over a trip to the spa. Then I played all that summer. I spent snippets of time making women in dresses, trying out different strokes to get different textures. It was quick and daily and a moment of quiet.

    By the fall, my husband saw I needed more space. He made me a little studio in the house. Some of my acrylic paints and palette knives were there from my last attempt to have a hobby 7 years earlier. Making one of the dresses with acrylic was a game changer. Suddenly, there was a spirit within the piece. A friend of mine from university dared me to switch from paper to canvas. She told me to buy an 18x24 and said I was ready. Not wanting to seem afraid, I bought that size and a larger canvas. The Women I painted on those canvases were my first sales. My very first sale took about 2 weeks because I tried to convince the buyer that she really didn’t want my art. But she did. And then I went after a 6 foot canvas because all bets were off. I was committed to a path.


    The Women opened my creative floodgates and I started playing in textures for abstract works. I had found an outlet. The work flowed and I eventually there was no other choice than to make it a full time. I didn’t start painting with the intention of finding a new career. I didn’t believe by that point in my life that I would know what passion was. Looking back, I can’t believe it took me so long to see the path. At the same time I know that having gone the long way I am so much better prepared for the challenges of this career. The life I lived before becoming an artist gave me confidence in my perspective and in my voice. I learned so many skills that directly affect how I do business as an artist.

Find more of Margaret at @pistache_and_rose

This story was first published in Issue 6: Style.