Today’s *shared stories* come from artists Amy Russell and Diane Rooney, and coach Loralee Hutton


Amy Russell

To me, ‘doing what you love’ means carrying on regardless – through ups and downs, when it seems like it might not be a good idea.  It might not be possible or practical to throw it all in and pursue a lifetime project, but even just doing a little bit of what you love and going from there is going the right way…

Like many people I have struggled to find time to make my own work, but have always managed to squeeze it in somewhere.  It’s often dictated by circumstances.  When my children were little and I had no studio I worked mainly in collage and in sketchbooks because I could do that on the kitchen table! I’m actually back in the position of not having a studio space at the moment.  This means I have to make small work but I am quite enjoying working within those constraints.

Honestly, I don’t really see that I’ve made any sacrifices to do what I love.  It has been as series of choices I made work by giving up a bit of free time (or time when I should have been sleeping).  But when you love what you do that doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all- more like a bit of breathing space.

The one thing I would have done differently would be to have asked for more professional advice from organisations and individuals who are there to provide it – accept anything that’s offered; be it funding advice or business advice. I wish I’d taken advantage of some of the services on offer.

My big dream now is to keep on going! I may not be able to do this forever.  We never know what’s round the corner and I’m appreciating and making the most of being a professional artist while I can.

[Images courtesy of Amy Russell. Amy is a painter and illustrator who has been exhibiting globally for nearly twenty years.  Find out more by visiting her website or shop ‘Call Her Miss Russ’.]


Diane Rooney

For just over 20 yrs I was blessed to be doing what I loved to do.  I was a housewife and mummy.  As a little girl my joy was always playing with my baby dolls.  Playing family.  Dressing up the babies.  I ached for a baby of mine.  I married my childhood sweetheart and within months I had my first baby.  I was so young at just 19, but so happy.  I then had three more babies in quick succession!  And as happy as I was, loving my babies, being their Mummy, there were days of utter despair.  Post natal depression.  A failing marriage.  More often than not, I was tired.  Exhausted.  Yes, even doing what you love isn’t always a bed of roses.  But the days of bliss, of pure joy being a Mummy to those beautiful children far outweighed any of the normal bad days that all Mums face.

And then in a blink of an eye, my eldest left for university.  I remember sitting at my desk watching him packing the car and I silently stood up, closed the door, rested my head in my arms and cried my heart out.  I knew it was the beginning of a new era for me.  For him.  He was so happy.  I also knew his siblings would be following him out that door within a very short space of time.  I was facing an empty nest.  A marriage that was still failing.  What was I going to do?  Over the following months and into a couple of years I started to make some huge changes to my life.

During the years that my children were little, I’d been given a computer, some software and taught myself to become a web graphics designer.  My beloved father had initially got me interested in the internet back in 1994.  He and his (then) business partner had just set up the UK’s first Internet Café in Whitfield St., in London.  They were also setting up one of the UK’s first internet providers, Easynet.   As such, Dad had wanted to me to learn html, computer graphics as they needed help setting up various web pages.  It was on the spot learn as you go work.  I loved it.  And my love for this new found art and creative outlet just evolved.  I wasn’t earning much money.  It was more of a hobby with pin money thrown in.  My family was still growing.  I was a full time Mum.  Little did I know though, that my creative outlet would lead me to a new and wonderful bliss.

After my eldest left home, I went to art school.  I started a degree in multi-media design.  The creative environment was incredible.  I just absorbed it all.  I made new friends.  I soaked up every lecture in art history, my favourite subject.  However, during this time my emotional state took a battering as my 20yr marriage really broke down and I decided to leave.  My ex-husband and I spent a couple of years trying to work things out but in the end we both wanted such hugely different things.  We parted.  It was traumatic.  Divorce is horrible even when you want it.  Years later, though, we are good friends and we stay in touch.  It’s been good for our children (and grandchildren).

Not long after my divorce, I’d left my degree course and started working on setting up as a freelance digital artist.  I initially worked as a 2d texture artist creating textures for 3d models for a company in USA, Daz3D.  During this time I did some collaboration work with other 3d and 2d artists.  I fell in love with one of them.  We had done some work together and just developed a friendship online through work.  He lived in the north east (UK) and I was in the south east.  To cut a long story short, we met up, moved in together and were married 6 months later.  That was 5 yrs ago.  We live and work together 24/7.  Yep!  Tis true.

Last year we set up our own digital art company and have our own individual brands.  Talking shop is no chore for us.  We understand the jargon.  We love critiquing each other’s work.  Steve is a traditional artist with a God given gift to draw and paint.  He is also a professional photographer and 3d modeller and artist.  Whereas I come from a more crafty, hobby into a business background.  It works so well.  Every day there is laughter and a lot of creativity.  Brainstorming new ideas for products or art is such fun!  Such amazing creative energy.

Family is still a huge joy in my life.  It sounds corny but they truly are a part of my creative process.  I’m inspired by them.  I do what I do for them.  Yes, this is my creative outlet.  Yes, I’m blessed to be able to do what I love to do and earn money.  At the end of the day though, it is for those we leave behind.  A legacy of love.  I believe there will be a day when my children and grandchildren will go through my art, my creations and see me.  Understand me.  They will see themselves in what I create.

After what has been an interesting and sometimes hugely traumatic few years, I’ve settled into a life of doing what I love.  No matter what life throws up at you, I’ve learned to just push forward.  Hold onto the dream.  Continue you to take steps on the journey.  Suddenly you will realise you are living the life you want.  Don’t be scared of change.  As I continue to build my brand and my online store, I still fight past demons that tell me I’m not good enough, I’m not talented enough.  It gets less though.  I just keep creating.  I surround myself with positive words, art, photos and of course, my beloved husband who is my biggest fan and encourager.

[Images courtesy of Diane Rooney. Diane is a digital fine artist and designer.  Find out more on her website  and Flickr gallery, or connect on Facebook.]


Loralee Hutton

There was no lightning bolt moment for me, but somewhere between 2006 and 2007 I started to realize I wanted to study more about leveraging my business. I knew it was the way for me to grow, change and become a different type of leader in my community. But the thought terrified me. I had dabbled earlier on in my business career with group programs but it wasn’t where I knew I wanted to go. By this point I was doing a lot of self-development work and I could see the format other teachers and leaders were delivering. I knew the models that worked and didn’t. I was still working one-on-one with clients. And my model wasn’t working. The problem was, working one-on-one was absolutely my favorite part of being an entrepreneur. I LOVE being with people in person. And I especially love helping them create little light bulb moments. Nothing big and earth shattering, just those little moments when a light bulb goes on, and they see the possibility of something that previously seemed unattainable.

So in 2006 I joined an executive board program and we tore up my entire business plan and started over from scratch. I was determined to move to the next level – whatever that was. And working with a team to really scrutinize my business model sure helped! Within a few months I had leased office space, brought in a small army of staff and really started to shift the business.

However, although I was seeking business growth, it wasn’t what I wanted at all. In reality I had just created a job for myself. I was exhausted all of the time, and I think I may have only given myself a paycheque once during in those two years. I poured every single dollar we earned back into the growth of the company and into employee benefits, paying the highest wages I could afford. I created a company I was proud of – but one that made me feel miserable inside. Within the first year in that office space, all I could dream of was getting out. So I returned to self-discovery (as any good entrepreneur does – entrepreneurship is one of the best self-development programs out there, they say). I asked myself what I really wanted. The two things that came up over and over again were travel, and writing. My business coach at the time asked me to start investigating this – and so I did. Within a week I had enrolled in a Travel Writing course and then I just wanted to get away and write.

With hindsight I do wish I’d been able to focus on the growth of that business, allowed it to flourish & then sell it, instead of letting it fall down around my ankles. I wish I’d known in advance what a great brand I had, and that people were admiring the company from afar. That there was value in it (and likewise, value in myself and what I had created). But at the same time I wonder if sticking with it would have allowed me to be the person I am today. Empathic to other peoples struggles and journey. Passionate about helping them build support teams & make live a full life, instead of racing around reacting to things most of the time. Maybe I wouldn’t be as passionate about the things I’m passionate about.

During this most recent self discovery, while looking for freedom, I found what I had known all along, but had forgotten. For me, Freedom comes with four key elements.

  1. A strong support team
  2. Creating systems that save me time, energy and money
  3. Streamlining – finding ways to make things work faster, easier, flow better
  4. Simplifying – decluttering, and travelling light

Looking ahead I still want to write, and travel. But I also want to share what I’ve learned with anyone who may be in similar shoes to mine. I was deeply passionate about systems, and strong team building while creating my business, and I still am. And I’m equally passionate about helping people (and myself) live whatever dream it is they desire. I believe anything is possible; even if that’s a bit ‘poly-anna’. I think the world could use a few more dreamers like me.

One of the main ways that I want to help is by showing people (especially women) how easy it is to live your life filled with passion. And how the easiest way to do that is by create some passive income so that you can continue to create, feel fully alive and love your business (again, in some cases). In fact, it’s not essential to give up the business you’ve been growing for the past 10 years. You can create your product(s) and share it with the world, all the while growing/sustaining your business. You don’t need to work overtime, and all hours of the day.

And the new product can sustain you while you take a break, reinvest in yourself, and sustain you while you move to the next phase. I have tried and tested all the little tools and systems that make this process easy, without breaking the bank. I’ve literally spent the past 3 years testing different products to create an online presence. Almost all of them have been free resources, or very low cost. And I’ve been able to keep my costs to a very minimal amount so that I can have the flexibility to once again reinvest money into my business, but also have plenty of cash flow every month to enjoy life. I don’t want to make the same mistake again, of having high overhead expenses that suck the life out of me during slow months.

I’m currently rebuilding my support team, and loving it. It’s one of the utmost priorities for me at this stage. I’m so grateful to have a VA (virtual assistant) come on board this month. And once again I’m in more than one mastermind group, have a business coach, key friends and family who I can call on, and great health practitioners. Without them working together (even if they’re not aware of it) I would be struggling again.

And my big dream is this. To have a completely portable business, which gives me the freedom to travel & meet other entrepreneurs anywhere in the world. To collaborate on projects, talk openly about anything that’s on their heart, find ways to inspire, change and grow, create lasting friendship, while creating something new that helps at least one other person. That’s my goal really, to help inspire one other person to live their dream life.

[Image courtesy of Loralee Hutton.  Find out more on her website here]


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