Ever feel that it’s time to do something different with your life? Well you’re not alone! This week we share the stories of Eileen West, someone who knows she isn’t doing what she loves, but is doing something about it, and Debbie Miller, who reignited her passion for art when she turned 40. 

(Image credit: Mary Ingraham-Brown)

Hi, my name is Eileen – I live and work in Seattle, and I am not doing what I love . . . Yet!  (And here I envision those of you in the virtual twelve-step program for people in my situation saying, “Hi Eileen!”)

My big “Ah-Ha” moment about doing something different with my life came after attending the Fall session of Squam Art Workshops last year.  When I got home I wrote:

“SAW was a life-changing experience for me. How exactly my life will change isn’t clear to me yet – what I know is that there is a lump in my throat telling me that I am supposed to do something much bigger and more creative with my life . . . a voice that is calling me to a higher purpose, which will have something to do with Art.”

Eileen Nishi at Squam Art workshop

It felt as if a veil had been lifted and allowed me to see briefly the possibilities of what a life doing what I loved would look like – and then it came down again . . . but not all the way!

To me doing what I love means spending my days doing something TRUE, something that makes my heart sing. It means creating connections and community through art – and eventually I plan to do that through my photography. At the moment, I’m only pursuing photography in the windows of time that present themselves on the weekends and occasionally during my lunch hour – which, needless to say isn’t quite what I have in mind long-term . . .


The biggest reason I haven’t pursued what I love is because I have two children, a “real-job” that pays me well, and I am (for the most part) the sole provider for our family.  We’ve felt the economic downturn personally, so having a good job that provides healthcare benefits for my children and me isn’t something I take for granted.

Not to be deterred however, I am actively setting intentions and laying down the road-map for my journey toward a different and full-time creative life! I am turning 40 this year, and here’s a sampling of what I’ve got going on . . .

E-courses! Unraveling with Susannah Conway, and Blogging Your Way with Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring.

Reading! Flying Lessons by Kelly Rae Roberts and Ordinary Sparkling Moments by Christine Mason Miller

Growing! Integrate personal growth seminar – amazing!

Travel! I’m off to Beth’s inaugural “Do What You Love” retreat in the English countryside this May, and back to Squam Art Workshop’s lakeside arts retreat in September.

coffee and nature

And all along the way I’m promoting my work, taking risks, and saying “YES!” to my dream of being able to earn a living and support my family as an artist.  It feels great!

The universe has been very good to me so far this year.  If I had to ask it for one more thing?  It would be to have a big blog readership and to sell lots of work through galleries and my Etsy store.  OK – so that was two things . . . I can have it all, can’t I?

Eileen currently works full-time as the Office Manager at a small medical clinic in Seattle, Washington. Her dream as a photographer is to photo-journal people’s everyday lives, candidly capturing beauty in what’s real. You can find her blog at West of Whimsy.

[All images courtesy of Eileen West unless otherwise stated]

Debbie Miller

To ‘do what I love’ means that I paint because to do otherwise simply does not work for me. It is how I make sense out of the world.  I cannot imagine NOT painting.

I grew up in a very ‘art-friendly’ home where my desire to be an artist was never discouraged, in fact it was encouraged! How great is that? Eventually I found my way to the Rhode Island School of Design where I earned my BFA in Illustration. I thought that this would be a good way to combine art with a ‘real world’ kind of job. The painting classes I took though were where I felt most at home, the most natural, happy. I was lucky to have the late artist Richard Merkin as a professor, his energy, enthusiasm, knowledge and character were infectious and inspire me to this day.

Marriage and family came next and that happily became my focus, although I was always doing something different and more creative ‘on the side’ though – like teaching art, freelance illustration jobs, painted furniture and garden design.

Then I hit 40. I missed my oil paints. I had to paint.

(Oil painting by Debbie Miller)

I dug out my old box of oil paints, bought some new brushes and set up a small studio in our basement and began to paint again.  It was scary and exhilarating.  Remembering the lessons learned at RISD, I knew painting everyday was crucial to improving and developing.  So that is what I did, everyday, in the basement next to the washing machine.  At night I would scour the internet for information on painting and it’s there that I found other artists doing what I was doing – painting-everyday and blogging about it.  How great to be around so many artists again!  Suddenly I was not alone painting away in the basement, there is a whole community of artists online – sharing info and inspiration.

I started posting my small practice paintings on my new blog and from there opportunities like becoming a member of https://dailypainters.com came about and Debbie Miller Painting was born.

My studio has moved to a light filled loft in an old mill building, truly a dream come true.

I am a painter.

Balancing a family with the art does have its challenges – the laundry simply has to wait. Since starting my blog four years ago, one of my favourite things is when I get a message from someone saying that I inspire them or one of my paintings speaks to them in some way.  Many people are timid or afraid to let the artist in them out and I understand that feeling.  I wish I had known as a younger woman that this part of me was OK and should be the one steering the ship.

Now I have many big dreams – an open painting group here in my studio is something I want to make happen. Getting together ‘just to paint’ with other artists has so many rewards. Teaching workshops is another thing I’m thinking about and of course I want to continue my personal evolution as an artist to the point where the income and the artistry sustain me equally.

Find out more about Debbie on her blog here or on her website here.

[Images courtesy of Debbie Miller]


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