PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We’ll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come with running a creative business.
Ah, life's been a bit strange and hectic lately, and I just realised I've been sitting on this interview with Mixed Media Artist Sally Bunting for waaay too long (sorry, Sally!). But as they say, better late than never! So, get yourself a comfy seat, pour yourself a cuppa (or a cold drink as it may be, at least with the hot weather we're having!), and escape into the colourful world of Sally for a while. I hope you'll enjoy!
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
My first job out of college was as a legal assistant for a personal injury law firm in Charleston, SC. Jobs were scarce when I was finishing my second major, so I was thankful for land the job, even though I didn’t feel qualified for the position what-so-ever. My grandfather was a lawyer in Monroe, NC for over 50 years so I’ve always had an interest in law, however, I knew early on it wasn’t something I would do forever. The lawyer I worked for was awesome and I learned a lot from him! Just like every job, I dove in head first and took this as a great learning opportunity.
Has art always been in your blood?
Absolutely! I feel I've always been very creative. I was always interested in all different aspects of the arts starting at a young age. Luckily, I had a very supportive family who helped drive my creative outlet as much as possible, whether that was through art classes, art competitions, or projects in school.
What’s your main creative discipline and how did you get started in it?
Painting. It may come as a surprise to some, but I didn’t create my first ‘official' painting on canvas until my freshman year of college. All it took was one piece and then I was hooked and the rest is history!
Do you see yourself as introverted or extroverted, and does being either affect the way you work?
I definitely align more with being extroverted. However, until recently, I was always very introverted with my art. Art was something that was very personal for me for many years so it took time to take a leap out of my comfort zone and share it with the world. Over time, I’ve learned that sharing my personal side through art has helped me to grow and stay true to myself and the path that God has called me towards.
What is your favourite kind of commission, and why?
My favourite commission is one where I am able to be creatively independent and explore different subjects and techniques. I love a good challenge, so I will always welcome and enjoy an opportunity where I am given the freedom to create without boundaries.
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
There was a point in my life where sharing my art with others was something I feared. I joined my church a few years ago and started diving into a deeper relationship with God. It was through His love and guidance that led me to no longer fear the opportunity to pursue something that I truly loved. Confidence and timing is everything when it comes to being an artist. I set my faith in Christ and I went with my gut of what felt right.
How did you go about starting your own business?
Before I even began to think about starting a career as an artist, I did a lot of exploring through painting different subjects. I kept finding myself gravitating towards using animals as subjects, and before I knew it, I had a whole collection lining up in the living room of my one-bedroom apartment. I’m thankful to be surrounded by so many creatives here in the Charleston area. Many of them gave me pointers, critique, and advice for getting started. Aside from their advice and expertise, I knew I wouldn’t be able to not make mistakes along the way, but I didn’t let that deter me from taking a chance. I treat life like a classroom, it’s all about using the whole box of crayons.
How did you secure your first clients?
Word of mouth was the biggest step in landing my first clients. I started doing pet portraits for family and friends which then led to more requests from acquaintances, and then domino effect started. I studied a lot of the online market and started working on my social media accounts which eventually led to me landing clients of which I had no personal relationship. Once the domino effect starts, it almost seems never ending.
What is your typical daily routine like?
My typical daily routine is probably not the norm compared to other artists. I still work a full-time job (one that I absolutely love!) as an E-commerce/Buying Associate at Celadon Home in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Monday through Friday, I’m working my usual 9am-5pm, but the weekends and weeknights are my time for painting. After work I head home, jump into my overalls and pick up where I left off the night before. I do my best at setting a good stop time on weeknights so that I’m able to get good sleep and be a functioning human at my job the next day. I also still make time once or twice a week for different social activities with my fiancé, family, or friends so that I’m not a total hermit.
On the weekends, I usually wake up before 9am, put on my overalls, eat a good breakfast and maybe drink a cup of coffee, hang out with my dog, Wilson, and then get to painting. I usually take some breaks in between to take Wilson to the dog park or to go run errands. I’ve found that those moments that I’ve stepped away from my work really get my brain turning on what I should do next. Friday and Saturday nights, I treat as my ‘club nights' or sometimes my artistic all-nighters. It might sound crazy, but I take as much time as I need to really escape and focus on nothing but painting with no pending commitments the following day. I’m often viewed as a ‘busy bee', but I don’t consider that a bad thing since I’m doing what I love every day!
What traits do artists have that help with running a business?
Resiliency, flexibility, willingness to learn/adapt to change, persistence, and curiosity.
How does being an introvert (or an extrovert) help or hinder you when it comes to business?
Being an extrovert definitely helps me with the business aspects of my life. I’m not afraid to put myself out there, and I grew thick skin early on which helped me to not take myself so seriously. I enjoy being in social settings and I’ve always been comfortable communicating, leading, and relaying information to others.
Do you have a favourite medium or technique?
My favourite medium that I work with is acrylics. I’m also really in love with spray paints. Both dry quickly, which is great for my sometimes short attention span. As far as techniques, I gravitate towards whimsical, painterly, and impressionistic. I definitely don’t want to limit myself to certain techniques. I feel that it would take away from my creative process of growing as an artist, so I keep my arms open to exploring any and all that strike my fancy.
What’s been the most beneficial business decision you’ve made?
Researching and developing an online presence. In this technology driven world, it seemed kind of crazy not to use the tools in front of me to help get myself and my work out there to the public.
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to create something new?
I don't think I will ever not have the desire to create something new! If you're truly passionate about something, you never want to stop learning and growing. That's the best part about being an artist, in my opinion, there is a never-ending road in the creative process.
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
Never. I'm constantly surrounded by so many wonderful creatives, family, and friends who are so supportive of what I do/create. I'm very thankful for their feedback and encouragement through this art journey.
How do you relax?
I love a long, hot, lavender bubble bath, but I usually only partake in those every so often. My number one form of relaxation is painting.
Where do you find inspiration?
It sounds cliché, but I find inspiration almost everywhere. Colours, textures, and designs are my blog go-to's. Traveling also has a huge impact on my art inspiration. Whether it’s talking with a complete stranger, listening to music, noticing cracks in a window, or the bright colours on a cereal box, I believe that everything and everyone has a spark of beauty that is worth acknowledging.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Don't stop painting! Pursue meaningful and uplifting relationships in your life and in your work. Be patient.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as a strong woman who always stayed true to herself, well-rounded and creative, light-hearted, compassionate, and had a great sense of humour. Someone who passionately pursued a relationship with God, who always had a sweet spot for animals, her family, and her friends, and who was downright fearless in her life journey.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
This entire art journey has been absolutely incredible! The best moment so far has been the new connections I've made through my clients and other creatives.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
There are many rewards to being an artist but none are better than the opportunity to see the world with a sensitive eye and having others connect with your creations.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me has been working full time while also pursuing my art career. Essentially, I'm working two full-time jobs which can be exhausting. Time management is a huge factor in helping to keep my head on straight. I just recently signed with Straight to Art which is an online gallery and studio art management group. They have been my biggest helpers, cheerleaders, facilitators, coordinators, etc. which has empowered me to continue creating while also staying organised.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I can remember my middle school art teacher (Mrs. Woods at League Academy) telling me that there is no ‘right' way to make art. The only wrong is not trying and putting barriers up that aren't there. I saw a whole new perspective on my artistic process from that day forward. I really started focusing on what I loved and I gave myself permission to just make for the sake of making without any thought to the outcome.
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
I would never pass up the opportunity to have dinner with my grandmother, Mabets. She's 91 years young and sharp as a whip! She's also my best friend. I would love to bring my other three grandparents down from heaven for the dinner too, as well as Maya Angelou. Her words always moved me so I can only imagine how awesome it would be to converse with her face to face.
Photo credit: Sloan Bragg of Sloan Photography.
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