Last Friday I was lucky enough to have been the Sun Prairie High School's Wall of Success recipient for 2018. The day was amazing and surreal — amazing because I was able to see so many dear and familiar faces of teachers, friends and family and had the opportunity to tour the stunning new high school. Surreal because it was still hard to believe that I was receiving the award! I have to say, I was so impressed with the students I met, their questions, their earnestness. The talent and maturity I saw makes me so excited for their future.
Here is a video the faculty was kind enough to provide of the assembly. (My remarks begin at 13:30). Transcript is below as well. Enjoy!
"First off, I want to say thank you so very much for this incredible honor. I am so humbled. When I tell most people what I do, that I paint literally guts (picture) and innards and such for a living, their reaction is “Oh! That’s… weird. But rather than being weirded out, Sun Prairie High School is instead choosing to honor me. I am blown away.
SPHS has already given me so much — first off, abilities gained from my actual classes, yes I still use tips and tricks from Ms. Orcutt’s art classes. The opportunities here too, from student council to swim team to AP classes really provided me with a work ethic and skillset that was endlessly useful. And of course, the people. The relationships I made with so many teachers, faculty and coaches had such a profound impact on me. Really, this school gave me such a solid foundation on which to build my life, my success.
So, given that, was it all sunshine and rainbows? Nope, not even close. This is how I would have loved my path to look like. And this is what it did look like. Despite my plans it still took a lot of trial and error to get right here. But with every roadblock I learned a little something, I gained a useful little nugget of wisdom that I was able to tuck away for future use. And now, guess what, I have a whole pile of them, that I get to share them with you. You are welcome.
1. Take sleep seriously. Better sleep, better life. The earlier you realize this, the better. (so now if you fall asleep in class, just tell your teacher to call me and I’ll tell them it’s important).
2. Figure out what you love and what you are good at it (it’ll be easier if you’re good at it), and try to do that.
For me, this was pretty easy to figure out early on. When I was little I used to brag that I colored every single day. (And I can actually still make that same brag, although people find it much less impressive than the other preschoolers did.) Now, my other love is anatomy, and I can thank Mr. Buhr’s for that. He just lit a fire in me when it came to anatomy and physiology. I still remember him going through the details of the bacteria and white blood cells that make up the pus in a good pimple, and I remember thinking THIS IS SO COOL. (See? Weird.) I loved that subject matter that I knew it needed to be a part of my life too. I actually went into college being pre-med, but pretty quickly, I knew something was missing. I got so frustrated not painting that one night I googled art + medicine + career and out emerged medical illustration as a career. It was very clear to me at that point that this was what I was meant to do.
3. Commit. This one was hard for me, despite having that aha medical illustration moment. and somehow I still ended up wasting many years by getting distracted. You know, when I finally started my shop, I think it was so successful because of a promise I made to myself that I would finally commit to this one thing. I had never done that before. Quit other jobs and other hobbies, and put all of my eggs into this one basket. And that has made the difference.
4. Set goals. I am obsessed with a well-defined goal. I even sit down at the beginning of each year to write them down.v When I’m interviewing people to work for me, I always ask about their goals, and I’m shocked by how many young people have such a vague notion of what they want to do. ‘Do something arty with my life’ is not a goal, it’s simply relaying a passion! A goal is a very specific aspiration, and the more narrow the better. Defining it allows you to lay out the steps you need to achieve it, your stepping stones, if you will. We artists have it a bit harder than other careers, since other careers have a roadmap to follow: For instance if you’re a doctor, you know you have to go to med school, residency, fellowship, etc. Not so for us, we have to forge our own path. Good thing we are by nature resourceful and creative.
5. Trust your instincts, especially when it comes to your creativity and your art.
6. Work hard. Like, really hard. I think one of my special gifts is a knack for taking advantage of 15 minute intervals. It’s amazing how much painting and work I can get done in these little blips of time that really add up. Just remember that time is not a limitless commodity, my friends. DON'T WASTE IT ON YOUR PHONE.
7. You can’t ‘do it all’. Remember this especially when you have kids because you’re going to feel pressure to give multiple things 100%, and that’s just mathematically impossible. Sometimes, something has to give, and that’s okay. Figure out your priorities and judiciously choose the thing that needs to be on the backburner.
8. Learn to present yourself well via email. I have gotten more than one job due to email eloquence. And I have turned away more than one applicant for clumsy emails.
9. Sometimes thing will be hard. So very hard, in ways that you can’t even imagine or ever expected. But you will survive, and in surviving, you will come out a stronger, better you, I promise. I learned this when I gave birth to a preemie son. It’s hard to convey the words how awful that time was. I was newly married and out in California, my husband was busy with a grueling residency and my family was here in Wisconsin, so I had no support system while my son spent two and a half months in the hospital. But… I got through it. That time influenced me so profoundly that almost all of the paintings I create today are one way or another related to the hard days in the hospital. And my business is actually named Lyon Road, because that’s where I lived when I had to grow up. So you see, you never know the good that can come out of the awful.
10. And finally, number ten, I have lately come to realize that there is no success, no achievement so great that you’ll finally reach it and say, that’s it! I’m done! I’m finished and I’m just going to eat cupcakes. It’s human nature to always be looking toward that next summit. However, I have found that real happiness comes from on the way to achievement. I still have so many things I want to accomplish, but paradoxically I am content. I relish the joy that I will have on the way there, the joy that stems from my husband and children, and from the simple, profound joy of painting."