Is there an interest, calling or career that you’ve always wanted to explore or rediscover? Maybe a path not taken or a childhood interest neglected? Rhian John’s experience is one of an early passion for painting, revived in mid-life, and which has become a successful business.
Rhian loved art at school, but like many people, she took what seemed a “sensible” route into the world of work. She took a graphic design degree, and spent 25 years as a graphic designer before picking up a paintbrush again.
That was in 2014 and since then Rhian has attracted a growing interest in her paintings, with almost 8,000 Facebook followers and a recent exhibition at the Theatre Royal in Winchester.
Meeting Rhian at her lovely light and art-filled home near Winchester, she told me that she and her sister were both artistic as children.
After school she took an Art Foundation course, but didn’t think pursuing her love of Fine Art was a sensible career move. So she took a design degree and worked in graphic design for 25 years. “I wouldn’t have known then where to even start to market myself as a painter.”
The love of art never left her, “ I can’t walk past a gallery without going in to see what people do.” But it was only when her son did his A Level art, that Rhian reached a turning point.
Watching her son, Rhian felt she couldn’t hold back any more, she felt an incredibly strong urge to get the paints out: “It truly just happened. I literally saw my son paint and said “I can’t stand it any more, I’ve got to paint”.
“March 2014 was the first time I picked up my paintbrush. I didn’t know if my paintings were any good, but I put a couple up on Facebook and people bought them. I think if you can do something, you sort of assume everyone is able to do it.”
She started off by digging out a photograph that she’d taken at Hillier Gardens, near Romsey, and painting from that. Initially she worked with acrylics on paper and then moved on as her confidence grew: “I remember the first time I bought a canvas. I felt very grown up.”
The reason why it took Rhian so long to start painting again is one that many of us will relate to. As she explains: “The fear of “what if I can’t do it any more” is part of why I didn’t do it properly. There’s always that fear – if you don’t give it a go, then you haven’t failed. And it’s such a silly reason. As with anything, you improve as you go along.”
Rhian still runs her graphic design company. As she works from home, this offers the flexibility to run the two businesses side by side. And one effect of starting to paint is that she is now enjoying her design work more.
Juggling two business may sound daunting, but Rhian has found that she actually manages her time better now, so she can fit it all in. At the end of the day at her computer, she feels that if she can complete the job then that will free her up to paint the next day. “If I’m nearly at the end of a design job it spurs me on.”
Both design and painting are creative, but in a different way. Design is computer based and there are logical reasons why you would choose certain colours for certain brand values, whereas painting is a very personal thing: “from the heart”
Rhian’s uplifting paintings of nature, flowers and animals are bursting with vibrant shades. “I do just love colour. I take a lot of photographs. I love being outside, love the beach, flowers, colour. I paint what I like. I didn’t do it to make money, but I’ve been incredibly fortunate.”
“It doesn’t matter what you produce. Art and craft is a great outlet for creativity, and relieves stress. Because you’re concentrating, other things go out of your head.”
So what next? “I don’t want to put massive pressure on myself. What has happened in the last year has been absolutely fantastic. I will go with the flow, see where it takes me.”
Rhian is participating in Hampshire Open Studios at the end of August. And you can view and buy her paintings and prints online at www.rhianjohn.com
Have you rediscovered a passion in mid-life? If so please share your story in the comments box below, I’d love to hear from you.