Jan 27, 2022
The very first painting I ever made was a 20x20 rainbow swirl thing for my friend Coco’s 27th birthday. Her and I had a tradition of making each other gifts. That year I had been staring at someone elses paintings in my basement by myself. I couldn't drink anymore. Couldn't go to parties. I had no idea who I was or what to do with myself. So I'd watch those paintings, wishing my life would change but not having the slightest inclination of how to do such a thing. I thought if I stared at someone else's completed canvases I would by osmosis know how to paint canvas myself. Which isn’t really the way it went. But it was the start.
Up until that point in my life my perception, judgement and analysis of every single thing that I did, thought and said was the only way I knew how to experience life. Which isn't even experiencing actual life it's just living in the chatter in my head. All I could percieve was what whatever I did or said or made would be like to other people.
What they would think? What they would say? How I would seem? I only ever had a view of myself based on what you told me I was. Or what I thought you thought of me.
So starting my very first canvas and trying to do it the way I did everything did not work. I agonized about where to put a penny shaped dot for hours. With physically making art it turned out - there is no room for judgment in the process of doing. That is still something I repeat to myself every single day, because I can get so quickly stuck in a hole of what I think I am going to do and in that, never actually get to it. I can think all I want about the art but that doesn’t make the art. Which was hell at the time, but I sure did need a damn break from my regular, un altered mind set of obsession, isolation and self centeredness.
With immense pride in myself I gave Coco that painting. I snapped a photo of her holding it in her living room, crouched down next to a giant ceramic snail named Sheldon and a glass fish stuffed with Mark Farina flyers. They were the mascots of the living room. I mean thank God for your friends that hang your crappy art with love and enthusiasm. I'm sad Sheldon and Flish the fish aren't in the photo.
I had gotten a new job at a restaurant in the suburbs of Chicago when I was trying to get clean. It was this place that focused on wine and had nearly 100 of these really fancy glass wine decanters - about 10 pounds each, two feet tall, reverse cone shaped with a baseball sized glass ball in each, and very awkward to get down off of a heavy shelf when full of water. This was the standard opening procedure for the restaurant.
What I remember the most about that awful year of trying to stop using and constantly failing was how I suddenly felt so many things. Unfortunatly for me the year I started to try to stop drinking was the year they started putting out bubble gum flavored vodka. Which was my favorite. So if I had some I would just have the whole bottle. It was a viscious cycle. Still can't do bubblegum smell.
One morning while opening the restaurant and feeling so sick and over it I dropped one of those glass decanters full of water. It shattered into a hundred pieces. I couldn’t stop myself. I kept pulling them off of the high up shelf and shattering them all.
That is the perfect scene for what getting clean felt like. Standing in a pile of shattered glass and water and telling my bewildered boss through tears that I had no idea what just happened. My boss - her name was Cara and she was extremely professional. She was an excellent dresser with a short blonde bob, she was an avid runner. I never knew how to really act or be around people that had great boundaries back then let alone ran for fun. I always took it as they didn’t like me.
What happened though was she asked me to make her a painting. I don’t know how it came up or why. That was the first time anybody had ever asked me something like that. Like there was a value to what I was doing and I actually knew WHAT I was doing. I was completely obsessed over it for weeks, this time using rulers and stencils to make something more structured and impressive. It was a 12x16x1 canvas. I wrote a whole story about it out of fear that she would look at it and experience nothing. When I brought it to work and gave it to her and told her the story of the art - she was so wonderful to me. She was so happy and grateful and excited to have a piece of “Heathers Art” she called it. I had never felt something like that. Like I had some kind of talent. (Which I assured myself, was a fluke.)
I can sincerely say that giving Cara that painting was one of the very first times in my life I felt like I was good at something. Like there was something valuable about what I was doing. Another woman I worked with, Amy, asked me to make her something for her bedroom. So I went to work and a few days later brought them to her. Suddenly in that setting I wasn’t just the girl that went to every bar until even the 4:00 bar was closed.
They said I was an artist. That I painted things. People cared about what I made. That was early 2010. (I went to dinner at that same Coopers Hawk last weekend with my Sister and some old friends, and it was one of the most special and healing dinners of my life. It was a wonderful time. It was a Cinderella moment as I was actually sitting for dinner not serving the plates. I completely forgot every table number.)
In July of 2010 I moved to Las Vegas. Packed up my green bug car with my house plants and clothes just to to wear my sequin bikini, live on in & out burger when I could afford it (rarely), Jamis italian cooking (the best that I have ever had period) and cactus cooler. “Why do you want to move?” I’d be asked.
Sincerely I wanted to live by palm trees and sunshine and do yoga. That was all I could really come up with. They would always pick me up from the airport driving fast, blasting house music in the sun with mountains and palm trees. I wanted that feeling to be my life too. Not many people go out to Las Vegas to clean up and figure out what the hell they want to do do with their life. But the ones that do you can recognize all over the world. The brightest light. The blackest dark.
Jami and Jason had a sprawling ranch house with an atrium in the middle of it on the east side of Las Vegas, which is where I lived. They gave me an entire room to paint in and painted the main hallway electric baby blue. That hallway became the “gallery” where we hung up all of my paintings.
So way before I knew how to photograph or post my art digitally I had a legitimate hallway just for the three of us. Which was exciting because they were the only two people I knew for seventeen hundred miles. We would laugh “the art is on display for everyone I know.” I get overwhelmed emotionally thinking back to that house. They gave me walls but it was more than that. It was a feeling of purpose. Identity. And in that purpose and identity for the first time in my life I had a voice. And it was my voice.
I moved into the condos on Harmon and Koval right off the strip. A big pink building. I made so much art in that studio apartment. I never ate anything or had food. I could have died of homesickness. The only song I listened to was “Welcome Home” by Tegan and Sara. All of that art I made was all about pain. I was broke. I was starving. But I was clean. And no matter how much I tried to find and manipulate the perfect person for the job, nobody was coming to save me. I’ll never forget my Dad saying “I will get in my truck right now and come and get you.” I will never forget that, as there is nothing on this physical earth plane I wouldn’t give to hear it one more time. Hear it and just let him.
In 2011 I went to Burning Man and had a Hail Mary message to quit my life and figure out how to go to art school but that was way too gigantic and complicated for me. I've never trusted education sytems. In my experiences they always felt like another institution. I was determined to try to go to art school but it didn’t exactly pan out. I am an expert at convincing myself I have already failed at something before I put in any effort.
Went through a rough breakup, moved a few times and ended up at my own apartment in Green Valley in Las Vegas. I made the choice to remain in recovery and got very close with my sponsor and all of the women she sponsored. It was a lot of tough love because again I didn’t understand how to perceive people with boundaries. But I trusted my sponsor with my life. And she hung all of my paintings on her walls. There was no feeling like that. They still hang there today. I mean over the years we went through a lot of shit and I always expected that she would take them down. But her husband said once “nobody is touching that painting, it lives in this house” very matter of factly. To me it means that I live there too. My spirit. It was like I had a voice and a home.
Back then I painted completely for fun and as a way to not drink a bottle of vodka after an awful waitressing shift. It was my only escape. I mean except for in and out burger. Now that I had a better job I ate one cheeseburger with tomato and cheese only at midnight after my shift. Since painting was something I was doing and everything I was doing I put on facebook, that was my first art website. A facebook album titled “Art.” If five people liked it I was overwhelmed and happy about it for days. If it was completely ignored I would be terribly sad and use it as ammo to be mean to myself and discredit anything I had made. It was a balancing act of extremes that to this day I have to constantly check myself because I am a fine artist first and a content creator like fifth. Here is a sample of the thumbnails from that album.
So that’s what I did for some time. My life kept expanding. New friends. Losing my Dad. I once again got and this time stayed single because I stood up for myself and didn’t want to have kids and do life that way. Which felt so wrong at the time. But it was an honest, respectful breakup where neither of us compromoised our integrity and I will always be grateful for that calm resolve.
I started to seriously travel. I had moved to this $600/mo apartment on the west side of Las Vegas so I could afford more art supplies. My liquitex pouring medium I was in love with using was like $15/ a bottle and that felt like a damn fortune to spend. The apartment was extremely old but it worked for me. I wrote an entire novel at that kitchen table and painted some of my favorite pieces I have ever made on that table (Through - a 48x60 living in Chicago with Jami and Jason. Akashic Grace - one of two paintings I will never sell. Mississippi Kiss living with Shelli in Boulder City. Odessa, Texas living with Val P.)
It was a time of immense growth, living on cheeseburger sized macarons and 32oz vanilla lattes from madhouse coffee at midnight, staying up until 7 either writing or painting alone with my two dachshunds, only to sleep a few hours and go to my restaurant job. That crew was like family to me in those years. I will always be grateful for what Kim and Jacque built us - for everything and everyone that strength brought to my life. This was our crew in 2012.
From 2010-2016 I wrote poems every single day on a wordpress blog. Again it was a way to just process my everyday life. I was obsessed with defining my value through my perception and ability to creatively write my experiences. It was the validation I needed - that feeling of experiencing whatever I experienced that day and coming back to it later to say it right. I look back on that 30 year old girl and I want to shake her. Tell her she doesn’t have to work so hard to have a voice.
At one point I took thirty paintings to a gaming bar to try and sell them at an artisan market. That was a lesson in dozens of people walking past me, or stopping slightly to speak to me, likely out of pity. Was my art good? No. But I was young enough to put something bad out there anyway and watch everyone walk past me pretending not to see. So I worked harder (and vowed to never try to sell my art again.)
In 2014 I (unbeknownst to me) met my future husband on a fluke for one day. I specifically remember him liking all of the art posted on my facebook pages but no photos of me. I was exceptionally cringy posting the most filtered, angled, duck faced selfies, yoga poses etc at that time. Kevin remindes me of this often. But he appreciated my art. And commented on almost every painting. I remember even now the rush of exhiliration when I saw and absorbed all of those words.
Here is the very first day we met. "Hiking" with lattes and heeled cowboy boots. I digress. We didn't actually start communicating regularly until like February of 2015. I have learned a great deal about "real hiking" through the years. I really wish I could find those boots again.
At first I tried something called Art Wanted to have my art on an online forum. Which I have no access to to delete to this day, much as I would like. This is the rambling, sarcastic, bitter, early recovery me. So cringe.
I’d say when just starting out be wary of giant forums like Etsy, Art Wanted, Art Storefronts etc etc etc. What happens with these things is you do a ton of work to get your content and information on there. But then you are on the platform with thirty million other people and nothing happens. And it seems like everyone else sells everything. But you have no idea why there is zero response for your stuff. And if you’re like me you can come up with a billion horrible things to tell yourself. When in reality nobody is seeing anything you’re posting because there's forty million people that have been using those platforms for years and years.
I always had it in my mind that if I wanted to sell my art, I was only legitamet and successful if only strangers would buy it. This is a lie. Of the 200 odd paintings I have sold in my life I think 3 or 4 have been to people I have never met personally. Vulnerability and putting yourself out there - the worst thing ever. But the only thing that will move you forward.
I’m tech savvy in the sense that 1. I am a "older" millennial that’s been cropping my arms out of my photos on Myspace since 2004. I can write a blog. I can punch the shit out of a micros screen that isn't sending orders. I’m good with a spreadsheet. I can process payroll. I can watch tik tok but not really get too fancy with it. The act of putting my face on camera is still something I hate. Could I build a website with an operating payment system? It was a stretch.
The first platform I used was squarespace. It has a 300ish feel annually. I used that website primarily as an online portfolio. Ten times a day in my life “Oh you make art?” “Yes, here is the website."Purchasing a domain name feels like that point in the recipe video I'm watching in a daze where they add the fifth ingriedent and my mind decides "nope I will never ever make this too many steps". Like what? I have to give them a credit card and connect it to the other website. I’ll break it down.
On Godaddy.com you can buy your domain name for like $7 a year. Once you purchase it they email you the URL. When you build your website you insert that URL into that site. It is as easy as changing your facebook profile picture, it just sounds weird.
Fast forward to 2020. I had a website that I had painstakingly built myself via squarespace. The images were pretty random and blurry. I have wanted to create a coffee table book of my art and their stories but unfortunately all of my early work is way too badly photographed for large print. So shoot good content early on.
For me it’s best to shoot my content for a painting all together- making sure I have two full sized portraits, one cropped square (for instagram) one 19 second close up video of the painting, and one video of me signing the painting. Also one of me with the painting because photos of just the art don't get half the engagement of photos of a person (myself or the collector) with the art.
I was so proud of how cool all of the paintings looked on a grid on that first website. It had been ten years and I had the digital content to prove it. I was so stubborn, I couldn’t stand to get rid of it.
However selling things at volume got challenging. I knew I had to get it over with sooner rather than later and get a shopify. I chose shopify because Squarespace and Wix only use shopify plug ins (the dreaded, complex to me buy button, which is supposedly so easy but never panned out for me) - so I was either going to have to deal with two websites or just one on shopify. (This may not be the case now, but it was.)
I am not a web designer and now I know why they tend to be the hardest partiers and recluses. It took me months to get it up and running. Shopify is about $360 annually. Excellent customer service but there are some weird ass glitches when you are creating pages that must be live which is crazy.
Shopify takes a 2% fee off of every transaction. The pros - huge shipping discounts. Your collectors can purchase the art like every single other thing you purchase on a website on modern Earth. They fill in their own mailing label and you simply pick a carrier (which also offers home pickup for a fee) and print the label.
For my custom commissions I use venmo only because they are much more expensive and 2% of $2,000 is huge random fee for nothing. I can still create a mock order and use shopify shipping when it comes to that.
It is easy to use - you can even have languages and currencies change. The stats of what products are being viewed the most, and who is on your website from where is awesome.
No more refereeing art sales via facebook comments and relying on venmo or paypal. All that stuff that feels scary isn’t scary regarding credit cards & taking payments etc. It is as simple as setting up a social media profile. They make it very simple. It is getting the formatting perfectly that gets crazy. But it is the most important tool my business has besides the art - the working platform to sell it.
I will say this about the facebook/ instagram shop - for me personally I could never get those things to work. The programs are super buggy and frustrating and simply don’t allow me to connect the two, which is required. I’ve been trying for a year and I’m over it. I even made some Heather Pond Art facebook page that I can’t seem to delete. So I don’t have time for that. But I will say this - I have spent multiple 14 hour days building my website only to be asked “Ok but what is your instagram?” So any branding or stickers/ cards etc you make put the IG and website on it. I started selling my art posting it on facebook and instagram with a price and a hundred prayers in silence that something would happen because that was the biggest step I could take at the time.
My logo represents the clarity of structured sight within adversity, creating an overall sense of simplicity through the power of delicate but definitive alignnment. My designer Nicole Jasso design and Tianna Winters Media have really brought that to life for me. I use stickers over business cards because whatever someone sticks it to someone else sees.
I never thought "I need a logo" I saw some things Nicole was designing and said "I need that. It is perfect." I have had an all seeing eye atop the great pyramid on on my wrist for decades, from a time when I had no idea what those things represented or how my spiritual work in Egypt would unfold.
My ultimate goal for 2021 was to be able to afford to have professionals come in and brand/ design my website. Although I had put a ton of work into my shopify, it was not by any means polished or uniform as a successful brand should be.
When I hit that goal I felt like Julia Roberts in pretty woman when Richard Gere takes her shopping. I hired Tianna Winters Media, a branding and media company that significantly impacted my ability to even have the courage to have a business. After a few meetings Tianna and Laura brought me an entire brand portfolio. For my business. It was immersive. Extravagant. Brilliant work. I cried. A lot.I know I always write that I cried. It gets old. But thats what happened. I have never not been cripplingly afraid to take the next step. The fear of rejection or being laughed at, ignored. I just took it anyway. My business is like a free fall. Every morning I have to jump off the cliff again. If I'm not jumping I might as well be in prison. There is nothing else I'd rather be figuring out.
I was imagining that really lost and miserable girl in her Mom's basement 11 years ago staring at used paint brushes looking through this two hundred plus painting professionally branded portfolio, 90% of which is sold. That was ours. Mine and hers, in that basement and now on the damn beach painting for a living. I have no idea how this happened.
The back and forths one goes through with designers is not something I am used to. But TW Media was patient with me and delivered me a website that was completely beyond my expectations, also using shopify.
Laura Greene with TW Media is one of the most talented photographers I’ve ever gotten to work with. The very first thing she asked me about were my insecurities. (Hello no arms in my photos.) This made me much more comfortable. Many people rave about her photos on my website and I'm just like lol I have a pheononmal photographer. I assure you I'm always dressed in paint covered rags with my hair in a messy bun stuffing a veggie burrito in my face. Both Laura and Tianna were patient with me when I said "Ummm I think just do the thing you do because I have no idea." Come to the professionals with your ideas. Be specific. You'll think you have really nothing in mind unti they do a ton of work and that's not what you want.
Laura walked me out to the ocean, the only place I ever wanted to live next to but never dared to even dream - in a sequin ball gown with a giant disco ball. It is symbolic for everything that I carry and what I have made it into regardless of how much I doubted and hated myself. My blue hair is symbolic of my fifth chakra being central to everything, open and healthy- my voice, my ability to communicate, my ability to conncet, let go, stop apologizing for how loud I am, and create.
These days I respect that my experiences of trauma, addiction, love, loss, movement and healing in this life are aspects of learning that I get to work through to carry with me into the light of whatever this life is today. Today I have the power to hold the balance between the level of dark and light I have experienced. I have the strength to maintain the shift into a positive, happy, productive, stable life. I have the power and strength to create art and it isn’t to find my voice or define my worth. What I create is only to be still and know that I am expressing that you are God in form and so am I. My only job is to just get the eff out of the way, and allow.
That is what this photo holding the disco ball on the beach represents to me.
I have the honor and the privilege or maybe just dumb luck of not just surviving, but growing, and carrying it all into the light, regardless of how many times I thought I wouldn’t live another day, let alone be learning to paint and writing a blog about how to market, brand and maintain a successful business selling my work.
I have no idea what will happen tomorrow. Or next month. Or next year. It doesn't matter. I just carry what I carry, keep my peace the best I can, and start the next painting. Tiny baby steps over and over. If it feels like too much, I let it be too much and maybe I'll have the opportunity to try again tomorrow. I'll probably eat four bags of grapes in the process.
One ball over the net at a time. Sometimes that ball is a disco ball. Some days it's a hornets nest but I know either way it is all in front of me for my highest good. I started painting becuse I had too much time on my hands and I wanted to become someone else. In the end I became who I always was I just had to grow up and be willing to create in order to create vision. Vision to experience myself as a daughter, as a sister, as birth mother, as a wife, as a friend, as an artist.