Life as an artist is no walk in the park

By on July 29, 2015
When Karen Trimble of Baltimore isn’t painting wine, cheese and bread, she’s teaching others the art of ballroom dancing

They are teachers and engineers, ballroom dance instructors and restaurant managers, advertising illustrators and body shop mechanics.

The artists displaying their works July 25 at the Lititz Outdoor Art Show were not always artists, at least not full-time artists. It’s not always easy to quit your day job and launch full force into a career as an artist. Someone has to pay the rent and feed the kids. You can’t always depend on selling a painting so you can take care of the bills.

“It’s a leap of faith,” says Lititz artist Andy Smith, who took third place in watercolors for his painting of two chairs titled “In Conversation.”

While her husband may be a judge at the county courthouse, the art show judges had final say on Lisa Madenspacher’s second place painting, “White Pitcher.”

Lisa Madenspacher’s with “White Pitcher.”

Smith took that leap 34 years ago and became a full-time artist after starting off three years before that. It was his dream to be an artist and only an artist. Before that, Smith had worked as an auto body mechanic at a VW dealer. It seems that painting cars wasn’t quite what he had in mind.

“When he quit doing auto body work, he decided he would try it for the summer, see how it goes. If it didn’t work out, he could always say that it was just for the summer,” says his wife Linda Smith.

As it turned out, things worked out nicely for the Lititz artist, whose style has been sometimes been compared to Andrew Wyeth. He credits much of his success to Linda, who had worked at Doneckers and in the insurance business. Once Smith’s career as an artist was launched, Linda began to work as his business manager and muse. She handles all the details like arranging shows, pricing and selling work, marketing his paintings and posting his affordable Painting-a-Day series on Facebook.

“I just want to paint,” says Smith, who is rarely seen without a brush in hand, unless it’s riding his bicycle or coaching middle school track. “It’s worked out very well for both of us.”

So well, in fact, that the Smiths recently returned from a European sojourn to Italy, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, where Andy found new inspiration for his paintings. One particularly lush green landscape of Tuscany was sold before the art show got started.

“I’m working on more,” he assures his following, as he works on an Italian doorway in shades of terra-cotta, gray stone and vibrant green.

For Bob Richey of Warminster, becoming a full-time artist was a gradual transition. An aerospace engineer with the U.S. Navy, he always enjoyed doing watercolors and pastels. It was a nice contrast to his detailed work as an engineer. He sold his first printing in 1975. Nineteen years ago, he retired from the Navy and decided to paint full-time. Having a military pension certainly helped.

Bob Richey’s Best of Show painting, “Blue Wall #4.”

Bob Richey’s Best of Show painting, “Blue Wall #4.”

“I have no regrets. I am doing what I have a true passion for,” says Richey, who received confirmation of that on Saturday when he took Best of Show at the Lititz Outdoor Art Show for his urban study in pastels titled “Blue Wall No. 4.”

Creativity is a full-time job that often requires another source of income

Karen Trimble of Baltimore took home first place in oils and acrylics for her “Happy Hour” painting of wine, cheeses and breads. She studied art at Temple University and ended up working full-time as a ballroom dance instructor. Her day job was about 60 percent compared to 40 percent dedicated to painting.

“Now it’s kind of flipped,” says Trimble. “I am painting about 60 percent of the time and teaching dance around 40 percent. I enjoy them both.”

Tyler Stinson of Carlisle went to Penn State to earn a degree in hotel and restaurant management. But he doesn’t see himself pursuing that career. Having grown up at his father Ron Stinson’s metal working studio, he has decided to follow in Dad’s footsteps as a metal sculptor.

“I left my day job in corporate America 18 years ago,” says Ron Stinson, adding that he was self-taught in creating sweeping sculptures from stainless steel and other metals. His son impressed him when he came home from second grade with a sculpture, even though Tyler resisted the lure of working with metal.

He describes himself as a “reluctant sculptor,” but after working a few jobs like waiting tables and interning in the hotel business he has a new outlook.

“I don’t intend to ever have a resume,” he says, unless maybe it’s an artist’s statement.

Lititz artist Stephen Leed, who won a judge’s award for his “Snowy Owl” painting, turned his fondness for bird-watching into a career as a wildlife artist. He teaches art part-time, but mostly he paints. Commissioned works of horses, dogs, cats and other pets keep him fed, along with work done for wildlife and bird watching publications.

“It’s not always easy, but I’m doing what I love,” says Lititz wildlife artist Stephen Leed.

Lititz wildlife artist Stephen Leed.

“It is not always easy, but I am doing what I love,” says Leed. “This show and the show at Middle Creek are very good for sales.”

Sam Whitehead, a freelance illustrator for national publications, decided to pursue his career as a fine artist years ago. The Doylestown artist now paints about 75 percent of the time on subjects of his choosing &tstr; which just happens to be baseball &tstr;and relies on illustration assignments from publishers.

Lisa Madenspacher of Lancaster admits that having an employed spouse makes a huge difference in being able to pursue her career as an artist. Her husband is a judge. So the kids got to eat in between her illustration commissions.

“I used to depend on commissions, but now I am able to paint more of the things I want to do,” says Madenspacher, who received second place in oils and acrylics for her “White Pitcher. “I am very self-motivated. You have got be.”

Teri Oja agrees. Her work as an artist who “paints” with thread takes extreme patience and dedication. It also garnered the prestigious Floyd Hackman Award, named for the Village Art Association founder, for her landscape of meadows and trees.

“I have been making a living as an artist for 23 years now.” she says. “This is what I love and what I am meant to do.”

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and frequent contributor to the Record Express. She welcomes reader feedback at

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