From Corporate to Artpreneur: A Journey
By Jasmin Pannu
When you walk into my house, there’s a sign that says ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life.’ When I first came across that quote, I found it intimidating. I was working in corporate, the job was good, but the lifestyle was unfathomable. I could not imagine working in corporate for the rest of my life.
I liked the people and parts of my role as a marketer, but I found it difficult to become accustomed to the 9-5.
This anxiousness grew stronger after I bought my first house. I watched in the mornings as these houses, that we had all worked pretty hard to buy, were left vacant. But like clockwork, each and every week, the entire street emptied.
I would drive to work wondering if I was being dramatic, or if it was just a matter of getting used to. So, I carried on, trying my best to be grateful every time somebody commented on my career.
In another part of my life though, I was working hard behind the scenes.
From childhood, I had an inclination towards the arts, but like many, I had been taught that the thing to aspire for was the office, and not the art studio.
I was told countless times by teachers and family just how little art paid. (I now realise that those adults were projecting their own scarcity mindset and limitations on to me.)
But, at the time, I took their word for it.
I got into art school, but at the last minute, changed my degree to something more ‘reasonable’. I won a grant in university for art and entrepreneurship, but took the job in marketing instead. I made sales in my art since I was a teenager, but called it a ‘hobby’ anyway.
It wasn’t until I started to unlearn those negative mindsets in my early 20s and pushed myself deeper into the realm of self-development and self-learning that I was able to imagine a life different than the one I was taught to want.
Admittedly, when I started reading books on entrepreneurs, I read with skepticism and disbelief. Who were these people that could literally design their workdays and work for themselves? How could they accumulate more wealth in one month than my entire salary? What were they selling that was so incredible that people wanted to buy from them and not the tons of other established business in their industry?As I read and learned, I learned to make my questions more productive and apply it to my art.
I built my own website, I learned to use social media better, I tracked my profit and loss per artwork, and I applied everything I was learning in my day job as a marketer to my art.
I knew when I became comfortable calling, what I had once called a ‘hobby,’ a ‘side business, that I was starting to get somewhere.
In a non-linear series of events, I was a henna artist, I traveled for destination weddings, I taught art, I hand painted shoes and sold them internationally, I painted on canvases, and then on walls for businesses.
I saw the money I was making from my art increase. Sometimes, I would turn down business because of my job.
It wasn’t until 5 years after I started my first office job that I was able to build the mental fortitude and convince myself both emotionally and logically that I could actually become an Artist- the very title that had sounded so unattainable to me, my whole life.
Today, when I walk into my house and see ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life,’ it’s a message that gets me excited and hopeful. And I now know that when I came across it, all of those years ago and felt intimidated, that it was a hint about the misalignment in my life.
Since leaving corporate over a year and a half ago, I’ve created two art collections that have toured galleries like the Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Science Centre. I’ve been invited to live paint at the Taste of Danforth and the Museum of Contemporary Art. My art has been featured by the likes of CBC Arts, Breakfast Television and The Guardian. I’ve sold well over 200 prints in both collections and have painted ~70 murals in the greater Toronto area at both residential, businesses and in the form of public art.
Now, I no longer have to conjure up gratitude, I feel it in my bones. I enjoy my home studio during the workdays, and my mornings are not hurried, they are serene.
Even when I’m working harder than I ever have before, it feels like an absolute privilege.
This is my journey, and I speak about it because I feel lucky to have been able to reconsider my life’s trajectory and change course for the better. I wish the same for you.