My journey to becoming a full time artist

My journey to becoming a full time artist

This may sound a little shocking.. but this wasn't the career path that I thought I would go down when I was younger!

My Dad would often say to me in my teenage years, "Cassie your going to be a successful artist one day!" to which I would reply "Nah, It's not really what I want to do with my life." 

Looking back it's no wonder that both my Mum and Dad would have predicted this would happen.. after all, most of my spare time as a kid was spent drawing cartoons and sketching my family or objects around the house. My trusty sketchbook was never too far away.

Above // Drawing of my mum (8 years old)

In my early teens I steered away from childish cartoons and starting drawing my favourite celebrities in pastels and charcoal. David Boreanaz from Buffy would be proud to know he is forever immortalised in charcoal in one of my old art folders!!

It was in 2007 that I began turning my art into a business, not that I really realised that's what I was doing.

I had always wanted to open my own gift/fashion accessories shop. Much to my teachers disappointment I never had any desire or intention to go to university, I was all about the retail life! I had worked in retail since I was 15 and had locked down two jobs whilst completing year 12 which only fueled my passion for wanting to run my own business.

So my 19th birthday rolled around and there I was, standing in my freshly painted retail space, surrounded by second hand furniture that my family and I had restored ( Cost cutting at its finest! ) and boxes and boxes of stock to unpack. 

'Lil Sass' was born! A small boutique in the main street of Mount Gambier, home to affordable fashion jewellery, bags, accessories, giftware and books! 

At first I began displaying a small selection of my artwork in the shop, not even with a huge intention to sell, more to fill the stark white walls! But it wasnt long before people became interested and I decided to display a charcoal portrait that I had drawn for my mum of me and my sisters and offer custom charcoal portraits. 

3 years passed and my relationship at the time took me on a new path to Geelong in Victoria.. so I closed my doors to Lil Sass and began on a new adventure. 

Life throws you curve balls sometimes, and in the moment you may have no idea why things don't go to plan and you may fight it.. but time has an amazing way of giving you clarity. Everything happens for a reason. 

Fast forward a few months and just like that I was back in Mount Gambier.. now jobless. Lucky for me Jay Jays was looking for a store manager! Thus beginning my amazing journey in the Just Group company which opened up doors like I could never believe.

I managed the Mt Gambier store for four years before making the huge leap to move to Adelaide with the hopes of one day being a visual merchandiser! After a few years of working hard in various management roles within the brand I was lucky enough to be appointed the position in 2016!

The role was amazing. I wasn't tied down to one store anymore, I could travel to a different store everyday and I met so many amazing managers and staff, not to mention the incredible support of the state and national team. But as a year or so passed, that urge to create my own business and be my own boss lingered again. I yearned for more creativity in my role and the only way to satisfy this craving was to create it myself.

Art had still been in the background throughout this time, and slowly I had been growing a small community of people who followed my artwork and a list of people who had commissioned me for drawings... but it really wasnt until this time that I had considered pursuing it as a career.

Having an amazing and supportive boss helped incredibly. I'm all for honesty and I knew talking it through with her would be beneficial to us both. It was this decision that led her to allowing me to drop to 4 days a week, giving me an extra day to work on my artwork and in turn allow me to pursue two passions that I loved.

At this stage I hadn't planned on leaving my visual merchandiser role. If I could do both then how perfect!

The next few months were a balancing act of working four days a week as a visual merchandiser, whilst trying to establish myself as a professional artist. My days were spent leaving early for work so that I could get to the shopping centre early with my laptop and work on marketing before I began my day. Lunchbreaks consisted of scoffing down my lunch so that I could get a post up on my social media and more marketing! The drives home were time for me to absorb as much information from podcasts as possible and make mental notes. My nights and weekends were where I completed custom portraits for clients, whilst trying to balance a social life and my relationship! (Tip: None of this is possible without the support of an amazing partner! Thankyou Matt)

It soon became evident that I couldn't hold down both. 

My list of commission drawings and paintings was starting to grow at a rate that was becoming difficult to keep up with and my passion for running my own business was completely taking over. 

I was going to have to leave my job!

The thought of leaving the role that I had wanted for so long to the unpredictability of an artist life was almost too much for my anxiety ridden mind to handle. 
What if i regretted the decision? How would I survive losing my guaranteed salary? What if it didnt work?

I toyed with the idea each day as I listened to thought provoking podcasts on the way to and from work. 'Leaving the rat race' , 'Be your own boss'. I dont even know how many conversations my poor Mumma and partner had to endure over the topic! 
But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted that lifestyle. No more days stuck in traffic.. working all day in my pjs.. painting and drawing everyday. What a life!

So there it was.. I was going to be a full time artist!

Four months have passed since leaving the security of my full time job and stepping down to a 6 hours a week casual and I can honestly say there hasn't been one moment where I have regretted my decision.

I spend most of my days at my desk in my pajamas painting or drawing pieces for clients that I know give them so much joy, and every decision I make within my business is solely mine. 
I decide how my days are spent and the direction in which I want my business to go and to me, its the most exciting part of this journey!
Every day is a chance to create something new and exciting and you never know what opportunities could arise!

I have so many exciting plans for the future for 'Cassie Zaccardo Art' and I'm so excited to have you along for the ride.

Much love,
Cassie xxx



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