Ruth Moloney – Jumping into the unknown

If someone told me five years ago, that future me would be spending my Tuesday morning putting finishing touches on my latest commission while picking dried oil paint from my hair before clearing my desk to prep and sign my print order for one of Ireland’s largest design retailers, I would have had a belly laugh! I was focused on a corporate career trajectory, having climbed the ladder for many years and working as a Marketing Director on an executive leadership team.

Considering ‘Artist’ as a career choice wasn’t something that was deemed vaguely viable or sensible when I was a teenager.  Art was a hobby not a career! And those who tried to pursue it as anything more had a reputation for being flighty, unfocused and decidedly uncommercial.

Art was a hobby…. Not a career!

No, my parents, with the best will in the world, encouraged me to take a more linear, traditional and academic route. Hardly surprising. Ireland did not have the vibrant reputation it has today for commercial success in the arts – thanks to Oscar winning studios like Cartoon Saloon and global contemporary artists like Graham Knuttel. 

So it is hardly surprising that I ended up in marketing. A happy marriage of art and commerce. I spent almost 20 years working in brand development of some form of other, following the usual career trajectory until I became Marketing Director of a market leading retailer.  Being the ‘creative’ person in a highly commercial space can have it’s pitfalls though. The well trodden cliché that creative people are uncommercial can be diminishing and one that most marketers will have to confront and disseminate at some point or other in their career.

As time ticked on, I began to re-evaluate and I spent some time thinking about the notion of linear careers. As we all move up the ladder of our chosen career path, we all wed ourselves deeper and deeper to choices we made in our 20s. I wondered if we inadvertently close the door to new possibilities because we have already committed to choices. Afterall, most of us are pretty risk averse and who wants to take a leap in to the unknown when we have mortgages to pay, families to support and other financial commitments?

We have one life!

It all makes perfect and logical sense to knuckle down and progress forward in the same linear direction, right? But the reality hits us all at one time or another. We have one life. One life to live, explore, dream, experiment and to leave our mark. The inexorable marching of time dictates that our opportunities are limited. We own our own happiness. If there are itches that needs to be scratched – only you can scratch them!

So, at the age of 43 I decided I was going to give my best shot at an entirely new career. It would mean jumping in to the unknown – and learning at pace. Building a new path brick by brick. New relationships, new skills, new ideas – all had to be embraced and developed quickly. Becoming a full-time artist needed to be both artistically rewarding but critically, it had to be commercially viable.  Self-belief, courage and hard work were needed in bucket-loads.

What I have since learned, is that good energy radiates and attracts more good energy. Nobody who achieves success, does it on their own. I have found support, generosity and kindness in abundance and in places I least expected. It has been both humbling and inspiring.

Nobody who achieves success, does it on their own

Fast forward a year and a half and I have a proper (albeit small) business. I have a leading international artist mentoring, supporting and cheerleading me.  My prints are stocked in Ireland’s largest design retailer, Kilkenny Design, my work is listed in some of Ireland’s top galleries and I have commissioned work hanging in homes in far flung locations across the globe. To top it off, my flexible approach to work has meant that I can spend hours of quality time with my children while I paint and I am there for the school runs!

So, have I got it all figured out? Absolutely not.  It’s early days and there is no doubt I will hit a few, if not many, speed bumps along the way. A good start doesn’t guarantee a good finish. But new paths are made by walking.  I am walking and I am smiling as I go. I have scratched that itch. I have silenced the nagging voice. I feel purposeful. It may not be forever – but it is for right now and all we can ever hope to do is live in the present.

Life is a journey

The advice I would you give to my 16 year old self would be to Spend  time to define what is important and what success looks like for you.  “Career Planning” is overrated. You don’t need to have everything figured out in straight lines and clear trajectories. Try new things. Experiment. Learn. Move on.  Life is a journey. There will be successes, failures and lots of meandering. Discover what makes your heart sing and figure out a way to make it pay the bills! Work hard but finish on time. Remember that nobody achieves anything without the help of others – so be thankful and invest time in your relationships.  When the day is over and the job is done – it’s those people that matter most.

With sincere thanks to all the cheerleaders – you know who you are!

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