Maria Brophy


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business of art / Personal

Calling Your Own Shots; the Freedom of being a Creative Entrepreneur

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One of the advantages of being an artist and working for ourselves is that we get to call the shots on how, when and where we will work. 

The only limitations that we have are those that we place on ourselves.

Creative entrepreneurs work very hard, often 80 or more hours a week, usually by choice.  But, we also have the freedom to take time off when we need to.

When a monumental event happens, good or bad, there are employed people who claim they can’t take time off of work to attend to it, because their boss won’t let them.  But then many entrepreneurs claim they can’t take time off, because their business won’t let them!

The truth is, we all get to choose what is important and then we arrange our business and lives around that.

Sometimes we don’t even think about what’s most important to us; we let everyone else tell us, through their expectations of us.  And then, as if we are sleepwalking, we just go along with it as if we don’t have a say in our own lives.  But we do!

I once had a boss tell me, when I said that I had to go home early to help my family with a problem, “No, your work comes first, then your family comes second!”  Of course, I didn’t last in that job!

Often, we are so used to the idea that we HAVE to be somewhere and that we HAVE to do things, that we forget that we can call our own shots, simply by making a choice.

Here’s the simple formula for calling your own shots:

1 – DECIDE what you want to do

2 – DECLARE it to everyone impacted, letting them know you’ve decided (when you tell someone “I’ve decided“, it’s a signal that it’s final, and they can’t change your mind).

3 – DO IT.

With this freedom comes a magical vortex of resources, swooping in to give you the things you need to pull it all off, usually at the last minute!  (Read “When One Commits, Providence Moves” to see how that works.)

This winter, this sense of freedom came in handy for Drew and me.

In November we got word that my father in law was sick.  It was sudden and serious.  One day Dad was golfing and hanging out at the beach, and the next he was diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer.

There was only one option for us; to go be with him in his final weeks.

So we packed up Drew’s art supplies and planned our 2,550 mile drive across country, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Right before we left, we got a call from the giant tech company, Western Digital.  They had a project for us with a quick deadline.  It was a wonderful thing, because we needed a way to cover some of our expenses while we were gone!  (We were gone for 2-1/2 months.)

During the 5 day drive across country, I worked on the proposal.  I sourced what we needed for the project.  As Drew drove, I had my computer in my lap, working up numbers and typing up a proposal.  Numerous emails and texts and phone calls later, we had a deal with Western Digital!

They commissioned Drew to paint a large mural that would be displayed at an event in Las Vegas.   They also had him designing t-shirts and posters and painting giveaway skateboard decks.

The day we arrived to Drew’s parent’s house in Myrtle Beach, Drew transformed their garage into his painting studio.  In between taking care of Dad and helping Mom with things, Drew went to work, stretching the canvas and sketching concepts.

I hired a photographer to capture the painting process, so that Western Digital could have professional photos for their social media ads.

It wasn’t easy, doing all this away from our own studio.  But we were spending quality time with Dad.

Some days we would bring Dad into the garage so he could watch Drew paint.  On cold days Drew would bring the skateboard decks into the warm house and paint in the living room while Dad watched.

It was the last painting project Dad got to watch his son paint.  Dad died on January 4th; we held him as he took his last breath.

I feel honored that I was there for the last few weeks of Dad’s life; and I am grateful that we created a business structure that allowed it.

Though it was stressful and chaotic, running our operation while on the road and dealing with the sadness of losing Dad, we pulled it off.  We put our family as a priority, we chose that for ourselves.  We called the shots on what was important to us.  And we showed our 12 year old son a lesson in life and the importance of being there for family. 

This is what I love about the business of art and working for myself.  We make up the rules as we go, and nothing can hold us back from what’s near and dear to our hearts; our family.

I hope you are making up your rules as you go, too.  Let nothing hold you back from what you think is most important.

Please, share in the comments, how you are making up your own rules and the freedom that being a creative entrepreneur brings to you!

Maria xxoo


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43 Comments Calling Your Own Shots; the Freedom of being a Creative Entrepreneur

  1. Phil priestman

    Another great chapter in the lives of the Brophy tribe…..I too experienced the death of my mother five years ago, but still remain in the same house surrounded by ghosts and memories, unable to see a way out…yet. I have a wife and seven year old son and HOPE, because I follow Maria and Drew and Dylan and even though sometimes I have to be satisfied that sometimes we have to watch the parade passing, it’s through people like you three the message keeps coming across, chase that dream, keep it in sight because one day life will sync up with the creative universe and away you go……hand in hand with fulfilled well rounded lives. Three is the magic number, a triangle the strongest structure and love the greatest force of all……you have it and you share it cheers! I get this image of you Brophys in the van, drew smiling hands behind his head, feet on the wheel and both eyes closed and you STILL get to where you need to go……

    1. Maria Brophy

      Phil, I love what you wrote about “a triangle the strongest structure” – never thought of that!

      I’m wondering – why do you feel a need to find “a way out” – do you feel stuck where you are living, or where you are in your career? Curious.

  2. Lisa

    Hi, Maria – thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I share the sadness of your family’s loss. When my father was ill with stage 4 prostate cancer, I went to live with him and turned my bedroom wall into my workspace. I painted not because I needed to but because I wanted my dad to see me working since he was the one who purchased my first set of real paints, my first brushes and my first green tackle box where I kept my supplies. I wanted to share with him, quietly, my gratitude and appreciation. It took his mind off of being sick and away from being scared of being in pain. wanted to remind him that he made a difference in my life by believing in me. Almost 40 years later, I still have the green tackle box. Thank you for sharing your family’s experience with your readers.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Lisa, what a beautiful story! I love how you embraced that final time with your father. And I am sure you never regretted taking that time to be with him. He was a lucky man!

    2. Colleayn

      Lisa, your story touched me. I love that you painted because you wanted to see your Dad see you paint. That is beautiful. It makes me see it is time to stop procrastinating at doing art so my family can see me paint. Thank you.

  3. Indigene Theresa Gaskin

    Maria, thank you for sharing your story here. I think often, many of us think we have to put our families on the back burner to succeed and as a woman, born in a different generation, it was expected to be self sacrificing! It’s encouraging to here stories like yours, to keep us all on track and to stop in that moment that we’re reading your post to once again acknowledge it. I lost my sister, mom, aunt and father-in-law in the same year; it knocked the wind out of my sail and punctured my heart with holes. It it wasn’t that I was an artist and could rearrange my schedule, I would not have had the time to spend with them or the time I needed to heal. It was my creative life choice that brought me back from the brink of sadness. Family first, and everything else has a way of working itself out. Bravo to you and your family for recognizing that and sharing it!

    1. Maria Brophy

      Indigene, wow, I cannot imagine going through losing all those people in one year. It would have knocked the wind out of me, too. For a long time.

      I’m glad you found a way to get through it.

      Your comments on my posts are always so appreciated, I hope you know. It’s nice that you still read my blogs after all this time.

      Thanks for being here!

  4. Billy Tuchscher

    Nicely said. …Having been an entrepreneur since I was 13 I have always enjoyed the freedom. But, today technology has taken that to a whole new level. — Family First!

  5. kara rane

    *tears* for the touching story. The compassionate choices You continue to make are inspiring for business, family, spirit, and the health of our society. Thank You Maria.

  6. Bryan Helfand

    Your wisdom and willingness to share is always helpful and inspirational. My drive to creative freedom has never been stronger and the ball continues to roll and the opportunities continue to present themselves. Thank you “Teacher”:)

    1. Maria Brophy

      Bryan, I’ve been following your career for awhile, and yes, you are constantly pushing it forward. It’s fun to watch you just get more and more creative. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment. And most of all, thanks for calling me “Teacher” it’s the best compliment I have ever heard! 🙂

  7. Clara Berta

    very touching story and so grateful to know that you were there for your dad and also follow your passion and allow him to be a part of it. I turned to my art as it was very healing for me after I lost my husband years ago.

    I am grateful I can share that with my students now.
    Keep up the great work!

  8. Greg VanCastor

    I am sorry for the lost of your family member.I am a 58 year old African-American and I am very thankful for the info you share.I am a mosaic artist who is try to make a living as an artist.Your words encourage me and I feel that I am on the right track.Thank you and belated condolences.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Greg, I’m so glad to be encouraging you! Thanks for your positive, uplifting words. So glad you feel that you are on the right track with your art – that is awesome!

  9. Jason Wallis

    Maria that is a beautiful story in many ways!! How awesome for Drew’s Dad to see his son a success and his family values at that time!

  10. Anne Belov

    Your post brings to mind the quote “Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.”
    Glad you got to spend time with Drew’s father. I have a dear friend who is dying of lung cancer. After many phases of treatment, it has moved to her liver and it is close to the end. Right now she is still with it enough to know when we visit and I’m grateful for this time with her and her husband. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Anne, thanks, I love that quote, and it is so darn true! I wish an easy transition for your friend. I’m sorry you are losing her. You will never regret the time you spend with her!

  11. debra disman

    Very salient and moving Maria. How lucky was your dear father-in-law to have such a wonderful talented son and daughter-in-law, and for him to be able to participate in your work. So wonderful for your son, the new generation, too. Bravo.
    Peace and blessings.
    Thank you for sharing of your personal experinece, struggle, and triumph.

  12. Andy Burt

    So incredibly inspired and touched by your story. Thank you for your transparency vulnerability in sharing that with us. That’s what draws us closer to each other and shrinks the world in the process!! I stumbled across your blog this morning while searching for advice on pricing a wall mural. I was blown away by your willingness to share the “secrets” of your trade. It was so incredibly helpful and quite refreshing. Thank you! I was able to move forward with my price quote with a new sense of confidence and belief in my value as an artist. This is a game changer for me!

    My faith makes me aware that I did not stumble across your blog by accident. We are all connected in some way…. and today was the day I was supposed to connect with you. Like many others I am trying to make art my full-time business. One step and one day at a time but your story and articles inspire and motivate me to continue chasing my dream.

  13. Danielle Sherry Calabro

    My heart goes out to you and your family, I can not say I have gone through what you are going through but just the thought of loosing someone close to me would break my heart. I have just recently stumbled on to your blog, and in the short time I have been reading I can honestly say you are inspirational. I am a wife and mother of two small children and I have decided I am tired of doing the same thing day in and day out. About a month ago I choose to pick up we’re I left off so many years ago (nearly 12 yrs ago) I have found my passion for art again and I have made the decision that no matter how long it takes, no matter what gets in my way, I am going to stick with it. I want to show my kids not to give up on something they love. Of course I am still working the full time job Monday thru Friday, but I always find time to paint and spend time with my kids. It gets hard sometimes, I end up staying up too late then having to get up too early and a house full of paintings with nowhere to put them but I know one day my hard work and patients will pay off. Another great thing is I have a very supportive husband. Thank you for all of the advice you provide and hopefully one day I will be emailing you to help me with a proposal.

  14. Cyd Rust

    Maria, I am so sorry for your families loss. I found your story so moving, as many of yours are. One thing I notice about yours…you all are “in it together”. I love that. That is what family should be. I have made a major turn in my life. I feel silly saying this now, but it followed the unexpected loss of our youngest dog due to an autoimmune disease that caused a decision to be made within a week of him showing signs. Even our vet was crying, it hit such a sweet boy so hard. I went into a depth of grief I never thought I could feel for an animal. It was followed by news my painting wrist would need to be fused. Changes. Too many, I am just pulling out of it. I found I had to reach to strangers. And I reached out to Chris Brogan and his community. I am just beginning to heal, but there are still overwhelming days. But the group I have joined is called “Brave”. And that is what is helping me get my life, art, and tribe all back in harmony and balance. ♥

  15. Colleayn

    Thank you Maria for this beautiful story. I’m sorry for your whole Families loss, but am so happy you were able to be with him. My Dad had quadruple bypass last fall and other health issues this spring. I was happy I could take time to help him in his recovery. It has really helped me see that I need to make some changes in my work that hasn’t been fulfilling, and start pursuing my art. This post has helped me a lot. Thank you.

  16. Kathleen schildmeyer

    Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful response to a sad and challenging situation. I am inspired and impressed at your strength and flexibility. Life is not always easy, you handled this with grace. I am sure the presence of your family was the greatest gift possible for “Dad”. Blessings to you all.

  17. Laurie Sheahan

    What a beautiful and inspirational post. You and yours are in my thoughts as you move forward embracing all the sweet memories shared. Thank you Maria for consistently sharing your great insights and experiences. My life as a “creative entrepreneur”…(now I know what Iam and why I’m different than other artists Ive known : )…has grown in leaps and bounds as Ive continued checking in with your generosity of spirit and information. Thank you, thank you. 🙂 All the best to you and yours.

  18. Johanna Glas

    Thanks Maria, apart from setting up my own business as coach for creative entrepreneurs, I have also worked as a volunteer care taker in a hospice for many years. Being able to keep a perspective of what matters most in life (to me that is family and close friends) is one of the main reasons why I became an entrepreneur in the first place, so that I could call my own shots. In the hectic of setting up shop, your story was really what I needed to ease things down a bit… So, thanks again!

  19. Brent Schoonover

    So sorry for you lose. What a great story though. Hope you are all doing well. Hard to really compare to that one but for me, last August I left an ad agent so I could control my own time and projects that I WANTED to do, instead of just doing more of the same non portfolio building work that was only getting more of the same uninspiring work. Since I have expanded my client base by twice the amount of new clients I had gotten over the last few years with them and have been a lot more satisfied with my work and schedule.

  20. Archan Mehta

    Sorry for your loss, Maria, but hang in there. The sun always shines when the dark clouds loom over your head. Have a nice day.

  21. Melissa Hamilton

    Thank You for shairing <3 you story is so tuching and made me cry. Its so nice to hear storys from people who have made this dream come true! 🙂 Thank You!

  22. Ebonie Mullen

    Maria, I have visited this site for inspiration over the past year or so and I always, ALWAYS leave feeling like I have all the tools to succeed; all I need to do is DO IT! Thank you for sharing!

  23. Lynda Wilson

    Maria, thank you for sharing such a personal story. It must’ve taken a lot of courage to share that. It’s very admirable that you are able to take a sad situation and use it to help people. I’m sure it will help put things in perspective for many. I’m sorry to hear about your loss and the difficult time you’ve gone through. I sure am glad you’ve made it back to us though!

  24. Chris Charney

    What a great post. I’m really glad you got to be with your Dad when he needed you. It’s amazing how things fall into place when you allow them to. Thank you for sharing your deeply personal and inspirational story. Everything in life is a leap of faith whether we care to admit it or not, so we might as well leap in the direction we want to go, as opposed to always taking the easy or “safe” route.

  25. facebook_kberendsohn

    Thanks for your articles! I am doing this right now. I have a great job I am working on to create a large mural project for a private residence in Monterey California. It has come along at the end of my planned stay out here, as I am from Miami, Florida and have been out here for five months. I will be showing my client their proposal this Friday, and if they plan on going forward I will use their 30% deposit to help pay my air fare to return in December, because I have decided I am still going home to see my family.

  26. Leslie Ann Clark

    Maria, I am so sorry for your loss. We lost my daddy three years ago. The four of us kids took time to see him each week. We would bring him our art we were worked Nguyen on. He would give us great feedback and we tr assured his advice.
    Thank you for sharing.


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