Another season has come and gone for me here in Naples, Florida. Each year, the art opportunities to do what I love materialize before me, making me feel more and more like I am meant to be here.
For those of you who know me, I have been struggling over the last few years, trying to decide if I’ll move permanently away from Kansas City. I’ve worked diligently for many years to create the wonderful studio and student base that I have there. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being the forensic artist on call for the police departments as well. My home is something I’m proud of, especially since I’m a single mom, and self-employed artist. The term “struggling artist” is exactly what it implies.
Lately, I’ve not known what to do about moving. I know that I want to retire to Florida, so a move is a decision I already made. But when? I keep pondering when that will be. It’s so hard to disconnect from things that are going so well, and when you are so totally still in love with them all. It’s easy to make a decision to move on when things are bad, but when they are going so good… ouch!
So, when I came to Florida this year, I made a deal with the angels that by the time I left in the spring, I would decide what to do. Enough was enough; I had to fish or cut bait.
Slowly, the answers started to come. It all started when my classes at Rookery Bay Reserve had higher enrollments than usual. Apparently, word had gotten out, and the number of students increased a lot. That was a great sign, for that’s how I make a living in Florida, and it was finally good not to have to squirm for four months, trying to pay bills on two places.
I’ve written numerous blogs about the virtues of being stubborn, and gaining a “I will not give up!” mentality. I’ve written about it to the point of redundancy in my new motivational book REACH! But, living it is altogether different. I was glad I had given the decision some time.
My work with the Friends of Florida Panther group also increased this year. I had developed quite a selection of drawings for them, and all of them are now going to be auctioned to help with the fundraising needs for protecting these beautiful animals. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that my art is going toward such a wonderful cause.
Recently, a panther was found wandering around in the area, starving to death. He had been shot in the face, and was totally blind. He lost one eye, and the other is beyond repair. He had survived by sniffing out road kill, since he could no longer hunt. He was rescued and is in rehab now, and will be housed permanently at the Naples Zoo, where he will live out his years. Due to his missing eye, they have named him Uno.
Each year, the zoo sponsors “Save the Florida Panther Day.” I was drawing a crowd at the Friends of the Florida Panther booth at the zoo for this event. People would come by and watch me draw a panther, and we gave them educational material about our organization. One of the drawings I had brought with me that day was a drawing of a lion named Zsavo, that had lived his entire life at the Naples Zoo, and recently passed away. I had photographed him many times when I visited, and drew him for my book Draw Animals in Nature. The director of the zoo came by and saw it. He loved my work, and asked if I would be willing to draw Uno as a way of raising money for his ongoing care. Are you kidding me? I thought. Of course! I went to his office to show him the start of the drawing for his approval, and I officially donated the drawing of Zsavo to the zoo. He asked if I would be willing to be their artist as well, to help with their future fundraising efforts. I am so excited!
On the way home, I decided to stop by the Naples library and do a little writing on my motivational book. Last year, I had attended a wonderful concert here, and noticed that they had my books on display in their main hallway. I introduced myself to one of the supervisors. Ironically this afternoon she was here, and I popped in to say hi. I told her of my new adventures, and she too, asked if I would do things for them. We scheduled an art exhibit, reception, and lecture that I will conduct at the library next year when I return. How exciting this is–all of these organizations here work hand in hand to better this community in southwest Florida. What an honor it is to be a part of it all. All of the signs I needed to make a decision about moving fell into my lap!
Someone just recently said to me, “But nothing you do makes you any money! It’s all just a bunch of charity work!” Yes, it is for charity, but it comes back to me. Every time you give, you receive. Every time you offer to do something to help, an opportunity to gain will come from it. I don’t do it for the money, I do it to help, and in return the opportunities arise that will benefit me as well. When you give from the heart, you will be more successful than if you chase the dollar bill.
The saying “Do what you love and the money will follow” is so true. I make a living without even trying sometimes. Things just fall into place. My teaching keeps me gainfully employed with a steady income. My books supply me with additional income, but my charity work makes me wealthy beyond measure.
I leave for Kansas in a couple of days, and I will be flying high knowing that my future is presenting itself to me. When the time is right to move, I will know. I will no longer try to control the timing. I’m just going to ride the wind, and let it tell me where to land. Until then, I love both places, and will do my job 100% in both.
What a lucky girl I am to be able to do what I love!
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more.Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!
• Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond