By Eileen Millan
After a fairly successful career as an executive assistant and artist, I was able to buy my co-op apartment 20 years ago. As you all know, times have changed and we never know what life will bring us. This is the story of my second act.
I had just retired and was painting up a storm; I had an art dealer handle my work and also some sold-out gallery shows for my “Mr. Big Ears” watercolor paintings. I had even managed to talk the Starbucks on Union Square into taking down their coffee bean posters and replacing them with the work of local artists.
Then, back in 2008, I thought I was on top of the world. But, like the stock market, my life crashed and burned. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, not just once, but twice. Within a few years, I lost seven friends and family members—my world came to an end. I put my brush down and packed up my paints. I was also in need of money and was living off of my savings—I had to sell all of my jewelry and antiques for extra cash.
This continued for years! I just couldn’t come to grips with all the losses and health issues I was battling. A few years later, I had an accident and was on disability (my arm was out of commission); with that accident I received a small settlement to help me get by. Well, with darkness comes light, and just one small token of kindness and creativity helped me get back on track.
It was my friend’s 65th birthday and I wanted to do something nice for her. So, I went to the top of my closet where I had stashed my art supplies and picked up my brush again. I made her a special hand-painted birthday card and a small painting. To say the least, she was so touched and taken aback that I was actually painting again and had done this for her.
She loved it so much that she framed it. When she had friends and family over, they inquired as to where she had gotten the painting and card. That was my “ah-ha!” moment—I had to get back to painting.
This time, I decided to focus on making greeting cards. From then on it was full-speed ahead. To date, I have had three art shows in my co-op’s board room and have sold over 150 hand-painted and collage greeting cards. I work out of my studio apartment and have turned my shopping cart into a store on wheels, which I take to my customers’ apartments.
Eileen Millan can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “greeting cards” into the subject line for a speedy response.