Trish Hawes and I met about 4 years ago after our sons began a friendship in elementary school. It was clear from the start, this woman had some serious talent. I am constantly being blown away by her skill, taste and attention to detail with every single project that she shares with me. From her paintings, to her cake and cookie decorating, her landscaping, and holiday and home décor, she is a true Renaissance woman.
A self-proclaimed Jack-of-all-trades–Master-of-none, Trish is an actual artist having studied art her whole life. From grade school through high school, she never missed an art class, and she ultimately earned a duel degree from Virginia Tech in Fine Arts and Marketing. Her talents were recognized at a young age. If there was an art award to be given, her classmates would be chanting her name before the winning name could be called. She was THAT kid. (I still remember THAT kid at my elementary school. Her name was Eleanor Kim and I always admired her God given talent.)
From the beginning, art was just her thing. Her mother recognized her talent and would support and encourage and provide gifts of art supplies. She remembers back to seventh grade when one of her art projects was selected to be in National Geographic Magazine. Growing up, Trish took the time to learn as much as she could and continues this tradition. Her stepfather was an electrician and her mom was a meat wrapper, but they believed in doing everything themselves, never hiring anyone to do tasks for them. She once had a friend call her a “country girl” as a way of describing the way that Trish would take on any project and complete it herself. (It’s crazy impressive.) She marvels at the fact that most people will pay someone beaucoup bucks to complete a task that might only take five minutes of their time and the “smallest bit of know-how”. She feels that people in our current culture have put themselves into “roles” to play and that we are not meant to be that way. She explains, “Back 20, 30 years ago, or back when our parents were growing up, they didn’t have people that they would pay to do stuff, they did it themselves. It’s a matter of figuring out what do we need to do to accomplish the task and [then] doing it.” She goes on, “With artists, we innately look, we watch, we see, we pay attention. We say, ok, it’s a process and you learn [that process].”
Trish spends a lot of time researching. She describes herself as left and right brained. The analytical side of her loves to research. Prior to staying home with her three children, she was a marketing analyst, becoming the director of the department of, drumroll please, Research! She says, “I dig in. Anything I do, I over analyze to the point where I know everything I could possibly know about it and more than you want to know. So if you ask me a question, be careful how much you ask because I will tell you everything that I found out.” As a result of this tenaciousness, she discovers all of the necessary steps to complete something and thinks, “I can do that. Now why would I pay someone to do this? Let’s get started.” She adds, “Then if I can’t [complete the task]; after I’ve tried it, then I’ll call someone in for help.”
Trish has traditional taste in art. She gravitates toward Renoir and Monet, but nature is her biggest form of inspiration. She loves the beauty of what Mother Nature has given us. She laments, “I think that’s what’s so hard when you’re in areas like ours where they’re ripping all of it down [for development]. You’re literally losing inspiration. You’re losing that beauty of the surroundings around us.” She goes on to say that inspiration for her doesn’t come from any one thing. She’s inspired by things that are literally going on in her life and it changes based on the stage of life that she is in. Right now everything is focused around her children.
It’s through this child-centric stage in her life that her art of cake decorating was born. Her children began to ask for elaborate themed cakes for their birthdays. Timed perfectly with the cake decorating industry explosion on television, she began watching the various programs and soaking it all in, finding cake and fondant just another art medium to harness and continue to challenge herself with. It became a new art to master. She explains, “I think any time an artist sees something they want to figure out how to do, figure out how to put their own spin on it, and have a new thing under their belt, they look for something new to try. They get bored reproducing the same things over and over again.” It’s these feelings or fear of boredom that have prevented her from opening a baking business. She explains, “When you take your art and you turn it into your business; you turn it into your job, it takes away a little bit of the spark that we have that gets us to start a project to begin with. It doesn’t mean we still won’t produce something good, it’s just, when you take the artist out of it and make it a production line thing, you lose a little bit of that joy that you get out of just doing it.”
Trish explains that an artist will always feel like they need to improve. And there in lies the catch 22. How does an artist learn to put [a project] down and walk away and say, “It’s good enough”? This is her wall that she needs to break down to be able to market her talent and turn it into a viable business. She shares, “One of the hardest things to do in art school was to listen to critiques. They’ve been told to express themselves and to have an opinion and to share it. If you are really invested in a piece and you don’t listen with open ears, sometimes you’re really missing valuable information to help you grow. Artists are always growing and that’s why we feel like we’re never “great” because there is always room to improve. It’s who we are. It’s innate. It keeps us humble and I think we listen more to other people because we always know there’s room to improve.”
I asked Trish if she had any professional goals for herself. Since she doesn’t have her own business (YET!), I was surprised that she said that answering this was easy. Her current goal is to create art for herself, not her family or her house. She wants to get back to actual painting; brush to canvas, not faux finishes on furniture or the like. She’s looking to get back into painting so that she might find her “niche”. Her dream would be to do commission work so that she could work from home, get paid to do something that she enjoys doing, and not have to create the same things over and over again, or return to the corporate world.
She talked about some regrets of making, what most would consider safe choices. Receiving a duel degree, and listening to advice from those who only had her best interest at heart, Trish finished college and pursued marketing as her career. In doing this, she ignored the truth about herself. She has never been anything other than an artist and she knew that. The “starving artist” thing is scary, and at her young, post-college age, she was guided and swayed to following the marketing path. In theory, marketing has creative elements, but it wasn’t from the creative realm that Trish thrives in.
Says Trish, “I haven’t been doing art that I would find myself really proud of in a very long time. The stuff that I did back in college, when I was taking the classes and when I was exploring for the first time the real depth of what it meant to be an artist and my own talent. I was focused. This was what I was going to do and it was exciting.” Every day she would get up and go to class and was creating something that was a part of her and her vision, and what she wanted to do. It was freeing. She adds, “What I’m most proud of [as an artist] is what I used to do and I need to get back to what it was that I know that I am, and have lost a lot of, being a wife and mother.”
Creative minded people realize that tomorrow is always a new day and there is always a new “us” that can begin anew. Trish says, “I’m always finding new chapters in my life where I’m starting over. I don’t see that as a bad thing. When I’m starting over, I’m taking a step forward. Occasionally I get knocked back a step or two, but I’ll always pick up and go forward. Art will always be with me because beauty is always in the world. It’s something that I’m always looking for. I think it’s something that we’re all looking for.” She adds, “You can have wealth, you can have success, but if you don’t have happiness, [and] don’t really love what you’re doing, than you’re missing out on probably the most important thing in life.” She wants this for her kids more than anything and still wants it for herself. She hopes that her new chapter will provide an avenue that she’s a little happier with and that is truer to who she is.
Her advice? “Do what you love to do. You can be good at something because your personality dictates that you’re going to be good, but if you don’t love what you do, you are ultimately not going to do it really well.” She hopes that her children hear this and learn from what she would call her mistakes. She firmly believes that you have to [fail] to learn and to move forward and that most just need to accept their mistakes, get up, shake themselves off, [maybe] find a new path, but move forward. Life doesn’t stop and she doesn’t stop.
Says Trish, “Everyone is good at something. Don’t lose your light to make someone else’s brighter. Don’t diminish your light because someone else’s light shines in another area. [For example] If you are good at math, be good at math. Be who you want to be. Too many people get lost if their paths don’t turn out the way they intended. Take a right and keep going.”