Imagine spending years building a body of artwork — only to see your precious paintings stolen before your eyes.
That misfortune befell East Kildonan artist Christie Dawn earlier this year, when two thieves broke into her car and pilfered about 20 art pieces.
"I came out of where I was and I actually saw the two guys making off with all my stuff. The only things I managed to recover were a few pieces they dropped along the way," she says.
Since then, Dawn has been hard at work building her inventory back up from scratch.
"I’m about halfway there, from what I had stolen," she says. "I mean, of course it got me down, but what can you do in a situation like that? I said to myself, we’ve just got to keep going and create new stuff."
Dawn is a busy single mother of two, who works three days a week at CJNU 107.9 FM, a non-profit community radio station, and also volunteers regularly at Winnipeg Folk Festival Music Store.
Somehow, she also finds time to pursue her true passion — art.
"It’s a full load, for sure," she says. "How do I manage it? People ask me that all the time. The answer is, I really have no idea. I just do it."
Dawn, 34, is a self-taught artist who says she’s been drawing and painting "ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil or a paintbrush."
She works primarily with acrylics on canvas and describes her original artwork as "bright, colourful and inspiring." Dawn creates commission pieces as well, and says her artwork sells in the $25 to $200 range.
Dawn enjoys her radio job but says her ultimate goal is to earn a living as a full-time artist.
And the way she plans to do that is to turn her art into a thriving business.
Dawn recently turned to SEED Winnipeg for help. Last spring, she completed an eight-week Business Management Training course offered by the non-profit economic development agency, and she still confers regularly with a SEED business counselor.
"I’m a creative person, so I didn’t have a lot of business management skills," Dawn says. "They helped me tremendously in that area, so now I know what’s involved in running a business."
Frank Atnikov is Dawn’s business consultant at SEED, located on Salter Street in Winnipeg’s North End. He acknowledges that making a living as an artist isn’t easy and that the transition from artist to entrepreneur will no doubt take time.
But Atnikov is also confident that Dawn has everything she needs to succeed.
"I love her business plan. I love her ideas," Atnikov says, adding that patience and determination are two of Dawn’s biggest assets.
"She’s incredibly resilient, more so than probably most," he says. "And her attitude is always upbeat and positive and realistic."
Dawn launched her new business — called Rainbow Earth Creations — this month. She creates art and manages the business out of her home, and has plans to branch out into other areas such as prints and putting her artwork onto clothes.
"I have a lot of ideas floating around," Dawn says, adding she’s using social media like Facebook to help market her artwork.
The link to her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/pages/Rainbow-EarthCreations-by-Christie-Dawn/131338780349996.
Dawn says her inspiration for forming Rainbow Earth Creations came from hearing too many people complain about their jobs.
"I said I wasn’t going to be one of those people," she says. "I’m going to do what I love to do, and hopefully provide inspiration for other people as well."