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How I Became an Accidental Artist


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Six months ago I’d never painted anything on a canvas.  Ever.  Now? I’m an artist.  An artist who sells paintings for actual American dollars.  No one is more surprised than me. I’ve been wanting to tell you how this happened.  How I accidentally, and without really trying, became an artist.  But gosh, the story doesn’t read well.  Because I want you to hear the wonder and excitement and THRILL in my voice.  And you can’t.  So, you’ll just have to read this and imagine that I’m sitting in front of you with my hands clasped tightly together under my chin.  And imagine my voice being all breathy and my eyes really, really big.  Also, I’m smiling.  I cannot for the life of me stop smiling.

Let us begin.

On November 8th I was scheduled to attend the 40th birthday celebration for one of my life-long friends.  My maid of honor for life.  The celebration was in Dallas and Dave and I had a whole weekend planned.  Just the two of us.

And then my kid got the flu.  On November the 8th.  Which is really early for flu season, but my kid is the valedictorian of the flu.  In fact? This particular bout with the flu marked his THIRD time to get it in 2013.  Yes! Like I said, valedictorian of the flu.

So we couldn’t go.  And whoa there were tears.  By me.  So, on a whim, I bought myself some paint and a pack of 5 canvases at the craft store and decided I would paint my friend a Meaningful Painting.  One that she would keep forever and would tell people that her dearest Rita painted it for her.  (I’m nothing if not dramatic).

And so I painted.  And? It was spectacularly awful.  Like, seriously hideous, y’all.

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So I tried again.  This time was a wee smidge better.  So I instagrammed a photo of the painting.

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And here’s where The Weird began to happen.  People wanted that painting! A friend called that very day and asked if I’d do a larger piece for her dining room.  And do you know what? I said SURE as if I KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT PAINTING.

Because I am insane.

And then? A few weeks later, I ran into another mom from school in a store I never go to.  She said she was an interior designer and asked if I would do some paintings for an upcoming show.  AND I SAID YES AGAIN.  AS IF I WERE AN ARTIST OR SOMETHING.

The show was December 1st and I sold 4 big paintings.  And then MORE people heard about me and MORE people saw paintings on Instagram and then MORE people wanted paintings.

Pretty soon, STRANGERS were wanting paintings. WHAT IN THE WORLD??

So, on December 26th, 2013 I opened a little etsy shop.  I sold my first painting within minutes (thanks Stephenie!).


Since then, I’ve had to figure out postage (I have a FedEx account now… I am totally Big Time!) and I’ve made friends with the dude at the local box supply store (turns out, the “baby crib mattress” box is excellent for shipping paintings).  I’ve created a make-shift logo and printed business cards and stationery and pretty mailing labels.  I even opened a separate checking account.


In short, I’ve accidentally started a business.

I’ve never had more fun in my entire life.  Ever.  And it’s all thanks to Instagram.  Or Jesus.  Probably more Jesus.

ps: until I get a real-live gallery website, follow me on Instagram to see examples of my work.

Author: Rita Ortloff

highly caffeinated mother of two. part-time homeschooler and marketing manager. full-time wife and mother. lover of books, the ipad, and any animal with fur. hater of spiders and spanx.

6 thoughts on “How I Became an Accidental Artist

  1. I love it! Love sharing on Pinterest and seeing friends re-pin!

  2. This is the best story ever, and I’ve been waiting and waiting to hear details of how this all started! You are amazing, girlfriend!!!

    • Thanks Shan! It’s been a crazy fun ride!

      • I don’t understand, though, what spurred you to buy the paint and canvasses that stressful/upsetting day rather than, say, a scrapbook or a new lipstick or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. I mean, were you artistic as a child? Did you always want to get back to painting? Was it divine intervention??

  3. I found you via Instagram and so glad I did! A stranger here who LOVES her painting!🙂 Congrats on your success, you are very talented.

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