No-Bullshit Career Talk With... An Artist

Emmy Yoneda on why she loves being an artist, money worries & all.

Welcome to my new blog series, "No-Bullshit Career Talk", where creatives in "unconventional" careers share how they honestly make it work.

Emmy Yoneda and I met working on the shop floor at Selfridges. We bonded over a mutual hatred for the job and have been friends ever since. She is one of the most creative people I know and her artwork is amazing. You should go fill your walls with it. Seriously, it’s THAT good. 

If you thought art was just for privileged trustfundafarians, think again. Here is her story of dealing with financial woes and designing the life she deserves. She inspires me every day, and I just know she'll inspire you too.

I’ve always felt the need to paint, draw and make things. But growing up, all I heard were comments like “artists are just lazy”, “you can only do art as a hobby” or “you want to be an artist? So you don’t want to work?” whenever I would discuss my goals. These kind of comments make you question yourself and what you want to do. It made me feel lost and confused. Because surely if that many people are saying it, it must be true? So I listened. 

It led me to work in luxury retail instead, but I went from job to job feeling the same dissatisfaction and boredom.

I would find myself sitting at the till point doodling on receipt paper, thinking “what am I doing here?”

After working as a sales consultant at Dior for a couple of years, I found myself interested in visual merchandising. It wasn't enough, but it was something. In order to pursue a career in it, I needed to gain a qualification. So I quit my job, did everything I could to get a place at The Art Academy and made major sacrifices to make it happen. While I was there, I slowly pushed visual merchandising to the side lines and allowed myself to become what I truly want to be: an artist. Over the course of a year, I let go of thinking that being an artist isn’t a realistic lifestyle, and started opening myself up and putting myself into my work.

The process was hard, but once you let go and just release the part of you you’ve been suppressing, you can’t stop it! You just want to share more and more. 

I’m not going to say quitting my job and taking on a part-time role at a pub with a huge pay cut to pursue my dream wasn’t hard. It was, and is, a struggle.

But my break-through moment was when I was recently offered a place at Chelsea College of Arts. I broke down in tears. I had convinced myself for so long that it didn’t matter if I didn’t get in, and then I got the email and was completely overwhelmed. Only then did I realise that it’s not only what I want to do, it’s what I NEED to do. And it’s something I’m entirely capable of. Despite the financial issues, I did my research and thought fuck it! I’ve got a tough road ahead, but I can’t let myself go back to the life of working with no enjoyment or satisfaction. I can’t keep lying to myself. 

If it makes anyone feel better, I am terrified every day, but have taught myself to accept the fear and do my best to overcome it.

I still have my doubts from time to time, of course. But I’m living the life I want, and discovering more and more about myself and what I’m capable of! It’s all made worth it when someone tells me they love my work, or better yet feel they connect with it - I can't describe the joy it brings me. There’s no feeling like it! I begin my studies at Chelsea in October and am excited to see how much my practice changes and develops. Plus, I’m excited to see how my own business evolves over time too. I’m just starting out selling paintings and prints and I really want to make it happen.

I think your ‘gut feeling’ speaks volumes. Many people mistake it for fear or doubt, but that isn’t it. Your gut feeling, career-wise, is often a goal or desire you haven’t yet realised.

As someone who didn’t do the textbook school, university, grad scheme thing, I can’t emphasise how important it is to create a path that works for you. Don’t go to university at 18 just because everyone else is.

Go to work, try out a few different things, travel the world, take some time out - you can only get to where you’re meant to be by trying.

I’ve stopped considering age as a factor. I once thought being a mature student would be awful, but you only limit your options by obsessing over age. If you’re ready by 22, awesome. If you’re not, then don’t worry about it. 

It has been a battle, financially and emotionally, but I finally feel I have potential and have the confidence to go for every chance I get! I feel alive. 

Check out Emmy's website for beautiful paintings, prints & more.