How I Quit My Day Job to Be an Artist: Part 1

day job


In this four-part series, I unpack how I went from corporate slavery to creative freedom by quitting my day job and investing in my art career.

After graduating from RISD in 2003, and until 2010, I worked desk jobs. Here is the sequence of jobs that eventually drove me to do what I did. I wrote catalogs for the Print department at Christie’s Auction House in New York for four years, and then I moved to Colorado and took a job at a print shop that did etching and monoprinting and that sort of thing.

I quit the corporate New York job to try to get more hands-on work and make stuff again, but I didn’t know how to do that without working for someone else, so I thought a print shop would be good. At least I’d be in a creative environment and it would be a step away from the corporate stuff. At least that’s what I thought.

The print shop was in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and was a really small business with the owner, his wife, a master printer and three women printers working there. I hated the asshole who owned it. I would never call just any man an asshole. This man was horrendous. He told me I was fat so I quit.

We had all planned on going to the IFPDA Art Fair that always falls on Halloween in New York. We were like, “We should all five dress up with a theme!” So someone had the idea to do the Addams Family, and we were all sitting around deciding who was going to be who. The asshole owner said, “Sara, you can be the fatter younger brother.”

Then he started giving me articles to read. I had this lower back issue and he gave me articles about how being overweight fucks up your back.

So I quit.

I moved to close to where my mom lives in San Antonio, Texas. I got a job at Flatbed Press and worked there for a year — then they laid most of the staff off in 2008 when the big recession happened. My mom had just given me $600 for my security deposit so I could move to Austin and be closer to Flatbed. A month after I moved here, Flatbed laid me off.

I was on unemployment for six months and I couldn’t even get hired at Starbucks or Home Depot. Then I got a job as a curatorial assistant administering and designing exhibitions at the McNay Art Museum. It was a 9-to-5 desk job and it was in San Antonio. I was living in Austin, an hour away. So I was driving to San Antonio from Austin every day and wasting a lot of gas commuting. Imagine 700 days of that in a row, minus the weekends, commuting between San Antonio and Austin.

I worked at the McNay for one year but wanted to use my art degree for what I had intended! I was also burning out from all these desk jobs. I was just trying to think of how to get out of it and get into the studio full time.

And then … all this stuff began to happen.

Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4

Illustration by Eva Avenue.


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About Sara Vanderbeek

Sara Vanderbeek earned a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2003 and now paints in Austin.

In 2002 Vanderbeek was selected for a residency at Anderson Ranch in Colorado. In 2007, Christie’s Auction House, New York selected her as a visiting scholar grantee to travel to Japan where she spent three weeks researching Japanese printmaking history. In 2011, the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas exhibited Vanderbeek’s first solo show of portraiture.

Her work has been included in several solo and group shows nationally at the McNay Art Museum, Women & Their Work, Art Saint Louis, Christie’s Auction House, and AMOA-Arthouse. Her paintings are in several private collections in New York, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico. Vanderbeek’s current body of work, Portraits of the Artists, consists of a series of portraits of artists in their studios Including Leslie Dill, Chuck Close, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Julia Rothman, and many more.


  1. everettecartoons on April 16, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    A suspenseful article and an AMAZING illustration — wowser! Edie

  2. Eva Avenue on April 17, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Thanks Edie! Sara’s story IS inspiring and that illustration was all done on a napkin with markers, pen and paint!

  3. Cindy on April 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    OMG. More reasons to adore you.

  4. […] Check out her blog and post about her journey after RISD to becoming a successful  portrait painter: How I quit my day job to be an Artist […]

  5. SARA VANDERBEEK » Reveiller on July 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    […] can read more about her process from the artist herself via her four-part series How I Quit My Day Job To Be An Artist. To view more of Sara’s work, visit her website at […]

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