Years and years ago, I used to paint like a fiend. If I wasn’t pre-occupied with some life event, you could usually find me in my bedroom, paintbrush in hand. I’ve since fallen out of the habit, but am seriously inspired by Alyson Johnson to pick it up again. With photos from Allison Mannella, we’ve been privy to a beautiful behind the scenes glimpse at her process.  Bonus: there’s a giveaway down below, and more over here!

SMP: How did you get your start in the art world?

I had a fabulous high school art teacher who championed my work and encouraged me to pursue art. He orchestrated my first commissions: a set of botanical paintings and a giant horse sculpture for Gallopalooza! I continued studying art in college and was lucky to sell pieces from my thesis exhibition. Later, while I worked at art museums and an art consulting firm, I painted friends’ pets as gifts to keep my skills up. I slowly but steadily dipped my toes into the commercial art world, and just recently jumped all the way in!

SMP: Why did you choose art as a career path?

I’ve always loved creating beautiful things! Art was my favorite subject and hobby as a kid. At one point, my mom’s decorator hired a muralist to paint our kitchen, and I was TOTALLY in awe… she traveled all over the world, made her own hours, met nice people, and worked in beautiful spaces. I wanted to be just like her. Never did I imagine I would start such a business in my twenties!

Once I get going in the studio, I’m totally engrossed in the art and could work for hours on end. At the end of the day, I can see physical evidence of the progress I’ve made, which is so satisfying. It’s good to know that there are pretty things in the world now that wouldn’t have existed without my hand.

SMP: From where do you draw your inspiration?

I study images from home magazines to see what looks good on the walls – I like Traditional Home, Elle Décor, Southern Living, House Beautiful, etc. There are also a number of young artists whose work I love, such as Teil Duncan, Michelle Armas, and Sally King Benedict, so I follow their Instagram accounts and blogs. Pinterest makes it really easy to organize the millions of images I love.

That being said, there’s nothing like going to see art in person. Walking through a museum or gallery, I get embarrassingly close to paintings to try and figure out how the artist created a certain stroke or glaze. I start itching to be in the studio and put my own

SMP: What do you do when you’re feeling less than inspired?

Get over it! There’s work to be done! I might take a break to do some business-side tasks: website, emails, invoices, etc. But then it’s back to the studio!

I also make time for other interests, like cooking, reading, getting outside, friends, and now I’m taking French lessons. Funny, but they all provide balance… inspiration from one can influence all the others.

SMP: Have you ever doubted yourself? If so, how did you overcome it?

Oh boy, of course, what artist doesn’t? Art is so subjective… what one person treasures, another person might throw away. You can’t please everyone. I like such a variety of styles that I have trouble defining my own, so I just take one project at a time, and make each individual piece the best it can possibly be. Each new commission is like a vote of confidence, and that helps me remember that I’m on the right track.

SMP: What’s one thing that really made your business thrive?

My people. I’m eternally grateful for a network of friends and clients that support, inspire, and challenge me. Without them, I would never have been able to grow my business or be featured on this site!

SMP: What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You won’t know the value of your network until you actually reach out to them. I received invaluable critiques, advice, leads, suggestions, and feedback once I finally started talking about my art. People want you to succeed!

SMP: If you could do it all over again, what would you change?
I’d take myself seriously from the beginning. People won’t respect your business unless you respect it first.

SMP: What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Don’t put your drink next to your supplies while you’re painting. I’ve dunked too many paintbrushes into my tea!

SMP: HA! Awesome advice! If you could get a message across to a large audience, what would it be?Make yourself happy in YOUR way! Surround yourself with whatever makes your heart sing, no matter whether it’s “on-trend” or not.

Love her? I know. I’m totally smitten. And it gets better because Alyson has agreed to give away a $150.00 credit towards some of her work (that means you can buy an already-made piece, or put it towards a commission of your own)! Simply follow the instructions riiiiight here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Photography: Allison Mannella | Studio/Artist: Alyson Johnson