It’s a cliché for a reason: the 9-5 desk employee yearning for a workday of inspiration—the freedom to set your schedule to align with your energy, daily rhythms, and whims. And while the fantasy remains, few of us ever act on our desire. Of course, there’s a trusting leap from security that comes with stepping away from the corporate sphere. But by trusting yourself and believing in your talents, the dream of sharing your perspective through your chosen medium can become a reality. That’s a truth and a journey that artist Aileen Fitzgerald knows well.
Though before transitioning into her life and career as a painter, Aileen’s days weren’t tied to the repetitive cadence of the 40-hour workweek. Before becoming an artist, Aileen worked as a nurse. And though the schedule was unpredictable at times, it organized her days into the common divide between work and life.
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Aileen Fitzgerald on Finding the Simple, Innate Beauty in Every Day
Now, as an artist and the owner of a small business, creating separation between her work and her life has evolved into a tricky balance. Because when you pour your passions and perspective onto the canvas, the simultaneous pleasure and challenge can be all-encompassing. So much so, that you can’t step away.
But step away, Aileen does. She’s the certain sort of creative who understands that inspiration can come from every experience, no matter how minute. Aileen makes time for morning bike rides, reading, swimming, playing with her daughter, and gathering with her family.
At the core of it all is a deeply felt love for moments of connection—the “cherished moments” and conversations that fill her with their simple, undeniable beauty.
We spoke with Aileen about how she navigates her days and creates space to put herself in the path of inspiration at every turn. The conversation was enough to convince us: the artist’s life isn’t inherently beautiful. It takes work and perspective to find those things you connect with, the people you love, and the moments that leave you in awe.
What’s the first thing you do each morning?
Meet whichever primal need comes first to mind—hunger, sex, or relieve my bladder!
Tell us about your life as an artist, what does a typical day look like?
Each day is different as I juggle painting time and administrative work. My ideal artist’s day starts with a bike ride to my downtown studio. I try to complete my least favorite tasks first—this typically involves time on the computer. The sooner I can wrap up emails and orders, the faster I can set the scene to paint for the remainder of the day!
What’s something you’re committed to doing every single day, no matter what?
Finding adventure or wonder throughout my day. It can be as commonplace as a different turn on my bike route, as grand as a spontaneous trip to the river, and as minute as finding a snail shell to show my daughter. It all feels on a similar scale to me, really. It comes naturally now and makes for high contentment.
How does the design of your space reflect your priorities and goals?
I am massively affected by my environment (at home and at work). I’ve always believed your space is a physical reflection of your energy. I prefer to feel primarily soothed, which for me means “light and bright” in my design. The stimulation in my studio is low and soft, and I direct this energy into my paintings.
Are there any daily or weekly chores you always enjoy?
Yard work! Hands down my favorite. There’s something about getting your fingers and nails into the earth that’s quite grounding. My daughter and I are often outside, so including her in watering or planting is always a joy.
Do you have a favorite scent?
I’m still figuring out what scents I enjoy the most. I’m constantly burning through candles and enjoy a different scent each time.
How does music play a part in your daily life?
I love music during my commute because it starts my day with singing and dancing. I’ll play a variety of music when painting—you’ll hear 6lack, Brothers Osborne, Khrangbin, Nathaniel Rateliff, H.E.R., Ryan Bingham, Celeste, FKJ… I enjoy all kinds and the hours painting fly by.
How do you keep yourself energized throughout the day?
If I need a dose of energy, I take a quick walk outside the studio. Austin’s downtown business district is always bustling and I come back feeling quite energized. It also doesn’t hurt to have Houndstooth [Coffee] right down the street.
Where do you turn for inspiration when you’re feeling creatively blocked?
Offline, always. Feeling blocked doesn’t occur too often because I implement my go-to inspirations on a daily or weekly basis: grounding myself in nature, strolling through an antique mall, and flipping through vintage design/art/photography books.
How do you prioritize health and wellness?
Once you find the things that consistently feel good to you, you tend to pick them. I like to feel good! I enjoy meal prepping to make easy meals for the week. It takes two minutes to make a nutritious meal when you’ve spent one hour on a Sunday to prepare. It’s even more rewarding when the ingredients are from the Sunday farmer’s market. I enjoy moving my body most by riding my bike. My commute to work via bike is the best 30 minutes of my day!
What’s the best career advice anyone has ever given you?
I honestly don’t know. I went against the career advice of many of those closest to me when I switched careers, and it was a really difficult time. I’ve gone against artist career advice and implemented practices that best support my energy and process. I think the best overall life advice I’ve ever heard and will offer is “energy is currency.”
What has surprised you the most about being an artist?
How deeply connecting it is. I used to fear that switching my career from nursing to painting would mean giving up my most cherished moments with people. I’ve been so surprised to learn how much vulnerability is a part of being an artist. The connections and conversations I’ve had leave me awestruck.
How would you describe your work/life balance?
It was much easier to keep things separate when I was working as a nurse. I’d clock out and leave my work at work. “Work” thoughts are constantly on my mind as an artist and owner of a small business. Once dinner time rolls around though, I’m ready to enjoy cooking/reading/time with my people.
What’s the best spot in your house?
Home: the backyard. I consider this my outdoor living room. If I’m working from home, you’ll find me at my café table outside working. Completing emails while surrounded by bamboo and flowers is the ultimate balance.
Studio: I recently had a new window installed in the back room of the studio, and the sun patch that pours in is the coziest spot to work in.
Name one fashion or self-care product you can’t live without:
My vintage jewelry cuff. I can’t remember the last time I ever took it off my wrist, so it’s a part of my body now.
You need to unwind after a long day. What’s your go-to method?
WINE. Just kidding, a walk around the neighborhood. But a glass of wine while cooking a delicious meal doesn’t hurt.
What’s your favorite time of day and why?
Early morning. I wake up early enough to pack lunches and get ready before my daughter wakes up… and try to spend at least 30 minutes hanging out with myself. My introverted self thrives if I start the day with reading or outside.