An Artist’s Story with Abby Houston: It’s Never Too Late To Create

It’s never too late to create a daily habit…

When I set out to start my small business as a professional artist at age 40 I didn’t actually set out trying to create a business. I set out trying to create a daily habit. Flashback to 2020 (yes, we’re going there) four years ago I found myself looking for a way to cope with the demands of working while raising a family under COVID lockdown. My professional career as an Art Teacher and Art Therapist always had me coming up with ideas for how to work with students to build creative curriculum and strategies for healthy development. Like many of you, in 2020 I was thrust into a new way of teaching, adjusting to how to best connect with my community in an online format.  What I found under the pressures of lockdown was that I desperately needed to inject some creative habits into my own life, especially if I was going to expect students and my own three children to do so.

So, I did what any uncertain artist/mother/teacher/person in a pandemic might do, I started The 100 Day Project. On a whim late one night (and not even in conjunction with the new year!) I decided to start a habit of making a piece of artwork each day. I began setting aside a few minutes to create for myself. I used a plastic clipboard and a pouch of paint pens. That’s it. Often this was at night when the kids were asleep. Often it was when I was binge-watching a show or trying to scarf down my dinner. Often it was when I was trying to avoid the reality that the world was changing and I had little to no control over what was happening outside of myself.   

As a way of keeping track of my daily habit,  I began documenting my process by snapping and posting photos on an IG account dedicated to my practice. I started to tell my story of how art making was healing, grounding, and a way to process. In addition, I began walking every day. This connection between the earth, my body, and my breath provided a chance for me to unwind physically… Around the 30th day of my new habits, I started to have inquiries from people to buy my work. At the time this felt both ridiculous and invigorating. “I’m just an Art Teacher, not a REAL Artist,” said that familiar voice.  I tend to be impulsive and driven by tasks, so I decided to build a website and start posting work for sale on it. When I posted this piece Round & Round  (which we now refer to as “the hit”) it sold instantly to a non-family member and was well received by my audience (at the time around 300 followers).  This prompted me to make prints of my work to see if they would sell-and to this day that one paper piece that came out of my daily habit of creating art is what motivated me to push my daily practice into my small business. 

I have realized that part of the joy in creating my artwork comes with sharing the process because for me the process is what connects us all together. As I have refined my creative practice and shared it on Social Media and with the Creativebug community I have begun to note what works best for me in my practice. I’ve begun to break art school rules and instead lean into techniques that feel good to me and my aesthetic. For example, I frequently work on watercolor paper with acrylic paints and I never tape down my edges (gasp!) Forming a daily habit is what led me to find myself. It’s what kept me engaged and connected with a wider community at a time when so much was uncertain. I kept coming back to my daily creative practice because the habit had become automatic. It had become who I was. An artist. 

Abby Houston | Creativebug Instructor

Born and raised in Portland, OR, Abby Houston lives, teaches, creates art and raises her three daughters. Abby has developed a daily creative practice that has become a necessary and automatic part of developing and maintaining her creative identity. Recently having left the classroom teaching arena, Abby continues creating community through her personal fine art practice and inviting social media presence. Abby’s colorful and expressive abstract works reflect a sense of calm and chaos, fluidity and structure. Abby works primarily in acrylics on canvas and is inspired by the natural and internal worlds she lives in. When Abby isn’t making art, she is scavenging for supplies, going on walks in the rain, volunteering in her community, hiking with her daughters to take photographs or driving across town to pick up some ornate item off of a neighborhood list. Abby will never pass up the opportunity to score a great deal at a garage sale and she is always game for rooting through boxes of items left on the streets of SE Portland. And yes, she once managed to make her husband carry home a kitchen sink so that she could use it as an art installation in their backyard.