“I finally followed my passion for creating.” Leaving the security of a full-time salaried job can be daunting, especially if you are leaving to pursue a career as an artist. But that did not stop Theresa Stirling. With almost no training, the aspiring artist left her job to do what she loved: painting with fire and wax. Little did she know that her passion for art would grow to become her full-time freelance career and would truly allow her to discover her dream job.
Theresa studied economics at University of Washington and, after graduating, went into marketing in the Biotech industry. After a decade, something changed. “I wanted to do something more fulfilling,” says Stirling. “I realized: I had given all of myself to my clients and not enough to myself.” That is when she began encaustic painting. Encaustic art––an ancient style of painting involving heated beeswax and a blowtorch––captivated Stirling. “I hadn’t had any real training, but I would always look at different paintings and say ‘I could do that.’” Stirling began to practice encaustic painting, learned from some Seattle instructors, and quickly developed her skill.
After supplementing her natural talent with a few classes and private lessons, Stirling grew in her abilities. “I eventually reached out to galleries, and home interiors stores,” she says, “and some of them accepted my work.” It was not long before her extremely textured, unique works of art began to garner attention in the Washington, Oregon and Montana areas. Venues, firms, nonprofits, and individuals started commissioning her to paint, and so she began to freelance on the side. Her style became recognized, and her riveting depictions of nature and natural scenes became her brand. Nature continues to inspire her work.
“I got to experience some of the harder parts of freelancing,” says Stirling, who transitioned out of the company she and her husband owned four years ago to paint full time. Stirling says that the first years required a lot of learning. “There is the ebb and flow of income and revenue, then there are long periods of waiting to get balances due,” she says. “I’m still learning to smooth out the process.” Recently, Stirling created a profile on Moonlighting to take advantage of the business tools offered by the platform. The web and mobile app allows freelancers to get hired or hire for different services. “Moonlighting is already a useful tool in networking with other tech individuals, freelance writers, graphics professionals, home stagers and interior design enthusiasts,” says Stirling, who also uses the platform to keep track of invoicing and stay organized.
Stirling continues to pursue projects with meaning, even the ones that don’t pay. “I love teaching people about encaustic painting. I also enjoy creating with teenage girls going through some of those awkward years of life––bringing them into the studio and see how they blossom while painting with molten wax.” Stirling also donates a significant portion of her commissions to animal shelters, education, and the arts, and could envision holding creative retreats at her idyllic property on a Washington canal. When asked how she balances home, work and parenting, Stirling says, “I just grab the paddleboard when the water is calm out front, and get lost for a while in nature’s beauty.”
“I am still learning and endlessly fascinated by the wax medium and the collaborations I share with others,” Stirling says. “Each piece is really a journey, a compilation of stories. The immersion, and the high vibrations of what I do, while having it valued by others, is fantastic.” Stirling is flying to Montana to do a custom ceiling mural installation in the prestigious Yellowstone Club this month, her largest scale project to date. She continues to paint for a living, for her clients, but most importantly, because she loves creating beauty and sharing it with others.
This article was originally featured in the USA Today.