We had the good fortune of connecting with Megan Coonelly and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Megan, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
When I first started this business as full time artist, I was already balancing my time between my pregnancy, graduate school as well as the responsibilities of working at the university. I was convinced my future success had to live in grind culture. When the twins were sleeping, I was painting. When they did tummy time I was researching hashtags. I had already acclimated myself to routinely burning out. My work-life balance constantly shifts. As your children age, their needs change. Evolving as they have over the years has kept my work life balance in flux as well. Your business needs can shift. Not only was I watching my children grow but I was also faced with how my business grows as well? What shifts did I need to make to feel and be more successful.
My true success continues by focusing on balance and rest, not as an afterthought, but a forethought. Burning out stressed me out. Waiting for the burnout to happen, stressed me out. I no longer wish to celebrate or entertain grind culture. I have slowed down. Investing in myself has brought a better business-parenthood balance. I have outsourced where I can. I prioritize rest, not just in an effort to avoid burning out, but because I never want to celebrate over exhausting myself again.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art, at its best, feels like a celebration. I can work in several veins and have them all still feel like they all belong to Megan Coonell.y. I push through the fear of trying something new. This past year I began experimenting with sculpture. It has been truly freeing knowing I don’t have to pigeon hole my work. My paintings are bold, bright expressions of experiences close to me. My spiritual upbringing focuses on the strength of Mary, in my Hail Mary Collection. This collection is an expression on prayer and meditation and it has connected me to so many different stories and their own experiences in collecting a Hail Mary and why it matters to them. Mary, as an icon, is widely loved and seen as a totem of female strength. I remember that, as I create her forms in new ways as a new way to celebrate this beloved figure. Most recently, my Ice Cream Collection has brought me back to my own childhood and a simple memory of eating the ice cream before it all melts away. Watching my twins experience summers I am brought back to my own youth and the feelings of being young. I don’t think children feel carefree, in fact, there are nothing BUT rules. But there are these fleeting moments we hold onto that can reflect a feeling as a whole. For me, ice cream represents that childhood that’s melting away. We need to gobble it all up before it literally slips from our fingers. When I’m with my children, I try to put myself back in their shoes and maybe enjoy myself a little more as well.
I don’t think any artist will tell you their journey has been easy. As a profession, you’re immediately faced with calls to be more sensible with your career. My higher education all focused on fine art and painting. I originally pictured myself teaching. After my pregnancy and motherhood took front and center, I knew it might be the last time I could take the risk to begin my artist journey as a full-time artist. Otherwise, if I continued on the 9-5 train, responsibility wouldn’t let me get off. Why take the risk now? Financially, it actually made more sense than being an adjunct professor or working 9-5. The schedules of both professions aren’t exactly parent-friendly. Most adjuncts do not get benefits, and you have to work between several schools to make ends meet. In both situations any money made would go right back to childcare. I had a budding following and was selling work consistently, and I knew if i could keep this trend up, I could make it. And I have. I haven’t worked for anyone but myself since, and I can’t imagine working for anyone else again. I credit my children for finally giving me the push to do this full time.
Investing in mentors has also been so helpful. No amount of investing in yourself is not rewarded. You cannot know everything there is to know about running a business, or growing a business when you’re starting off. It’s foolish to think it happens easy. Finding the right mentors, who have done THE THING, help you grow personally and professionally. I have been fortunate to work and befriend with some incredible women on my journey. When you stop the competition in the art scene, and focus on letting everyone flourish, it becomes an incredibly supportive community. There is no market too saturated for your knowledge and your perspective. I would tell every artist, find your tribe. Find your support system. Everyone deserves support for whatever they dream up doing.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Shoutout to my Ellie and Gene. I’m a better parent when I slow down and enjoy the little moments playing with you.