Megan Carty: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist

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I wish someone told me that making and selling art is not a quick business model. It’s a long game and the seeds planted take years to germinate. Many people don’t see success for ten years or more. There are always exceptions to this, but the majority of artists will build their careers with consistency, time, and attention. Selling art is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme. You must be dedicated, resilient, and willing to learn and improve over time.

As a part of our series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist” I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Carty.

Megan Carty was born in Portland, Maine, U.S.A. and is an accomplished colorist whose artistry is showcased through her dynamic, gestural abstract expressionist paintings. Her pieces feature a brilliant array of bombastic techno-colors and expressive mark-making that draw inspiration from the organic world. Based with her family in the tranquil New England countryside just outside Boston, Megan lives and creates amidst the beauty of nature.

Carty holds a BFA from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts: School of Art & Design. Her abstract art during her ongoing 25 year career thus far has been featured by Anthropologie, CBS Sunday Morning, Minted, Homegoods, Artfully Walls, Michaels Crafts, Modern Luxury Interiors Boston Magazine, Artists & Illustrators Magazine, SHLTR, The Spruce, The Jealous Curator, Maine Home & Design Magazine, Maine Cottage, the Improper Bostonian Magazine, Chris Loves Julia, The English Room blog, Honey & Fitz Collection, Hebrew Rehabilitation Center, and Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. Her original paintings reside in private collections in both the USA and internationally. Carty’s paintings can conveniently be purchased directly from the artist via her online gallery, In Canada, she is represented exclusively with Art Space & Design Galleries.

Carty offers many options to collect her work via one-of-a-kind original paintings, Giclée prints on fine art paper, and commissioned customized art. She also collaborates well with interior designers and art consultants. All are welcome to visit the Pepperell, Massachusetts studio by appointment; or she will happily meet you via online chat!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up in a mill town in southern Maine not far from Portland. My sweet Mom left her career as a secretary at City Hall to care for my brother and I while my outgoing Dad worked most of his career at the same environmental engineering company maintaining their computers and servers. We lived paycheck to paycheck but had everything we needed. We were very loved, and that is priceless. We spent summers visiting the family camp at the pond and hanging out at the local beaches on the ocean. It was the eighties and nineties, so there was a lot of staying out until the streetlights came on and being creative with our time! Though my parents were very laid back, I somehow became very “Type-A” and a people-pleaser. I got good grades and loved leading as many activities as I could. I was always very ambitious. I had my rebellious moments, of course, but I mainly wanted to make my parents proud.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I found my love of art when I was six while at my babysitter’s house. There were many rainy days where I needed to find things to do, and I always went straight to the paper and pencil to draw from observation. She had these ceramic bird knick-knacks on display, and I loved trying to capture their expressive gestures. I found that the more I drew, the better I got at it. I found it to be a great escape to pass the time and leave my anxiety behind. At age eleven I found oil paints and studied Bob Ross on PBS. Creating something from nothing felt so magical! I went to the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University and focused my art electives around painting and figure drawing while majoring in Advertising Design. Like many artists, I had a limiting belief that being a full-time painter was not possible for me because I was not wealthy or from a big city. I spent years making a living as a graphic designer working on branding and retail packaging projects for corporations. I never forgot my love of artmaking and kept it up as a hobby until the time came I could not bear to do anything else but paint. It felt like a primal calling. I had so many of my own ideas I needed to bring to life! That’s when I finally made the switch to focus on making art full time. I paint loosely and abstractly as a way to counteract my anxiety and need for control. I finally feel like I am living my purpose as my truest self. I love the freedom in my work and the flexibility with my time.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I first started painting full time, I mostly made New England landscapes. It was a great way to get comfortable using color and composition. One day, I felt compelled to put my hands on a wooden panel and pray for it to connect with someone who needed hope. Someone who needed reassurance and reminding that everything would be alright. I should note I don’t do this for every piece. I went on to create a wooded scene in fall colors with a small waterfall as the focus. I proudly finished after a few feverish days of obsessive painting and layering colors. That piece sat for sale on my website for two years, but I just KNEW it was waiting for the right person. One day I opened my email and a woman I did not know had purchased the piece and told me how significant it was to her. She told me that her husband had passed away the month before after a very brief illness. They had planned to travel to upper-Michigan to see the foliage and waterfalls, but never got to take the trip once he fell ill. She’d been heart-broken and felt lost and hopeless. She missed her husband. One day she was scrolling and saw the waterfall piece (I’d titled “Hope Flows”) and she was struck by it. Both the title and image seemed to call out to her. I’d shared my prayer of hopes for the painting in the description and she truly believed it was meant for HER. She felt like her husband had directed her to the painting and wanted her to have it. She later told me that looking at it made her feel “like everything was going to be ok” and that she seemed to feel his safe loving presence whenever she looked at it. I got chills when she told me that. Art has the power to heal, reassure, and inspire.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I just completed a collection of sculptural canvas abstract pieces that were inspired by various locations in beautiful Acadia National Park in Maine. I wanted to create my own unique take on the abstract landscape painting that felt chic and modern. I used colors and mark-making inspired by the coastline, the tide pools, the fresh-water springs, and the forests. The canvases have peaks and valleys that look like a topographic map from above. My dad was a cartographer in the Army and made elevation maps in Vietnam during the war. I suppose these are my love letters to him and to my home state.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I interact with so many awesome people to create custom pieces for their home and workspaces. We become friends during the process, and I really treasure the relationships that have been made. The retail art buyers at Anthropologie reached out to me once and asked me to create a custom abstract floral painting for them to use on a huge seven-foot tapestry to be sold online. What THEY don’t know is I had just created a career vision board for myself the previous week and “collaborating with Anthropologie” was on there! It was a thrill of a project to create and people from all over were sending me images of the tapestry in their homes. What’s better than helping people feel cheerful in their homes? I currently have an offering of print reproductions of paintings via Anthropologie, and I have to pinch myself that my vision has come to fruition!

Where do you draw inspiration from? Can you share a story about that?

I love to draw inspiration for my color combinations from robust floral arrangements. You can’t beat nature as inspiration! I also find a lot of inspiration from Pinterest where I search for images of runway fashion. Designers pair the most unique colors together in unexpected ways on the models. Fashion houses like Gucci and Dries Van Noten are examples where I find awesome color ideas. As for the paintings themselves, I definitely feel like I channel them from a spiritual place. I feel drawn to certain colors and a vibe I want to portray. Usually, I find myself painting visual poetry of the inner human experience. I use color and line as metaphors for our happiest times and our most tumultuous times. I use lots of open space as a metaphor for our open minds, and the paint serves as our thoughts, personality, memories, and emotions…both the good and bad. I find there is so much beauty to be found in this contrast. Kind of like a floral bouquet…as a whole it is beautiful, but there are frayed edges, dried leaves, shriveled petals. Our inner landscape is a lot like this. It’s always wilting and being reborn the way the garden is.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I want others to see themselves in my paintings. I want them to feel empowered, connected, emboldened, and reminded of how awesome they are just as themselves. I spent a lot of my life feeling self-conscious, shy, and uncool; like I didn’t have anything special to add. I’d suffered some nasty relationships that left me feeling weak and battered. But we are all perfectly made, no matter what we were told. The day I decided to use my voice to paint and express myself is the day I stopped trying to be anything but myself. We are all a little rough around the edges and that’s what makes us so interesting and valuable. Our unique qualities are what make us special and memorable, and we need to love and celebrate ourselves first. We need to take up space and allow ourselves to stand out. That’s what my paintings are all about.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

1. I wish someone told me just how often I would need to get back up again after getting knocked down. Failure is inevitable. Being told “no” is the most common answer. Sometimes things don’t work out the way I’d hoped. And despite all of this, I dust myself off and make the choice to keep going. Over and over and over again. Rejection can be tiring, painful, and depressing; but you will never hear a YES if you don’t face all the no’s that flow along.

2. I wish someone told me I would need to stop waiting to be picked. The world is saturated with artists. Waiting to be found or noticed is a huge mistake. After watching other people make waves in their careers, I realized that I needed to make my own opportunities to be seen and heard. If I don’t first share about my work and advocate for myself, who will? Success will find you working, not waiting.

3. I wish someone told me sooner that not everyone will like my work and that’s ok. My work is not FOR everyone. It’s for the people who DO like it! All kidding aside, there are so many people on the planet with different tastes. My job is to make honest art that is true to my own vision and trust that it will connect with the right people in its own time. If I get negative feedback, I know not to take it personally and that it’s ok for us all to like different things. I need to stand behind my voice with confidence and that will draw others in.

4. I wish someone told me sooner that the number of social media followers we have does not equate to our income. A small and engaged audience who loves what you do is all you need. The goal is to connect and form authentic relationships with actual humans. The rest will fall into place. We must put our focus on making the best work possible. That’s the priority.

5. I wish someone told me that making and selling art is not a quick business model. It’s a long game and the seeds planted take years to germinate. Many people don’t see success for ten years or more. There are always exceptions to this, but the majority of artists will build their careers with consistency, time, and attention. Selling art is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme. You must be dedicated, resilient, and willing to learn and improve over time.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The movement I would most want to inspire would be one that pushes self-acceptance. Too many people dull their shine to “fit in” and avoid the pain of criticism and scrutiny. I’m convinced so many people are experiencing depression because they are not living the colorful lives they were meant to! People are walking around full of self-judgment and shame. There are way too many bullies in the world trying to dictate how we should present ourselves. We do not need to be complacent, boring, and plain. We need to VALUE a little weirdness and quirkiness! We need to ENCOURAGE oddities and have more fun in life. If everyone were accepted and embraced, there would be so much more happiness and satisfaction. In the meantime, we must be willing to work past our embarrassment, fear, and self-judgements and pave the way for others to do the same.

We have been blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she just might see this.

Lunch is my favorite meal! If I had absolutely ANY choice, I would love to be able to talk with Lady Gaga. I really admire her for being unapologetically herself and for letting her creative genius shine in many different ways. She wears many hats successfully in business and is a powerhouse. She knows she must stay true to her own vision and her own voice and is the ultimate example of triumph in that arena. There is so much to be learned from the paths she’s forged. She is transparent about her journey and the struggle of being a human; and that is important to recognize in a world of smoke and mirrors. She cares deeply about making quality meaningful work and I value that the most. At the end of the day, the work and its honesty are what matters.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I am most active on Instagram, (@megan_carty_art). I share tips about art business on TikTok @megan_carty_art. And you can visit my website and sign up to learn when new works release for sale at

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Megan Carty: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became An Artist was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.