Today we’d like to introduce you to Whitney Austin.
Whitney, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Growing up in Ohio, I loved to draw as a child. As the years went on, I attended an arts high school but ultimately didn’t do much with art for quite some time. In fact, I’d completely stopped drawing and never thought about painting back then. I started a career as a flight attendant and late became the director of an assisted living facility, but when my grandfather passed away, I felt moved to paint a portrait of him for his funeral. Through the tragedy of losing him, I was inspired and wanted to create in honor of him.
Afterward, I never really put the paintbrush down! Friends – and even some people I didn’t know – started requesting paintings and wanting to see more of my work. I started to paint regularly and highlight my work on social media. My reputation as an artist and my career really took off. Over the course of a couple of years, I wasn’t just selling my original paintings, but I was also touring the U.S. to do sold-out paint classes and doing live paint events for major events which ranged from an event for Rap Snacks to charities such as UNCF. I’ve also had the opportunity to host classes throughout California.
A few years ago, I also went full-time into my business and opened my first art gallery in Oct. 2016. I outgrew and relocated to a larger space in January 2018 which allowed me to hold more art-focused events.
On October 5, I opened my second gallery location at Carolina Place Mall in the Charlotte, NC-area, and it’s my first true retail location as my current space – which is also remaining open – is appointment only. Thus far, I’m selling originals, doing live paintings and holding events there during mall hours. Friends and supporters are also able to purchase merchandise including notebooks, tote bags and home goods that are covered in my artwork.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I don’t believe anything is a smooth road, but I’ve been very fortunate with the way my business has taken off. I’m blessed to have parents who – when my business stared to become really busy – were able to help. My mother now works full-time for my company and helps with online orders. I’m also thankful for my social media family (Instagram: Whitney_austin). They are always encouraging me and purchasing art. I’m grateful for people who encouraged me from the start because it said a lot for me, an African American woman, to become a true artist. It’s the village that really helped that become a reality.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m an artist Whitney Austin. I specialize in art – particularly black cultural pieces and abstract art. My business has allowed my paintings to hang in homes and businesses all over the world.
When I think about what I’m most proud of as a company, I love that my art is expressive. As a self-taught artist, I love that I have the opportunity to empower other artists who look up to me and my work. I’m proud that my paintings are therapeutic. The freedom to create and have others look at the paintings, interpret them and feel through that art is a very powerful feeling. My work also tells stories about our culture and experiences – especially as a woman – and I’m proud to have a gift that can translate that.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
There are two in particular ‘proudest’ moments. The first was when I was able to go into my business full time and actually open a storefront. Having spent the beginning of my professional career as a flight attendant and later a director of an assisted living facility, I would have never guessed that I would have had the opportunity to be a full-time artist with a gallery (and soon two galleries!). The second was having my mother work in my business. Entrepreneurship is not an easy road, but when you are able to empower your family, it makes it worth it!
Additionally, I think authenticity is extremely important. I find that most of my supporters and collectors love to engage with me online – and authenticity is a big part of that.
- I sell original art, so they are priced accordingly and cost thousands of dollars per piece.