Elspeth McLean – A Story of an Artist’s Struggle, Learning and Victory

Twelve years ago, artist Elspeth McLean was a struggling young artist who had to work jobs here and there to support her passion. More than a decade forward, she was able to grow her business amazingly into a massive venture. But on behind the vibrant colors, eye-catching patterns and textures of her artwork, Elspeth started her venture with financial and emotional struggles, which fueled and inspired her to reach new and better heights.

Photo by Tegan Clark

Photo by Tegan Clark


An Artist’s Struggle

Behind the highly creative mind of Elspeth McLean was a secret struggle: she had to juggle a number of jobs and went to the university, believing that merely creating art won’t sustain her lifestyle. Believing that her true passion lies in the creation of art, she continued working on jobs while doing her art as well. Elspeth felt that the entire set-up wasn’t working like she imagined, leading to anxious breakdown.

A Breakthrough!

Life had taken quite an unexpected turn when Elspeth got married and moved to Canada. Upon the encouragement of her husband, she started making art again, this time marketing them online. Her art got noticed, she got written and published about and one day, she woke up as a phenomenal artist who has gone viral in the web. Such breakthrough has opened whole new opportunities to expand her art business.

Admitting Weakness

Realizing that the bigger business now has bigger demands as well, she soon realized that she cannot do this alone. Later on, she began employing more people and hired the services of a business coach. Collaboration and delegation have immensely helped her deal with the business pressures and ensure quality output of her artwork.

In this interview, Elspeth McLean opens up her heart as she walks down memory lane twelve years ago, tracing her humble beginnings as an artist, and how she grew personally and professionally over the years.

How would you describe your art?

Elspeth: I make art and my aim with my art is to create beautiful vibrant colorful art. I just want my viewers to be uplifted and to be inspired. I feel like there's enough darkness out there in the world that I want my contribution just to be really uplifting.

Elspeth Mclean Mandala Stones.JPG

How did you start with this journey as an artist?

How it all came to be, I guess, was when I sort of went through a dark night of the soul with myself 12 years ago. I was out of high school and I'd sort of dropped out of the university. I tried to work jobs getting along in the real world because I didn't believe that art was a career. And so I tried to work these other jobs and do university and it just didn't work out for me. I sort of went through this period where I just couldn't function, and realized that I need to follow my heart. And that's what I did. And I've worked a bunch of other jobs in the background to supplement my art especially in the beginning.

What was your life’s major turning point as an artist?

I like engaging with my community online and getting my artwork out there. I think eventually when my work went viral in 2015…And that was huge. There was an article written about me and my art. I literally woke up one morning and my Etsy shop had sold out. I had like a hundred emails and I was like “Oh what? How!?”

So ,that was really crazy and exciting and that sort of marked the second change in my workplace, my art career being exposed to that big of an audience. It still kind of continues to this day like it's still rolling on this weird little journey which I'm so grateful for.

It is such a weird thing that happened to me that people are really interested and like the whole viral thing. My friends come to me and they're like how do I make my art go viral?

I just really believe that the continual showing up and the authenticity,  the sharing and every day I work on my art in some way help. So, it's like, I believe you only get out what you put in.

What were your struggles as an artist and entrepreneur?

You know, I'm like I'm a one woman show and I was really powered by that. And then probably like three to six months after the viral thing, I was so burnt out, my anxiety had returned and I was miserable because I was trying to do every little thing for my business. And so, my biggest lesson was like letting go of the control and allowing people to help me out in my business.

Also, those boundaries within my business, that was a huge challenge for me. I constantly ask myself , what are my boundaries, and what goes with my business ethics? And also, what is going to sustain my lifestyle and to keep my art fresh so that I'm not just a machine pumping out?

How do you see yourself and your business 10 years from now?

I am always going to be creating. I believe we will always evolve. Maybe 10 years from now, if I'm still painting, I can see myself expanding into ceramics, into fashion. At the moment though, I'm very busy in my art of painting. But I really I can see myself expanding in different ways. I believe that I'm going to have my business in selling artwork until the day I die.

Photo  by Tegan Clark

Photo  by Tegan Clark

What do you think about getting a business mentor?

For me, because I never really believed that it was possible. I didn't have any business training or mentorship for a long time and so now I have a business mentor and I just think that was the best decision ever. And it's the best continual investment that I make.