Name: Susan Philbrook
City: Vinalhaven, ME
Main Hustle: Most important hustle: Mom to two kiddos, Olivia, seven years old, and Brady, five years old. Second hustle: I’m a K-12 French teacher at a small island school off the coast of Maine. I teach kindergarten up through AP French. It is a total blast, and I love being able to see the kids grow each year, having them for almost all of their schooling. Along with teaching I coach the girl’s varsity soccer team each fall. I love the sport and getting to share that passion with the girls along with all of the life lessons a team sport or activity can teach us.
Side Hustle: Creating! I am passionate about color and painting! I just recently, in the past year, discovered gouache paint, which has made painting more available to me. With oils, which I love, the time it takes to set-up, dry, clean-up, along with the smell, just wasn’t working with the amount of time I have. Gouache has made creating so much more accessible because I don’t have all the wait time or clean-up time and the colors are still rich and amazing!
Do you have a website, store, or social media presence? I started my Instagram account about a year and a half ago, and it has really motivated me to keep creating. It is a way for me to hold myself accountable for creating. I also have an Etsy shop, which I am just starting to get up and running. Locally, I show my work at the island art gallery New Era Gallery (Vinalhaven, ME).
How did you get started?: I started painting in college as a way to relax, sort of to counter all the energy I was putting into playing soccer. I was alone in a new state and far from family, and I think it gave me something to do that was challenging and reflective. Throughout college and the years after, I dabbled with painting on my own time for fun.
About 15 years ago, I started working in the local art gallery and the gallery owner let me show some work there. For the most part, I just painted in the summer because that is what my job (as a teacher) allowed. I loved that time each year but could definitely tell that taking a break from painting for nine months can really disrupt creative momentum. So last year I made a promise to myself that I would find more time to create year round. I have been working pretty hard to keep that promise and feel like that time has been essential in helping me find my niche in my creative world.
When/where do you work on your Side Hustle?: I work whenever I can, after the chores are done and the kiddos are in bed or if the kids are keeping themselves busy. I have a little corner at the top of my stairs in the laundry corner where I have a big table for painting and sewing and also an easel in the corner. It isn’t much, but it is easy for me to get to and use whenever a free moment pops up. I love this messy little space, even if it isn’t fancy!
What are the challenges of your Side Hustle?: The biggest challenges for me are definitely time and mom guilt.
I’m trying to find the balance between meeting the needs of family and work but also being true to my creative self, as well. The last year has taught be a lot about the importance of making the time to create, but sometimes life doesn’t allow it. Kids and mommying have to come first, so I don’t want to beat myself up for skipping a day or two, but I also don’t want to downplay the importance the role of painting plays in my life.
What are the rewards of your Side Hustle?: Painting allows me to express a side of myself that doesn’t really come out with teaching and parenting. I mean there is definitely a lot of creativity that goes into both of those roles, but for me color is like a whole different language of emotions and lets me communicate in a different manner. Painting provides me the opportunity to challenge myself and block out the world when I need a break. It definitely creates balance in my life.
Who is your greatest supporter?: My greatest supporters are my sisters and my daughter.
I love that my daughter is getting old enough to appreciate what I’m doing. She will stop at my easel and check out what’s going on, ask me questions, and tell me how much she likes a painting or if it’s not really her style. I think it’s important for her to see her mom have interests outside of work and family.
Who/what is your greatest source of inspiration?: I am so inspired by color, certainly the colors that surround me here on the ocean in Maine. The sunsets, sky, reflection of sky in the water, and the shape of the land and islands against these beautiful colors is totally energizing. My kids and I like to say we are sunset-chasers, and we drive around the island to try to catch the gorgeous views of the sunset. These surroundings and views have a way of grounding me and reminding me of everything I have to be thankful for. I feel so fortunate to live somewhere that offers this much beauty!
Have you received recognition for your work?:When I was in 2nd grade I won a coloring contest for a local newspaper…that’s about it! But those kind of things have a way of sticking with you, evidently.
What is your dream for your Side Hustle?:
I would love to say I have grand plans for an art career someday, but I’ve worked pretty hard to be where I’m at right now: working, mommying, and painting. So for now my dream is to keep it up.
There are definitely days that I am wishing hard for more time to create, but the reality is I really love my teaching job, too. There will be a day when I’m ready to be done teaching and when that time comes, I hope that my side hustle (painting) can become my main hustle.
Do you have any advice for others working on a Side Hustle?:
Do what you can when you can, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself when things don’t happen right when you planned them. Be patient with yourself!