Throughout her childhood, Casey Wakefield dreamed of becoming an artist, but never considered it a real possibility. In her small midwestern town, practicality and a strong work ethic ruled the day while seemingly frivolous pursuits like art took a back seat.
For decades, Casey followed the conventional path to a successful life—majoring in Business Administration in college, then marrying her high school sweetheart, becoming a devoted mom to three children, and volunteering as a mentor in local community schools.
Searching for Creative Fulfillment
Becoming a professional artist wasn’t on her radar, but Casey longed for something new as her kids grew older and life settled into a comfortable rhythm.
Despite her limited exposure to art as a child, Casey always thrived in creative processes. She used her creativity in mentoring young children and co-founding a live storytelling show for women—That’s What She Said. For Casey, fulfilling experiences always involved encouraging others in a creative way, so she wanted to find a fresh way of achieving that.
Casey was intrigued when a new friend handed her a business card with a painting by Dimitra Milan on the back. As she learned about the Milan Art Institute, Casey thought, “Maybe this is something I could do.”
Abstract art by Casey Wakefield
The Time is Now
One art class with Elli Milan turned into more, and Casey was hooked. Yet she hesitated to pursue art full-time. Growing up in an environment that only recognizes gifted individuals who paint realism as true artists, Casey wondered if she would be taken seriously as an abstract artist.
Other doubts held her back. “Art isn’t like a typical job you get hired to do, so is it a legitimate pursuit? Is it selfish to devote more time to an activity I enjoy that may not directly benefit my family?”
In the fall of 2017, Casey discovered The Mastery Program—a one-year course to turn a passion for art into a profession. The timing was perfect for Casey because her children were all in school and more independent, and she was eager to learn and grow in the creative process.
As surprising as her interest in art was, she knew the rewards of stepping outside her comfort zone, and she wanted to model for her children the value of pursuing their interests.
Believing it was a “now-or-never” moment, Casey joined the program.
Am I a Real Artist?
A year later, Casey was a professional artist, yet it took her a while to call herself one. She felt she didn’t fit the mold and wondered, “Is abstract art ‘real’ art? How many paintings does an artist have to sell before they can call themselves professional?” Check out Casey’s conversation with Elli Milan about this common challenge.
Over time, Casey embraced her title as a professional artist. Her interest in art led her to read biographies of other artists, and she recognized herself in all of them. She saw that, even in her childhood, she thought like an artist and had developed habits and creative processes common to other artists.
“I believe everyone is creative,” Casey reflects. “Any creative work is a form of art. Even a scientist must use some creativity in exploring new theories. There are so many different ways to be an artist!”
Connection through Conceptual Art
Today, Casey is known for her atmospheric abstract paintings. In addition to art commissions and gallery representation, she shares her knowledge and experience as an art mentor with the Milan Art Institute.
Her latest work, Soul Artifacts, was recently featured as a solo exhibition with Royse Contemporary in Scottsdale, Arizona. This series transforms intangible emotions, experiences, and ideas into visible, interwoven layers of expression that inspire, encourage, and connect with the viewer.
Casey Wakefield's series on display at Royce Contemporary
Real Talk from a Real Artist
A common condition Casey sees as an art mentor is the desire to hurry up and “get there”. But she reminds her students that any form of art takes time. “Honing your craft and becoming a professional artist is like a marathon. You don’t decide to run a marathon and immediately accomplish that goal. Developing endurance and the skills required to complete the task takes time. Don’t rush the process. Settle in, take the time, put in the work, and you’ll get there.”
Casey believes now is an exciting time to become an artist because artists have more control over their art—how it’s shown and seen and sold. Because of the internet, all artists can share their work around the globe and create opportunities for success.
“There’s tremendous freedom to create your own art business how you want to,” she says. “Whether focused on prints or originals, commissions or gallery representation, abstraction or realism, the more time you put into it, the more opportunities you create.”
Casey challenges emerging artists to do three things:
Stay focused. Remember why you’re painting in the first place. Don’t overcomplicate it.
Embrace vulnerability. Step outside your comfort zone—which might be your studio—and put yourself out there. To grow a thriving art business, you must go beyond the canvas and connect with people.
Keep learning and growing as an artist.
With commitment and practice, anyone can learn to draw and paint. It’s never too late. Casey Wakefield proves it. You can learn to create fantastic art, and you can learn to turn your passion for art into your profession. Find out if The Mastery Program is for you.
Can you relate to Casey’s story? How does she encourage you? Let us know in the comments.