Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in fine arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Carol Gordon, Artist / Co-Founder of Carol Gordon/James McElroy Artists, located in Invermere, BC, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I work as a multimedia abstract expressionist artist. I use photography to express my outer world, watercolors to express my inner world, and writing to express my heart. Customers of my visual art can enjoy their personal journey of discovery through one of my creations…on their wall or on their person (wearable art).

Tell us about yourself

I was uprooted at a young age during the early 1950s from a closely-knit extended family in St. Paul, Minnesota, and relocated to Los Angeles with my parents, who were pursuing their dreams in the film industry. My midwest values clashed with the superficial and appearances-oriented LA culture and the science fiction horror films my father created. It was an era that included McCarthyism, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and political assassinations. This set the stage for my lifelong pursuit of connection, deeper meaning, peace, and avenues for creative self-expression.

I sought solace in nature and enjoyed camping. I kept a diary to record thoughts and feelings. I studied photography in high school and, tapping into my family’s entrepreneurial example, started an informal portrait photography business. As a university student in the Liberal Arts program at Berkeley during the mid-1960’s, my studies included literature, theatre, art history, drawing, political science, and Jungian psychology. They had a lasting impact on me, as did the civil rights, free speech, anti-Vietnam war, and the People’s Park movements.

It was emotionally unsettling to witness the continuous power struggles at play on the beautiful, idyllic century-old Berkeley campus that had quickly become my home: concerned students, the university administration, police, the National Guard, and behind-the-scenes politicians and the FBI. When dialogue failed, students marched, and too often, the situation escalated into violence and arrests. I yearned for a tranquil environment. Still, the 1960’s were a highly creative time and brought with them changes in social norms: vibrantly colourful flowing clothing and creative jewelry, folk and jazz music, dance, political protest songs, music festivals, hitchhiking through Europe on $5/day, and a sexual revolution.

Looking north to Canada, a country that was more peaceful and where opportunities seemed abundant, I immigrated. I studied photography and later painting at the Banff School of Fine Arts. I attended the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr College of Art and Design), where I began developing my watercolour painting and style. The fluidity of watercolours allowed me to find a means of expression for my emotions and the impact of my life experiences and intuitively transform them by means of an alchemical-like process into both profound and subtle visual imagery. From these springboards, my freelancing entrepreneurial business has evolved: I have been assigned positions as a photojournalist for city daily newspapers.

I freelance as a photographer, reporter, and consultant online and offline,
teach photography, and exhibit my artwork in art galleries, in cafes, credit unions, spas, and more. I ventured into politics, providing my media and consensus-building skills within the feminist movement to non-profit organizations and families, and continue to do so. I have a passion for holistic health, family history, and politics and write on these subjects.

Rather than focusing on “making art,” I developed an ability to let my intuition and the emotional world make every decision in my creative process. Abstract expressionism begins, without intention, beyond the emotions and musings so that a painting is free to emerge. As an abstract expressionist, I let the unknown become the known. “I photograph with my outer eye, paint with my inner eye, and write from my heart.”

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Personal: In 1970, after graduating from Berkeley, I made a major life decision to immigrate to Canada. For a young single female, the move seemed to many to be courageous. I was driven by a need for emotional survival and in search of calm, and I found doors that opened beyond my imagination as well as a life partner and soulmate. We now live with our two beautiful border collies in a home we designed on a hillside in the Canadian Rockies, overlooking the magnificent Columbia Valley Wetlands. Immersed in nature, I pursue my love of gardening and joyfully breathe in the fresh mountain air.

Business: In 2021, I began partnering with a high-end Montreal designer/manufacturer to create wearable art. In Spring 2022, I began to have gallery representation.

Artistic: 1986 - Solo exhibit and artist talk at Whyte Museum, Banff, Alberta

2021 - Two solo retrospective exhibits, “Celebrating 75 year Creative Journey,” and artist talks at both Kimberley Arts Centre 64, Kimberley, British Columbia, and Pynelogs Cultural Centre, Invermere, British Columbia. CBC radio interview on “North By Northwest.”

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Rather than focus on what is “hard,” I focus on that which is easiest, less stressful, and fun in a manner akin to the intuitive style I use to create my art.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Listen to the quiet voice of your intuition and learn to follow its guidance.
  2. Learn to live an integrated, holistic, and balanced life for your health and well-being.
  3. “Success is not to be pursued; it is to be attracted by the person you become.” - Jim Rohn.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

As a visual artist, I am delighted when a customer shares images, thoughts, and feelings that my creative work elicits for them. As my art expands beyond the walls of homes, offices, cafes, and other public spaces, onto clothing and home accessories, I am excited to see the beauty of the colour and design in my creativity fluidly visible in the community.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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