University graduate quits job after turning lockdown hobby into career


A university graduate who ‘ordered a cheap set of paints during the first lockdown to combat boredom’ has revealed she’s able to earn more than her salary by selling her naked figure artwork online.  

Josie Devine, 28, who is from St Andrews but lives in London, was working in marketing when the Covid-19 crisis hit last March, and started painting during the early months of the pandemic as a way to relax.

After having a ‘light bulb moment’ and deciding to sell her artwork on social media, Josie amassed thousands of fans on Instagram and quickly began earning more through her painting than her salary.

The 28-year-old, who sells her paintings for between £55-£300 online, has now decided to leave her job and pursue art full time, revealing:  ‘When so much else in the world is unpredictable and unreliable, it really feels like the time to do it. I’ve finally decided to bet on myself.’ 

Josie Devine, 28, who is from St. Andrews but living in London, who ‘ordered a cheap set of paints during the first lockdown to combat boredom’ has revealed she is quitting her career

Josie, who said she had ‘always dreamed of going to art school’, explained: ‘I ended up studying English Literature, which I don’t regret, but there has always been a part of me that daydreams about what it might have been like to pursue the artistic path academically.’ 

She graduated from University of Glasgow in 2014 and spent years working in hospitality and travelling, before moving to London in 2017 for a job in marketing.

When the Covid-19 crisis hit last March, Josie began working full time at home and decided to spend her spare commuting time painting, adding: ‘I was quite happy to have extra time to dedicate to some creativity.’

Having been to life-drawing classes for years, the 28-year-old began to build a portfolio of simple line-drawings on a bold cobalt blue background. 

The 28-year-old, who sells her paintings for between £55-£300 online, has now decided to leave her day job and pursue art full time after making more than her salary within months of starting the project

The 28-year-old, who sells her paintings for between £55-£300 online, has now decided to leave her day job and pursue art full time after making more than her salary within months of starting the project 

Josie said her paintings helped her to embrace her body and feel more confident, explaining: ‘I always loved going along to casual life-drawing classes as a way to connect with my creative side, and work on my skills, but in doing so I also found it a way of remedying my negative relationship with my body.  

‘In life drawing you see models of literally all shapes, ages, sizes, and it makes you really appreciate beauty in so many forms; rolls, moles, wrinkles and all.   

While painting during lockdown, Josie began noticing there were ‘a lot of small businesses and makers’ selling their artwork on Instagram. 

She explained: ‘One day I just had a lightbulb moment, and I literally stayed up all night hatching my plans, then made my first ‘for sale’ post the next day.’ 

Having been to life-drawing classes for years, the 28-year-old began to build a portfolio of simple line-drawings on a bold cobalt blue background

Having been to life-drawing classes for years, the 28-year-old began to build a portfolio of simple line-drawings on a bold cobalt blue background 

Josie said it ‘felt like a natural starting point’ to turn her sketches from life drawing classes into paintings, adding: ‘My work is all about celebrating the female form, using bright colours and bold lines to create striking impressions.’

Almost overnight, Josie started an Instagram account and launched a website through which she sold her paintings.

She gave each figure a name, as well as a short bio, explaining: ‘I knew that the content I was posting not only had to be sharable, but relatable, and a reflection of my personality. 

Josie described selling her first painting as ‘a mix of feelings’, explaining: ‘On one hand I felt so excited and validated, but on the other I felt a bit weird asking for money. 

Josie said her white line paintings have helped her to embrace her body and feel more confident

Josie said her white line paintings have helped her to embrace her body and feel more confident

Josie described being featured in ELLE magazine in November as 'a serious pinch me' moment, and by December, she had reached 6,000 followers on Instagram

Josie described being featured in ELLE magazine in November as 'a serious pinch me' moment, and by December, she had reached 6,000 followers on Instagram

Josie described being featured in ELLE magazine in November as ‘a serious pinch me’ moment, and by December, she had reached 6,000 followers on Instagram

‘Initially I was selling a lot to friends and mutual connections, so right from the get go I was making a liveable amount, which essentially kept growing month on month.’ 

Josie described being featured in ELLE magazine in November as ‘a serious pinch me’ moment, and by December, she had reached 6,000 followers on Instagram.

She added: ‘I soon reached a point about 3-4 months in where I was making more than my salary.’

The 28-year-old revealed she finally felt successful when ‘a stranger got in touch asking for a commission’, saying: ‘I thought it was too good to be true!

As the Covid-19 crisis continued, Josie began struggling with her mental health and described painting as her only relief

As the Covid-19 crisis continued, Josie began struggling with her mental health and described painting as her only relief

‘I also feel successful when I get emailed by customers who have received their portraits and have an emotional response, like I’ve somehow helped them to see themselves and their bodies in a new light. That is the real reward for me.’

As the Covid-19 crisis continued, Josie began struggling with her mental health and described painting as her only relief.

She revealed: ‘Working from home full time during the whole of the pandemic had really started negatively affecting my mental health. 

‘I was feeling pretty stagnant and unmotivated on a daily basis, and had a moment of realisation like… wow I’m really spending 80 per cent of my time sitting at my dining room table depressed, what is this? 

The 28-year-old revealed she finally felt successful when 'a stranger got in touch asking for a commission'

The 28-year-old revealed she finally felt successful when ‘a stranger got in touch asking for a commission’ 

‘The only thing that was lighting me up was the thought of painting as soon as work was over.

‘In December I decided it was crunch time to hand in my notice and just go for it.’ 

Telling her friends and family was ‘nerve-wracking’, but Josie said her loved-ones have been ‘nothing but supportive’.

She explained: ‘I was nervous about telling my family, but they reacted really well and they recognise that there is such a big opportunity here for me.’

Josie said she is now looking forward to having 'breathing space' and 'not feeling like she is squeezing in painting in her spare time'

Josie said she is now looking forward to having ‘breathing space’ and ‘not feeling like she is squeezing in painting in her spare time’

She called handing in her notice ‘an out of body experience’, saying: ‘I was like…”This is either the best or stupidest decision of my life”, but then all I felt was relief for finally “speaking my truth” and making a big scary decision.’

Josie said she is now looking forward to having ‘breathing space’ and ‘not feeling like she is squeezing in painting in her spare time’.

She said: ‘I can’t wait to structure my days and weeks how I want to, and to be in control about what work I take on. Monday fear can go in the bin.’



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