Erin with her boys. Baby boy number three is on the way!
Five Minutes With: Erin Donahue Tice
After meeting at The Southern C last year, Erin and I kept in touch and her art was perfect to fill a wall in our kitchen. Always getting questions about the source of the pieces, it was our honor to bring Erin Donahue Tice Art to Bows & Blue, where both of her drops have sold out in mere minutes. Prior to our third launch, I sat down with the PR pro-turned artist to talk everything from her second career to her favorite sources of inspiration.
1. Have you had any memorable mentors? If so, how did you meet? What advice have they shared that’s stuck with you?
Yes! Aside from my own mother whom I consider to be my biggest mentor, best friend and cheerleader, I’ve been lucky enough to have had two fabulous female mentors during my previous career as a PR executive.
I met the first, Lisa Wells, when she became my boss at my first job at an advertising agency in Chicago. She not only taught me the fundamentals of PR, corporate communications and working with the press, she was a writing pro and helped me hone my communication skills, which has paid off even now in my art career. She also was sort of like a second mother to me as I was 23, living in Chicago on my own and she showed me the ropes of city life and corporate America. The best advice she ever gave me was to act mature beyond my years – to show up like a professional and to believe in my worth.
My second mentor was Samantha DiGennaro, the founder and CEO of DiGennaro Communications, the NYC-based PR firm where I worked for over 8 years. She took me under her wing from day one and was so generous with her time and energy. She is by far the most talented PR expert I’ve ever known, and working alongside her was like getting an MBA in communications. She also showed me that it’s possible to build a successful business as a young female entrepreneur and to not let “boys clubs” stand in my way. Sam has given me MANY pieces of advice, but probably the best advice she ever gave me is to always stay grateful and say thank you. She taught me to write thank you notes to clients almost immediately as it makes a strong and lasting impression.
2. You left a gig in corporate PR and have transitioned to becoming a full time mama / artist. Tell us about the genesis and evolution of Erin Donahue Tice Fine Art and how you balance your time as a working mama.
Yes! I spent 12 years working in PR for firms in both Chicago and New York. My speciality was corporate communications for the advertising/media/entertainment/ creative industries. I loved my job…but after we moved to Austin in 2014, I switched to remote working (I was ahead of the times!), and then we quickly had two children back to back in 2015 and 2017. In 2017 I decided to take a step back from PR to focus on full-time motherhood. I was proud of my career, but wanted to soak up the opportunity to be with my kids while they were still so young.
My second son George was a really tough baby! He had colic and reflux and cried all the time. I spent many days and nights crying right alongside him because it was just so difficult! I had a 20 month old and a newborn, and looking back I was probably experiencing some level of undiagnosed postpartum depression.
About eight months in, I decided I needed to find a hobby for myself to deal with my baby blues. I had always loved interior design, art and creativity, but had never dabbled in any of those areas myself. I was on the hunt for some abstract art to hang in our own home and couldn’t find what I was looking for in Austin, so I thought, “Why not try to create it for myself?” I bought a bunch of supplies, set up shop in the guest house behind our home, and just started painting. I had no idea what I was doing, but I spent countless hours during nap times and after my kids’ bedtimes getting lost in my paintbrush.
After about six months of painting as a hobby (and splattering paint all over the guest house), some girlfriends saw my work and encouraged me to sell it. I decided I had nothing to lose, so I built myself a website, hired a photographer to capture some of my work, set up an Instagram account and in September 2018, “Erin Donahue Tice Fine Art” was launched to the world.
It’s taken me a lot of hard work, practice and hustle to get to where I am, but this hobby that began as a tool to help me get through a tough time in my life, has proven to be the most unexpected, life-changing experience I could have ever imagined. And my PR experience has been invaluable in helping me market and sell my work.
3. Let us into your process! What’s your ideal working environment?
I am lucky enough to have a home studio. We moved into a new house in 2019 and the first thing I fell in love with was the 600 square foot exterior pool house which screamed “art studio” when I toured the home. It’s mere steps from our main house and is now covered in paint (I am a VERY messy artist!), but it’s my happy place.
I love being able to pop out for an hour at a time to put an idea down on canvas or paper. I am not great at painting for super long stretches, so having a home studio works well for my process because I can start and stop throughout the day. I also am SO grateful to be around for my children a lot in this new career. I can do school pickups or pop in to have a snack together during the day – it’s the best of both worlds.
4. Everyone romanticizes starting a company. What has been your biggest learning as you’ve become an entrepreneur?
That you have to take the good with the bad. Disappointment WILL happen. There will always be an unhappy client or partner – but it’s HOW you handle it, how you communicate and deal with the situation, that will define who you are as a business owner. I always believe in operating with kindness, gratitude and a sense of optimism. For every tough client or situation, there are 10 great ones. Picking yourself back up and moving on is key to growing a successful business.
5. What are your favorite sources of inspiration?
Interior design! I absolutely love looking at images on Instagram, Pinterest and in design magazines to find unique color pairings and juxtapositions. It’s always a great jumping off point for me. Some of my current favorites to follow are Caroline Gidiere Designs, Vanrennen G W Designs (love British designers!), Hillary Taylor Interiors and Lauren Elaine Interiors. Also ALWAYS Mark Sikes.
6. Life Motto?
Kill ‘em with kindness.
7. Favorite creative outlet other than art?
I love creating tablescapes – since moving into our new home in 2019 and finally having a proper, formal dining room, I have loved hosting dinner parties. Since Covid hit, our parties have looked a little bit smaller, but it’s still so much fun for me to set a beautiful table. I enjoy making my own floral arrangements, collecting vintage plates and vases from ebay and Chairish, and mixing and matching block print linens – my favorite source being India Amory. If I had time, I might just start a tablescape design company on the side too!
8. First place you’re going after Covid?
The Hamptons! We are lucky enough to have a second home in East Hampton and had to miss our annual summer trip in 2020 due to Covid, so I’m praying we can pull it off in 2021 – even though I’ll have a newborn because I’m due with our third son in June! But the Hamptons is truly my happy place, it’s where my husband and I were married, and I also find so much inspo for my artwork in this magical part of the country.
9. Most interesting people to follow on Instagram?
Aside from @bornonfifth and @bowsandblue 🙂 – I love to follow @nicolabathie for gorgeous fashion, interiors and jewelry, @indiaamory and @mrsalice for gorgeous tablescape ideas, @kathleenjenningsbeauty for THE BEST beauty and skincare tips, @torimellot for interior design musings and all around humor, @bouvierclass for kennedy inspiration images, @lydiafenet for girl power + career advice, @juliaaberolzheimer for fashion and so many others!
10. Heels or flats?
Flats. I wish I wore heels more often, but I typically choose comfort when push comes to shove. Chanel ballet flats are my favorites, but I also LOVE Birdies for hanging around the house or pairing with jeans and a sweater.
For more of Erin’s work, visit her site or Bows & Blue!
PS Find more interviews in my 5 Minutes With series here.