Meet Ellyn, a 30-year-old artist hailing from France. You might have seen her art, since her work has graced the Bouncespace building at Overtoom 141 the last few months. Ellyn made some unconventional life choices; join us as we delve into her life, tracing her transition from the structured life of software engineering to the expressive and boundless world of art.
Moving from software engineering to art is quite a leap. Can you tell us more about this change?I was teaching programming and had a successful remote job as a software engineer. I loved coding and was becoming pretty successful in the industry. But when I turned 30, I had a bit of a crisis. I realized I was burned out, bored and how my work lacked the meaningful impact I craved. Seeking change, I resigned last January and spent three months in Mexico, indulging in yoga, surfing, and painting, which felt incredibly therapeutic.
Is that when you decided to become a painter?Well, it’s a funny story. Painting has been a hobby since childhood, but I lacked the confidence to share my work publicly. But in the co-living in Mexico, a guy approached me while I was making a painting. He asked me what I was doing in Mexico, so I told him that I was taking a break from work, painting a bit. He replied: ‘Oh, so you’re a painter?’. To hear that sentence coming from someone just made so much sense. It resonated, and I was like you know what: this will be my “fuck it year”. I decided to be a painter.
Transitioning careers so dramatically must have had a significant impact. How has this change shaped your life?This transition has been both a challenge and a liberating experience in stepping away from conventional roles. When I got back to Amsterdam, I found a creative space in an anti-kraak near Skatecafe, a spacious warehouse where I now create my art. It feels like a true fit. Interestingly, my past isn't entirely left behind. I used to spend my days at the coworking space of Bouncespace, and I still find myself drawn there for certain tasks. It's a blend of the old and new in my life, symbolized by the exhibition we've set up there. It's a testament to how life can evolve yet hold onto its essence.
How have you been managing financially?Honestly, it's tough. Thankfully, my previous career provided a financial cushion. However, thanks to my background in business administration, I approach my art like a lean startup.
What do you mean by that?Well, my experience in business and tech has been invaluable. I view my art not solely as creative expression but also as a product in the market. This perspective has opened doors to collaborations because I reach out to hotels, restaurants and cafes. There's currently work exhibited at Hotel No Hotel and I just finished an exhibition at W Hotel. Coming up is Vatten Ramen and Bar Do. And Ceppi's recently commissioned me to some work for their restaurant. I mean, it’s a good start.
So, do you consider yourself more of a businesswoman in the art world?I'd say I'm an entrepreneur at heart. Whether it's coding or painting, it's all about creating something valuable. My business intuition allows me to understand the market dynamics and continuously adapt my art based on feedback. I believe blending business insights with artistic creativity is key to success in any field.
The art industry is known for its competitiveness and male dominance. How do you navigate these challenges and envision your path to success?Success in any field, especially as a self-employed individual, is fraught with challenges like fluctuations, rejections, and learning to manage fear and instability. It's about celebrating every small victory and progressing step by step. I believe that working with passion and authenticity resonates with people, which has already helped me start selling my art. There's a significant story behind my art, transitioning from a woman in tech to a woman in art, both fields where women are underrepresented. In the Netherlands, for example, there's still a 70% male representation in museums. Recognizing and addressing this disparity is part of my journey. It's about embracing the difficulties and using them as fuel for growth and creativity. This shift isn't just a career change; it's a profound personal evolution that empowers me to tackle new challenges and grow in unexpected ways. I feel like I’m connecting much more with my softer self than ever before.
"There's a significant story behind my art, transitioning from a woman in tech to a woman in art, both fields where women are underrepresented."