Artist, blogger and mom finds voice, opportunity to share it in Nevada County
March 23, 2012
In the 1990s, Sheila Cameron was in Los Angeles, living her dream.
After graduating from college, she had come west, working her way up the Hollywood ladder in film, television and website development.
She had been employed at Mick Jagger’s film company and for HBO, then became an executive at HBO in the Original Pictures Department.
She worked for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, as the director of integrated media and as the producer of the first season of Project Greenlight, detailing an online screen writing contest.
But despite what she calls “a good run,” there was a problem: Cameron was not happy.
Four years ago, after the birth of her second child, she and her husband decided that West Hollywood was no place to raise children. When her husband was offered a job at AJA Video in Grass Valley, they jumped.
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“When we came up to check out the area, I couldn’t believe it,” Cameron said. “I saw Auburn, and I was thinking, OK – this is pretty nice,’ and then I’m coming up (Highway) 49 and I’m screaming, ‘No way!’ and by the time I saw the tall pines, my mind was blown. I can’t think of a more perfect place for our family.”
Cameron says that a big source of her discontent in SoCal stemmed from not pursuing her own creative impulses. Originally, she had shown up in Hollywood to pursue a career in both writing and painting, but her success in other areas had caused her to put those things on a back burner.
“One of the things that bothered me was that I never pursued my own creative aspirations,” Cameron said. “It felt safer to be in the suit of the producer than to be creatively vulnerable.”
Cameron says there are probably “creature comforts” she misses about not living in L.A., but after moving to Nevada County, she has never looked back. Ironically, it was her “goodbye” to Hollywood that helped launch her own creative aspirations, that and an infamous TV moment provided by an overly excited actor.
“Right at the time I was about to have my baby, I decided to really break up with Hollywood, that I was done with it,” Cameron said. “I was in my final trimester, I couldn’t move, I had packed away my paints, I wasn’t writing anything, and I turned on Oprah and watched her interview with Tom Cruise, when he started jumping on the sofa while he was talking about Katie Holmes.”
Almost instantly, Cameron was visited by the satire muse.
Her idea was to start making and marketing T-shirts through a website she created for the project. The T-shirts would have “Free Katie” on them and the idea was an instant smash.
She invited a handful of friends to view the website and within a week, it was being featured in People Magazine, The New York Times and Spanish Vogue.
“It was my Dear John letter to Hollywood,” Cameron said. “At that time, making fun of Tom Cruise was not an everyday thing; certainly as a producer, you couldn’t make fun of one the most popular stars in Hollywood and put it out on the Internet.”
One bridge burned, but another was under construction.
“It was the first time that I said something in my own voice,” Cameron said. “I had not planned on it being anything, but people responded. A big community blew up around it and I started making more pop-culture satire political commentary T-shirts that did really, really well.”
Following that, the plan was to move here, raise a family and really for the first time, earnestly pursue writing and painting.
“In the beginning, I wasted a lot of time, trying to get everything just right,” Cameron laughed. “Like the writer who keeps sharpening the pencils and trying to set up the light just the right way.”
Add to that the immense amount of time necessary to raise two small children, and it’s easy to see why Cameron struggled to produce artistic work.
“When my second child started to get on the potty for the first time, that’s when I started my blog,” Cameron said. “I thought, Sabrina will soon be potty-trained, she’s going to start preschool next year and I could see where I could find a half hour a day to work.”
It proved to be the moment when she was able to convince herself it was time to put to rest the excuses people use not to follow their heart’s desire.
She has faithfully lived the life of blogger, artist and mother ever since.
Cameron’s very popular blog, called Watching the Paint Dry, has become the vehicle for both her musings about life, family, motherhood and creativity, as well as a place where she exhibits and sells her art.
One of the blog’s recurring themes is the idea that parenthood and family should not stop folks from still acting on their creative urges. She says it’s a message that seems to have resonated with many.
“There wasn’t that much of an online community, particularly for women, that said you can still be an emerging artist or author and not be called a crafter, or hobbyist or mommy-blogger, or any of the things that tend to put us in a female ghetto of creativity,” Cameron said.
“Just because I’m not 20 and living in Soho doesn’t mean that I don’t have something to say.”
For links to Cameron’s blog and artwork, go to http://www.sheilacameron.com.
For the technologically challenged, Cameron currently has her art being exhibited at the Art Works Gallery in Grass Valley and is part of an exhibit that opens today in the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center.
Tom Kellar is a freelance writer living in Cedar Ridge. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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