Mindy Carpenter was working at an Ashland gift shop when she decided to challenge herself to create a painting a day for 100 days.
Launched in June 2011, the marathon task to paint 100 works ended up stretching until July 2013, when she posted an image of the finish line piece to her blog.
"My whole premise was, 'It's OK for them to be bad. Have the guts to post them and write about it,' " Carpenter said.
Along the way, her style grew more sophisticated, skilled and stylish — and she amassed enough images to launch her own line of artistic greeting cards.
Through her business, Carpe Diem Papers, she now sells her cards in wholesale batches to more than 150 stores throughout North America, including Prize in downtown Ashland, and continues to gain new accounts.
Her colorful paintings often feature items such as typewriters and globes, dogs and cats, nautical scenes, cakes and rooms decorated with antique chairs, chandeliers, artwork and vintage industrial letters.
Carpenter's style has echoes of internationally known artist, illustrator and author Maira Kalman, author of books that include "My Favorite Things" and "The Principles of Uncertainty."
Carpenter already had begun to develop her style when an art instructor introduced her to the work of Kalman, who successfully fuses the conventions of fine art and illustration.
"She got me hooked on Maira Kalman," Carpenter said. "It gave me a belief that my style could be valid."
With growing demand for her greeting cards, Carpenter's Ashland home serves as a base for her business.
The walls of her foyer and dining room are lined with 80 boxes holding her inventory of cards. As wholesale orders come in, Carpenter packages and ships batches of cards.
She continues to work on new paintings as her greeting card line evolves. Inspirational items, from vintage trophies and tea tins to a large pink mineral specimen, dot her home.
Before moving to Ashland four years ago, Carpenter worked in San Francisco as the art director for Cavallini & Co., a business selling cards, calendars and other items.
"I learned about the importance of customer service and treating people kindly and with courtesy. It was grassroots customer service," she said. "Everyone who called there got someone on the phone."
When it came time to launch her greeting card line, Carpenter retained her focus on customer service — and was also able to tap into her contacts from her previous career to get her first cards into shops.
Artists who are interested in selling their art in greeting card form should look for a local printer they can trust who can produce small runs of cards, Carpenter advised.
She said she chose high quality, thick card paper and envelopes from the very beginning, knowing she wanted to get her cards into quality stores.
While most artists start out by selling their paintings, Carpenter has only recently begun to build that side of her career. She just delivered 40 original paintings to Capers home decor shop in Seattle.
"Say 'yes' to all the unexpected things. I thought I was starting a greeting card company. Now I'm selling original paintings," she said.
Carpenter said she hopes more people will pursue their creative dreams.
"Follow your passion. Feel excited about what you do, whether it's baking cupcakes, painting or knitting. What's the thing you can't wait to do in the evenings and on weekends? It's 100 percent possible," she said.
For more information on Carpenter's greeting card company, visit http://carpediempapers.com.
To view Carpenter's latest paintings and past works from her project to create 100 paintings, visit her blog at http://www.mindycarpenter.blogspot.com.