Millennial Life

Living with Epilepsy, Andrea Flynn Pursues Art Career While Traveling

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I took a minute to pause from my surfing adventures to tap into the snowboarding world of fellow traveler, Andrea Flynn. She’s living with epilepsy, but doesn’t let that define her. She’s on the road chasing fresh powder with her board and her brushes at her side. 

What are you doing right this minute?

Right now I am in Tahoe in the most awesome retro ski cabin. We are getting dumped on, so we built a big snake track through the yard and made some kickers. It’s still coming down.

Just stop.

Next we are headed back to Summit County, because my cousin planned a trip out to see me months ago before we decided to hit the road. I have a big four by three-foot painting I have to send to a couple in NYC when I get home, then we will be riding Keystone and A-Basin. 

K fine. Keep going. 

Then we are headed to Taos New Mexico to stay with a friend for a few days. He happened to find a studio apartment on this amazing sculptor garden, and the woman who owns it was just the sweetest person last time I met her. I sent her one of my calendars that I made for the holidays. I’m hoping to hang out with her, make some art while I’m there.

Living with Epilepsy Andrea Flynn

Then I will be going back to Wisconsin for about two weeks to catch up with my fam and get some paintings done! 

So many people from back home in Wisconsin have really shown me support and that means the whole entire world to me.

So why all the traveling in the first place? 

My boyfriend works in the snowboarding industry and is working on a film project right now. I’m just soaking up inspiration.

Taking out a month or two every year to just be with mother nature and completely get away really helps to gain perspective, and it is something I hope to be able to do every year. Re-evaluate, refresh and just absorb the world around me. Taking as many photos as possible to use as reference images. Business, leisure, and mental health get-away pretty much. 

VIRTVE interviews Andrea Flynn Living with Epilepsy

Snowboarding and traveling are two of like the most expensive hobbies. Just, how? 

I’m on a hella budget right now! I’m living off the money I make on my commissions right now. I’m going out and exploring to get my laps in, rather than buying lift tickets. Booked some pretty dingy motels. I mean, we are getting by. 

That’s the adventure. Sleep in your car. Be a little cold. Wake up in the middle of nowhere, and eat a tomato soup out of the jet boil!

Those are the greatest memories. We are two young adults. He just turned 26, owns a snowboarding manufacturing company, all tatted up. I just took this leap myself. We figured, damn, this is the time.

We are both able to pick up and do whatever we want without asking someone for days off. Got to seize the opportunity! To some people it’s crazy.

So far this trip hasn’t gone nearly as planned, but that’s the beauty of life, getting put in your place and learning you really aren’t in control. Got to learn to adapt! 

Let’s back up a minute. Give me your art history biography. 

From the start, art has always been what I connected to. Without all the support and encouragement of so many amazing art teachers throughout the years, I may have never had the courage to pursue it as something more than just a passion, now a career.

Andrea Flynn - VIRTVE Interview - Living with Epilepsy

I took college figure drawing classes on the weekend during high school at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD). I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing and Painting in 2015 from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and also spent my summer in 2014 studying in Florence, Italy at Santa Reparata International School of Art.

Italy is the mecca of Art History. I was brought to tears seeing Michelangelo’s David in person.

Being able to study the masters and see their work in person was an overwhelmingly beautiful experience, something I will treasure forever.

What have been your biggest accomplishments with it all?

My biggest accomplishment is not letting my epilepsy ruin me.

While I do have times where I am scared or I do feel depressed, I am not letting that define or limit me. I am trying to achieve my dream after quitting my job. 

Really try to take this gift I’ve been given, and take it to the next level. Go all the way. Hopefully along the way I inspire someone. 

You already have. Could you talk about that more, living with epilepsy

I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 15. I never had any history of seizures. One day I was getting ready for school, and the next thing I know I’m sitting in my living room surrounded by paramedics.

They were asking me what my name is, where I am, who my Mom is. I had no idea.

They said it would probably be an isolated incident, but it wasn’t.

Since then I’ve had countless seizures, near death incidents, almost drowning in the shower. I had a seizure in a cave 50 feet below ground surrounded by rocks. Lost my license dealing with anxiety and depression caused by the various medications I’ve been on to control my brain waves.

The duality of it all, that my brain is what allows me to create these works of art, but at the same time I could be considered “disabled”. It’s all about perspective. I don’t consider it a disability and never once have. I consider it a challenge. Because of this mindset, I have been able to rise above it.

I have my mom, best friend, and boyfriend to thank for their love and support through the rollercoaster that epilepsy has been. If it wasn’t for these three people, I may have not had the strength to keep my head in the right place, because there were dark times and will be. There are emotional repercussions. I don’t want to waste any more days on that though.

Because of my epilepsy, I’ve experienced darkness, and if it wasn’t for the dark I would never truly understand and appreciate the light and all the good that I have in my life.

You are so courageous, and don’t let epilepsy hold you back. You didn’t with your decision to move to Colorado. What made you commit to the Colorado leap?

I fell in love with the mountains back in 2012, and that was a turning point in my life. I took a snowboarding trip with the UWM Ski and Snowboarding Club to Copper Mountain, and the feeling I got when surrounded by the mountains I can really only compare to true love.

Andrea Flynn Talks Living with Epilepsy While Traveling, Snowboarding & Pursuing Her Art Career

It changed my perspective. When you are younger, you can get lost in your own mind and feel as though the world revolves around you. Being in the mountains gave me clarity and allowed me to live in the moment.

Carl Sagan describes it best. So good that I had to get it tattooed. “We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it’s forever.” I felt small being surrounded by something so much bigger than myself.

During that first snowboarding trip, I knew that was where I was meant to be. I had a life changing realization. I went home and told everyone I was moving to Colorado, and three years later …

I packed up my car with my $300 for my first month of rent in employee housing, and got a job at Copper Mountain.

Sounds familiar. 

February 9th 2015 was the day I started my life in Colorado. Really the day my life started. The mountains really were calling, that feeling I had while I was out there, I needed to have every day.

I worked at Copper Mountain for six months. During that time I didn’t make much art at all, I just soaked in everything and spent my days dreaming up the concept of what is now Rocky Mountain Originals.

How did you come up with the name Rocky Mountain Originals? 

It just didn’t feel natural for me to try and market myself and my name. “Andrea Flynn Art” just wasn’t meant to be. Rocky Mountain Originals is me, I feel like it embodies who I am and what I want to do better than my own name.

Andrea Flynn Talks Living with Epilepsy While Traveling, Snowboarding & Pursuing Her Art Career

The Rocky Mountains are what really set things off for me, and there is nothing I love painting more than landscapes. Okay maybe portraits are tied. I love those too.

Now that you have your own company, what’s been the most fulfilling part? 

I love working with people who have ideas for paintings they have always wanted or have memories they want me to create a painting around and making those ideas a reality.

Rocky Mountain Originals

Creating original custom works of art for people, collaborating with my customers, talking back and forth, hearing their stories and their plans, seeing pictures and coming up with an idea that they love.

There is nothing more satisfying than making someone’s idea a reality for them.

That is the most fulfilling feeling – a feeling that no amount of money could ever give me.

How do you keep inspired when you are painting for yourself and now painting to pay the bills? 

Mother Nature herself is my biggest source of inspiration. Ultimately everything comes from nature and can be traced back to nature. We have one life to live on this planet, and life is the greatest gift. I want to experience it to the fullest. Making art inspired by nature and people makes me feel the most alive.

Andrea Flynn_VIRTVE_RockyMountainOriginals

Having a sense of adventure and love for travel is something that has always been a major factor in my life. It all started with family fishing and camping trips every summer for weeks at a time traveling the country in an old camper.

Those experiences growing up are what ignited the flame for me to always seek out new sights and adventures and experience as much as I could. Every new experience alters your perspective and creates your own unique point of view.

Definitely. What would you tell those out there who are just discovering themselves as artists?

Don’t be afraid. Paint for you.

Fear is debilitating and can cause you to overthink …

Once you quiet those voices and believe in yourself, then you can begin to hear your inner voice more clearly, and it is that voice that allows you to create the most freely. Art is an expression of the soul.

Rocky Mountain Originals

How do you feel when you are emerged in what you love to do?

When I allow myself to be completely free, that is when I create my best work. When I have no restrictions and just do rather than think and plan, my soul is what is being put down on to the canvas paper.

What’s next for you?

I’m putting together a road trip coloring book! “Adult” coloring books seem to be a new discovery for a lot of people. The relaxing and meditational qualities making art has to offer.

So right now I am making the drawings for it. It will be released within the next few months. I don’t want to call it an adult coloring book though. Can’t leave out the kids who originally claimed the coloring book as theirs, they are welcome to it too.

Haha. Anything else?

I’m just looking forward to what I have yet to learn.   

 

Here’s where you can find Andrea:

Always in search of worldly knowledge and broader understandings, Kaitlyn has been freelancing while traveling since 2015. She's passionate about digital content, being environmentally friendly, and surfing. 16+ countries and counting.

  • JT Sather

    Great story. Keep chasing your dreams while you can still run. Now is the time. Best of luck to you.