We had the good fortune of connecting with Cindy Coleman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cindy, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My work/life balance has changed considerably! When I first started my graphic design business, I scooped up any client that came along. I was a “yes” girl and I could do anything and everything – and I did. I worked nights, weekends, whatever it took to get the job done. I skipped meals, I didn’t exercise, it was all about getting more work, more clients. And then I got Lyme disease. I met a client for lunch one day and on my way home I just felt so tired. So I took a nap. I’d never taken a nap in my life! I spent the next 6 months in the recliner before we even figured out what was wrong with me. I got treatment and the doctor said it would take about 3 years before I was back to “normal”. Of course I figured it wouldn’t take ME that long. But it did. And I learned to listen to my body. To not overload myself with work. To exercise, eat better, and if I needed a nap, I took a nap! I prioritize me now. That’s not to say that I let my clients fall by the wayside, but that I set up boundaries. I found what makes my heart sing (painting) and I do more of it. I try not to get bogged down by stress and things I can’t control.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My business is called Duck Girl Art. I’m a graphic designer, children’s book illustrator, and painter. I graduated from Ringling College of Art & Design with a BFA in Illustration and got a job as an on-air designer at CNN in Atlanta. I’d spent the last four years painting and drawing and here I was at a computer. I was sure they’d fire me once they realized I had no idea what I was doing! I worked at CNN for seven years, designing all of the graphics that you see on tv – the picture boxes next to the anchor, screens about gas prices, and lots and lots of maps. When my husband got a job in Durango in 2006, we moved rather quickly and didn’t give much thought about what I would be doing. I got a job at the local newspaper as an ad designer, but quickly realized it wasn’t for me. That’s when I started my own company. Within a few years I was designing for some of the big clients in town and was thrilled. I painted in my free time, mainly animals in acrylics and watercolor. I also illustrated three children’s books. In 2016 it all came to a sudden halt when I got Lyme disease. The biggest side effect that I had was chronic fatigue. So I gave up a lot of small clients. I stopped painting completely and spent a LOT of time sitting in the recliner and staring out the window, wondering if I’d ever get my life back (I know that sounds pretty destitute but it’s absolutely true!) Years later when I finally did get some energy back, I didn’t want to do the same things that I’d been doing (as far as painting and art was concerned). I had some cheap chalk pastels from college so I started painting landscapes. I enjoyed it so much that I bought a nice set and wowee! Then I bought an even NICER set and I’ve been hooked ever since. I love camping and hiking and I take a zillion pictures when we’re out. Lots and lots of clouds and sky pictures! I always thought that landscape painting was so cliché but I am so drawn to it. Painting is a chance for me to try and capture the moment – the mood I was in, the smells, the wind, the sounds, my thoughts – everything about that moment and try to wrap it all into this painting that’s a piece of my soul. Getting Lyme ended up being a blessing. I wouldn’t have done the things that I’m doing now if I hadn’t had my life come to a standstill. It awakened in me a longing that I always knew was there, I just didn’t know what to do with it. Lately I’ve been working on a series of National Parks. I’ve painted six so far (five paintings for each park). I’ve been to 20 and my plan is to go to all of them and paint them all. It combines my love of painting with my love of adventuring and hiking.

And now the answer that you’ve really been wanting to hear, the answer that I get asked all the time – where did I get the name Duck Girl? When I graduated from college and had to get a ‘real’ email address, I kept typing things into yahoo and it kept saying, “that’s taken. But what about this?” I always liked ducks. Duck Girl was a gift from the internet gods. When I started my business I was wondering what to call it. I do graphic design, I paint, I illustrate. My brilliant husband said, “just call it ‘art’.” And thus, Duck Girl Art.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh my goodness there are SO many fun things to do here! Of course we would visit Mesa Verde National Park, take a ride on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, visit Honeyville and buy some Colorado Honey Whiskey, dinner at Chimayo and Highway 3 Roadhouse, lunch at Nini’s and Zia’s Taqueria, grab and go bagel sandwich from Doughworks, catch the San Juan Symphony or a concert at the Concert Hall… and oh, the hiking! I have a set of prints on display at the Durango La Plata County Airport that’s actually a tour of Durango. You can see it here on my website: https://www.duckgirlart.com/durango-tour They’re paintings that I did and then I tell you where the location is so you can go see it for yourself! Of course I can’t tell you some places that we like to hike because we like to keep a few secret 😉 I often joke that I should work for the tourism office – I LOVE taking people around and showing off my town!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband Ken deserves a huge shout out! When I first started my business, he completely supported me in quitting my job and just going for it on my own. And he’s been there every step of the way. When I was sick with Lyme, he took care of everything – cooked, cleaned, listened to me cry, made me smile. He listens to me talk about my dreams and goals and he cheers me on. And lately he’s been my coworker, helping me load and unload at art fairs (and even selling a few of my paintings himself!) He’s unbelievably supportive and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

I also have to acknowledge my Mom. Growing up, Mom had a huge supply of self help books that my four siblings and I always joked about. Her mantra was “You can if you think you can” and “can’t” wasn’t a word in our vocabulary. I always knew that I wanted to be an artist and when I got accepted into Ringling College of Art & Design, Mom moved mountains to make sure that I could go. She’s always been my cheerleader, encouraging me every step of the way.

And one more: In the fall of 2020 I was awarded an artist residency at Willowtail Springs Nature Preserve & Education Center. The week that I spent there was life changing. I created 20 paintings in one week. Just having the time and the space to create without interruption – it was incredible. Last fall they called me and offered me another 10 nights – and of course I jumped at the chance, creating another 19 paintings. I am so grateful to them for the gift that they’ve given me and the creative aspirations that have grown from these residencies.

Website: https://www.duckgirlart.com/

Instagram: @duckgirlart

Linkedin: Duck Girl Art

Facebook: @Duck Girl Art

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4yrR4UXZQMhLy6_APP9dkQ

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.