Balancing the Grind with Chris Riley, Visual Artist

In this interview, we meet Chris Riley, an international artist from Brisbane, Australia, who has transformed his passion for art into a thriving full-time career.

With a background in automotive trades, Chris made a bold switch at 28 to pursue visual arts. His unique paintings, inspired by Palm Springs and summer vibes, are a testament to his artistic journey and dedication.

Chris opens up about his daily routine, which mirrors a relaxed weekend vibe, and shares insights into maintaining work-life balance, embracing change for growth, and finding joy in his work.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

The first decade of my working life was spent in the automotive trades where I did everything from automotive upholstery, spray-painting, electrical and metal fabrication. At 28 I decided to make a drastic career change and pursue being a full-time visual artist.

I have been a full-time artist for nearly 5 years now and my career continues to grow. My wife now works full time behind the scenes on the digital side of the business allowing me to focus on the creative side.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

 I am super blessed and grateful to have the work life that I do. My workday looks a lot like many people’s weekend.

My day starts with getting out of bed when I wake up, or the dogs wake me up; whichever comes first. I don’t like setting alarms. I follow this with a morning coffee with my wife, and a cold shower (a practice that I started a few months ago that has changed my life), then it’s off to the studio.  At the studio, my wife and I have a morning chat to discuss what she needs from me before starting her day. I then set up for a day of painting. 

I make sure I have the camera set to record my progress, hit play on my podcast episodes and disappear wherever it is that I go when I am painting. Besides breaking for lunch, that is usually where I stay for the next 6-10 hours, deeply engrossed in what I am listening to until the end of the day when it is time to head home for dinner and bed.  

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

 I think about this the same as I think about success. If you wake up every day not dreading the day ahead, and you go to sleep happy with the day you’ve just had then you have balance and you are successful. So, I believe that I have managed to build a career that accomplishes both.

Life as an artist allows for complete flexibility around when I choose to work. While my studio is public, it is open by appointment only so there is no external time restraint.  Where I can work however is less flexible. I paint fairly large scale artworks so painting has to be done at the studio. But I love being there so that is ok with me.  

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Yes. Starting my day with an ice-cold shower is a change I made after hearing about it on one of the podcasts I listen to. I used to struggle with remaining energetic and alert enough to get through the day and the cold showers have drastically improved that for me.

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I’m not a big reader but I do listen to an average of 6 hours of podcasts each day. Some of my favourites are:

  • Marketing Against the Grain
  • The Futur
  • The Fin
  • American History Tellers 
  • The Futurists
  • Business Movers

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

There is the saying “do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” I disagree. I do what I love, and I work long hard hours doing it, but it makes me happy. Enjoying what you do regardless of how much you have to do or how “hard” it is, that is what is important. Try to do something that fills your life with joy and gratitude.

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.