As a teenager in the 1990s, Natalia Ackers spent hours in her bedroom drawing. Her ability to sketch the logos of her favourite grunge bands, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, demonstrated real talent. In high school, her art teacher kept her superb assignments as examples for future students. Yet Ackers never considered a career in the art world. “My parents were, like, ‘That’s nice that you’re good at art, but you’re going to be a professional of some sort,’” she recalls. “Once I left high school, art was in the rear-view mirror.”
After completing an undergraduate degree in psychology, Ackers trained as a lawyer. About four years into her legal career, she became the assistant general counsel at Aramark Canada, which provides, among other things, food and uniform services to a wide range of organizations. Ackers has now occupied that role for a decade. For much of this time, her passion for art lay dormant. But in 2016, it staged a surprising comeback. Ackers and her husband, a firefighter, spent a weekend painting abstracts. “It opened Pandora’s box,” she says. For the first time since she graduated from high school, she started to paint on a regular basis.
At first, painting was a release, a distraction from the demands of work. “In law, things have to be done the right way,” says the 41-year-old. “There is no bending the rules.” Abstract painting requires skill, but there are no clear-cut rules. “Happy accidents are usually the best part of the process.”
Today, Ackers has turned art into a bona fide side gig. From a studio in her basement, she produces abstract paintings that burst with colour. In the first year of her budding artistic career, her work was featured in a café gallery in Bloor West Village. Ackers has also sold canvases at art fairs and to her followers on Instagram. “I would love to transition to painting as a full-time career, but that’s a risky move,” she says. “So I’ve made a little deal with myself: if I can match my salary in painting sales, I get to quit my day job!”