Buckhead social media maven makes painting a second career.
As the social media manager for Explore Georgia, Merry Parker Whidby spends her working hours promoting the state as a tourist destination. But when she gets home at the end of the day, she morphs into Merry Parker Whidby, the artist.
The transformation takes place in a spare bedroom of her Chastain Park home, where things are apt to, and often do, get in a state.
“I got a townhouse about four years ago and had a room I could turn into my little art studio, and it’s really changed the game,” she says. “I now have a place to work and enjoy, but I can also shut the door because art is messy. But it’s my happy place.”
Art has long been an intimate part of the social media professional’s life. The fascination began during her middle school years in south Georgia, where she worked with an art teacher who rocked her world.
“She was my hero, my favorite person in the world,” says Whidby. “We had so much fun in her class, and I found I loved painting, coloring and creating.”
At 15, she got into collecting. “For Christmas, I’d always get a piece of art, and when I was at Auburn, I did a study abroad in Austria, and I picked up pieces there,” she says. “I particularly love collecting local artists and going through my house, seeing works by all these people.”
Whidby’s collection includes Georgia-based artists such as Erin Gregory, Jeanne Cowart, Jim Touchton, Sally King Benedict and Teil Duncan, to name a few. Her own creations reflect a shared heritage that comes across in her colorful, acrylic abstracts with floral flourishes. If the mood strikes, she even goes off the canvas and paints bottles that make unique gifts. “One of my teachers described it best: It’s Southern with an edge,” she says.
A 2019 art retreat to Portugal provided the motivation to get more serious about her second career. Whidby came back to Buckhead and began selling her work at Acquisitions Interiors on Miami Circle. She also drew on her social media savvy to promote her work through her website and Instagram pages. The galleries there reflect her foray into flags, holiday-inspired pieces, miniatures and landscapes.
While promoting her own work utilizes the same skill set as her day job, Whidby says having what amounts to two jobs isn’t easy to balance.
“Painting is something I love doing, but it’s tough balancing it with a fulltime job,” she says. “I largely do it for me, and if the works sell, they sell.”
Not being dependent on art for her livelihood is also freeing, she says. “I like exploring with a blank canvas and seeing what comes up. When it gets messy and ugly, you know it’s going to be a good piece, but you’ve got to go through the ugly to get to the pretty. If I did that full-time, the pressure would take away the creativity. Not having to do it to pay the mortgage makes it more enjoyable.”
MERRY PARKER WHIDBY
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.