A Visual Artist’s Business Journey

How to use your wits and artistic talents to create multiple streams of income.

Ovila Lemon (known in art circles as Ladie Ovila) is an artist, graphic designer, clothing and accessories designer, and an art teacher. Her business, Mūt’Sun Artistry (pronounced moot-son) is a name that came to be because of Ladie Ovila’s collective painting with her then 8-year-old son, Cleson. The 2 words, Mūt’Sun, stand for mother and son.

When her son was at this young age, Ovila needed to find a job with more time flexibility in order to raise him. This was when the fledgling idea of creating her own business took off. Her business creates custom art and installation pieces for clients, designs fashion items and accessories that utilize her strong and vibrant artwork, and also provides art classes for children.

Her work exudes joy, strength, and empowerment in its bold shapes and vibrant colors. Her difficult path to get to where she is today has given her the confidence to know that she is doing the right thing for her son, her career, and her well-being. She’s happy to be doing what she loves and she enjoys the sense of purpose that comes from teaching art to children. As we interview Ladie Ovila in her design studio to ask about her journey, it’s not too difficult to feel positivity and charm radiating from her while taking in all of the beautiful artwork surrounding her.

Ladie Ovila in her wearable art as well as one of her art pieces

LBT: How did you come up with the name Mūt’Sun?

My business name was made up by my now 12-year-old (then 8-year-old) son Cleson. Due to his knowledge of the Ancient Egyptian Metdu Neter language, he knew that Mūt (Moot) means mother, and I changed the spelling of son to sun, referring to him as my brightest star. We had begun painting together, not only finding it therapeutic but also discovering a talent and love we shared together.

LBT: Can you describe your business in 3 words?

I’d say they’d be clever, sparkling, and curiosity.

LBT: What did you do before you started your business?

Prior to becoming a full-time visual artist, I had been a freelance fashion and graphic designer in the fashion Industry for over 20 years. I’ve worked on designing everything from footwear for Saks Fifth Ave brand, to lounge wear for the NBA, to backpacks for Marvel Comics and everything in between. After a devastating experience my son and I encountered while heading to work one day, I began seeing a therapist. In therapy I was encouraged to do something I always wanted to do but had been making excuses for. That something was painting. Cleson (my son) and I began painting together and shortly after, we began getting noticed, and we decided we needed an “art name.” That is how we became Mūt’Sun.

My son, Cleson, rarely paints with me these days, he prefers creating digital content on his own. Still, I decided to keep the name since the way I came to be a full-time visual artist is very unique and serves as a testament to my relationship with him.

LBT: When did your love of design start?

As a young child I always loved to draw and sew. To create was my joy. Once a month my school allowed us not to wear uniforms, and I would plan what to wear carefully with my mom. She’d sew and execute the plan to perfection. She, as well as my grandmother and great aunt, are very, very creative. I knew doing something creative would be how I made a living early on in life.

Today I have bridged the gap between my career in design and my newfound career in painting. I had to learn as a creator there are many ways to make money, and in order to be a “Living Artist,” rather than a “Starving Artist,” you must use your wits and talents to create multiple streams of income. I have been lucky enough to incorporate my love for fashion with my love for art by selling my different collections of paintings on clothing. I also have taken the plunge, learning how to paint on a large scale by painting murals.

Ladie Ovila with her Art Students

Ladie Ovila and her Art Students

A few years ago I created an afterschool art program, “Artivity,” as well as a summer camp “Art So Brooklyn.” In the past year I’ve also acquired a studio where I now take young artists for group or private lessons, as well as create themed painting parties for people of all ages. I am kept very busy as a full-time artist and I love it. Just as much as I’ve learned how to keep myself out of the starving artist zone, I’ve learned that everything is not always about money. I have happily donated my time and talents to help my community. I have participated in STooPS, an organization that brings all forms of art to the community, and I have been the artist in resident for the Macon Branch of Brooklyn Public Library to help organize community activities. I have uplifted my neighborhood by painting gates at no cost to local minority-owned businesses, as well as given free art lessons and painted murals in my son’s school.

LBT: How do you feel about all you’ve accomplished, and what’s next for you?

As an artist, and as a minority-woman-owned-business, I must say I am proud of my success thus far. I have reinvented myself from a working professional into a full time entrepreneur, and am looking forward to where it’s going to take me.

In 10 years I see Mūt’Sun being even more grand. I see myself doing exactly what I am doing now, just on a much larger scale. I want people to know my story and see my art everywhere. I want to bring joy to the masses. I see myself running my own community center where I can take young artists, no matter their background or financial status, under my wing and help them discover and develop their talents.

One of Ladie Ovila’s Large Format Murals

LBT: Do you have any financial advice for someone looking to start their own business?

If I had to give anyone financial advice on starting their own business, the best thing I personally would say is to stop making excuses. I’d say stop thinking you can’t start without a large sum of money. People get in their own way by placing they should or shouldn’t start “yet.” Just go for it. If you’re selling something, sell one and take it from there.

The more passion you put into what you want to do, the better you’ll sow the seed.


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