Five Things My Parents Taught Me I Could Live Without

As a reader of this blog, you may know that my dad is an artist, and has been a full-time professional artist for over three decades. Much of what I know about the art world (and the rest of the world, for that matter) comes from my early experience watching my mom and dad build a successful business around my dad’s art.

I spent many days growing up watching my dad paint in the studio, and I would travel with my parents to art shows and on gallery-hunting trips as they sought representation for my father’s work.

Growing up the son of an artist provided me with many experiences that were unusual for a kid growing up in rural Idaho. In fact, my childhood would have been unusual anywhere.

As a kid, I wondered what it would be like to lead a “normal” life, and what it would be like to have many of the things other kids took for granted. It seemed like my family often had to make do without. Some of the things we missed out on weren’t a big deal, but you might not believe some of the things we learned to live without.

A Big House

I remember a friend of mine who lived in a mansion, or at least I thought it was a mansion. It was probably just a 4 bedroom, 3000 square foot home, but to me it was a palace.

When I was five years old, my parents sold the little duplex in which we had been living in a small town in south-central Idaho, and moved into a single-wide mobile home on 3/4 of an acre outside of town. Dad was going to build a geodesic dome for us to live in, so the plan was to live in the mobile home for the six to nine months he thought it would take to build.

It ended up taking a lot longer. We lived in that mobile home for almost nine years, and in the meantime our family was growing. By the time we moved out in to the dome in the late 1980s, there were eight of us, six kids and my parents, cramped into the tiny, two-bedroom trailer house.

It was a tight living situation, but, as a result, I spent much of my time playing outside. I developed a deep and abiding love of the outdoors.

The Hospital and Modern Medicine

Long before the current cult of mistrust had arisen about institutional medicine and vaccinations, my parents developed antipathy toward the medical system.

While three of my sisters and I were born in hospitals, my parents’ last five children were born in our home, under the supervision and care of a midwife.

When one of us fell ill, my mom was more likely to reach for herbs than cough medicine.

The only time we interacted with the medical system was when there was a dire emergency–like the time my younger brother broke his arm.

Luckily, none of us suffered any major health consequences, and eventually this mania for self-care and natural remedies would fade away, but we did benefit from a diet rich in whole grains and garden-grown food.

Public Education

If institutional medicine was taboo, public education was likewise eschewed in my family. I began my education in a Montessori school. When the private school failed, I did spend a couple of years in a public grade school before my parents began home-schooling all of us.

A big part of our curriculum was life experience. We traveled the country to my dad’s art shows, and saw many historical sites and national parks along the way.

Mom pieced together some textbooks to help us get a base understanding of math and English. Eventually, for high school, we enrolled in a correspondence school.

This nontraditional path didn’t encourage higher education, and, though I put myself through a number of community college courses, I never did receive a college degree.

And yet, I never felt I was inhibited from learning what I needed to know. I discovered that if I wanted to understand something, I was going to have to learn it on my own. I became a voracious reader, encouraged by a likewise auto didactic mother who would read to us from a very early age, and made sure we all had library cards.

While I didn’t pick up my Dad’s love for creating art, he did teach me how to work with my hands and how to persist to get projects done.

My education was unconventional, and a bit unorthodox, but it was also wide-ranging and pragmatic.


I didn’t mind avoiding the doctor, and it was fun to roll out of bed and get my education at home, but I didn’t enjoy the fact that my family didn’t have a television for a much of my early childhood. I’m sure we could have afforded one, but my parents thought TV a waste of time. Instead, we were encouraged to use our imaginations and get outside and play. We were also encouraged to devote ourselves to our schoolwork.

Eventually my family did get a television, and we watched our fair share of television programming, but I always knew that there were alternatives. Because I knew that there was a life outside of programmed entertainment, I’ve never felt compelled to waste a lot of time on media. That lesson stuck with me through the end of the television age and into the internet age. I’m able to get a lot done because I can turn off media devices.

Fear of the Unconventional

Perhaps the most important lesson my parents taught me was that one doesn’t have to live a conventional life. Growing up, I had many friends whose parents worked regular 9-5 jobs. I was taught to admire hard work and discipline, but I also learned, by watching my parents, that I could chart my own course in life and invent my own future.

We endured some very difficult financial times while I was growing up. I don’t want to gloss over those challenges, and being broke is never fun, but my parents showed me that persisting and hustling is the only way to achieve dreams.

Anything I’ve accomplished as my wife, Carrie, and I have been building Xanadu Gallery into a successful business can certainly trace its roots back to the daring it took my parents to strike out on their own to build my dad’s art career. My parents taught me how to face risks and how to persist.

I Wouldn’t Trade My Childhood

There were other things we went without from time to time: running water(!), square meals, Christmas gifts, to name just a few, but I will invite you read my memoir to hear those stories, along with many other oddities I experiences as the son of an artist.

Make no mistake, my childhood wasn’t idyllic. There were dark times filled with struggle and anguish. Moreover, we endured a particularly bleak chapter that began in my adolescence, and very nearly tore the family apart. But we survived; we endured; eventually, we prospered.

I invite you to pre-order a copy of my new memoir, Dad Was An Artist, A Survivor’s Story to get the whole story. I find the story of my parents’ struggles in life and their persistence in overcoming them inspirational; you will too. I learned a great deal about how to live an extraordinary life from my parents; you will too!

Learn more about my new memoir by clicking here.

Learn More and Order Today

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Loved reading this intro to your new memoir. I had no idea of your life growing up. Congratulations on writing it. I have been thinking and stalling on writing my own memoir. So this is an inspiration. Thanks Jason

    Hope all is well at Xanadu in Scottsdale. I sold my place in AZ several years ago, not coming back.
    Living on east coast again.

    Stay safe

  2. This modestly written account speaks to the truth of the American Way. Thank you. My soul quakes this morning as my reluctant eyes take in the undeniable downward twisting of our beloved country. God help us. God bless us . . .everyone.

  3. While my family was largely conventional, my parents also were unwilling to get a tv until we were in middle school. At the time I felt very deprived, but because I was not spoon-fed structured entertainment, I read a lot, spent time in the woods, and learned to use my time creatively. If I had had children, I would have not allowed a tv either.

  4. I found this book absolutely fascinating! It told a story that helped me to understand why Jason shares his expertise in the art world so generously.
    This isn’t the norm I dicovered quite quickly, after taking up painting seriously in midlife.

    I feel that the least anyone can do, who has followed his progress over the years, is to purchase one of these great reads. They owe him that!!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story, Jason. We can relate in so many ways. Humble beginnings help us build character and appreciate everything we have.

  6. I am going to have to read this book! It sounds like so many similarities to my childhood. My grandfather was the real artist in the family, but my parents met because my father was going to apprentice with my grandfather. Art was all around us and aside from my cousins, I have never really met any other families that grew up like me. Looking forward to the read!

  7. You have my admiration, Jason. You are obviously a fine and moral young man, due in great part I am certain, to your upbringing (as well as your genes). I cannot imagine a more different early life from mine. To be part of a family of eight living such an unconventional life is beyond my comprehension. Totally. From the age of five, I was raised by my mother in small town Canada. We were poor and I knew we were poor but I was loved beyond belief. From the pedestal that my Mom placed me upon, I could reach out and almost touch Andromeda. Throughout all of this, including being shunned by some in the community because #1, I was adopted and #2, my parents were separated (no money for divorce), I always knew in my heart that there would be ‘enough’. And there always was and is and will be. And so it was and will be with you. How blessed you and I are!!

    In Light & Love,


  8. This is somewhat late, but Thank You. About 6/7 years ago I read your book Starving to Successful, and it changed my way of thinking and has truly helped me in my art career. Your book is the most honest and helpful that I’ve read, and I’ve read plenty. I can’t wait to read your latest book. Thank you and as a lifelong visual artist l appreciate your honest and straight forward way of giving truly useful information. My copy of your book has become Tattered and worn, highlighted and scribbled on, but I treasure it. Thanks from Louisiana, Anita

  9. Thank you, Jason, for excerpting these points from your memoir in your Blog. They’re important and very timely lessons that all can benefit from — especially on the subjects of Public Education and Television!

  10. I have not read your book but can relate to everything you say here!
    I was born to American parents in another country. It was a unique childhood in a unique place! Incidentally, I now live in Idaho.

  11. To me, your writing of your family’s story portrays the art of a ‘ Life Well-Lived’… thank you sharing it with us Jason, great read for reminiscing….

  12. Jason, your book was fascinating, and it reminded me of Tara Westover’s “Educated”, minus the mental illness and abuse. Thank you for telling your story.

  13. Jason, I’m ordering it now! I can’t wait to read it! I have read Starving to Successful many times and it is excellent! I look forward to reading this new book! Thank you for all that you do!

  14. Thanks for sharing your memories! It got me wanting to read more! I too have shared bits and pieces Of my childhood memories on my blog and I have received such encouraging feedback. I just ordered your book. Can’t wait to read more! Thank you for your willingness to share shop talk as well! God bless you and your family.

  15. Your book is a wonderful read! I can relate to your stories on so many levels since I, too, have a father who is an artist…AND a mother! Evidently, you have used these challenges to your advantage. You did not let adversity defeat you, instead built a solid foundation (family and art) to expand your horizons…and here we are today, sharing how you have inspired us.

    “You’re awesome, Dude”, was we So Cal peeps love to say!

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