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.

Television

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 Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. 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. Connect with Jason on Facebook

11 Comments

  1. My dad was an artist too. (Charles F. Keck) When I was little, I spent a lot of time at art shows. He wasn’t quite as brave as your dad though. He got a degree in art education and taught high school art (part of the time at the same school as the Stand and Deliver math teacher). On weekends we went out “sketching” in what was then countryside around Los Angeles. (I didn’t paint either, until my thirties. Intimidation.) Like your family, ours hovered on the brink of being broke. Teaching doesn’t pay that well either. Many of the lessons you learned were the same as mine.

  2. My Dad was a musician, so not quite as poor as an artist, but not that much different. I was too intimidated to do music (until after my Dad died) so I did art and sports. We were not nearly as unconventional as you, but giving up TV should be a first step for anyone who wants time to create. Great life lessons Jason.

  3. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that my own children were raised in a very similar way, minus the traveling artist lifestyle. Except I moved them from a life of comfort to one of nearly wilderness living, and the usual rural-life hardships (extremely small house and all) and also eschewed modern medicine for healthy diets and herbs. Now they’re grown and likewise happy in their own various pursuits but it was hard on at least my daughter. My sons took to the new life gleefully. Now daughter seems to have morphed into a mini-me, albeit a good bit better financially now, and it makes me smile. Your biography sounds interesting!

  4. My mom was an artist and her dad and great uncle were artists. Some things were great about it (like getting free range in an art store) but other things were tough. My older brother became a professional artist and she was much more supportive of him than any attempts toward selling art on my part. My dad was a hard worker and we were comfortable. I still struggle with selling my art and they’re both gone. I don’t have to sell now that I’m retired but that means it’s also hard to get motivated to paint. My walls are already full.

  5. That’s sound like the upbringing I gave to my children! Getting to know about your background explains to me why you understood my art immediately when I came to your gallery with my portfolio.. which is a rare occurrence in the gallery world. http://www.GaiaOrion.com I look forward to receiving your book which I ordered!

  6. Wow, Jason, your upbringing sounds a bit like Tara Westover in “Educated”, minus the craziness and abuse. I’m looking forward to the book and appreciate you telling us your story.

  7. Wow Jason, I never expected such a successful Art Gallery owner, entrepreneur, and son of an Artist to have had the struggles you had growing up. I know at times I also was ashamed of being dropped off by the bus and would walk home “up the holla” to the trailer we lived in instead of being seen where I lived. But like you, even with all the struggles, I enjoyed a lot of my childhood in the country and the lessons learned through these struggles. I think doing without actually made me grow as an artist more as I had to use my imagination and creativity instead of having it delivered through TV or store-bought games and devices.

    I usually visit your Gallery in Scottsdale when I am in Arizona several times a year. I have a retirement home in Surprise. I was wondering if you will be having your memoir at your gallery for those who may want to visit and pick up a copy (and have it signed at that time). I’ve bought all your books thus far and you have already signed one of them for me. I’ll probably be out that way again in October and will be moving there permanently in December.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  8. There are many parallels to our avant garde lives. My father was an inventor, my mother a sewing machine repairman and seamstress-turned-upholsterer, both with entrepeneurial spirits. I completely understand the feast or famine sine-wave that was life. The old saying that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, and I know it did me, and as a result I grew up, raised by entrepreneurial parents, believing that I could do most anything I set my mind to. Any pain of feeling “different” that I had as a child has taught me life-lessons that I couldn’t have learned, even if I’d sought out answers, otherwise. My mother designated one of my sisters “artist of the siblings” and I was only encouraged to do music, which I did for many years. I also painted though, and wrote poetry and discovered that what one art might do for us, it could be more complete to me by writing a poem or song that was inspired by the painting. One funny thing that we had, as siblings, was art in the form of cartooning. My parents wouldn’t let us kids fight, physically, so we would cartoon each other (and our parents) which provided much laughter all around, in addition to some family heirlooms. My little brother noted that the way he cartooned my sister and I (with exaggerated features, of course), turned out to be the way we look now, lol. Not exactly, but in his mind’s eye that was is case. My family’s sense of humor would buoy us through the rough times in life.They are both gone, now, but they left us with the ability to dream big, to laugh, to love books and learning, and our faith. For these I am thankful. I look forward to receiving and reading your book. Thank you for sharing your story and the picture of your beautiful family. I’m sure your book will encourage and inspire many.

  9. My Father is an artist and so am I and now my two daughters’. In 1984, my Father
    moved 4 kids, a wife , and one dog to Paterson, NJ to be close to the “New York City Art Market” from rural Georgia. 😳 what a culture shock. It took him 2 1/2 years to sell his first painting in NYC.

    Now, when I am struggling or doubting myself .. I call on his self belief and perseverance.

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