Did your Family and Friends Discourage You From Becoming an Artist?

I recently read an article about Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines and serial entrepreneur, where he talked about the reluctance many people feel when trying to decide whether to leave steady employment to begin a new business venture. Comments on the article included many references to the added challenge of having friends and family members who discouraged taking the risk of starting a new business.

When my wife Carrie and I decided to start Xanadu Gallery in 2001, we were very fortunate to have moral and financial support from family members. Their encouragement had a huge impact on our ability to get the gallery off the ground. Even more important, their ongoing support through the difficult early years and the recession that began in 2007 were crucial in helping us keep the business going.

Branson’s article got me thinking about the challenge it is for an artist to take the plunge and pursue art full time, and it made me wonder how big a factor family members and friends were in the decision making process. I’ve certainly heard stories of young artists being discouraged from pursuing art as a profession.

Were You Discouraged From Pursuing a Career in Art?

Did the people closest to you, your family and friends, encourage or discourage your pursuit of art as a profession? Share your experiences or thoughts on the influence friends or family have had on your pursuit of your art – please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Starving to Successful

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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

51 Comments

  1. My friends and family never discouraged me from becoming an artist–but the majority of my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues did not (and still do not) believe that it is a career. Regardless of how large a percentage of my income is derived from art sales, regardless of juried shows, gallery representation, and speaking engagements, it is still viewed as a “hobby.” People still tell me that their Aunt Sadie or some other family member is also an artist because they like to paint or draw.

    I am grateful that my family sees it differently. They knew what a challenge it would be, and fully supported my decision to leave a stable, well-paid executive position. My original training was as a studio artist and they knew what it meant to me. And I am grateful for a community of encouraging and supportive artist friends.

    1. I can relate. My mom’s sister is a Bob Ross student, and my mom can’t tell the difference in quality and technique to my art…and I’m not bragging if I state there is a huge difference.

  2. My parents encouraged my artwork up through high school. During high school the message was to plan on “something practical” as a major in college. I was fortunate to discover the architecture profession before my 19th birthday. This was back in the 70’s (before CAD) when hand drafting was the norm. My college years were filled with building cardboard models, hand-drawn plans, and perspective sketches. I would take art classes as electives in addition to my studies in architecture.

    While working full time as an architect, I take an occasional evening or weekend art class. Having my own practice, I typically design around 30 residential projects each year and still draw by hand. With my sons grown, I’m scaling back on my architectural practice and devoting more time to creating art. My wife has been very encouraging with my pursuit of creating art. To me it’s vital to have a spouse or partner that is supportive of one’s artistic goals.

  3. Oh yes, my parents would not allow me to go to Ecole de Beaux Art in Montreal way, way back in 1958.
    I have been published in many magazines of my living with a silent unseen life sentence of Dyslexia. In my day the word had not been invented and I had to cope on my own. I have a sunny heart and with determination I have become an accomplished watercolour artist and an award-winning author Pamela

    1. You are proof that we are not our limitations but our aspirations!
      And I can imagine the difficulty is it was for you with dyslexia in those early years. Dyslexia wasn’t even acknowledged in the educational system until late in the 70s or the early 80s. Super super kudos to you!!!

      1. Cheryl
        Thank you for your kind words they are Much appreciated.!
        I am a mirror dyslexic. I see everything reversed as if looking in a mirror.
        I went to a Victorian-styled school in the UK post world war 11.
        No one understood what I had done when I wrote in mirror writing.
        I got bullied all through school. After moving to Montreal, I got asked all through high school.
        Peter is my twin and I was asked by teachers Peter can do this, why can’t you? Every day teachers would tell me that he was brilliant and I was nothing like him. I am a tough little bird as I have survived dyslexia, breast cancer and a death-defying car accident. I must have another job to do. I have a sunny heart

        1. wow, is this the same mirror writing that leonardo da vinci used? it sounds natural for you, it is not explained how he wrote that way, just that he was gifted

  4. I was fortunate to find a lot of support from family and friends when I decided to pursue art more seriously than the occasional “crafty” Saturday morning—with their encouraging words, babysitting help, and financial help. Once in awhile it felt like family was “blocking” my efforts, such as when my husband would challenge me about why I was taking a certain workshop, or my dad would notice the one thing wrong in my most recent painting. But in reality they were trying to help me focus. I tend to butterfly my way through new explorations, lighting here and there but with no discernible direction. They knew that and tried to help me be more purposeful in becoming a better artist. I’m now working my way into turning my art into real income, and they are cheering me on. (and they are getting better at making those cheers useful!)

    If I get discouraged by what they say, I stop and ask myself: what is at the root of their comments? Is it something I need to change? Or is it coming from some other source and I should ignore it? Family support is wonderful, but it’s not the only thing that keeps me moving forward. I really, really want to become a successful, incoming-generating artist, and that’s the major factor to making it happen.

    1. You are quite fortunate to have had support, and still THE most important support comes from within!
      Pursuing that which is most passionate/important to us each IS the breath of life!! It is the best fuel to move forward and to keep growing ourselves!!!! Best wishes to you in your endeavors!!!!!!!

  5. Yes! I grew up in a farming community in the 50s. My parents thought my wish to be an artist was ridiculous. They said a woman (at that time) could be one of three things – a homemaker, a secretary, or a teacher. I had a lot of respect for my parents and I tried to do it their way. After high school I went away to college to pursue a teaching degree. Then I discovered the graphics arts program and switched gears. My parents thought this was a mistake. Later I was offered a job as a graphic artist, which I took and did for 11 years of my life. It was comprise because I had been convinced I couldn’t make it as an artist. (although I admit it was good experience) I continued doing my art in my spare time and hiding it under my bed. I think nothing could ever stop me from creating. Twenty-five years ago I met my husband, who discovered my art hidden away and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I have been a full time artist now for the past 25 years, my husband now works for me and the small art business we have created. I think without encouragement and support from family members or a friend its hard for artists to break out of the norm.

  6. Yep! My first memory of it is my third grade art teacher spotted me out as an artist and that’s when my families barrage of denial began . A few years later I was awarded a two-week scholarship to Interlochen in Michigan for my accomplishments in playing violin. My mother ripped it to shreds and warned me not to mention it to my father. It is no wonder my earliest drawings were done on the wall where I could pull out my bed and then hide it….
    As an adult when I finally seriously reclaimed it, my mother still offered, “ you can’t afford this “, Which time my response finally was and still is , “ I cannot afford not to “.
    My daughter showed signs of exploring arts by the time she was quite young. Now she’s 22 years old and on the cusp of graduating with her BFA .
    I could not be more proud of both of us !!!

    1. ❤ ❤ ❤ When I told my mom in 7th grade that I wanted to be an art major, she replied, Art is for dummies! (those who can’t do anything better)

  7. The line is “that’s good, but you will never make a living at that. I will take it off your hands for you, no I don’t want to pay for it, you will never make a living at art”. Then get mad when I won’t just let them have them.

  8. My parents were very adamant that I was not going to be an artist. Even after receiving a scholarship to the University of Kansas for my art when I was in high school, they refused to let me go. I believe their own fears and misconceptions about “starving artists” were the driving factors of that, even though as a teenager, you don’t have any understanding of that. I went on a completely different path from my art and became successful in my work, but never let go of my desire to paint. Now in my sixties, I’m closing the door on corporate work and starting down this new path of doing my art. I’ve made a complete circle and I’m now realizing the potential the artist’s life has for me.

  9. It was more subtle than open discouragement. They encouraged me, but the pressure of keeping the family ship afloat by working at an unrelated job full time ate away at the time needed to paint and learn. I acknowledge my part in that. Now “retired,” I have walked away from all my commitments except my husband, and although finances are still difficult, I am finding my feet as an artist.

  10. Absolutely. And 7 years in as an old man (presently 72) starting something new, risky and difficult was and still is regarded as foolishness by my wife and children, my limited but slowly increasing success not withstanding. For me the passion I bring to the work is vital to keeping me alive, and I am used to overcoming obstacles having spent most of my life as a physical scientist. Still, I cannot look them in the eye and guarantee that I will succeed and that leads to much hand wringing on their part.

  11. Yes! My mother discouraged me in a very strong and personal way from going to art school and pursuing an artistic career. It was something that pretty much affected all of my life, flitting from job to job and other. As time went on, the more I then bought into the myth that you have to have gone to art school and that you need to have been doing it all your life otherwise you’d never be good and your art wasn’t worth anything. I took the occasional short evening course and did my own drawings from time to time, so the need and desire was always there, but I think I often suppressed it and wouldn’t draw/paint because I felt there was no point and I was afraid of failing, even if it was only me seeing it.
    Now, in later life, after having gone to evening classes for several years, I’m fortunate enough to be able to devote a fair amount of time to it, and am selling some art. Never been happier and healthier. I realize it may sound over dramatic to say this, but I truly think not being able to do my art was slowly killing me.
    I exhibit at local art fairs and enjoy the social aspect of talking to other artists , and I find this is a frequent story for people who are older.
    But, it’s not just being older and in a better financial position, I think the growth of art and art sales on the internet has helped hugely by giving information, opportunity and awareness.
    The options and diverse careers and opportunities available after art school, and also without art school, seem to be more available and known now – that obviously doesn’t stop those close to use being discouraging for whatever reasons, but I feel a younger person could overcome it sooner.

  12. Definitely yes. When I was younger my parents discouraged me to pursue an art carrier. Their arguments was that I cannot survive selling art. I ended up having a degree in something else. I married and again the novel is repeating. When I tell my husband about my business he just ignore. He doesn’t say anything. Or when I accomplish something on my art he doesn’t encourage me or give me a compliment. For him I have to make money right away. I just opened my business. It’s been hard to keep up. I’m glad I have support from God. If it wasn’t for him I would give up of everything.

  13. I was very much discouraged by my parents. My dad was artistic, and they were proud of the fact that I had inherited those genes from him, but certain that I could never make a living at it. There were many knock-down, drag-out battles around the kitchen table about me pursuing art in college. I did it anyway, but the battles intensified as art is a very expensive course of study. I needed a 35mm SLR, then an 8MM movie Cmera. I knew I’d have to write, illustrate, and publish a book for my BFA the following year. This was 1971, when there were no computers or on-demand, less expensive self-publishing houses. I couldn’t take the battles or the lack of finances any longer and quit in the 2nd semester of my Jr. year. I doggedly pursued shows and found myself in the burgeoning wildlife art field (which I LOVED) for the next 40 years, with moderate success. A series of personal circumstances forced me to give upi art for about 11 years: divorce, many family deaths, moving a couple of times, remarriage and starting an unrelated business with my husband in another state, which left me no time to paint. When it failed, I was free to paint again. I’m 70 years old now, and starting all over. It’s difficult and scary, but it was what I was born to do. In March, I am re-entering a prominent show in my hometown where I used to have a good customer base. I showed there steadily every year for 25 years.I’ve been away from that show for 11 years. Will anyone remember me? What’s the market like these days? In May, I’m entering a large juried show on the other side of the state, but which is closer to me now than my hometown. How will that go? Entry fees and other expenses sure have gone up! Will I make or lose money? I have to keep trying!

  14. My family was not supportive of my pursuit of an art career. Even after I’ve been an active professional and an accomplished award-winning artist for nearly 15 years, they still are not supportive. To make matters worse, I have a largely unsupportive wife, who doesn’t think that my art business will ever be truly successful (by successful, meaning it doesn’t make enough money for her to quit her job.) Even still, I push ahead in the face of this adversity. By now, I have honed the ability to use their snide remarks and hurtful comments into fuel for my creative fire, transmuting that negative energy into beautiful making things. I take out my frustration on the canvas. I am now 43 years old and I’m not sure what a supportive relationship would even look like at this point. I have seen other artists who have supportive families and I always wonder what that would be like. My advice to others is if you have a supportive family, be very grateful to them for this. Not everyone has that situation. I’ve made a career out of unsupportive people. Thankfully strangers support my art and I’ve done well for myself. I feel loved when I show my work out in public. My fans are my family and I love them.

    1. I hear you, Brian. I don’t get snide remarks, just indifference. Sometimes my husband will get angry if my art starts to get in the way of too many dinners or chores, so I have to make sure my art obsession is kept low-key at home. He won’t step foot in a gallery, and I wouldn’t dream of asking him to go to an art event. It’s hard to keep going all by yourself, but, you’re right, seeing the happy face of a collector really helps validate what you’re doing and helps you keep going in a vacuum. Good luck!

    2. Jason,
      It never occurred that others had this battle of support. After Corp. tech career, kids in tow, art was my time.. eventually, plein air, aid, ops, awards, galleries and still my best friends snear and ask.. you still do that? My family Father and sibs think I’m a nut, I’m well respected with choice galleries and peers.. teach, oil and cold wax and even my own spouse and sons ask.. when are you giving it up?
      I love learning, exploring, history, why the harsh criticism? I’d love a dedicated studio. One should paint any age any reason.. it’s good for mind and soul. And pockets too if you choose. Thank you.

  15. I was lucky that I received full encouragement from my parents as artistic relatives happened on both sides and my parents were performers who met while doing shows in high school back in the 40s. I even had an aunt who worked for Disney back then for a short time. My only regret was not being able to take formal art lessons while younger. I did take art classes in school but I never learned anything that I didn’t already know by doing things on my own. I’m still plugging away and although I’m in my late 60s, I still hope to find a manager and/or publisher because I’m a good artist but a horrible business person.

    1. Hi Stephen!
      I’m 74. Thirty years ago I had a rather solid background in art and sold almost everything I did. Someone approached me about cutting silhouette portraits for a play bill. Good consistent money and I was always in demand I enjoyed the social aspect of meeting people on the weekend. Problem was I had nothing left over for my painting. I have just started getting back getting involved in fine art I’m glad that I had that thirty year break. I’ve become involved in the rigors of learning classical art, art in the atelier style. Something thing that was not available in “my day “. I’m amazed at how the classical training has been turning my life and my art around.

  16. I went through the same negativity from my parents as an “artsy” kid. I did major in theater (design), but knew I had to make my own living, so ultimately segued into fashion, then interior design. I closed down my business just before the recession so I could paint full time, thanks to support from my husband and some good investments. Now I’m teaching art in a community of many retired folks, and I hear this common story from almost everyone: “I was discouraged from majoring in art, so I went on to a career for a paycheck, and now is my time to be an artist!” Very repressive “common wisdom” back in the sixties!

  17. U was discouraged from going into fine art or even commercial art. I was encouraged to go into teaching. ( Like my parents and sister. ) I was even told by my mother’s art instructor that I would just get married and have kids and stop painting. I did work at another fulltime job for years. But also had regular art exhibits and illustrated a couple of books.

  18. In the famous words of my late mother, I shouldn’t be an artist because I would “starve and live in a cold water flat.” I didn’t know what a cold water flat was, but I knew my mother didn’t want me to live in one. That was almost 50 years ago. So, to make her happy, I went to college, got a BFA, but I also agreed to get a degree to teach so I would be able to get a job.

    And then I spent the next 47 years never teaching but being a puppeteer, a dollmaker, an illustrator, an author and a painter. And 33 years of that was also raising children. I never had a real job after college. I could only do this because my husband held some low paying office jobs in the beginning to keep a roof over our heads, all the time insisting that I should ONLY spend my time making art. Which I did. Things changed and improved for us over the years, but love and support and art have been the constants in my life. I would not have been able to do it without him and I am very, very grateful for having been given that gift in life.

    I know that some people can do it on their own, but it sure helps to have someone who believes in you and is willing to champion your efforts at every turn. In many respects my husband has always been my Lee Krasner/Elaine de Kooning.

  19. There was always resistance. No matter how successful you are or have been as an artist it is difficult to overcome the storyline that all artists are starving. The families do not understand the difference between a job and a passion from which you make money. Artists must simply get on with it, no one is going to hold your hand. I have been a professional artist exhibiting and doing projects globally for 45 years, owning galleries, publishing houses, frame shops and other related enterprises. Even after i paid out the parents mortgages they still did not think there was money or even a living in the arts!! Each artist has their path to creative expression which often involves overcoming negativity and resistance from those closest to us. Sometimes that is positive in the development process, the key is to follow the passion with a balance to business.

  20. Some of my first memories were of being praised for my ability to draw. From 1st grade to a senior in high school I was always the most talented or one of the top few. Its was unintentional practice. My passion for it pushed to to constantly want to draw. One of my favorite old photos I stumbled upon a few years ago was me on a family vacation at Mesa Verde Indian ruins. I was climbing up a ladder with drawing pad & pencils in hand. No fear. Parents “allowed” me to attended college for Art Education. I knew instinctively even back then (1972) that the only way to continue art on a college level was to pick a more practical choice. Life happens & I had to quit my pursuit of any sort of art career. I ended up picking the medical field for it was the only one my parents approved of. It worked in that field for 15yrs. But the creative urge was always in the back ground tapping me on the shoulder. Still unable to do art full time, I became a Interior Designer (no degree just self taught) that specialized in kitchen design. That served me better, at least there was some creative outlet there & I was self employed for 10 yrs. I would design a kitchen on a CAD computer software but then I would always include a 3D colored & hand drawn image. It was something customers never expected & loved ; and something my competitors never did. I never made tons of money & my husband never really supported my efforts for his vision of success is how much money you make. So I never made enough. I still trying to compromise my talents & urge to do art to make everyone else around me happy.
    Now I am 67 yrs old & finally able to return to my artistic roots! Retired, moved to Santa Fe, NM. A stunning beautiful place that has always drawn artists to it. I live in a community full of art, artists & world class galleries.
    So I am finally back to my roots of drawings. Colored pencils. I have a small studio in my house, just like when I was a kid, my passion has returned to me, its been silently waiting a whole life time of being put away on the back burner, never a practical enough option to seriously pursue, thanks to my parents & husbands point of view. I am encouraged by my husband now for he is shocked to see my talents surpassed is imagine & he sees the potential that I could make money at it. Still I am expected to pay for my supplies with “ my social security money” . Its all money for some people. But I don’t really mind at this point, cause its my own personal journey & I am at the age where I don’t really care what other people think,. I am just doing this for I know, that its what I was always supposed to be doing.
    3 of my close neighbors are artists. One, a professional fine art artist that supported her whole family all her life. She has been my biggest inspiration & supporter. I can rely on her honest opinion & advice. We go to galleries here & discuss art. Its a wonderful place to be at this time in my life. I have decided to “ just draw” for a year for the love & passion of it. See what develops. I plan to sell originals & prints at some point but haven’t decided what avenue. My artist friend says I am already there as far as what I am producing. She is amazed by what I am doing in such a short time, but its not a short time, its a lifetime of waiting to emerge. I think my fresh passion inspires her too, I think after a lifetime of having to produce consistently paintings that will sell, my passion reminds her why she started. She actually has started a painting just for the love of it & not intended to be sold. I am just happy to have the freedom & support from other artists. I am in a drawing group that meets regularly to draw plein air, I visit galley openings and have a core of close friends that are true artists who had the the courage to follow their passion & stay with it.
    I have decided let the universe of opportunities open in front of me.

    1. I think you have found the key, Candis! Do the art you love and surround yourself with people who do that, too. I have a similar experience in my art journey. Of course money has to matter at some basic level or we wouldn’t even be able to buy paint, but I’m never giving this up again. I wish you all the joy and success in the world.

  21. Definitely I was discouraged, but my parents relented somewhat because, at the time, women were expected to marry and become homemakers and nothing else. So to be educated in art was OK since I would have been seen as “cultured.” If I had been less stubborn I might have taken some business classes that could have helped with making it a better career.

  22. Growing up in a farming community in Colorado, an art career was definitely not seen as a practical choice, or even an option, as a career. So, I decided on a creative career that had more clout in my family and friend’s eyes: interior designing. After several years, I quit my job to raise 3 boys, then became an optician, due to the fact it was seen as a “real” job, and sensible, given that it was a medical job during the recession. My heart ached to have a business as an artist. I worked evenings after my day job and on the weekends to build an art business. I was not supported by my husband when I made the choice to quit my job as an optician to become a full-time artist. The optical job had steady income and insurance benefits. Now that I look back on that challenging time where my husband and I disagreed so strongly, I realize it made me work harder in my art career to prove I could do it. I now make more money and am so much happier as a sole business owner of my own passion: Art.

  23. My happiest times when I was a kid was when I was making art. My father was an artist, and graduated from art school as a mural artist, but with a growing family he felt, I guess, that he had to take a “real” job in a factory. He supported my art making, but neither discouraged, nor encouraged me in terms of my career. He seemed mystified that I could tolerate my career as a graphic designer because to him it meant compromising your artistic vision, but I know he was happy I was self-supporting. I loved my career as a graphic designer and only towards the end of it did I turn to fine art. Now that I’m retired, I can finally have the freedom of having myself as a client. My husband, however, was never able to understand my utter obsession with art, equating it as a “hobby.” He is unhappy and intimidated in galleries, bored with looking at art in museums, and generally doesn’t understand my passion for it. He tolerates my working in my studio as long as it doesn’t get in the way of dinner, chores, or family activities. I’m trying to get out and meet other people who are fine artists. It’s hard to keep going when your closest family don’t understand. I can struggle through indifference, but I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to persevere in the face of outright opposition. I admire those of you who have.

  24. When it was time to go to college I wanted to go to NY to art school. My, successful businessman and wise father, said I would first get a degree from a co-ed Liberal Arts College and then we would talk about it. At that time women were supposed to get an education so they would have something to “fall back on” in case something happened to the husband. So I took enough business courses to make him happy and enough art courses to make me happy and it was a good choice. In time I went back to a good university and got an MFA and subsequently taught in colleges as adjunct faculty. Also went to Jr College in graphics and illustration. I paid my tuition in printmaking by selling enough to cover it. In time I branched out to murals and faux finishing walls . All these different paths generated some income but would not have supported a family. Now back to painting and showing in a couple of galleries I am happy with the choices I’ve made but must confess that I was not the sole breadwinner.

  25. It is really a very difficult decision, I left my area of ​​confor, from an office job in my country, Paraguay, with an important position to launch myself fully into the arts … then I was just married and already with a son. so that the decision became more difficult … Unfortunately my former expose did not accompany me in my artistic career so it became more difficult, after separating and with a new relationship, if I found the full support of my partner, all his family and mine … but it was difficult to make the decision to leave at my best economic moment, for the good possession of my works in Paraguay, Europe and Asia and leave everything and come to live in the United States at the beginning of 2006 … it was a challenge that I took because I wanted to grow as an artist but I coincided in a short time the difficult time of 2008 … I could only get my family forward thanks to the support of my current wife, and the friends who supported me … it is gloriously difficult to be an artist … my youngest 12-year-old daughter is fascinated by art but is aware that she is very difficult so she is preparing to have a professional career parallel to art

  26. Yes. I was flat out discouraged by my mother. I still have a hard time believing that the person most of us would expect unconditional support from would say “you’re not good enough to get into art school” when I was a junior in high school. I can’t fathom telling my son who loves the theatre arts that he is not good enough to pursue what he loves. I am an artist now and love it and my mother is now the proud owner of a couple of my paintings. She has come to see that I am, despite having no art education, an artist. Yet recently, I overheard her discouraging my son from a career in theatre. Of course, I then had the opportunity to show my son through the example of my life in art that he never needs to listen to that kind of hurtful criticism. My son has seen me carve my own path and that is a gift he will forever have from me.

  27. My high school art teacher encouraged me to pursue an art degree and recommended two universities with good programs. My family discouraged me from doing this so I chose my second love, the environment and biology. Fortunately, after a rewarding career in natural resources and academia I was able to retire at age 57 to pursue art semi-professionally. While a professor in another highly competitive field, I told my students that if they were willing to work hard and make short-term financial sacrifices, they could “make it.” I believe to some extent that this is true of most fields, and believe that I too could have had a good first career in art.

  28. My parents were very proud when I showed artistic prowess in elementary school, but come career choosing time, they were adamantly opposed to art. I was belittled and restricted from “wasting my time” on art classes in high school. Being a creative soul I turned to writing as a profession and did not pursue art until after a full career in journalism and then freelancing. I think that is why there are so many older artists who are just starting their businesses. Even if you have considerable talent our “loved ones” barraged us with negativity until we believed we were not good enough, that making money at what we loved was an impossibility.

  29. Yes and no. Parents and teachers always praised my work. I won some prizes as a child and even sold portraits to friends and neighbors. I always got the “You’re going to be a famous artist someday!” However no one backed that up with funding for training. ( The unsaid part of that message was, in fact, that if I was not rich and famous I wasn’t really an artist of any worth at all. )My Mom insisted that art school would “ruin” me. My parents were of average means and were raised in an era when a great job for a woman was to be a receptionist or secretary until she married and had children. They weren’t deliberately trying to thwart me, they just had no idea to do with this alien kid they had. After many years of pursuing art as a self-taught artist and freelancing at jobs I was probably not qualified to do, I began taking workshops in my 50s. (I could finally afford them.) Family and friends encourage me, but still tend to focus on whether the financial return outweighs the personal satisfaction. I admit that if I don’t make my entire living from painting it does create some self-doubt as to whether I am secretly just a “hobby” painter.

  30. My parents absolutely discouraged artistic pursuits when I was young. I remember my dad saying, upon seeing one of my high school quarter class schedules filled with painting, Shakespeare, journalism and architecture, “Where are the real classes?”

    Although I wound up pursuing a successful career in writing, it took me three+ decades to overcome the deep discouragement I experienced as a child. It wasn’t until I was so miserable and bored in my career that I finally screwed up the courage, with the support of my loving husband, to sell our house and take early retirement so I could finally focus more on making art. That was just two years ago — no looking back!

  31. A great topic! For many reasons…. my family encouraged me to be an artist, but not as a career, thus as much as I wanted to figure out a way…. still I compromised. I painted part time and worked as a teacher. Eventually, I pushed away the hindering voices and started painting full time. Things were truly going well by any measure…. and then medical/family issue in the midsts of my doing 3 solo shows… out of guilt and just plain being overwhelmed, I put the brakes on. I stopped marketing my work for a significant time, and then at a point when my family seemed more independent I decided I needed to go back at painting full time. This go around, I am getting tons of family support. I also decided to hedge my bets on the needed support by joining several groups that are designed to offer the mutual support structure needed to keep going forward. Because I was not Em to look at being an artist as a career, my journey has been drawn out and bumpy, but I am still going towards my goal. Now, that I have my own kids…. one of which is a very talented young artist…. I am doing for them what my parents couldn’t…. I am giving my girls my support to pursue their goals. If one of them becomes an artist as her career path, I will be thrilled.

  32. From the time that I was very young and demonstrated any talent and interest at all, my family, bless them all, were exceedingly encouraging. I’m not sure that all the praise was justified, but it had the effect of establishing my sense of self and at times created a need within me for validation. I suppose that I was spoiled. I’m not sure that I was spoiled completely rotten, but close. When I went to college my creativity was rewarded. My career started out as an illustrator and I started several businesses over the years and expanded my creative abilities. There were a lot of bumps in the road, though. I had both failures and successes along with anxiety and clinical depression that still creep around the corners of my brain. The path of the fine artist can be difficult. Our openness to experience, to aesthetic experiences, along with a sense of wonder about everything can sometimes be solitary, eccentric, and lead us to be preyed upon as we hope for validation. Praise was good enough as a child, but as an adult, money is better. Then, when I do have money, other people want it and make all sorts of promises. Trying to keep it proves difficult. This is the irony of affirmation and encouragement; the fine artist wants to be free as he or she was as a child, but freedom can be a grinding and perverse business. I’ve had to learn that the hard way both philosophically and practically.

  33. My father was quick to tell me “Artists are Bums”! When it came time for college, I wanted to go into Art. I was told,” No, you’re going to be a History Teacher”. They wouldn’t pay if I majored in Art. I went back years later, I payed for it myself and got my Art Degree. I became a Graphic Artist first and then finished up as a High School Art Teacher. I’m retired and doing Art full time now.

  34. My husband was originally supportive, but when he realized that shows are often on weekends or in the evenings, he has begun to call me selfish for taking time away from his preferred activities. Anything that interferes getting dinner on the table at a specific hour is considered selfish. He does what he loves and he works very hard, so I do like to make things easier for him when he has downtime. (I’ve never left the house in the evening to paint a sunset, that’s for sure!) However, I Dream of the chance to follow my artistic passion more fully. I’ve started getting plein air awards and selling at the occasional one-day event or quick draw that I am able to enter, but he has become increasingly vocal and resentful, even when I’ve talked it over with him in advance. I’m not sure what kind of pathway is open to grow as an artist, but hopefully I can find a way to reach my goals. I don’t have much interest in doing it as a once a week hobby. Please, never make your loved ones choose between who they love and what they love.

  35. Art-making was always encouraged by my family and school teachers, though it was not considered career-worthy. It took many years to get to the point where I began to believe I could do it. Thankfully, my husband (best friend) of 38 years believes it. Although I make him a bit crazy at times, he is all for it. I finally cut the cord on a teaching career in 2017 to paint full time. That was an amazingly prosperous year. Then we hit bottom the next year. Through that really really rough year, my guy never stopped believing and encouraging. Yes, I think having the support of people you love is crucial. While it’s possible to forge ahead alone, it’s much more joyful when you have someone who believes in you even when you doubt yourself. This year looks as though it might be my best year yet. I truly hope so and will work like the devil to make it so, but if not, I’m still never looking back.

  36. I grew up in Hollywood. Being an artist was akin to being an actor. Or maybe a prostitute.
    I’ve always drawn and painted and been all around creative. But that was a bit of a shudder to my business man father. Both my parents died young and when I was 12 I was shipped to the midwest to live with my 67yo aunt. She hated kids. And I was a 12yo boy. Just imagine.
    After college I taught Autistic and Down syndrome kids. I loved it but there was never going to be the kind of money I needed to support myself in California. I fancied moving to NY and being a starving artist. Tho I didnt fancy the starving part.
    Well, quite accidentally, I fell into Hairdressing.
    Eureka!!! I could support myself and make enough money to pay my Bill’s. Problem was…I was such a great stylist and popular that Hairdressing became a rather jealous mistress. Plus I am a workoholic. Theres that.
    Well…FORTY YEARS LATER!!! I’M RETIRED!
    Here I am. Finally. Painting. Sculpting. CREATING!
    No less of a workoholic. But now I can afford to be a “starving” artist. And the feel of a brush in my fingers. A pencil. Charcoal. THIS! Is my new normal. And you know…its all pretty great!

  37. Reading Cheryl’s email, I immediately thought of my story. Although music was pushed, because my mother, after eleven years of studying the piano, didn’t quite make it to become a concert pianist, probably hoped, that I would succeed. I quit after four or five years.
    But after escaping from Hungary, my relationship with mother continued through letters. I knew, that I had talent for the visual arts. So at age twenty I signed up for commercial art classes, via correspondent school. Both my husband and I had jobs. Mine was a clerical one. I wanted to improve my skills.
    The response from my mother came with return mail: “wish you waited, I could have saved you money, you have absolutely no talent”. The anguish it caused me, was terrible! It took a lot of my enthusiasm.
    Later, after my kids started school, I signed up to art classes. My love for art has become very important. Although mother never stopped putting my efforts down, I continued my art lessons. As a child, I loved to draw eyes. For the last 16 years, I have been teaching portraiture in pencil and pastel, at a prominent art center. Occasionally I take on commissions. My husband believed in me!
    It is very important to have someone special, who supports you.

  38. My father refused to pay for art classes and forbid me to take art classes in high school. I was forced to take a stenography class. In college, he told me I better not sign up for art classes or I would have to pay for college. I majored in Philosophy instead and he was happy. All my life, my friends are artists.

    Finally, after working for 20 years and saving up my money, I returned to college and received a BFA Degree in Studio Arts. I have been a working artist since I graduated in 1989 at the age of 43. I now teach art classes and support myself as an artist.

    My father never saw my success, and his lack of attention to who I am as a person spurred me to become who I knew I should be: an artist. I persisted.

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