Quick Poll: 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.

Which leads me to a quick poll. Did the people closest to you, your family and friends, encourage or discourage your pursuit of art as a profession? Vote in the poll below, and then 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.

[UPDATE: The Polling system doesn’t seem to be working properly. Please leave your response in the comments below instead. Thanks!]

 

Starving to Successful

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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 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

93 Comments

  1. My mother was a lawyer and was “grooming” me to follow in her footsteps. When I decided to leave my job as a legal secretary to go to art school, I was surprised that she and my father were so supportive. My friends were supportive as well. I was lucky!

    1. Was I discouraged from becoming an artist? More than discouraged. Sabotage is a more appropriate description. When very young I would dig out pencil stubs from the trash and use any paper I could find to draw. For my ninth birthday, I was given drafting equipment. My dad wanted me to be an engineer. So, all through junior high & high school I took drafting classes along with math which, actually was fine as I greatly enjoyed both subjects. My disappointment was that I was not allowed to take any art classes. According to my father they were frivolous and a waste of time, I had to prepare for my future.
      Ironically, my parents interred with my attending college (so I could seriously prepare for my future) by requiring that I work full time to help support them.
      As soon as I could I moved out and began attending night classes at the local college. Then I finally experienced an art class.

    1. My parents discouraged me from pursuing an artistic career. They actively encouraged me to go into dentistry, when, in final year of high school here in Canada, I was obliged to choose the ‘arts’ or science’ streams, pre university.

      I agonized all summer over the decision. Ultimately, I chose what was considered the ‘sensible ‘ path . I opted for science, headed towards a lucrative and safe career in dentistry.

      Well, I sucked at and disliked the sciences; math, chemistry, biology, physics etc. and my marks to pursue science, were naturally terrible. I reverted to arts in university ( squeaking in due to outstanding arts grades in the years previous to my abysmal year in science.)

      On graduation, I got a dream job in the arts – editorial cartoonist -for which I was prepared and suited to a ‘T’, and had a long, happy career in that field. I continued doing ‘fine art’ ( painting) on the side.

      I tried the alternative for which I had no enthusiasm or aptitude. I returned to my natural habitat, art, with no regrets at all – except perhaps when I visit the dentist now and he give me a whopping bill.

    2. Good question! I couldn’t find it either. But here is my response to the question. The one thing that stands out in my mind was when I was in high school. My Dad would always take the family out to eat for our birthday or Mother’s Day (usually the Saturday before) etc. I was always drawing from the time I could hold color crayons and it was my favorite past time. My Dad made a comment one time when we were out to dinner, “Mark (my older brother) writes (sports articles for local schools in the local paper), still writes for a college in Seattle and is very happy. Linda (younger sister) plays piano and the flute (high school band), Musical talent never goes away. Still enjoys playing piano and is very successful in a city job in Renton. Kevin (younger brother) plays football (high school team),” got a scholarship to MIT. Very successful today as…who knows what he does because it is very confidential contractural work for the government.
      looking at me…”What do you do?”
      I almost started crying. My Dad never meant to hurt anyone ever but that still hurts when I think about in 40 years later. I may not be rich or famous, but my art is my passion and my happy place. I still feel to this day that if I had the support of my family I would have been much more successful at my passion. As it stands though, I am a cook and have been for over 40 years. I have never been out of work and can still be creative and “artistic” with what I do. I have a good life, I just sometimes wish I had more time to draw, paint and carve wood. The good news is, retirement is just around the corner.

  2. Very much discouraged by my parents – and my headmaster – old school thinking ‘not a proper job’ , take Latin, much more useful to you! However, with hindsight I’m not sure I would have been so successful had I gone to art college when I was younger. I wouldn’t have had the discipline or the life and business skills to work for myself and keep going when times are difficult. Not sure I would have dealt with rejection as well in those days either! So maybe things happen for the best of reasons? I know they were very proud of me when I started to succeed in later life though so that makes me happy enough.

    1. Your story totally resounds with mine 😀 I thought the same thing later too, had I started doing art classes/course earlier in my life, I might not have done so well, as maturity was the biggest point in mine as well as dealing with rejection and all that but in my later years it all became a lot easier and with maturity, my mind expanded and ideas became better in my art and my family too was proud of my success in art too 😉

  3. Oh yes! I was discouraged my father (All you’ll ever get out of art are bad eyes and a bad back….both are doing fine thank you), friends ( who thought I was crazy), acquaintances (You’re doing what?) and strangers (that look of skepticism). BUT, after 30+ years of painting and creating I am very happy with my decision.

  4. As the middle child in a family of seven children, I was the first to graduate high school and even consider university. Two and a half years into a degree in Biology, I switched my major to art then left the country for three years to travel the world and study art (sculpture in particular). Upon returning I went to a different school to get my art degree, wrote a grant, and left the country again. My father was shocked and disappointed that I would not be a scientist with a steady income, as art is widely regarded as an unpredictable path. Years later he wondered why I had not continued in art to get my MFA. Raising seven children of his own, plus two stepsons, he was seriously unwilling to assist in any financial support for any sort of education beyond high school.
    Ultimately, he bragged to his friends about my accomplishments, but to me he expressed his struggles with my chosen path. While I still love biology, I have never regretted my choice towards art!

  5. As a young boy I was told that you could not make a living as an artist. Because of this I did not pursue art, more or less art was something I did without much thought of doing anything with it. It wasn’t until later in life nearing retirement that I started to delve more into my art abilities. When I did retire at 62 with the intention of changing my career (pursuing art) I met with a mix of support and raised eyebrows. Now almost 12 years into my new career I have enjoyed small success financially, but bigger success in my growth as a self taught artist. Would things have been different had I pursued it at an earlier age? That is the unknown. That said, I continue to work at becoming a better artist.

  6. Poll Id 5 I would say no , until I was cornered with no other way out it became all I had left to offer. I had a child that took ill and needed me around at a minnuts notice to were I had to let go of my current paying job. They were independent and old enough “a teen” that it would have been a bad situation to be breathing down their neck all the time. So I made best of the situation by persuing my art out in a self built studio in the garage. Hoping that by chance I may make a penny, but more importantly be the best mom I can be.

  7. Not so much discouragement but my mother taught me to be a plan B person which gives me that fall back position that if I didn’t have, might just have push me into art making earlier. That being said I had a fine career and it has helped me “retire” into painting.

  8. After graduating high school in 1967, it was off to UCONN registered in the humanities program. But when I found out that I could not take the art classes I wanted, I got accepted into the school of fine arts…my parents were not pleased as they didn’t think I would be able to support myself with a BFA. I graduated, taught art for a year, (always painting in some corner of a room) , and went back to school for a masters. Taught art for 32 years ..still painting and showing when I could. I retired in 2000, moved to Montana and began my full time life as a painter. People still do not fully understand …they say,” Well, as long as you’re having fun.” Or isn’t that nice. I have had one man shows, been in group shows, etc. I still believe that there was and is a gender bias that does not favor women being as supported in the art world. But, I think that is the truth.

  9. “You need a fall back plan; you need a plan ‘b’.” That’s what my mom said when I was in my junior year of college. I had excelled at art in high school, gotten into college without my parent’s help and did well. I was determined to get my degree in Fine Arts. While I was good at what I did, I admit, I let my mother’s advice sink in and when I graduated, I had no idea where else I could go with this talent. So I continued in part time job at Sears and then full-time job after job until now – doing everything but art. Thirty-four years later, a wife, three children and a mortgage later, I still wonder where I can go with ‘this.’ I paint and draw, have exhibited my work, but it’s a struggle to transition to a full time life as an artist. But I haven’t given up hope – I’m far more determined to make a go at this than I was in college! I’m determined to make this my life and before I retire. I test software in my full-time life and the pace of IT gets faster and faster by the day! So I’m truly determined to leave it before I have no energy left!

  10. [poll id=”5″]

    Something dropped in the html

    Family encouraged verbally but discouraged by act. Mostly due to fairy tale ideas of artists in conflict with practicality. Which is weird, considering I come by it naturally.
    Bigger source of discouragement came from instructors at college. My attitudes/style apparently did not jive with the art culture of the late 1970s
    (I never did master “art-speak”). Got called a sell out a lot. “You’re an illustrator, not an artist”…. Aaaaaand a lot of gas lighting games that three in particular would deny.
    They made switching to the sciences easy.
    Discouragement also came in the form of endless supply of people wanting my work in exchange for “exposure”, and three more complaining I did that for someone else, why not me? For each one of those “exposure” slick talkers.
    You can die of exposure.

    After paralysis of widowhood and the Dickensian effects of being widowed in this country over 50, under 60… I shivered in the darkness telling myself I was going back to art… But scared because of 40 years ago.
    But, after getting p.o.ed once again, after applying for survivors benefits and not liking answers to questions, I went to register my pseudonym as a DBA, then sat in the parking lot, thinking to myself “I just gave myself permission to be an artist!”
    It was a shock!

  11. Everyone encouraged me, with one exception. That one outlier was………MYSELF!!! Had I listened to all of my friends, family and teachers perhaps I would have grasp the golden ring long ago. That being said, they still encourage me and drive me to strive for success in the art world.

  12. The poll isn’t showing up for me either, but my answer would be yes. As I went off to college on my parent’s ticket, I felt obliged to study in the field they approved. They most definitely were not going to pay for an art program. So I went to school for Biology/Chemistry when I really would have preferred to study art even then. Art (drawing/crafts) remained a hobby until only this past year (when I found out about local pigments and watercolor painting). Now all of my family are encouraging, but it’s disappointing to have waited so late in life to put real effort into it. No one to blame for that except myself, though, and I’m glad to have come around eventually, lol.

  13. I was told it was too hard to make it as an artist and that I had better learn typing or cosmetology! I went forward with my art and have been self employed over 25 years…but, because of all the discouragement etc. It has been hard for me to keep going some times and hard to believe it is even possible sometimes. When a parent tells a child something so powerful it goes in to the programing in the subconscious mind and then it becomes very hard to achieve any kind of success. I have survived but it is not even a middle class existence…in we are talking poverty existence of $19-20k/year.

  14. I was never discouraged by my parents. I come from a long line of painters and sculptors and my dad was a commercial artist, so it was a no-brainer when I showed interest in pursuing an art career. I suppose I was one of those lucky ones growing up. My wife, on the other hand, was discouraged from a career in fashion design by her parents. “Few make it and it ends up a waste of time and money(theirs)”. So she didn’t get to pursue her dreams and regrets it to this day.

  15. My parents were not supportive, so I got my degree in business – and later earned my MBA. But after 25 years in business, I decided to leave and start my own studio, making furniture, and later sculpture. I’ve been at it for 10 years. And while my parents are both gone now, before he passed away my dad told me he was proud that I had the courage to strike out on my own.

    My wife has been fully supportive of me in my artistic endeavor, as have most of my friends and neighbors. Also, a lot of my clients tell me they are envious of me for chasing my dream. Several have even told me they live vicariously through my work!

  16. My stepfather made it clear that I was to be a teacher and go to university. I had wanted to go to art school and be a children’s illustrator. Eventually, I ended up doing both. I also do fine art.
    When I showed him the book with my illustrations, he mocked them.
    My mother was supportive as was my daughter. Friends were as well. My biological dad was quite proud of me.

  17. My parents were from the old country and saw the opera La Boehm and that was their view of artists. The artists lived in poverty in a garret and died of consumption. So they discouraged me of course. I didn’t want to disappoint them but pursued my art as best I could. They were happy when I decided to become an art teacher. I only lasted a few years in that difficult profession. From then on I did free lance. I don’t think I could have supported myself on that but luckily my husband was there to help. Now that the kids are on their own I have time to pursue my own art and feel fortunate to do that. I often wonder what would have happened if I had full support early on.

  18. My parents made it possible for me to go to art school in Montreal. After being rejected by my favorite college; my father was instrumental in getting me accepted. I am very grateful for the support I have received over the years from my family and husband. I can be myself as an artist and feel their acceptance.
    My parents still have my first oil painting in the dining room.

  19. I did not seriously start my art career until I was in my 40’s. My family were and still are my biggest fans. My husband has retired but still works so that we have money to keep our gallery open. I am one lucky lady.

  20. “You can’t make a living as an artist” was all I ever heard from my family. After college and trying to make a living at everything but art I went back to college for art at the age of 40 and made a better living than I could have ever imagined. Be determined, flexible and creative in your approach to an art related career.

  21. When I finished high school, over 50 years ago, I wanted to go to our local art college. But my mother, perhaps acting on jealousy that she had been denied the same privilege herself as a teenager, wouldn’t let me go because she said I had “bad study habits.” I’m not sure now how my reluctance to study for high school history would have impacted my art training. I instead took secretarial training (as it was then called), which served me well – and also didn’t require a lot of home study.

    I started painting four years ago on a dare to myself. I’m mostly retired from office work and our family is grown and gone. My husband, a lapsed painter himself, has been very encouraging. Without any formal training, unless you count YouTube, I now have a small business selling originals, prints and cards at our largest local farmers’ market.

    That’s where I get my best encouragement – and sales. I’m also encouraged and inspired by our children, most of whom have taken up creative pursuits and are successful in them.

    You might need a little outside encouragement, but the inclination and desire to continue has to come from you.

  22. My husband was very supportive of me taking classes and workshops and said I didn’t have to go back to work when we came home from our vacation where I had taken a morning class on the deck of the hotel in Hawaii. He remains supportive but concerned about the ratio of costs related to creating my art versus income from sales. The deductions actually lowered our tax rate the last several years but I would like to see a profit so that was somewhat of a positive. It is interesting how some extended family members don’t consider making art a profession but rather a hobby no matter how much effort or energy expended and/or pieces you have sold.

  23. My parents were adamantly against me being an artist…it totally affected my confidence and belief in myself throughout my adult years. My oldest sister was always in my corner for being an artist tho…I don’t remember anyone else’s opinion of it.

  24. My family were always supportive of my creative life but it was a different time. I enrolled in art school at 50 and completed the BFA course in 4 years with an independent study my 5th year. It was obvious to me that many of the younger (all of them) students had parental discouragement issues as the faculty were looking for their numbers entering our Sophomore year and trying to convince them to take their courses.

    I use my education everyday and appreciated the professional training and hard work which most non art people have any idea exists. Its an amazingly tough education and process that I feel has laid a ground work in my later life and gave me a career.

  25. My parents did not encourage me pursue an art career. They noticed I had a talent and love for art. But saw art as a hobby and not a career. My mom projected her desire to become a nurse on me. Invariably, I neither pursued art or nursing. However, the desire to express myself through painting was always burning inside me. After getting married and having two children, I took a year and half of classes through a professional wildlife artist. I sold some artwork in the days before the internet. I have to say, people were more willing to pay for art then compared to now. Again, I put it on the back burner for years as I was still expected to contribute to the family income and my husband was not very supportive of me pursuing my art beyond a hobby. Although I continued to paint for years, I didn’t find enough time to work at it enough to make a business out of it. After the kids were grown, I had more time to attend workshops and classes. I went into teaching elementary art. Now I’m retired and painting regularily. Still, I feel overwhelmed at times with trying to create art and attend to the business side. Through my aquaintances, I have noticed through the years that there is a difference between the support male artists get from their wives as opposed to the support female artists get from their husbands. More often wives are more willing to step in and handle the business side of art for their husbands. Of course that’s not all husbands, but personally I have witnessed this sort of thing many times. To conclude, I think that the attitudes that I’ve experienced from others regarding a career in art has helped to weaken my confidence. I’m changing that now!

  26. Excellent question, Jason. When I was young, my family definitely discouraged me from pursuing the arts as a career. They wanted to protect me from the starving artist paradigm.

    At mid-life, I was given the opportunity to truly make art my career. At that time, my Dad told me that if that’s what I really wanted to do, this was the time to make the shift. I wasn’t given any financial support, but having his understanding gave me the courage I needed to pursue my lifelong passion.

    I’m SO glad I took my opportunity!

  27. My family doesn’t “discourage” me, but they DO treat it as a passtime. My mother’s always asking what I’m “going to do with all your paintings” (implying I should give away, donate, or throw out some just because they’re not doing anything), when I see my inventory as somewhat anemic (since I’m also an author and crafter and treat all three skills collectively as a job, I may only turn out a painting or two a month when I’m pushing to get a book done.)

  28. My family encouraged art as a hobby only so did teachers and other influencial adults. They encouraged education past high school but in studies that were considered a “sure thing” in terms of secure income. There was no financial support for college. All six of us made it through college by obtaining scholarships and working. My profession supported my part-time art endeavors.
    Friends and family have always neen proud of my accomplisents in art and are encouraging of my current goals now that I am retired from my “job”.

  29. My Mother was very supportive. She took me to museums, plays , symphonies as a young only child. My father didn,t object but did not see the sense of it all. I graduated with an art education degree at 17. Then marriage and 3 children mostly volunteer jobs. When I was 40 I returned to the University and awarded a BFA and MFA. I did use my teaching skills and also eventually became a full time artist and Gallery owner. Health issues and political events forced me to abandon those dreams. I don’t have the means anymore to afford a studio . I am however as active an artist as I am able to be. I am fortunate in having a husband, family, friend and colleages that encourage me.I am grateful for the gift of Art Talent. I will never retire.

  30. Yes, I knew from the 2nd grade forward that I wanted to pursue art as a career. My parents encouraged my art at home, but when it came time to apply for college, they became totally against it. We were very poor. My dad was an alcoholic and had a great deal of raw, undeveloped and unchanneled talent, which he chose to channel into more drinking and writing extremely perverse and explicit poetry. Yet he fought me tooth and nail about majoring in art, saying one cannot make a living at art, and I needed to major in something useful like English or Latin. (Latin??) I majored in art anyway, took out the student loans, but that did not pay for the expensive equipment my university required, such as 35 mm SLRs, and 8mm movie camera, plus I knew I’d have to write, illustrate, and publish a book for my senior thesis in order to graduate with a BFA. I knew I couldn’t do that. I was completely beaten down by this time (Jr. year) so I dropped out. Never got my degree, something that bothered me for decades. I began to think perhaps he was correct, that art wasn’t the way to go. I dropped out of art and held various entry level jobs for about 10 years. I had no other marketable skills. I finally quit that rat race and took up my art again in the late 70s, honing my skills in the wildlife art field for another 30 years. I dropped out of art again for another decade because husband, mom, father and last grandparent all died in a year and half time frame. In that time, I settled all 4 estates, sold my house, built my dream house, sold it, moved far away, and 12 years later married again. Now trying to rebuild my “lost” art career. I have actually written, illustrated and published, my first book, and no longer believe I don’t have the proper credentials! That passion and that gift WILL come out of you, one way or another! Some of us, like me, are slow learners, but we still learn! Never give up!

  31. My parents and family were never supportive. Artists were mocked and deriled. My father would say «damm artists», my mom would throw out all my works. I had to hide all my stuff and work in hiding. I made it through to a public applied arts school because anyways I’d be a married would not need schooling. I raised 3 dkids on my own and always worked in art related fields. Became a leading member of fashion design with my own workshop did freelance, did home and furniture design while painting and having arts projects on the side to keep me sane. I lost an arm to a severe illness ans had to relearn everything. I am presently «retired» from official life about to be a great grandmother and have plunged head first in ART in the 4 last years. I do bronze, glass, stained glass, and mixed media with aluminium, copper, plastics etc. FULL time and am building up my business. I still am the odd one in this family and forging ahead on my own power , I’m happy doing art full time and looking forward to get my art out there and sell. This is heaven! Some encouragement would have helped and given me that extra push to do ART full time in my younger days but that’s in the past. My time is now.

  32. I come from a blue-collar family that seems stuck on the concept of a “real job” (i.e. trading time for money). I was actively discouraged from making art any more than a hobby.

  33. In college, my dad begged me to pick a second major that would provide a career path. He meant well, but I couldn’t be bothered. Since I worked my way through college he couldn’t demand anything.

    Since then, he’s been supportive of everything I’ve done to earn money (corporate jobs and art) and my parents have bought a couple of my pieces since then, too. They also sent some beautiful flowers with an amazing note to my last opening. 🙂

  34. Supportive. I loved and practiced both music and art. Music was my dad’s choice. Mom wanted me to make sure that whatever I did in the arts I got paid for.
    She saw teaching as a way to accommodate both the “arts thing” and an income. (I taught Art in public school)
    For my music interest, we had a church model electronic organ and mom’s piano in our home. We were not rich and it was a huge expenditure but my parents did it (the organ). I went to music school for one year and knew very early on, it should have been visual art. Dad, though he never said it, I think was disappointed that I wouldn’t be a church musician. (I subbed as organist for over 3 decades in local churches wherever I was).
    The degree(s) I got were in Fine Arts.
    I had to pay the last year of the BFA and as an art teacher, paid my MFA. Mom also seemed to be enamored of my “early work” (flowers, houses, landscapes), finding my post college work to be “difficult” (abstracts).
    My parents both were good at realizing I was what I was and I was doing what I was doing from a knowledge base they did not possess. My step-mom later on was not in tune with nor interested in much of what I did.
    My wife was and is always supportive and pragmatic. It’s our money after all that I’m spending.
    Her pragmatism has kept me from taking on what would have been disasters. I have to “prove” my ideas which is also a good thing. She does let me do my work without interference until we have the inevitable show and tell. I listen eventhough sometimes it’s painful.
    Lesson to be learned- it’s a balance between dreams and dollars. Both count.

  35. It was my close friend and benefactor who encouraged me, in mid-life, to go back to school to study fine art. I had disengaged from corporate life, and family wasn’t commenting much on my choices at that point. Everyone saw that I was serious about this path, and for the most part they have been very supportive. I dare say that, as I’ve progressed, friends and family have been rather impressed with my successes and achievements.

  36. My parents were not supportive- to my mother it was curse to have a child want to be an artist. My father felt my only role in life was to marry young and have children. Later my stepfather was supportive. After college I worked in commercial art as an illustrator and art director. Though I had always painted and sold paintings in galleries and fairs at age 16. Because I was never encouraged as a painter I pursued commercial art. More business orientated. After a few years in NYC, I moved to Hawaii much to the anger of my family. They felt as a single woman I had no business doing that. I went anyway and spent 40 years there. I worked in commercial art there as well as begun painting again. I later worked full time as a painter . My sister,husband other artists and my friends became my support group. Artists need to find that support wherever they can get it.

  37. At first yes, not much support, would get comments like nice hobby….. but now, they are all supportive. Talked about some of the frustrations recently with my mother and got a huge “DON”T STOP PAINTING” from her, which was totally unexpected, parents are the last to support something that they don’t see as financially sustaining. Which financially at this point it is not sustaining for me, but I continue to work at it and dedicate my self towards my goals…

  38. My family was very supportive of my art, evidenced by my professional lessons during my teens. But I don’t think I ever broached the issue of becoming an artist professionally, since I probably discouraged myself after selling a few paintings at my teacher’s annual exhibitions and asking myself how many would I have to paint and sell to earn a decent living. I never stopped painting, but I studied history, became a history professor, have participated in exhibitions, and now am part of a juried co-op gallery and an active member of a West Michigan arts council.

  39. Why does your art have to “prove” itself in terms of dollars????? Why let someone else judge and control what you do, as if you were only allowed to create your art on their terms?? If art cannot be created for itself, it is just another commodity and is not treated with the respect it deserves. If I had someone else making the decision about whether or not my art is worthy of existence I would leave that person in the dust and make my own decisions!!!

  40. I think my family knew I was creative right from the womb. There were definitely comments and encouragement to go another direction. My father insisted I join the Navy. What? Yep. But no one was surprised at my choices and decisions. They and many others insisted I should have a “backup” plan. And in fact, I went to school to become a paralegal and worked in law firms for a few years. I think I made more money selling art to my coworkers than I did as a paralegal. When I finally left that field to become an artist full time, my father sent me a cute card that was all proud, encouraging, etc., of my choice to be an artist and then at the end of the card it said “…but don’t give up your day job.” When my father died and I was cleaning out his house, I found a suitcase full of every promo, postcard, print, and every single thing I had done as an artist in there. It turned out that he was really proud of me.

  41. There were mixed messages. My mother was an artist, so there was always support for creative expression, but when it came time to go to school, I was STRONGLY encouraged to major in art education rather than fine art. There was concern when, after a couple of semesters of art education classes I realized I wasn’t generically fond of children and changed my major to graphic design. By the time I went back to school for my Masters, there was no question of studying anything but fine art.

  42. I was always supported to become an artist… but, I wanted to go into the arts as an art teacher. It was there that my parents steered me away from teaching to become a graphic designer. Dutifully – I did that – got my degree in advertising & marketing. Unfortunately, I always felt the pull to teach… I taught creative presentation giving in my job… but, never found “soul satisfaction” in that… (however – it’s how I met my husband – also a graphic designer at the time). over the years, we won numerous awards for our business – designs, etc……. but, in 2010 – i found a program (creatively fit) that allowed me to find my calling… teaching & coaching others to find their innate creativity… I got my creative coaching certification in 2011 & it’s done nothing but benefit me & others…… I now teach, create, take photos, etc….

  43. My family never “outwardly” discouraged me with my art. What they ultimately ended up doing was discouraging me from doing anything with my art in a professional manner…professional as in going for selling my work past craft fairs and what-not.

    I began painting in my late 20s and am just now in my 60s beginning to fulfill my dream of reaching for that “star” of professionalism in the art world. I partly don’t care anymore if family members take me seriously. I’m retired and it’s now my turn to do as I wish. And I wish to be an Artist!

  44. I have always been artistic but my parents were not supportive at all. Now that I’m grown my daughter challenged me and I’ve been sketching and painting for the last couple of years. My mother is still not on the same page. I have sold a few paintings. I hope to be good enough to approach a gallery soon. It would be a dream come true.

  45. My father was a commercial artist who owned a sign business. I loved to draw since I was old enough to hold a crayon. When I was in my late teens, Dad taught me some things about drawing and bought me my first real art supplies: an easel, a set of pastels and pastel paper (I have loved pastels ever since). But he discouraged me from pursuing an art career, advising me instead to “get a clean job” and concentrate on “finding a nice man and getting married.” 🙂 I guess that was typical of his generation.

    I took an office job which left me feeling very unfulfilled. After I got married, I did change careers and started my own business working with animals, and also started doing commissioned portraits, which I have continued to do over the years. Now that I am semi-retired I am concentrating more on my art and portrait commissions. I am mostly self-taught, but I know that a lot of artists are, and at the time that I would’ve gone to art school, realism was frowned upon and even disdained, so it probably would not have done me much good anyway at that time, as realism is my style of choice.

    I do not blame my Mom & Dad, because they were good parents, although I would’ve liked to be encouraged more to follow my dreams. But I believe we make our own destiny, and if we are meant to do something we will find a way.

  46. Ha ha! Great question!
    When divorcing my husband, and transitioning from painting murals part time to full time he was dumb enough to send me a letter saying “he knows I’ll fail and he hopes to find me living under a bridge so he can take our children away”. Is there a better incentive to succeed and raise those kids on my own painting?!! 🤗

  47. My father tried to discouraged me from majoring in Fine Arts. I was told if someone wanted a picture, they would just take a photo, and I could not make a living with art. I worked my way through college,
    not because my parents didn’t want to help, being the second of six children I knew they couldn’t
    help.
    By financeing my own collage…I thought the deceision should be nine. Besides, there was never
    anything else I wanted to do! So, Art It Is!

  48. My father would pay for any education I wanted as long as it was not art or music. I became obsessed with both. But I did take him up on the free education and became an architectural draftsman.

  49. I wasn’t discouraged, but I was TOLD to become a secretary. My parents way of saying there is no money to send you to school. I ended up with two years at a ‘trade’ school for art/design and then left to pursue a job in the graphic arts. This led to other areas of graphic design and finally to my good job. But, it took all my working years to achieve it, instead of being able to get a good paying job straight from college.

    Now, I am trying to do fine art, but find I lack the basics and my lack fosters self esteem issues that hold me back. I find I dream and envision, but don’t do; making a start, then getting bogged down with fears of not being good enough. Classes with really good teachers are expensive. Any thoughts would be well taken and appreciated.

  50. Yes. My grandpa was an art teacher and then a creative director for a company. He repeatedly told me “Don’t go into art, you’ll never make any money,” and my mom, his daughter, echoed this sentiment. Then, my dad forced me to go to a university that offered no art, design or architecture classes whatsoever. I had no choice in the matter. I went on to earn a BA in Economics and an MBA and as soon as I graduated, I bought oil paints. I’ve led a conflicted existence ever since – phases of unhappiness in corporate America because I’m entrepreneurial by nature, while torn about lack of time dedicated to my art. A few years ago, I was able to cut back corporate work to 20-25 hrs per week and work on my art full-time. It was great. However, after three years, a change in leadership at my employer forced my hubby and me to move for new work, expanding our overhead and expenses, and I’m back to working full-time in corporate America. However, I’m still plugging away at my painting and have been fortunate to be accepted into Lakefront Festival of Art for the fifth year in a row, and accepted for the first time ever to Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver – two prestigious national shows. Gotta get going, more work to do!

  51. Of course! There was an artist in the family, a much adored in-law BUT my family believed in science and math as a way for a woman to sustain herself. I rated low in creativity on Project Talent as well even though I was a music prodigy. Now I am a fiber artist.

  52. I was fortunate to have supportive mates ……and I don’t think I would have had the success that I did achieve in the 80’s and 90’s without that encouragement! There have been decades in which life truly interferred with my making art and I look back at this squandered time wondering why I allowed myself to ignore the joy I find in being creative. At one point when I returned to my studio [always better an artist with an empty studio than one without the space to make art] another artist gave me the following advise: choose one person to listen to and shut the other voices out!!! The art I am making now is my very best and finding a gallery is my biggest challenge…..Larry Bell recently purchased one on my works on paper …….talk about encouraging – I am happy to be creating again.

  53. To be fair, my parents were people of the Great Depression, fundamentalist Christians and thought art was a good hobby but not a way to make a liveing.
    They did indeed discourage art as a goal and instead said I should “go to college” and get a real job. So, believing that parents know best, went to colleges and earned three degrees culminating in DDS.
    I married a Dental Hygiene student while we were both at UMKC School of dentistry. She worked as a Hygienist in KCMO, had our first child and we were soul mates.
    After a short stint in Army Dental Corps we started a dental practice in Harlingen Texas. It was during that time that I met and became friends with Don Cincone who came to the dental office with a toothache. Long story, short he started a class in drawing, I enrolled, first homework assignment he told me I did not need to continue, just start drawing. Since February 1967 we have remaind friends. Look up “The Art of Love”, movie starring James Garner, Dick van Dyke, Elke Sommers, (sic) and Angie Dickerson.. Dick van Dyke played the role of a starving artist living in Paris named Al Johnson. Credit at the end of one Internet article , “…all the paintings in the movie were created by Don Cincone, International Artist.
    So, when the dental practice ended I returned to earn several degrees in art ending with an MFA from Vermont College of Norwich University., 1996.
    Art is indeed a difficult way to earn a living, on the other hand, I learned how to make lost wax castings, procelain crowns, human anatomy both lab (dissecting cadavers) and lab and met and married my sould mate.
    Moving from the art and practice of Dentistry to 2 D , 3 D and writing poems was enhanced by those experiences. Parents were correct about the earning a living thing. However, just as every single dental restoration I made in that career was a “one off” creation so it is with my art work and in the end I was able to realize my childhoo0d dream of becoming an artist, going to Europe and working with Picasso. Nope, Picasso, my teenage icon and beacon had passed away before I earned my MFA.
    So, to sum, it is incumbent upon you, yourself, to do as Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your Bliss” be who you want to be and as Fritz Scholder, R.I.P,, said, to be an artist you must first learn the rules then you are obligated to break the rules”

  54. I was severely discouraged. My mom wanted me to be a surgeon and my dad wanted me to be an electrical engineer. I decided not to study and work after leaving school as result. I suffered long and hard until I decided to leave employment to ‘fix myself’ 10 years ago. It took some time but I finished a graphic design degree in 2016 and have been doing full time art and design since. I love what I do but need to start putting myself out there this year. I paced myself to build my confidence, get some consistent work and be sure that I am mentally ready for the next step.

  55. I am not a professional artist. My father actually wanted me to be one. He took me to a religious-based art center where the art director directed works of art being done for the church and where they select art-work from artists who submitted work; hoping to be selected or recognized. The art director was fairly negative on pursuing an art career as so many people submitted work that got turned down. I realized how competitive it was. My father was not as supportive after that visit. I was already mostly through college. I got married, had a family, and didn’t start an art career. I am trying to start it now.

  56. My family and friends, including both of my parents, were/are all incredibly supportive pretty much since birth. I consider myself extremely lucky that way. Ditto on teachers from grade one on up, except for one. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Rogers, once talked to the class about how foolish it would be to try and actually earn a living from art. That was thirty-seven years ago, and I still remember it as one of the earliest moments when I realized that an adult could be wrong.

  57. I remember one day my Dad was talking to my high school art teacher, (I was an art major, 5 days a week for 4 years of high school), and she asked him if he had a problem with me pursuing art. He said he had not problem at all. When I didn’t get accepted at Mass Art because I wanted to teach art and they thought my grades were too low, Dad suggested I look at schools in Canada. I was accepted at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School of Art and Design. It was a 3 years program. Because of my 4 years as an art major and a well developed portfolio, I was put into the second year. My dream of teaching art came about and I have recently retired from teaching. My family and friends have always been supportive.
    It was discouraging to hear one of my art student’s dad say to me, ” My son will never be an artist. You can’t support yourself as an artist.” His son was very talented.
    My youngest son has become a photographer and we have supported him in his desires. He even asked me a few weeks ago to work with him on a project he was doing to advertise his work. How cool is that! That was encouragement for me!

    1. My parents were not pleased. I had been accepted in a new enrichment program for high school—3 maths, 3 sciences and 3 languages included, but no art. I gratefully declined and went to a tech school and took the art course. When I graduated, I wanted to learn more and go on to the Ontario College of Art. The stipulation was that I could go IF i won a scholarship. With help from my teachers, I submitted my portfolio. The scholarship I got paid full tuition and put me directly into second year. With two more scholarships, I graduated in 3 years. A long career as an Illustrator, portrait artist, newsroom artist and general doodler has been rewarding on so many levels. Never one regret. I am currently working/exploring pastels. Oh, and my parents always took satisfied pride in introducing me as “our daughter, the artist”.

  58. I left a very good job to try art full time. My family was not supportive and very discouraging. I have been struggling but it seems right when I am about to give up, something inspires me to keep going.

  59. Parents encouraged me to find a more conservative career route than being an artist. They paid for my college and grad school, which led to a very successful career in law enforcement, becoming chief of police. But guess what? I opted to retire five years early to become a full time artists and writer. The creative muse remains within us.

  60. Jason, it may take the better part of the month for you to read all this. You touched a nerve for sure. I am a painter and an art teacher. I was always surrounded by encouragement and what a huge thing that is for someone with the heart of a sensitive artist. My father was a professional photographer and when my sister and I were in middle school, he encouraged my mother to start taking art lessons. She painted for the rest of her life (95 years old when she passed!). And they were charter members of the art association in our town that was just outside NYC. So I was exposed to many artists as a kid.
    Now what has been the eye opener for me all these years is my role as a teacher. I have taught in school systems, but for over 30 years I have taught private art lessons in my home studio. When people first come to me, I talk it all over with them and this is where I have heard the distressing tales that are in so many of the above comments. One young woman actually cried when she told me her parents would not support her going to art school. Another woman in her late 50s told me she waited until her parents died to start talking art lessons, that’s how opposed they were.
    What I wonder is HOW in the world to change people’s views of ‘can’t make a living’ and ‘starving artist’. I do think supplementing one’s art life is needed by many. My teaching does that, but I LOVE teaching art to others. Not everyone does. I always knew art was my main purpose in life and so when I had to do other things, I never lost hold of how those things fit in as supports to my art life.
    Thank you for asking this question. It’s good your poll didn’t work because now we have the ‘rest of the story’.

  61. Although my parents were very supportive of me and my art talents from the earliest time, I also received mixed messages in terms of “making a living.” For my seventh birthday my parents gave me the wonderful gift of going to a “free expression” art program for children. I went to that program for seven years. Throughout my life I have always done my own art. My style is what I call “Abstract surreal.” Though I have taken specific classes from time to time, I was taught to think that a formal arts education in an art school would only lead to successive levels of commercial or cliche art. So my parents were both very supportive and yet themselves perplexed, particularly about the “making a living issue.” My art has always been an important part of my life. I had my debut gallery show in 1965 at age 22. Married at age 25, my wife has been supportive and enabling. One friend in particular made an early purchase of four of my oils at an important point as I turned away from my academic career. In 1982, I left my federal government job in Washington and became a “free lance” artist. In 1985 we left Washington and purchased a frame shop and gallery back in Los Angeles, California. As the economic times varied and then turned down, my parents were supportive at crucial times. As an artist, I have stitched together several professions, with their ups and downs, a very supportive wife, and parents who have helped from time to time. Now in my seventies, many friends indirectly voice their admiration that I have been able to pursue my art – though steadfastly seem to refuse to purchase my art! Fortunately, I have managed to sell some art, do some shows, show internationally in a limited way, survive by twisting and turning and continue to do my art. To be a successful artist, I think it takes support from some people – be it friends, spouse and/or parents, not to mention the camaraderie and interaction with other artists, plus perseverance and obstinacy.

  62. Frankly, in my generation no one cared what I wanted to study since it was assumed that I would soon marry and become a stay-home mom. However, I was maybe over-encouraged to take up art! Engineering was seen as inappropriate. My 20-something nephew though has always been an artist, in the face of deep parental disapproval. His father let him know that he would not pay for college if the son studied art. So the kid is living in his van, traveling the country and making beautiful art. I do wish he had been able to go to college though.

  63. As a newly divorced single mom in the 1970’s, I had to supplement my low paying office income by making and selling wire animals. I got a lot of family-and-friend censure for risking my child’s well-being to pursue a “frivolous” lifestyle as a working artist.

    Years later, I have an international reputation and worldwide clientele. My former office job – like so many others – would have most likely been downsized and/or outsourced. But nobody can downsize or outsource my style or my career – which have finally earned my family’s belated respect.

  64. My grandmother said, “Art doesn’t pay,” and encouraged me to be a teacher or nurse instead (she was a “Sunday painter”). Instead, I followed in my mother’s (her daughter’s) footsteps and became a starving writer, resuming art in my 50’s. Whenever I get a check for my art, I say, “Thanks, Grandma.” I should have followed my heart and art at the start …

  65. My parents tolerated my love of art starting in childhood only as long as it was a hobby. My father once came into my room as I was drawing, and angrily said something that has stayed with me to this day: “If you have time to do that, then there’s obviously something else that needs doing around the house instead!” Even now, I feel guilty doing art instead of housework, and when I do housework, I feel guilty about not doing my art. In Jr. High, I announced to my parents that I was going to become a commercial artist, and they were horrified. When it was time for college, they insisted that I become a librarian so that I would have steady employment, and I could paint as a hobby. After graduating with a degree in Library Science, and getting married, I spent three years looking for library work. All during that time there were many commercial art positions listed in the papers! I finally found a minimum wage (no benefits) job in a public library stamping out books, and at the end of each day I was too tired to paint–so much for a hobby. Finally, my husband paid for me to go to art school and I graduated with a degree in illustration/graphic design. No sooner had this happened I met the dean of a local college who said they needed a librarian, but that I’d have to go back to school to get re-certified. I let that offer go and tried to find freelance work. Competition in that area due to other artists also graduating from the same art school was fierce, and the pay once again was ridiculously low. Discouraged, I joined a professional watercolor association, and for the next ten years, painted, showed, and sold art work to my heart’s content. Then we moved to another state where I joined several art groups for several years. I never could recreate the experience I’d had with the previous group, so I stopped going. I now paint for myself only, with no intention of showing or selling my work, and consider myself retired from the business side of art. I’m now on an adventure to find out what it’s like to not have to paint for the art market or please others (galleries/art directors). ;-D

  66. I was my own worst critic. I thought about art school briefly, but thought I’d never be good enough, and became a nurse instead. I have always loved this, and it has brought me to places and experiences I would have never thought possible. (By the way, it is amazing how many nurses I know that are past or active artists, from dancing in an international dance troupe, to singing at a Broadway musical, to exhibiting painters.)
    Art has always been tugging at me, and now I am finally at a stage where I can paint my heart out. I don’t know where I’d be if I had done this sooner. I will never know. There is a time and place for everything, and I think I just might have needed all this personal growth before having the confidence to even show my work.

  67. Of course my family discouraged me! They said I had to do something, a career that would enable me to
    be able to support myself. Definitely Not Art!. I became a teacher, married, raised two daughters, then when my youngest started Jr. High School, I went back to a city college and began taking art classes.
    When I did not know where to go to further my education or skills one of my teachers suggested I take my portfolio to Otis College of Art and Design, where they accepted me as a Jr. I had no confidence and convinced them that I would like to begin as a Sophomore, which I did, graduated 3 years later, went through various life changing experiences, and continued making work. I now work in Encaustic, which I was exposed to at the Santa Fe Art Institute in an Artists in Residence. Encaustic is bees wax hardened with resin and mixed with colored pigment. I love working, challenging myself and continuing to explore the medium and come up with new and challenging work.

  68. My family was thrilled when I began drawing people at three years old. They spoiled me with all sorts of art supplies and really encouraged me. My dad is typical– he doesn’t think I can make a living as a full time artist. I don’t much care. I love doing anything and as long as I can bless people with what I create, I am happy. It’s my way of thanking God for all the lovely things he made for us to see. I’ve learned that “being an artist” is mostly viewing the world with deep appreciation for what you see.

  69. NOPE. i got everything from “what are you really gonna do” to ” you’re really good, have you thought about being an artist” to ” you have so many talents, Deb; too bad none of them are lucrative.”. That last one came from a guy whose parents were paying for his music degree. He wanted to be a conductor, and he was really good at it. When anyone asked him what he was going to do with his degree, he’d answer, “probably teach.”. We grew up in the industrial zone, where people got paid decently to work factory lines with little education. Much like in rural communities, higher education wasn’t respected and art was considered superfluous. My dream job would have been in another century, apprenticed to a master stonecutter, learning to make gargoyles. Instead, i went into hospitality. And here we are.

  70. Both parents, siblings , husband and his family were supportive. Mom was in sales and was (and is still) my biggest fan. She was finding clients back when I was starting making small gift items. seriously could not go anywhere without her promoting me.

  71. My parents fought my becoming an artist. When I was young they thought my interest in art was fine but when I wanted to make it my life work they punished me for continued efforts. When I first sold my work they were surprised that people would pay for my work. When I worked in neutrals they thought I was depressed and when my work was bright they said it was garish. I realized that they were just troubled unhappy people and I had to demish my contact. I found friends who supported my artistic vision and moved away from toxic parents. Now I realize that their opposition actually pushed me to make my own way. Art was my rebellion and my happy place.

  72. Not much encouragement, unfortunately. Where I grew up was especially devoid of appreciation for art. Many of the people I grew up around came from rural depression era backgrounds; for them, all life seemed to be about was survival. There were no art galleries, no museum. Everyone’s house seemed to have one or two religious paintings printed on cardboard, but with no thought to the fact an artist originally created them. Art was seen as a frivolous hobby. Most of the people I’m around now are artists and art lovers, so if I were to need some moral support I would not have far to look anymore.

  73. Four of my paintings three family members have wanted in their homes. A half dozen friends want my paintings in their homes. My husband wants my art all about our home. As far as a career, no, he doesn’t support it. I would like to give a workday five days a week to art. I want a career in art. I have raised three girls, worked in daycare through my thirties, and from my forties for 23 years I have taken care of three elderly parents in our home. And now that my nest is completely empty I want to make a career of art. I have a studio set up in my home, and want to work from home. My plan is to work on getting cooking meals, housework, yardwork, grocery shopping, organized, so I can give my life full time to art. So it will be possible, and Pop (my husband of 54 years) will be happy with it when I begin bringing in income from it. And he will take some of the load off of me, as long as his health holds up. He is a little older than me, and he has health problems. He tells me I am still taking care of elderly people. I have a daughter that lives close to us, so maybe if I can make a career of it, maybe she will give me some help looking after Pop.

  74. My parents were both artists so artistic endeavors of any kind were regarded as ‘normal’! Maybe too normal, as it took ME over half my life to realize that is what I am. I AM an artist.

  75. My parents never said I couldn’t be an artist. From our background the idea of pursuing art as a career was never considered — not discouraged, just literally never imagined — and I carried that attitude inside me for decades. Since I woke up to my calling as an artist and the possibility of realizing it, they have been extremely supportive — even though it is still a rather foreign notion to some of them.

  76. My parents were very supportive of me becoming an artist. In fact, they were real disappointed that i became a railroader first. As my mother’s health failed, she was glad i was selling paintings. I am sorry that they didn’t see m subsequent success, modest as it may be.

  77. My father was a physician and mother a corporate secretary until she had my twin and I at age 37. When they resigned themselves to my sister and I wanting to go into some form of art they insisted we study art education at university. Since they were older they wanted us to be able to make a living and not to depend on them. We both disliked teaching junior high school which we did when first out of college. With their financial help and our savings and a promise to teach at the university level we went back for a MFA. Teaching at that level allowed us time to do our own work. Eventually both of us managed to make a living through our art.They were always proud of us but never thought we would service as artists.

  78. I was completely discouraged by both of my parents, saying that I would end up on the street, starving. However, I also understand their concern because back then there weren’t as many options for people with art degrees. Now, with digital platforms, web design, architectural design, and many others, there are so many avenues for people to use their art. I am happy I get to do my art now, and better late than never.

  79. On parent teachers night my high school teacher told my parents that they should encourage me since she liked a watercolor that I did in class. So my Mom took me to an art supply store , and as an early birthday present, bought me all the supplies I needed to start oil painting. I guess my parents thought it was fine as a hobby but when I got older and talked about going to school for art as a career, it was discouraged.

  80. I am the youngest of 4 children. My mother had a mantra that the four of us children could not compete with each other. My sisters were “mirror” twins and drew a lot of attention. They were also encouraged to continue their art and conversely, I was told I could never be as good as them so don’t bother. This was further discouraged when I competed in the Del Mar Fair Children’s art show and came in with an Honarable Mention behind my older sisters and brother. (Twins took first and second, brother took third.) And, my mother did not want an artist or musician in the family. I am gifted in both areas, which I learned in College (music) and later in my banking job working as a branch and relationship manager in Laguna Beach, Ca. In 2007 I painted a silent auction “basket” for our annual golf tournament which was Main Beach and Treasure Island beach wrapped around a pine wooden treasure box in Acrylics. The Galleries and Artists were amazed that I was not following a professional art career, especially when I told them I was self taught. That was when I started thinking about an art career when I retired. While my sisters were successful illustrators for scientific and environment subject books, they could not continue in those fields for economic reasons. In 2017, while my sister was critiquing one of my paintings, she described the movement in my paintings ending with the comment, “but you didn’t know most of that, did you”. This was all true, and then I realized that maybe I had a talent. It drew tears to my eyes when she told me they were “illustrators”, I was always the artist. It has been the Galleries where we purchase our art collections and my sisters that that have encouraged me to study under other artists and pursue an art career. I recently was accepted into a local Gallery and am looking forward to feedback from visitors and the gallery. We visited Santa Fe this past week and showed one of the galleries my card. His comment was that I did good work and to contact the gallery through the website.

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