I recently read an article about Richard Branson, serial entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Records and Virgin Airlines, 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.
Most definitely. Although friends in high school assumed I would head towards an art related career in college, my parents would not allow that. Since they were offering to pay for all school related expenses, I went along. Spent almost 3 years trying to make myself like Pharmacy School, but it was not the place for a creative soul. I hid the fact that I then transferred out of the school of pharmacy and applied for acceptance into U of Michigan’s School of Art. I only told my parents because I ended up needing an extra year to get all the credits in art courses necessary to graduate with the BFA degree! As soon as I stepped foot into those studios, I knew I was in the right place.
My father’s education was interrupted by WWII. He experienced starvation and a bleak future in Europe. He worked incredibly hard to become an engineer, facing continued financial hardship in the early years. He was completely against me becoming an artist due to his fear of me facing the same financial hardships. Being European he would say only dead artists’ work makes money. It’s taken me to be in my 60s to finally open a gallery and make art full time. My husband and sons are thrilled with me for doing it. Making art is so difficult to generate a liveable wage that there’s always a compromise. I chose non-art related jobs to financially support my art making, because I didn’t enjoy other art related work (which I tried) such as teaching, non-profit art orgs etc. I continued to be a gallery artist and learnt to juggle my time to still make art. It wasn’t easy, but nothing in life is. I have so much energy now, to make art full time because it’s a ‘new’ experience. My sons have taught me how to use social media to my advantage. My recent shows have both sold well. Life is good.
This is wonderful to hear, Carol! What a great inspiration you are to those still hoping to break into full time artistry😌
I’m currently a full time interior designer but look forward to my transition in 2023 when my husband and I make the relocation retirement/ nonretirement jump…lol
My mother encouraged my artistic talent all my life (1940’s on) but it was only to be a hobby. I couldn’t take art classes in high school or college. I was only allowed to take “academic” classes except for typing which could help me in any career. The idea was that artists couldn’t make money in a career and I should look at careers that could support me. Also the “bohemian” lifestyle of artists wasn’t something my parents approved of. I did go on to get a PhD in biology and became a college professor, but always “dabbled” in various artistic media. Following retirement I took a series of quilting classes and discovered the medium that I love – working with fabric to produce art (not quilts).
Omgosh Rhoda… you’re speaking my language. I would love to see your work. I’m an interior design up cycling my textile/ wallcovering samples for collage work. This is my niche as well!!
would love to get in touch with you Lynda
When I first started out as an artist, I literally lost all my friends. Friends who shared good times – and christmas gifts I’d shower them with when I was a salaried person.
One friend even left a remark that left a bad after-taste: that if a $10 portrait drawing machine could draw better than I did then, what made me think I could succeed as an artist?
I’m a Singaporean, a citizen of a country known to be a “cultural desert”. A nation that benchmark success with the house you live in, the car you drive. And ironically for some, the art collection you own.
I remember my own father telling me to “get out of my house!” when i asked to switch to art school.
By the time i was competent to eke out my own path, economic downturn due to 9-11, and subsequently SARs virus episode, made work cut out for me in pursuit of my career.
It made things worse when galleries weren’t even keen to give me a time of day; without a portfolio and money for expenses I lugged a few paintings and walked 30km to and fro the city, hoping to find someone willing to give me a chance, until I chanced upon this new gallery with a purpose of really connecting people with art, and not just trying to profit with big-ticket art.
And so the gallery owner Ms Glennery Besson became my first true friend of the arts, a person who truly believed in my work.
She regained my faith in having good people still in this arts fraternity, and later my belief in connecting young artists, giving them a chance to succeed in their paths.
Yes. Art was — and all too often still is — a way to keep the kids occupied but not a so-called real way to spend time. It was a phase I was going through, a nice hobby. It’s been 65 years now, and I, for one, have stopped thinking it will pass. The saddest thing is that almost everyone needed to be dead before I could be happy and fully at ease just being who I was always meant to be. I try not to dwell on that.
I was lucky to be encouraged in my art by my mother, grandparents, and siblings. My family is full of performers and musicians; I vividly remember being told as a young person that I will spend a great percentage of my life working, so it was important to try to find work that I enjoyed! My husband of 53 years is 100% supportive in every way…I do know how fortunate I am. As things turned out, I was not able to support myself with my art, but it had nothing to do with lack of encouragement! Now I’m painting to my heart’s content!!
Absolutely! I went to college and studied art… but didn’t specify and received a BA. I knew I was an artist since childhood and so did they – but was urged/encouraged to get a ‘real’ job. So I went with graphic design. Still artistic but in no way as much fun or fed my soul. They support me now as an artist and attend all my exhibitions – but I truly believe they would never believe I could ‘make it’ without extra income coming in as an independent contractor. Thank you for this blog post!
oh and yes TYPING class! 7th grade – mom mandatory. AND I thank her daily. I can type like no other.
I have a degree in social work that I have never used professionally. That says it all. But as long as I can remember, I have said “When I grow up, I want to be an artist.” Even after I married and my husband encouraged me, my own self-doubt (instilled by years of “You can’t make a living as an artist”?) continue to plague me. I am now focused on being an artist, even promoting art on a new website, etc. I read your helpful posts faithfully. Thanks! Is it possible, at 68, that I really have grown up?
I always knew that someday I would be an artist, but family just tolerated the idea..it was to them a passing phase..but I kept on and to satisfy myself and family, went to college, studied art and got my degree in Art Education. Now, I could earn money, pay for my art supplies, and have the satisfaction of
helping other aspiring artists chanel their desires. Oh, yes..I took typing and earned a business diploma from High School and worked for Civil Service..in my life before actually doing art.
Growing up, I was producing drawings, paintings, and sculpture up through high school. My parents discouraged me from continuing with art and encouraged me to pursue a college major where I could get a “real job”. I selected architecture and have been in the profession now for 46 years My practice (established 22 years ago) is focussed on residential projects. I love designing and still prouduce the design drawings by hand.
My first pilgrimage to Burning Man in 2009 struck a chord. At Burning Man, I realized that my primary mission is to be an artist. I reconnected with my passion by taking classes at the local art school and showing my work in neighborhood “art walks”. While I don’t plan on fully retiring, I am scaling back on architectural projects and allowing myself more time to make art.
I’ve always received mixed messages from family—from “yes, you can be anything you want to be” to “be something useful”. But overall, I had to overcome the hesitancy in my own mind more than what I was hearing from family. I would say I’ve had more support than not, but my fears are my own worse enemy. Happily, as I age, that’s becoming less of a problem, and I paint a lot now.
A child of the 50s, all I heard concerned getting married and having children. I drew and painted from childhood, but stuck with me as a hobby. Then I lost a 34-year journalism career in the 2008-2009 economic crash, and passion for painting came pouring out of me. I have continued to study and work these past 12 years, and am making a modest income from my art. The fear of failing lurks constantly, but the joy from creating overcomes that ancient and deep-rooted monster. Best of all, art has no editors and no retirement or expiration date.
I paid for my college degree, parents didn’t say anything negative or positive. After that couple years working, saving money, got a partner, went into business as photographer. Best career for me, creative and made a well-paid career of it. Now retired, still photographing and painting, entering juried shows.
I stay away from people who don’t support my choices. If people support you financially they think they get a say in how you spend their money. Your money or your life, your choice.
No encouragement as a kid. Lots of family have criticized my pursuit as an adult. I have had to find my own way and I give myself permission everyday to pursue my passion. The older I get, the more I believe in what I am doing. I have learned to cut the negativity out of my life.
Yup – there’s a reason I have undergrad and masters degrees in Engineering and worked in Aerospace until I had kids… I used ‘choosing to be a stay-at-home mom’ as an excuse to leave my ‘responsible’ career and launch a creative one!
I been creating art as long as I can remember and I don’t remember being discouraged or encouraged by anyone.
My parents bought me the “Famous Artist” program that was popular at the time and cost big bucks. It was staffed by Norman Rockwell and other top commercial artist of the time.
I don’t think a good friend would ever discourage you from pursuing your dreams and none ever did.
Anyway I ended up working, as most artist seem to do working in advertising as a conceptual artist till I retired and now spend my time creating large acrylic paintings on canvas. So I guess life is good and we should all pursue our dreams no matter what.
I have been told over and over you can’t make a living at art. In fact I had a family tell me that within the last month. I have lost friends and family because of it. But I love art and my happy place is creating art. So a few years back and I quit nursing and tried to paint full time, it was a challenge, I had my whole family against this decision but I continue on taking some part time jobs to pay bills . In 2019 I had just started selling and Covid hit. I made the choice to back into nursing but still paint. Now I nurse 3 days a week and paint 4 at a studio space I love. I haven’t given up on the idea of painting full time but for now this works for me and my patients love when I draw diagrams for them and explain procedures or conditions. I love drawing funny cartoons for the staff with a happy note especially after a rough day or week.
My twin sister and I were encouraged by our parents to pursue art. We both took art in high school and we’re encouraged to study art at university…BUT…since they were paying for it, we could only study art education so we could earn a living. We taught junior high school art for two miserable years but saved our money and left our teaching profession to study painting and printmaking in Italy and Philadelphia through Tyler School of Art MFA program. We both found college art teaching positions which allowed time for our art while earning a living. My sister stayed in teaching but also developed her career as a fine artist where she was recognized as a important artist especially in Eastern US. I taught at two colleges in Montana for several years and bit the bullet and became a full time artist specializing in sporting and western landscapes and became recognized in that genre. I feel the time in education and the initial art education degree delayed my career as a fine artist
Yes, I was not encouraged. I am second generation on both sides of my family tree. My mother was very intelligent but she was born with a disabled left hand. She was born in 1931. In those days, she was shut out of almost all career opportunities. My father was born in 1927 and went to the Navy at 17 during World War II in the South Pacific. He wanted me to become a teacher so I could be home with my children in the summer (his mother worked in the garment district to help support her family, she was an inspiration). A college degree was very important that I must achieve. Although, I was educated in an Irish Catholic School system in Boston which was a very good education, my father at 39 died of a cerebral aneurysm at the end of my freshman year in the Catholic high school. From that time on I worked to pay for my education. Long story short, I graduated with honors from college that I earned the hard way. I became a painting teacher for just over 22 years. I sold several paintings and I was given awards and medals as well for my in oils and pastels. Also, with my wonderful students began the Pastel Society of North Carolina. Most of one branch of my family tree were musicians from Western Europe. So, the most amazing things about our country is the freedom to succeed in becoming your true self. Don’t ever give up through all of it there is your path and our Creator is with you.
most definitely. I was told again and again ‘artists starve’, my parents #1 mantra. Number 2 was ‘artists and drunks and/or drug addicts. You will become one or both of those if you become an artist. Is that what you want to be. Yet I saw in my parents, other relatives and friends frustration, anger, etc working at mundane jobs paying the bare minimum…hating evey moment. It was obvious to me even at a young age that the anger and frustration likely had to do with well-meaning but totally out of touch parents et al telling them that their (possible creative dreams) dreams were unreachable because ‘people like us can’t have that’. The idea that someone cannot have a career in the arts is so shame based and this has to stop. There are blatant lies, gross misrepresentations etc surrounding the ‘artist/creative people.
OMG! That is my total story. I told my dad when I was young I wanted to be an artist. One of the girls at the ranch where I rode horses and took lessons was going to college to design bedding. I had always been an artist! Even in my earliest photos in preschool, all the kids are sitting at the table for there picture to being taken and I am in the background at the easel. When I told my dad what I wanted to do, he told me that I could not be an artist because I would never be able to support myself. The only artist that ever make money were dead. He thought I was wasting my time and I was a dreamer. He thought I should work in the market or a bank. I once told him I’d rather be dead than working in a market or a bank. The inside confinement and day to day gruel would have killed me. I always had a studio and I always dabbled on my own time. In fact, I couldn’t have gotten out of high school if they didn’t let me major in art. So when my dad died in 2018, my art started to pour out of me. It was like the spell was broken and I was free to be me. When dad died, I was 61 years old and now nothing is going to hold me back! In fact, at the end of this month I will be showing my art at the LA Art Show at the convention center. I’m not mad at my dad, I know he was trying to protect me and there are a lot of artists. However, I would have loved to have had parents that encouraged me to use my natural gifts and talents. Who knows how my life would have been different? I also know that there are no accidents! 🙂
Hi Charisse! This resonates with my life story too. Thank you for sharing – it’s comforting and encouraging to know others share the same life story! Jen Z.
I grew up in the industrial east end of London, in a blue collar family. Art was for Toffs not the likes of us.
I did take art in school and won a few awards, but then I joined the military… not exactly an art friendly environment, still I always had a sketch book, and drew.
After six years I met and married my husband, and mustered out.
Still I drew, and eventually once the offspring were in school started painting.
I was quite secretive about my art until a friend convinced me to enter a painting in an art fair contest in 2004. I won.
I started taking every class and workshop I could. I joined guilds, entered shows and contests.
My family found all of this to be mystifying but kept most negativity to themselves.
By 2011 I was working full time as an artist.
The fam were still puzzled but cautiously encouraging.
By the time my parents passed they were both proud though still uncertain. My work is non traditional which they didn’t understand but they could see I was having success with it.
Encouraging, not for a long while, but not actively discouraging either.
I was actively discouraged from a very early age. I was told over and over again that there is no money in art. I kept doing art through the years. When I was 18 my dad didn’t want me to go study art after and also wanted me to stay in school for another year because my math grade was 64%! I decided not to go study because I did not want to do anything else but rather came to the UK where I had various jobs which led me down a legal career. The strain from not enjoying what I do and office politics finally came down on me in my early thirties. I stopped working, studied graphic design, because of course that is more likely to be worthy of my time than art! After my degree I just flat out refused to take any office job so I started art full time and that was that. I have not looked back, I keep learning and working and I will get myself up to the standard where I should have been years ago.
My father had no artistic skill himself but was an art lover and was encouraging. We took a lot of museum tours together. He always contended that the renaissance was the height of man’s artistic achievement. I thought it was just okay. He helped to fund a four month trip to Italy when I was in college, where I lived the life of an Italian stone sculptor. He gave me a place to live when I returned, and always wanted to see me working on something. His one piece of advice to me was to be like William Turner, who worked on commercially successful artwork for his entire career, and in his spare time he would explore these wonderful but unappreciated impressionistic works which during his lifetime were not sellable but are now the pieces he is most famous for. And I have sometimes followed that advice, but you know I always felt kind of sorry for Turner, having to make those boring old paintings when he really wanted to do Impressionism long before Impressionism was a thing.
I’m in the process of transitioning into life as a full-time artist. The lack of understanding or support from family members has been a lifelong rift during career paths in the creative fields and during this transition to becoming a full-time artist/painter has resulted in large arguments, undue stress and unnecessary distractions over the last few months.
It’s been extremely challenging, but have had to make a concerted effort to not let it sway my decision to proceed.
Fortunately, it’s paid off in a happiness and a slow and consistent stream of sales has started to quiet some of the noise.
Having the support of family would definitely make it an easier path and would be a lot more fun to be able to include them in the joys of the journey.
my thanks to everyone.your courage is an encouragement to me
You could say I was “born with a pencil in my hand,” as I have been drawing all my life, nearly 71 years now. It has always been my absolute favorite past-time, and sometimes I have been lucky enough to sell a work here and there, many times drawing for the sheer pleasure of it, other times giving away pieces to family or friends…to me, it never mattered much.
Being a widow now, with eight grown children (and many grandchildren now) I am free to pursue my Art wherever it takes me…and still, it matters not whether I sell a piece or not. The real pleasure to me is the sheer creation of Art, not whether it fetches a penny.
But, many years ago, when I was still in my late teens, I entered the “Draw Me” contest, put into magazines by the Famous Artists School, founded and run by Norman Rockwell. I didn’t really expect too much to come of my entry; I merely sent it in as a matter of curiosity, not even mentioning to my parents or siblings that I had even entered!
But then, one fateful day, about 2or3 weeks later, there came a knock on our front door ~ a man who introduced himself as the director of the school for our state (Michigan) and who proceeded to tell me that he was there in person to invite me to join the school as a winner; I had received the 2nd highest score he had ever seen in all his years with the school!! Needless to say, I was dumbfounded and delighted at this unexpected news and rushed to tell my parents all about it….fully expecting them to back me up!
But, unfortunately, their reactions were the complete opposite of what I had hoped for. “I thought you were going to be a teacher!” my mother exclaimed, with my father nodding agreement. “You just can’t count on making a real living selling your drawings, now, can you?!?” he added.
Needless to say, this certainly put a real dash to my hopes of furthering my dreams of becoming a “real artist.” So, reluctantly, I returned to the living room to inform the gentleman that I had to decline his offer. …and the look on his face I will NEVER forget.
I went on to attend Wayne State University, receiving my Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Education, taught for one year…and left the teaching profession behind, got married and had my children, which, of course, kept me busy for many years…until my husband passed away in 2014 and left me free to go back to what I had always longed to do: DRAW PICTURES with little to no interference from anyone else’s opinions, ideas (he, at least, ALWAYS backed me up, bless his heart) ~ and now I draw whenever I want to, giving free reign to my artistic muse.
When I look back on that day, I wish with all my heart that I had taken that man up on his generous offer, as it was, after all, a correspondence school, so in all actuality, I could have done BOTH schools!!! But unfortunately, hindsight is the curse of maturity, isn’t it?! And it’s too late now…
But at least I can do what I like now. And I had a loving husband who, for many many years, bragged about “his wife, the artist,” to anyone and everyone he met.
And when I draw anything now, he is right here with me, looking over my shoulder, and whispering in my ear, “You can do it, Jenn! You’ve always been my favorite!”
So in the end, I guess I won the Grand Prize, didn’t I?!? …in a roundabout way… hehe……. 😉✍💘 …
I would say I have been discouraged in an encouraging way. My mother has always supported my desire to create and will often show off her creative daughters artwork to friends and family but I’ve often been told that being an artist is untenable. My partner is the same way, “I would love for you to be able to just sit and paint but you’ll never earn enough as an artist to do that”. In the end the sentiment always feels like “Keep dreaming but it will always be a dream”. I love them both dearly and they do support me in my growth as an artist but it be a bit of a downer at times.
My family didn’t DIScourage my artistic pursuits, but even today, my mother considers my art a passtime, and repeatedly asks me, “What are you going to do with all of that?” (as in, “it’s taking up space; put it in the church rummage or throw it out or give it away so you’ve got some space to do things”) even though, as an artist’s inventory, it isn’t that big. Only 20-30 “A” grade, and maybe 30-40 “B” grade, plus a few binders of lesser stuff (on paper) that I personally like but doubt are worth trying to sell. And three bins of frames, accumulated when I find them cheap.
I asserted from early on that my life path was to be an artist. My Mom thought, “Oh well, she’ll never make any money at that!” But she didn’t say that out loud, and continued to buy art supplies and books and give them to me. Her support made all the difference. And years later when I started teaching studio art courses in University , and Community College settings, she said, “I didn’t think you could do it but you did it!” This was esp. significant to me because my art was not in any to my Mother’s taste. She’d look at my various abstractions and say things like, “What is THAT!!!??? ” or “That looks like the devil!”. But she still was always supportive on a material basis. Bless her.
Definitely discouraged by family who wanted me to be a teacher because that’s what girls should do to earn a living. Art was always put on the ‘ back burner’. Even though I did infuse art in my into my teaching and class decorating, it wasn’t until I retired that I went back to my passion and talent. Now in charge of my own time (and able to go to the bathroom without waiting for someone to relieve you!), I’ve returned to happiness.
People kept telling me to get a teaching credential so that I would have something to fall back on. I heard this so many times that I finally came up with a one-liner to end the conversation. I’d simply say thanks, but I’m not planning to fall back.
I have been a self-supporting artist for four decades and people still give me bad advice assuming that I must be struggling since I am an artist. All of this advice, of course, is coming from people who don’t know the first thing about it.
I tell young artists to only take advice from artists who are making a living.
Near the end of high school, as pre-university prep, students had to make a choice’; the ‘arts’ stream or the math and science- now called ‘stem’ – steam. I wanted to be an artist. I’d drawn as long as I could remember. But my parents encouraged the stability of dentistry. Why I don’t know. Maybe because I was good with my hands… I knew dentists make a good living. I agonized all summer before making the ‘sensible choice’ – science, preparing for dentistry.
I dropped all my good subjects (art, english, history etc.,) and loaded up on chemistry, physics and maths. I stunk at them! My marks nosedived and I had not a prayer in getting into any dentistry program. So I continued with Arts in university, got lucky, and had a long, successful career as an illustrator, painting on the side.
I encouraged my kids to do what they like. If that’s the case, its not work.
I was discouraged by both my mother and my father to become an artist. I was a freshman in high school in 1970, for time frame purposes here and I had just begun art instruction in school. My mother’s response was that I wouldn’t be able to make a living – “You’ll starve to death”. I insisted that I was going to be a commercial artist and become an art director. My response was “People will pay me to draw for a living!”
My father’s respoinse was even more closed off. He had left us years before and started another family when I told him of my intentions. His advice was to join the Army like he did, get the GI bill and have that pay for my schooling after being discharged because he sure as hell wasn’t going to help me with that. I had NO intention of enlisting while the Vietnam war was raging, and the draft lottery was suspended just days before my 18th birthday. My ‘number’ was pretty low, I would have been drafted for sure and most likely would be dead now. His other brilliant idea was to become an electrician or a plumber – learn a trade – “You’ll never go hungry knowing these skills, then you can pursue you art as a hobby once you have a real career”. This coming from a man with an 8th grade education who had lied about his age ( 17 ) to join the Army and enlist for deployment in the Korean conflict.
I did end up attending Art Institute of Pittsburgh, graduated with Dean’s List 6 of 8 quarters and continued on to a successful career in design, illustration and art direction. I’ve been painting, showing and selling now for 35 years or more. I proved them all wrong.
I attended a high school in Toronto, Canada which had four different courses available – academia (matriculation), art, mechanical and secretarial. Being an artist from a very early age, I begged my father to allow me to enroll in the art program but was told “artists don’t make a decent living, so no! You’ll take the matriculation classes.” End of discussion. He was right – I haven’t been able to make a decent living from my art, but it is something I still strive for – even at the age of 77!!
My grandfather was quite disappointed when I was accepted to Art School in England. My family expected that I would take advantage of Grandfathers influence in the British Railway, my apprentice status in the Railway was assured. When my father and grandfather found out that I was going to art school and not getting a proper job on the British Railway they were dismayed for many reasons. In my grandfathers own words, ” Wot, the lads going to art school? he’s gonna be a right puffter. He’ll be playing tennis next”.
He was wrong on so any levels. But I loved him.
I was discouraged from pursuing the life of an artist. I went into art education for my first year of University. We drew from the model and other fine art types of activities. I persuaded my parents to let me switch to fine arts and graduated with a BFA. I worked in a museum for awhile, using my skills. But I could no longer qualify for student grants. I had a child and we both needed to work, so I taught for awhile. Then library work. All this time I still would have my work in galleries, working on art in my “free” time. I loved a program called “art in the park”. Wide eyed preteen girls would approach and ask questions . The phrase “yes you can ” was said by me a lot. The work I do is bought by people who see something of themselves in it . They “grok” me.
From an early age my skills in art were encouraged and facilitated by my family. My father turned our back sitting room into a studio and paid for an art course. Sadly the need the pay rent etc when I moved out meant being a graphic artist which was my compromise for thirty years. I gave up painting due to lack of space and time.
I have been able to return to my art since my husband encouraged me and built a workspace on our property for me to to paint and return to studies in art at university on line. Thanks to a government grant I will be holding a large solo exhibition in December and am now a PhD candidate in art. I use my graphic art skills for my web pages, promotional material and art lessons for my students.
My big lesson has been to surround myself with supportive people and to let the rest go.
I’ve had resistances throughout my life when I decided to become an artist.
In college my dad gave me a choice to stay funded or get out of my house, if I decided to switch to art major.
In my 20s when I announced I’m becoming an artist full-time, all my friends left me. One of them even said to me a $10 portrait vending machine could draw better than I do, so what made me think I could survive as an artist?
The list of negatives go on through the years, but I stuck on my passion, honed my craft and I was rewarded with much media publicity – even had my own TV documentary show, became the first-and-only Singapore representative to the Portrait Artist Conference in DC in 2010.
Imagine the scene from the movie “300” when the boy survived against the wolves, that resonated with the art environment in Singapore when I first started out. But it led me to believe that if you can survive the wolves, you can survive anything .
Wow! This was both encouraging and discouraging. Encouraging to see how many artists have traveled a similar path as my own, having the courage to buck all the negative attitude, especially from family. Discouraging to realize once again how pervasive the anti-art perception is in our culture. I do see this experience largely as a cultural bias. My upbringing as a second-generation Jewish American child of middle-class working parents, was of course to pursue life as a “professional”. In my family that meant three careers: medicine, law, and business. I convinced my reluctant parents that architecture was a profession and for twenty years after college, I pursued a career as an architect. I loved the work but hated the business and truly was not suited to the politics of a collaborative art such as it was. Luckily, I had other models in life; an uncle who was a painter and mentors who were teachers. I never stopped drawing and painting in those years, while practicing architecture. At forty-five I ended my professional career as an architect, enrolled in graduate art school to become a painter and wound up an art teacher and studio artist. Then came were twenty more years of teaching and pursuing my own work as artist which this time made a much better fit with my “day job” and finally in 2019 I retired from teaching. All I do now is make and promote my own artwork and take long walks in the woods near my home. The truth is I have never made a lot of money from my art, but you know, I think there is far too much emphasis in our culture on the accumulation of money. There is something to be said for the quality of life. I get up every morning excited to see what I will do with the work on my easel, love sharing the work with interested collectors, friends, supporters and the like, and feel richly rewarded by everything I do in my day, from research to museum visits, to concept sketches for the next set of works. Of course, it helps to have the support of a loving spouse and daughter, as I do, and several devoted friends, but I have long ago stopped expecting my extended family to either understand or significantly support my life as an artist. Some do, some don’t. What is really important is that I have managed to believe in myself enough to weather these storms for years. Living the life of an artist is, in my experience, not easy, but worth all the trouble.
My Parents no doubt kept on hoping that I would let go of my Art till the day that each of them died. That I would “grow up” and find a ‘real job.’
My mom insisted that I get a BFA, and take academics in art school, “So I would have something to fall back on, if I couldn’t make it as an artist.” Ha! Art school academics were much easier than high school. Good thing I never had to fall back on them. No, like Cortez burning his ships so his conquistadors were motivated to succeed, I had to make a living with art. I never even considered anything else. Wasn’t very good at first, but I survived as an illustrator for 52 years, and did well, now doing western fine art, and things are going really well.
Boy, where were you 25 years ago, Jason? Lol
While I was an art & photography major at SDSU, my family was definitely supportive of me becoming an artist, in any field. Especially when I had the opportunity to enter an art competition, a large abstract style painting, with the Oakland Museum of Art and won Best of Show, circa 1994. It was a tell-tale sign that I needed to pursue art as a career, for sure.
Though, after a few years from that point, I wasn’t selling any paintings! At the same time, I had bad advice from friends and art teachers (believe it or not) that discouraged me from making a living with oil painting. So, luckily, I also had photo skills and the opportunity to work as a commercial photographer (weddings and real estate architecture). This side of the art business was lucrative and by the end of a decade, I had a successful photography career.
Though, would I do it over again? Probably not. I wish I knew what I know now and actually stayed away from the the overwhelming vanity of the wedding business!
Now, thanks to good supportive friends and family, ABA, and a great work ethic, etc… I left the photo biz and have been putting in the time to become a great painter and craftsman, developing my career capital/skills. Consistency and perseverance is key. Since I really see how quickly I am learning and growing.
Better late than never, right? At the end of the day, I am willing to take the risk, finally go for it and see where this journey leads me.
In high school my older sister won the award for “first general proficiency” over and over again and became an Astro-physicist. So when I declared I was taking the advanced stream courses straight to art school it felt like alarms were set off. I was called out of class to see one guidance councillor after another, and notes were sent home to my parents. Jane is wasting her brain. Something has to be done about this. She must be made to see.
I thought I would trick them. The art teachers told stories about Michelangelo taking jobs he hated, like the Sistene Chapel, so that he could fund his own projects and Da Vinci’s story is much the same… I figured if the Greats had to compromise, I could too, and I actually found commercial art extremely lucrative and somewhat satisfying in its own way. I designed, I illustrated, I directed. But the relentless demands of such work nearly killed me, plus I had 3 children and not more than a couple of days maternity leave with any of them. So, lots and LOTS of regrets too.
Now in my 60s that’s all behind me. I work full time as a clay sculptor and have found great peace in it. The real beauty of being able to focus on the work has been in seeing my skills soar. I can only imagine where I would be if I started this 40 years ago, but I know it’s those 40 years that inform the work I now produce, so I don’t spend a lot of time on that.
Hmmm, some encouragement from my father, some discouragement from my mother. My brother displayed more talent than I did, but he wasn’t interested…it was too easy. When it was time to go to “higher education”, I wanted to go to RISD but Dad insisted I go to any university which offered a BFA. His reasoning: There is so much in the world and art school doesn’t introduce you to enough of it.
Well, he was right on that part. Going to multiple universities, I learned about how trees grow, how rocks form, how human bodies change, how base and acids work together, even how to use a slide rule. I was privileged to study under Bainbridge Bunting.
I also learned to hate Thomas Hardy.
(One of my deans was also right…artists work with “math” all the time, doesn’t matter that you haven’t had any formal math since high school. Take the as much of the GRE as you can. I was aiming for art restoration, so took the math part and did better than 50% of those STEM graduates taking it. So did the other 5 BFAs in my class who took it. Don’t believe the myth that “artists can’t do math.”)
I sold two of the pieces I used for my juried final for my degree, as I left the jury room. I sold a few pieces and won several ribbons at juried shows over the next few years…BUT life interfered and art became a hobby as I worked at various mostly fun jobs to pay the bills. (The only non-fun job was in an office. All the comments above about “ugh, confined to an office” were absolutely correct. We don’t belong there.)
Now I’m working on getting back to being an artist. My husband supports me 100% emotionally, encouragingly and finding me sources for materials. I’m nearing the end of the “can I be consistent enough?” experimental phase. Next, I have to develop the electronic portfolio and a website.