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.

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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 the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. Although my parents and friends were supportive, I’m sure they breathed a great sigh of relief when it became apparent that I was actually going to be successful and able to make a great life for myself as a professional, full-time artist. Years before–when I had expressed my intention to be an artist–I’m certain that my parents were thinking: “Oh my God! He’s going to be living with us until he’s 45 years old!”

  2. My friends were supportive but my mother was a different story. A long, boring, depressing story. Short version: I did it anyway. ^_^

  3. My parents were both musicians and knew the importance of the arts. They sent me to painting classes when I was a child and I continued semi private lessons until after high school graduation. I majored in art education and taught art for 30 years. My mom, my husband, and my grown children have been my biggest supporters when I chose to be a clay artist a few years ago. I now belong to several art leagues and still am encouraged by them!

  4. My mother was an artist/teacher. She taught us art from infancy. I remember sitting in my high chair with paper and water colors while she worked in the kitchen or whatever she needed to do. She took my brother and I for walks in the woods and taught us to see, not just look.
    I wanted to go to school and study art like my Mom did. One day, I came home from my senior year in high school to be told they had enrolled me in a business college to study office skills, including accounting. I said, “But I want to study art!” They responded, “Yes, and you can do that after you complete the business course. A good artist knows how to take care of business so she won’t become a starving artist.” And that’s what I did. And let me tell you: I have thanked them many times for their wise decision! When I opened my photography studio I knew how to take care of business or I’d certainly been a failure! My husband was disabled and I had to make the living! Didn’t have the money to hire an accountant, or receptionist or someone to decide what I should charge to make a living and a profit, and oh! so many other things!
    As a result, I made a good living for my family. Yes, my parents encouraged, but they also prepared me for the real world. That wasn’t just smart, it was WISE.

    1. This stuck a chord with me. My parents were very supportive of me as a child when I continually said “I’m going to be an artist!” and I got encouragement for my creative efforts all through junior high, but when I hit high school and continued to say I was going to be an artist, my Dad insisted I take typing. He said I’d have to have some way to make a living, and of course, that was wise. I also hedged my bets in college, getting a bachelor’s degree in studio art, but a masters degree in art education, and I did teach art in middle school for seven years as I got my art career started. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing – it’s wise to have other ways to generate income, especially during lean times (which there always are).

    2. I often wished the business end came with college courses on being an artist. Or that someone had told me to take the regular classes (I just wasn’t interested in anything involving numbers back then), I’m now trying to learn it at 65!

    3. Love your story, Martha. Good for your parents for being so wise, and good for you to wisely listening and having a bit of patience . . .

      1. Back when I graduated from high school we didn’t have TV to tell us kids were smarter than their parents so we mostly followed their lead! There’s a reason God gave us parents!

  5. My family members were never supportive in my life as a professional Artist. I knew I needed support so I made a big effort finding friends that have been hugely supportive & encouraging. I always like to give them credit for my success & will always be very grateful to them.

    I have some major Exhibitions planned for 2018 that should lunch my Art-career into the stratosphere…

  6. Well, as I was nearly retired when I decided to make this career change, some were supportive in a sort of , no-harm in-indulging-her-fantasy sort of way. For the most part they seem embarrassed to have a mother/sister who is promoting herself as an artist and are not too helpful in spreading the word or my promotional efforts. Only one of my siblings have purchased my paintings and one sibling lets me hang my work in her business (and I am very appreciative of their support). My kids are also not purchasers (frequent borrowers though!). When I sell anything they all are pleasantly surprised. There’s a difference between being supportive and actually helping out.

    1. Glad you keep trying to get to your goal. I had a similar experience. I always had a lukewarm reaction from my father. my mother was more supportive as she had a strong artistic streak and her brother was a poet and painter in England. However this was secondary to working for a living – only after retiring was his poetry published. I always was sketching and pursuing artistic mediums as a youngster but was expected to pursue a REAL career and marry, etc. etc. It was only as I was nearing 60 that I retired from my REAL career to follow my artistic side. I opened a quilt shop to further my love of creating art with fabric as my medium. Like you, I still struggle with promoting my work because many think of it as a hobby.

  7. I did not receive any encouragement from family or friends, but in their defense, my friends were kids with no direction in life. My family keep saying that I needed “something to fall back on”, and should be a nurse, a secretary, a teacher – all the “acceptable’ women’s roles for the 70’s. In retrospect, I should have ignored them, but instead it has taken years to dedicate myself to my art. I have arrived, deeply entrenched in my “real life” and very happy I am listening to my voice. It is also helpful that my husband and children also believe in, and support my life’s path.

  8. I didnt decide to pursue a career in art until about six or seven years ago. Around the age of 50.
    Both of my parents were practising artists and very competitive so I went off and became an accountant instead.
    But once my mother died and I no longer felt the weight of her judgement I decided to see if I still had any worthwhile ability. I am currently taking a distance learning BA in art and love being part of exhibitions in the UK. I do however plan to start selling my work around the world this year.
    My father, my husband and my children have been brilliant as has my circle of friends, who were already very interested in the arts, I feel blessed to have such amazing support from them all.

  9. Not really! My mother used to point her finger at me and say “you know what’s wrong with you? you look normal, but you’re not!” My father used to say “You know who’s a GOOD artist? so and so” My mother wanted me to paint portraits of dogs, which may be wonderful for others, but not for me. As my abstract technique evolved, my mom would say “Enough already!” I told that to someone and his absolutely wonderful reply was, “It sounds like your mom would have said to Monet, Enough with the water lilies” That was both pivotal and affirming.

  10. I’ve had both experiences. In my fifties, I was still being asked when I was going to get a day job. I’ve had a lot of encouragement too, especially from my husband. Once they see you’re serious about it, you get more encouragement from people.

  11. As I was growing up, my dad said if I was satisfied I would never improve. My mom said once I had raised my family it would be fine to do my artwork. On the other hand, they both firmly believed that I had single handedly painted a wall mural in college. I was never able to persuade them that all I did was offer a bit of helpful advice to the person who actually did the mural. So they were inordinately proud of something I didn’t do. Go figure. My siblings don’t push, but are supportive, and my kids do push me as well as cheer me on. My husband is supportive, but I have yet to take things beyond the hobbyist and class-taking stage to the outright sink or swim place, instead still hovering with at least one foot still in the wannabe place, not yet fully trusting myself.

  12. Thought provoking! My mom always let me take art classes all through school and paid for my 1st three semesters at a local college as an art major. Money was tight though so I started my young adulthood in the big world with a “real job”. But I always kept drawing or painting on the side making money here and there, even having my own little art business for the past 30 years. Now, at 65, I’ve decided to retire from my “real job” and pursue my art full time. I’ve mostly gotten the response “good for you, it’s about time!”, but after thinking about one of the responses above…have many of them bought my work? Hmmm, I shall persist nonetheless!

  13. My parents were not supportive. The life of an artist to them was largely considered “indulgent”, at best, I would say. Traditional values of hard work, steady pay, and a secure pension were more their perspective. They were children of the Depression era, and so I can understand their mindset. However when I started to take up fine art around 2000, my husband followed by our son, have been my relentless in their support and complete encouragement regarding my journey. Even through many, many rough seas over the years, and the times I have often been more than ready to abandon the creative ship!! I am very fortunate to have these two guys.

  14. My father was a successful sculptor (www.brucegarnersulptor.com) and taught me the artist trade. He encouraged me to get an education in fine art, but take a course in marketing as well as work in commercial art. I did those things and much more to support my artist career. The commercial art has morphed over the years; initially into lots of money painting theme windows; Christmas, and other events in our city. Driveway gates have become an earner for me in the last decades. They are a nice cross between commercial and fine art. My husband is a loyal and patient supporter in every way. An engineer, he enjoys the variety of problems this career creates that he can help me solve, especially he likes the technical ones. He listens to my sorrows and triumphs and helps lift things. My family and friends have been very supportive also, and patient too! I think people knew there was no point in trying to talk me out of it, I was born to be an artist and all it includes. It is a tough career, but you just have to never give up, and keep on being creative and inventive and ask for help when you need it.

  15. I wasn’t in a family of artist although grandparent and grand aunties/uncles who painted watercolour .
    I started painting with 8 and that time my mother choose the best teacher in the neighborhood and as teenarger send me to 3 years of formali art education and watercolour that is my passion .
    Although I was never encouraged to live as an artists and I went to architecture school .
    First year one teacher said what the hell are you doing here ? After 20 years I moved to NZ and as I had a lot of free time I started painting last year and now working to build a career as an artist !

  16. My dad had just one field he valued. Medicine. “You can be a doctor or you can be a failure” so my sisters and I all chose to be ‘failures.’ To his credit, dad was willing to pay for any education as long as we were willing to work hard. I began painting when I was 19 and knew that somehow I’d make the move to painting as a career – it took a long time. When I visited a small art school one art teacher instructed the other students to destroy all my personal work in my private school studio (yes worst day of
    my life). It was ironic there was no room for personal expression in the art school. I went back to college and studied anthropology in order to learn how arts hold our stories, values and identity. I learned how I can use art to inspire quality of life for others. I then I had to figure out how to technically create the work I was meant to make. My family was relieved I left art school, but they never knew why. My husband and children have been amazingly supportive.

    1. Dear Barbara,
      What kind of insane person gets other students to destroy a fellow student’s
      work? I can barely express the outrage I feel toward ALL of them. BUT what is extraordinary is you, that you didn’t quit, but persisted. I am in complete admiration!

  17. I was considering majoring in Art in college, but was encouraged by parents and school counselors to pursue something that could support a family. Besides, you can always create art as a hobby. Thus, engineering (I was good at math and science subjects in high school, and both my parents were engineers). So… off to college to study engineering (ended up with degrees in Electrical Engineering).

    Fast forward 40+ years, a husband, father, and grandfather, and a career that left no time for creating art… other than a sketch or a doodle now and again when I needed to prove to myself that I could still do it. After an accident that left me unable to work as an engineer manager, I picked up my watercolors and started painting. Now, I wish that I had more of a foundation in fine art… different media, different techniques, different subject matter, and art history. But, I am learning on my own and taking a few classes… and enjoying the first career that I wanted… only as a second career.

  18. My family didn’t really know I wanted to be an artist although my grandmother must have sensed it when she gave me a big painting set when I was about 9 years old and I did get a Paint by Number set one Christmas. There were no encouragements when I drew or painted from my immediate family. I could write and was encouraged to do that. Many years later when I knew I wanted to go to art school and had the choice between two jobs – one at the Maine College of Art with free tuition for classes and one at a different school that paid more, but meant a lot of travel instead of classes – someone I thought was a good friend laughed and said, “Take the job that pays more and BUY yourself some art.” I understood then that she had no idea what was in my heart of hearts. But now that I’m painting and showing my work, other friends and my family are very supportive. I live every day in gratitude for that.

  19. I would describe my family as indulgent rather than as actively supportive, although my sister-in-law did buy me a kiln. But it was all a sideline until I was able to retire…

  20. To be honest, it depends on when in my life the art career was considered. As a young person (high school and college), I was not supported at all. The family felt it would be best for me to pursue a career with a more guaranteed source of income. In fact, my mother (an artist herself) advised that I wait until I was married and that I married “well”, so I could afford to pursue art. Long story short, I have ended up waiting until I retired from a long more practical career (and having gone through 2 divorces and finally seem to be settled with a wonderful man… but not one who could support the whole family while I attempted to launch an art career). No, the kids are gone and grown and I feel fortunate to have been able to retire “early” due to having held a job that was a high risk position. My husband and my children and now my mother are all very supportive. But it took some significant sales to win over my husband.

  21. They were supportive, but I suspect they expected I would marry and be supported financially. I had that underlying, if unstated expectation. Those were the days…

    1. When I was about 7 years old, my father saw a watercolor and crayon painting I had done.
      “You did this?” he questioned incredulously.
      “Yes!” I responded.
      “This is very good,” Dad stated and looked back down at the painting in his hands. I beamed with happiness.
      Dad looked at the painting for another few moments then looked at me.
      “I guess it is a good thing that you are a girl,” he said. “You can have a husband support you since you are an artist.”

      1. Ouch! So, Cindy, did you ever get involved in art making and when? Both of my parents passively encouraged my art making as a kid and really did not encourage or discourage my career choice of teaching art education. The family member who really had a significant role in my decision to pursue anything to do with art was my sister who was 17 years older than me and almost like a second mother. As I was working on a major in Tech Ed and minor in Art, she encouraged her husband to purchase several of my (so-so) watercolor landscape paintings for his business offices. One can’t get better encouragement that than. I wish she was alive today to see where her unassuming encouragement has taken my interest in making art.

        1. Richard, My parents were like yours, passive. Your sister sounds like her belief in your work was a great influence on you. She sounds like she was an awesome sister. I am sorry for your loss.
          I’m just stubborn. I painted murals in day care centers from 12 and up. Then went into hair and makeup for some years. Went to school to be a graphic designer. Finally, came back to painting (this time mixed media on canvas) and then returned to school to pursue clay work. My clay artwork is in a gallery in Seagrove, NC, aka “the pottery capital of the world”, and I’m getting ready to submit my clay work to a second gallery in the Blue Ridge mountains.
          I’ve been told my mixed paintings are too contemporary for most places around here, so I am still seeking a gallery for them.

  22. My father was a draftsman. He saw my impressionist artwork as scribbles and criticized the lack of realism. Mother was a seamstress, but artwork was just something she used to help my eyesight with no career intended or encouraged. Sisters liked the artwork and kept it. Two husbands thought it was a nice hobby and the third resented the time I spent on it, although he did brag to his family after he showed them his latest accomplishments. Children carried on the tradition, but not all as career choices. My youngest, now 21, has an Associates in Fine Arts, encourages my endeavors and we’ll be opening our own shop together to go with my framing shop. We both understand sales are important, but the overwhelming understanding is that we are creating our artwork to please ourselves and invite the world in to love or leave.

  23. My dreams in high school were to be an artist AND a writer. When it came time for college, my mother urged me to choose a major that would give me a way to make a good living some day. So, I compromised and chose to major in English Literature. Looking back I can understand my mother’s reasoning. After all, she had been a divorcee raising two small daughters (my sisters) during the Depression. And she was right. At the age of 23, my first husband died, and my English Lit degree helped get me a job.

    But the really sad part of the story was that my high school was next to the Architecture and Design building on the University of Michigan campus where my mother worked. After school I would sometimes wander through the halls of the A &D building and be totally bewildered by all the abstract and strange art hanging on the walls. I was convinced I had no artistic talent and didn’t fit in and never took a single art course while at UofM. It’s one of the biggest regrets of my life.

    It wasn’t until 19 years later that I took a summer continuing ed drawing class at the local two year college, was really good in it and enrolled for a degree that next Fall – in commercial art. That was before computers. We did everything by hand. My art training was better there than some of my friends’ who got fine art degrees. And my husband was very supportive of me achieving my dream.

  24. My story is going to be rather depressing compared to most of you out there.
    My parents flew in a rage when at 15 I mentioned art school. They told me they wouldn’t allow me to become a bum, a burden on society. They never accepted any choice from me, not even literature. I ended up in business college, hating it, drawing my teachers portraits instead of listening to them, then passing them around for the class to have a good laugh. I ended up working as a travel agent until enough was enough, and I took myself to another country where I obtained 2 degrees in Literature, + taught. Still it wasn’t my longing. After an illness that made it impossible for me to continue working, I thought now that I have all this time why not do what I’ve always wanted to, and started taking drawing lessons. Still people were very negative. They’d say ”Drawing lessons ? what for ? you mean painting lessons ? but drawing, that’s so boring”. I’m glad I stuck to it and ignored the mockery and ridicule. Today I’m getting there, 3 exhibitions this year and my work is improving to the point that the negative folks are now looking at it in surprise, saying ”is that yours ? Waow!” I don’t care what my family thinks, I had 2 uncles who were painters but my family so disapproved of them for being, well, not like everyone else.
    Throughout this journey I’ve always been flabergasted at how much negativity, hate and jealousy surrounds the arts. How dare you make a living at what is supposed to be for fun, for amusing oneself ?

  25. Luckily for me both my parents and later my wife have been supportive of my art career. Still, though I have done artwork since early childhood, I found it necessary to also develop and work at various jobs throughout my working life. I have had exhibitions and continued to create art with an early show in 1965, later shows spread throughout the years and had a 30-yr retrospective in 1994, but even with all that support, it was not until 1982 that I could turn my full time attention to my art career. I did own a gallery for 11 years. Even then I was periodically otherwise employed. Now in my 70’s I am at last doing art, really full time. Although I enjoyed my other “occupations”, it was always the art to which I needed to obsessively return. –and that was with supportive family, mostly all along the way.

  26. When I started college I suggested that I might study art and my mother (who I know meant well) said, No! Artists starve! So I studied French…which I’ve never used. I started with a drawing class when I was 50 and can on;y imagine how much more I could do if I had good training in the basics when I was young. Now I’m retired and really enjoying making art.

  27. I had wonderful caring parents, but my Mother’s attitude was that art was something you did on a Sunday as a hobby after working a “real” job. I started selling paintings at 15 years old, but to her it was more of a novelty.
    I decided to pursue it anyway, in one way or another for most of my life. It was not really my decision whether I would create art or not…. I had no choice. Art chose me. And I’m glad it did!

  28. Since I am retired there have been few comments on making a living from my art. Many of my family liked my realistic art and expressed negative comments on my abstract art but most of my friends appreciate my abstract art. I have to paint what is in my soul and abstract best expresses that.

  29. Like some others here I was encouraged to create art, but more encouraged to get a “real job”. I think I interpreted this as mixed messages. But I grew up just before the “information age”. Information on all the ways an artist could make a living just was not readily available to me.

  30. My family had no connection nor interest in art. But I was an artist from childhood and my mother knew it in her heart, even if she didn’t understand it. She wanted me to be like my older sister: get a degree in something and a teaching certificate so I’d have “something to fall back on. You can’t make a living as an artist.” Unfortunately that little nugget of confidence sucking negativity went straight into my unconscious at age 12 where it wreaked its havoc for decades.
    I did as she asked right up to the point where I had to do student teaching. I threw up my hands and said, “Absolutely NOT.” I didn’t use my education for a number of years, painting part time while holding down a ‘real’ job. Finally I made the leap in the mid 1985s to making art full time. It has not been easy, nor have I been particularly successful. I have no doubt that I’ve sabotaged myself much of the time with that awful tape running in my head. Still, I’ve done what I was put here to do and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  31. I have an awesome Mom that has always encouraged me. My husband is totally amazing and supportive. My graphic art teacher in college was the one that said I would never be an artist. LOL. Here I am😍 living the dream.

  32. It’s so nice to see I’m not the only one with family and friends who don’t really appreciate what I have been doing for almost fifty years. I do have a FEW that are (were) very supportive and for them I will be forever grateful. They keep me going during the times that are hard and discouraging. That’s when the nay-sayers and practical sorts come out in droves, it seems!! “Why don’t you get a part time JOB?” Like what I do is selfish, self-indulgent, fun and games, not all that important to the REAL world, you could be making so much more MONEY, etc. Sigh. The ones who stand with me and accept that being an artist IS MY JOB, whether I get rich or not, are the very special ones in my life!! I can’t say enough about how they have kept me motivated to keep at it during hard/slow times! The nay-sayers are usually people who don’t have the desire or stamina to stay with something difficult for very long. I have observed that they are usually VERY practical about everything in life. They either stay with a job because it’s good pay and “safe” or they jump from one job to the next to the next, because they don’t have the desire to make it work. Too many people want instant success and money, but don’t want to put in the time to get there? I often wonder if some people criticize because they are a bit jealous of my determination to do what I’m going to do! ((:

    1. I got a degree in art education and never had much time to pursue my own art during my 36 year career except for occasional painting classes. Once I retired, I took more classes and began to paint in all media. Am now showing my work, selling here and there. My late dad painted in watercolors, totally untrained but very talented. He didn’t paint once I was born despite encouragement from my sister and I and all the supplies we bought him. In spite of his personal journey, he was always encouraging in what I did, my mom also. How I wish that my dad could have shared his skills with me and could critique what I do now.

  33. I was encouraged to be artistic but only as a hobby. It was assumed that I would choose something that would provide a solid income so that I could be independent. So they were very supportive of my becoming a nurse. On the other hand they are very proud of my paintings and several, including my mother have purchased paintings. Several friends have also purchased paintings and two have commissioned paintings.
    After a 49 year nursing career I am able to devote more time to my real passion.

  34. As a child some were supportive. You know, like “I want to be a fireman, a soldier, teacher ….”
    Into my teens I was the convenient novelty when a project needed art talent but I wasn’t considered a serious contender for art as a deliberate career choice. No one in our small rural school had such aspirations. Having so many other interests I laid art aside for years. See, that’s the lovely problem with art … you can’t lay it down. 🙂
    After time-sapping responsibilities were fulfilled … children, service, business, basic income, etc., now I am able to do that which I was meant to do – art. No regrets whatsoever. It’s sweeter now.
    Discouraging a person against a life desire is soul crushing, whether art or any other ambition. No one has that right. Not parents, a spouse, nor siblings. It’s your life.

    1. While I’ve been inspired and moved by everyone’s sharing here, your story is the one that I most identify with. From the childhood, to the teens and then adulthood.
      On the one hand, I almost feel some guilt about having always known what I was meant to do, when so many others can’t ever seem to figure it out but are quick to discourage. On the other hand, I know (as does everyone contributing here), that pursuing art as a career is anything but easy, and only those doing it know that.
      There’s really no way to get through to others how much the work is part of who we are. And I’ve decided neither is there a way to get through to them, just how much “work” it really is.

  35. If I hadn’t been exposed and encouraged by a close local artist I wouldn’t have had the 28 year career that I have had so far. Most were indifferent or showed no interest. The rare comment was but can you make a living from that? The funny thing is in my later years many people actually have an envious look in their eyes when I tell them what I do. The response usually is” it must be so good to something you love”. I usually am taken by surprise because that lack of interest at the beginning has set a certain expectation of disinterest. So when people are interested its a pleasant surprise. Of course I ploughed on despite that disinterest at the start. Self belief goes a long way but some support by those around you helps enormously.

  36. My parents supported me sacrificially. Mom was trained as a singer and pianist. I will just say- she graduated from high school in 1931. Her career was as a bookkeeper in insurance as well as small business. But she sang in church occasionally and when I came along- she made sure I had all the advantages of lessons. Dad supported us both (my sister and I) in that he made sure we had experiences from which we could demonstrate what we wanted to do. Ironically, there was little to no visual art experience and I drew as incessantly as I practiced the piano and then the organ. This is the sacrificial part. They purchased a church model organ for our home which was a rural small farm. It was with the organ that I began improvising and making things up, so composition was a part of the mix.
    I went one year to music school. Mom was not convinced it was the right choice, so when I transferred to art school, she told me that I would need to work or find the means to cover that last year of school. So I did. Dad understood my music but not my visual art. Mom tolerated my visual art.
    My wife is my best critic in the best of ways possible.

  37. In my youth my mother never discouraged me but she was unable to provide financial assistance; I had no other family who could help and nothing to put up as collateral. I supported myself with a full time job, not particularly art related. At 60 years old now I’ll be retiring soon. Hope to have time to pursue artwork.

  38. From forth grade in school till now, my family has always been supportive and encouraged me to persue an artistic career. I was fortunate with that.
    I think that if that support had not been there, I would have anyway.

  39. I believe there might be a 5th option, indifference. Although both my parents were highly accomplished, well trained artists, art was never considered or discussed as a career. Nothing was ever discussed as a career. They just let life evolve. Even though I had an inborn passion for anything art from as far back as I can remember, and we all had great fun creating everything imaginable together, it was just a hobby for all of us. My thoughts of becoming a professional artist dropped on me like a giant explosion when I was introduced to oils in my early 30’s. Within 45 minutes I was totally in love, entered my first show 6 months later and was in a gallery in San Francisco within a year. My dear, sweet, directionless parents mustered up quite a bit of enthusiasm after I discovered art could be a career.

  40. I was always “making” things, from my earliest years. For two years, during my teens, I designed and painted large Christmas murals on our family room windows in poster paints. They looked like stained glass at night and our house won the neighborhood contest – which was a mention in the newspaper. My mother was proud of me but no one took this seriously, certainly not I. Today I design accessories , wearable art, costumes. Sometimes I sell things, even had a shop for 20 years, but crave newness and challenges so I often drop a project & go on to another. Constantly creating, learning – it’s been a constant in my life. And yes, I paint & draw, but textiles are my true medium.

  41. My aunt was a starving artist, and although I was enthusiastic, it was never mentioned as a career. No one believe you could make a living from art. I am still trying to cross that barrier now . And i’ve realised that because I was a girl I was never expected to earn a living, that has mede it all very difficult. My career treating injuries and trauma recovery was admired, but art was seen as a hobby. I’d like to let all that programming go, so I can allow inspiration to flow through me onto the paper!

  42. I was encouraged as a child to do art because my mom took art lessons. Her instructor gave me Walter T Foster drawing books, which I enjoyed. I took art in high school, but I was not allowed to go on to an art school, but was instead told I must go to university. At first I took education courses, but then switched to Fine Art. There were no classes about the business side of things. I did build a portfolio, photographed my work, etc. The idea that I would make money from my work was ridiculed by many relatives. My friends liked my work and bought it. Even my mother ‘s instructor told me that since I was a woman, I would abandon art once I was married and had children. It was hard to keep having self confidence and plug away.

  43. I’m glad my family and friends weren’t really supportive at first. It forced me to learn how to market my art to people who didn’t just buy it because they knew me.

  44. I had a strange family…. both my parent’s fathers were artists and the messages I got, and was verbally told, were: “Your good at art.” and ” Never let anyone in this family become an artist.” My Mom’s father said the last quote. I went all the way through college graduating with a 4.0 as an art major and after that my dad wanted to get me a job at the power company he worked at. As what I don’t know. And, to top all this off…. I grew up in small towns (1960s to 70s) and my male friends concidered my interest in art as unmanly. So, I would say I was definelty working against the grain. I couldn’t even call myself an artist until I was in my 60’s. I worked as an illustrator earlier and I wasn’t proud of that, because of the background story. Well, the change has come and I now fully embrace what I do and call myself an artist with no apology.

    1. Scott ~
      I can definitely relate to your story. If my comments concerning my own are accepted by the moderator, you will see that my story is similar to yours.
      I call myself an Artist ~ and I always capitalize it! ~ even tho’ my parents were never convinced that I could “make it” by drawing pictures.
      I wish I had not listened to them. ….

  45. As a kid, my parents and teachers recognized my creative abilities but did not encourage or discourage me. Estranged from my family as a teenager, I left home and had to support myself, obtaining a BFA and working as a fill-time graphic artist for 36 years, plus freelance, so at least I was working in my field. About 20 years ago I married and even though I was still working, there was finally time to paint, and most importantly, tremendous encouragement from my husband who is a nationally acclaimed artist. With early retirement, I now have time to pursue my art career and my family and friends are highly supportive.

  46. I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, but to my parents, this was still no way to make my way in the world.
    When I was about 17 years old, I entered the famous “Draw Me” contest, sponsored by the Art school founded (in part) by Norman Rockwell, who served on the board. When my results came in, I was visited by one of the judging professors for the state of Michigan (I don’t recall his name ~ this was 50 years ago) he tried his best to convince me to sign up; he said he had been with the school for over 20 years and assured me that I had the second-highest score he had ever seen! I was very happy, of course, and I very much wanted to sign up.
    However, in a private conversation with my parents ~ in the next room ~ they were very much against it. They told me that I should stick to their plan for a 4 year college, major in Art if I so chose, become a teacher. My mother’s family had many teachers and I think she saw this as a more dependable way to support myself. My father was always a bit more supportive of my Art but he, too, told me the same thing…get a teaching degree! It’s too hard and unpredictable to make any money drawing pictures!!
    So, much to my regret (even to this day) I went along with their wishes. I had to return to the living room and tell this man who had gone out of his way for me, to support my Art aspirations, to persuade me that my talent was worth pursuing, that I had resigned myself to a life as a teacher. Needless to say, he left very disappointed, but not without reassuring me that I could always change my mind.
    Four years later, armed with a BS degree in Fine Arts and Education, I subbed for a year ~ hated it ~ drew for pleasure and sold a few pieces on my own.
    Now I am a widow, mother of eight grown children, grandmother of eight more (so far LOL) and STILL drawing for my own pleasure…still selling a piece here and there “on the side.”
    My late husband was a great supporter of my Art, bless his heart, and my children are as well.
    But there is that nagging feeling deep within me that STILL keeps me from doing more to make it a full-time career, even though I have the talent. I have never gotten up the confidence to do it “out there.” And I’m not sure that I ever will.

    1. That first hurdle to get your art out there is the hardest! Until an art teacher told me my work was good enough to put “out there” I never even considered it. A few months later I entered a piece into a juried show. A soon as I hit the sent button on the computer I thought “Oh my gosh what have I done. They’ll never accept this.” I got accepted, and from that I got enough courage to enter more. When I sold my first piece a year later I was just shocked. Really? You’re willing to spent money on my art? That was another confidence booster for me. This was just a few years ago, and it took me another two years to muster up enough courage to get my own show in a library. What I mean to say, don’t wait for confidence to come to you. We’re our own worst enemy. That little voice in the back of our head that keeps telling us what we can’t do. In meeting other artists I was actually surprised at the level of insecurity some have about their art. “Fake it till you make it.” What’s the worst that can happen? I hope you get your art out there! It does not belong in a drawer.

  47. My family was supportive of my decision to become an artist at age 50. I’m not sure they would have taken it so well earlier in my life. They never discouraged me, but there was always an unspoken attitude that while art may be fine for others, it’s not what people like us do. I do think that my mother wouldn’t have approved, but she passed away a decade earlier, so I’ll never know. My daughter, who is a graphic designer, doesn’t acknowledge my work at all — she sees me as an imposter because she has an art degree and I don’t — but my sons are supportive. My husband, on the other hand, has always encouraged me to achieve whatever I wanted; he’s the number one champion, motivator, and promoter of my career as an artist.

  48. No support. Little or no interest in my work.
    Some extended family will not even look at a photo I try to hand them or look at any of my books I try to show them.
    When I kick off, all my photos will end up in the nearest dumpster if they get their hands on them. That is why I try to place as much of my work as I can with museums and special collection libraries.
    Scape Martinez gives the rundown on how a successful artist must work…
    “Never give up! Don’t listen to the haters. Don’t try to be an artist unless you can work and live in isolation, without any thanks….bleak, but needed until you get to the much lauded place.”

    1. Oh…one other thing.
      99.8% of the artists will never get to the ‘much lauded place’ that Scape talks about. You will have to determine if art is in your genes or not.
      In a 1979 interview entitled Inside New York’s Art World, artist Louise Nevelson said: “I think that when someone is willing to live and die for something…that means it is in the genes.” That pretty much sums it up…many an artist is willing to live and die for their art.
      Here is a post detailing how I work in NYC. I delves into this ‘genes’ question looking into what is the driving force that fuels the bohemian artist.

  49. My family and friends were very supportive of me becoming a professional artist. They even encouraged me. Rather it was me who decided to take a different career path. At the time, social work was my passion. Then public administration and working in the community became a passion. Then, I was blessed to own my own training company. Now that I’m in my 50s , I feel as if I’ve come full circle and I’m ready to dedicate my life to the arts. Opening a gallery and supporting emerging and established artist is my passion. I understand that if you follow your passion you will find your treasure.

  50. My mom, my brother, my mentor, my husband, my daughter all have supported me. My husband doesn’t want me to stop creating or worry about sales. I am female. My dad and mom thought I should marry a rich man. I married for love. Some years have been very good. Others not. If I had been a single mom, I would have always had to have a day job too. Being a mom has been the most important and happiest thing to me. And I love my creative life too! My father discouraged anything except money and perfection. Very critical. Very hard. So mixed bag here. Art is a difficult life. These days I encourage art AND a practical career that a person really likes too. If it comes down to being so broke that you cannot afford to have a family, love, health, joy, then art carries a big price. If I were in school, again, I would pursue two careers that I enjoyed.

  51. Wow, at the age of 60, I am reading all of these responses and realizing how much we all have in common. I am saddened and encouraged. My parents strongly discouraged me from pursuing a career in art. “Take typing, at least you will be able to make a decent living.”
    Weeelll, I have had a soul crushing decent job since my kids were 2 and 4. I am SO done with that. I am going to submit my resignation. I am ready to begin my REAL life now. Part of that will be encouraging artists to pursue their passion!!!
    Thank you for all of your comments, and a huge THANK YOU to Jason, who puts practical advise out there for us all 🙂

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