Were You Born to Be an Artist?

Dear Artists,

First of all, thank you for the great questions you submitted over the past couple of days. They were very helpful as I put the finishing touches on my all-new live online workshop “Insider Secrets to a Successful Art Career” which airs Saturday, September 6, 2014 from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. PDT.

In a few days, you will receive information on how you can join the class and get these important questions answered. I will be sharing the secrets that have given my husband John Horejs and I the career and life of our dreams.

Because of the hundreds of great questions I received from everyone, I want to give you a brief preview of what you will learn in the workshop.

Five secrets to artistic success

The class will focus on five crucial areas you must “get right,” in order to have a successful career as a fine artist, and a happy, fulfilling life. 

We will talk about your personal vision for your career, as well as the three phases of an art career and how to avoid frustration by doing the activities that are appropriate and crucial for each stage. You’ll learn how to set your artistic GPS and build a great foundation as you move toward your dreams. 

The second section of the workshop will focus on your artwork itself and how to refine and make it more professional and exciting. The principle of  “the little things are the big things” will be introduced as it relates to actually creating your art. I’ll share time management ideas that have worked for John, talk about the amount of production that is necessary to make it as a professional artist, and discuss the concepts of “100 works of art” and “10,000 hours” and how it relates to your development.

If you intend to turn your art into a part-time or full-time business, that will involve learning how to effectively market and sell your artwork. 

In the marketing section, I will introduce a simple secret strategy we stumbled on that we have light-heartedly dubbed “Miracle Marketing.” You will learn a whole new mindset about sharing your art, that will plant seeds for greater success than you ever believed possible. It will also take the pressure off you and your psyche when you get into selling situations. We’ll talk about how to apply this strategy to every avenue of marketing, and give lots of examples of how it has worked in John’s career. I’ll also share stories of top artists at Xanadu and how they have applied the principles of “Miracle Marketing” in their own art businesses with amazing results.

The most critical activity to your art business (or any business, for that matter) is selling. 
Nothing happens until something sells. 

The workshop will cover phase-appropriate strategies and venues for selling your art. We’ll discuss how to price your art, and how to discover your Optimum Selling Strategy, depending on the art career phase in which you are currently working.

The final section of the class will talk about setting up business systems to put the left-brain activities (that most artists dread) onto “auto-pilot” as much as possible. We’ll talk about inventory control, website building, bookkeeping, cash-flow management, and effective customer service. We’ll also discuss social media strategies in conjunction with “Miracle Marketing” that can be done in about 15 minutes a day, or in a couple of brief periods per week. 

Whew! That’s a lot of great information to pack into two hours. 🙂

You were born to be an artist

To give you a taste of the coming workshop, let’s talk about a couple of email questions I received over the weekend that I think are so important and relevant to every artist:

“How did you and John handle the emotional ups and downs? Ups when sales were made; downs when sales were meager? When times were tough, how did John continue to work consistently when money wasn’t flowing in? Most of the artists I know, and I can include myself, feel elated when they have a sale – conversely, when sales are absent, they doubt the quality or desirability of their work, leading to depression at times. It can be an emotional roller coaster. Something I’d like to learn to stay off.” 

Wow. Has this been an issue for any of you the way it has been for John and me from time to time?”

Another question that tugged at my heart strings seems to be somewhat related:

“What to do when no one in your family or friends is supportive of your art career?  (In some cases, family members or other close associates can passively aggressively, or just aggressively, try to sabotage your art career by complaining that you are selfish, egotistical or not practical.)  Examples of artists who overcame this situation would be helpful.    
Also, how to manage your reactions when someone is openly critical or dismissive of your work.”

In 1972 when John bought his first set of oil paints and brushes and took lessons from Aunt Barbara, he was working full time in the parts department at Sears. He loved the people there, but he hated the soul-sucking job. 

From the minute John started painting, it was as if a light went on inside of him. Somehow, he knew that painting was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He felt a deep desire to bring beauty and peace to the world through canvas and oil paint.

In the workshop,  I’ll share stories of what we went through financially and personally in order to reach that goal to be a full-time artist. It was not an easy path. There were struggles emotionally, physically and spiritually. When you hear those accounts, I hope that you will think, “Man. If they can do it, I  can certainly do it!”    
John still struggles from time to time with feelings of inadequacy and discouragement with the inevitable ups and downs of an artist’s life. He struggles when he feels like his work isn’t good enough and that maybe he’ll never sell another painting again. It’s always rough when someone seems to “reject” his work.

I will tell you what I told John (and remind him of whenever he is down).

As an artist, you have been given your gift from a Higher Power. Some people call this Power: God, Heavenly Father, the Source, the Universe, the Creator, Intuition, etc. It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that you were born with this gift–this talent–this desire. 

If you think back over your life to this point, you have probably experienced a number of interesting occurrences that will confirm what I have just told you about your divine gift.

  • You have had the desire to create artwork for as long as you can remember.
  • As a child, you received praise for your artwork. You always knew your art was very special.
  • You find yourself thinking about creating artwork almost constantly, and feel frustrated if you don’t get to work on projects.
  • Many times when you are creating, you are in your own world. You get totally caught up in the experience and often feel that outside forces are guiding your hands. You have experienced what has been described as “The Flow.” Athletes call the phenomenon “peak performance.”
  • Sometimes you find it difficult to share your work with others for fear that they will criticize the work. If someone does criticize, it feels like a personal attack against YOU, because your artwork is in reality PART of you.
  • Sometimes it takes a few days to recover your energy after a particularly exhilarating and challenging art project is completed.
  • Everything around you gives you ideas for your art.
  • You see colors and shapes that other people don’t even notice.
  • It’s a mystery to you why others don’t consider themselves artistic–it is such a natural part of your life that you can’t imagine that others don’t experience it.

I’m sure you can think of other examples that confirm that you were born to be an artist.

Others (particularly family members or close friends) may have discouraged you from pursuing art as your life’s work because “everybody knows that you can’t make a living as an artist.” It’s impractical! The “poor starving artist” image is very deeply ingrained in the general psyche. 

In spite of others (or maybe even yourself) discouraging you, the real you knows that you have something important to express through your art. Somewhere, deep down inside, you know you are going to be the exception.

The most important thing I want you to learn is that you were not given your gift to fail. It will probably not be an easy path, but the same Power that gave you the gift in the first place is there to help you share it with others.

There are people in this world who will look at your art, and it will communicate something silently to their souls. They will know when they look at your work that it was created just for them.

This is about how to develop your gift and create to the best of your ability. Then, after your art is created, how to find the person who will fall in love with the piece, acquire it, and feel something special–a deep joy–every time they look at it. 

When things aren’t going the way you think they should

We’ve come to realize that when things don’t seem to be going well,  most of our suffering happens because of the stories that we are making up in our head. It’s our interpretation of events. It’s the “A.N.T.’s” (Automatic Negative Thoughts) that are running wild in our mind.

The first step in getting a handle on those thoughts before they spiral into depression, is to recognize the conversation that’s going on inside and “Stop It!” 

So much of the time, outside circumstances are completely out of our control. But what we think about them is a choice we make.  

Once we recognize those thoughts, we can replace them. Often that change happens through prayer or a quick meditation. We can step back out of the drama, and get a divine perspective on what’s going on around us. 

Counting blessings and recalling all the past successes helps. Listening to inspiring talks or music can get our minds going in the right direction. Or doing something kind for someone else. Or even just smiling–in the mirror at ourselves or to random people we meet.

Affirmations are also a quick way to change our minds from negative to positive. John uses the mantra “Health, wealth, success, happiness” over and over until he starts to feel better. He also hikes for 30-40 minutes most mornings. Getting outside in nature, getting fresh air and exercise, and pumping up those endorphins always seems to help. 

Another thought that resonates with us both is: “In an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own due time, for the highest good of all I am now creating wonderful art that finds homes with amazing people.”

My personal favorite affirmation is: “We do not depend upon persons or conditions for our prosperity. We bless persons and conditions as channels of our prosperity, but God is the source of our supply. God provides his own amazing channels of supply to us now.”

When we realize that our gifts come from a higher Source, we tend not to take everything so personally. We become a tool in His hands to make the world a better place, and he’s right there beside us to help if we let Him.

Now, I would love to hear from you

When and how did you first realize that you were born to be an artist? What were some of the experiences in your life that let you know that you had a special creative gift? How do you overcome the ups and downs of an artist’s life, and continue onward? 

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

About the Author: Elaine Horejs

Elaine has been business manager and head cheerleader for her husband, John Horejs, since he began painting in 1973. In 2008, she came on board as gallery director at Xanadu Gallery in the heart of the Old Town Scottsdale Arts District. Through the years she has encouraged her husband in his art career, and has also coached other artists to maximize their art businesses. Hundreds of artists have attended Elaine’s workshop “Insider Secrets of a Successful Art Career.” Her new book by the same title is due to be released in the fall of 2014.


  1. Dear Elaine,

    I am so excited to hear about your book! You and John have been an inspiration to me ever since I met you 30 years ago. I am busy with my new husband running our health food store in Kamiah,Idaho. My youngest daughter, Katherine, is in high school and everyone else has moved out. Now , I finally have some time to devote to my art. Thank you, thank you, for living such a great example.


    1. In 1965 I came to California to go to college and play baseball.
      I was tested at Woodbury College (downtown LA) business and art school and was told that I should take art classes.
      I refused to follow that road and took business classes and over time landed a job as a business manager at a major car dealership. I was happy making a fair salary when leaving work one night was shot in the head and left for dead in a parking lot.
      I did survive and given a chance at rehabilitation from the state of California the only problem was what would I be able to do to create the type of money I was making?
      I was allowed to go to a local jr college for constructive classes. The rehab department suggested repair computers.
      I considered this but while at the college saw artwork displayed outside a classroom that caught my eye.
      I talked with the teacher and she said I could not start at this level but needed proper classes that would lead up to this work.
      The next semester I took an Acconting class, a fix the computer class, and a beginning Art class.
      To make this story shorter in the year 2000 I graduated from the jr college with honors in Art.
      Following that, I graduating from Cal State University, Long Beach being the first Digital Fine Artist.
      I’ve had a lot of teachers, counselers, friends and a loving mom rooting me all the way. I think that drove me to do well during the training time and seeing my prints hang in doc offices, state rehab offices, college offices and hallways was also inspiring.
      I belong to the Huntington Beach Art League and won Best of Show three times over the past twelve years.
      I am going to be 68 this September and very happy to have been put back on a road through life with fellow artists
      which I refused to follow the first time around.

      1. Mark: I enjoyed reading your Email. I felt very moved by your persistence in moving forward with your life in a powerful way choosing art after your misfortunate encounter . I recently moved to Southern California. I retired and finally have an opportunity to spend time on art that I was denied.
        I cheer you on . My dog Goliath cheers you on. I took him to Huntington Dog Beach and he loved it.

  2. When I would rather draw than play with toys.
    Encouraging to hear from someone that you can raise a family and start an art career. I am just starting a family and my art career and galleries have been very against it. They feel I can’t produce, but I paint more often than some full time artists I know.

  3. I am glad that you wrote this section about being born as an artist. A lot of people argue that there is no such thing – that you can be taught to be an artist and/or artists are the same as everyone else. I don’t believe that. I do believe you can be taught pretty much everything about art and I am positive that you can be very passionate about what you are doing, but I do believe there are some people that were born artists. This doesn’t mean they are better than others, or more special. It just means that they have that different something – an ingredient given to them from the universe – or wherever/whoever/whatever that gives them a unique outlook on the world. And there is no doubt in my mind that I have met these sort of people. They are absolutely different from other artists I know.

    I’m sure every artist that is serious likes to think themselves an artist of this kind, or that they are driven into the same depths as, say a true Outsider Artist, or just one of those people that you know – a true eccentric like no one else you have ever known – like you stated – from the time they are born, they see the world differently, colors, shapes, people, nature, music, sound, everything. It’s something to be created upon. Everything is an inspiration. And it is non-stop for them.

    So thank you for stating this. It makes me feel justice for my good friends that are one of a kind creative souls.

    1. I agree! God is definitely the source of my talent and it’s something that can’t be taught. I too know some who say you can be taught to be an artist. I believe that with modern abstract art. It has been proven many times that any one can scribble on a canvas and “fool” experts. But it takes talent to create real art, realism, whether it’s drawing, painting or sculpture. I teach workshops for everyone from non artist retirees who are bored, to art teachers. I see it in the students. You can teach techniques and materials but you can’t teach talent. I think most people agree with that too.

      1. I think you are saying just the opposite of what I am saying. You can teach realism. Sure, some people are born with being able to do it, but that can be taught. Creativity, ideas, originality – that can’t be taught. That’s what I think real art is. Not realism.

        It has also been “proven” that experts have been “fooled” by realism – being so blown away by draftsmanship that they forget to judge any of it by its creativity. Perhaps modern, abstract art is not your cup of tea, but believe it or not it takes more than splattering paint on a canvas or scribbling, etc. I appreciate both realism and abstract and love when they meet in the middle.

        By the way, in my post above, I was not speaking about myself at all whatsoever, I was speaking about the true outsider artist that is compelled to create art – not necessarily “skilled” to create realism. Unfortunately, they usually are also afflicted with a kind of mental illness that pushes their obsession to a level that can be unhealthy about producing the art. Some of these artists were Adolf Wölfli, Henry Darger, Carlo Zinelli, etc.

        1. I still wonder when someone speaks of artist. Do they mean a painter of oil, acrylic and other medium or are they referring to creativity inside his/her body/soul. Perhaps an artist possibly be someone who is steps out of the norm unawares into areas where he/she is in a world of excitement that created by him/her internally without preconception of outside influences and demands.


  4. I am genetically programmed to be an Artist from both sides of my family. As for dealing with the ups and downs and getting no support from my family to be an Artist — God has equipped me with Super Powers like Hyper Focus ADD and ODD which keeps me going stronger than ever and occupied creating art or studying art history for most of my waking hours. I have kept my personal life very simple for this reason. All my creative energy goes to one place — my paintings. I make a list of solid ambitious goals each year and I work on those relentlessly each day till I achieve them all. Then I move on to a bit more challenging and ambitious list for the next year so on and so forth.

    In my artistic world, imagination is King. So I exploit it, avail it and abuse it — whatever it takes to get the job done. One thing leads to an other and before I know it I have a cohesive body of work that gets me noticed left and right. Once that happens, those negative people in your life either quit demoralizing you (how can they if art magazines and newspapers have your name in it) , acknowledge that Elephant in the Room and join your celebration or they walk out of your life (never to be seen or heard of again – until you become complacent, stop working hard and fail). Either way it is a win win situation.

    It is amazing how much an artist can accomplish if they have a will and an earnest desire to succeed. The key is to ‘build (a magnificent body of work) and they will come’. If there is nothing to show – there will be nothing there to entice, allure, seduce, captivate and enchant the starving art lovers lout there who are willing to pay a fair price for a work of art they love and want which helps improve the quality of their life. It is my ultimate goal to entertain those who seek the type of art that I create and create it well.

  5. I have been an artist/photographer for over 35 years and have exhibited nationally and internationally. Recently I moved to FL and am hearing there is not market for photography here since “everyone” IS a photographer. No photography gallery on the west coast and while I am marketing my work on the internet, I am wondering how to sell down here. There is a big art fair circuit but as an older photographer, I am not interested in booth set ups, etc. Any ideas and is this workshop for me? Cost?

  6. I didn’t start drawing until I was about 14… I thank my brother for helping me find my artistic talent, as we were very competitive. He drew, I was involved in drama… HE decided to get into Drama, so I decided to start drawing 🙂 We both found our calling. In my last year of high school, I received 4 scholarships for art and started at the Academy of Art SF when I was 16… This is how I learned/realized that I was born to be an artist.

    Everyone loves my work, Everyone thinks that I have a true gift… I produce daily and some years, I do well and other years I starve as projects take 2 years to get approved… this year I have sold nothing so far. These are examples of what makes me question my sanity. But then I have 3 commissions waiting for approvals that have been on the verge of closing for weeks… Why am I doing this?! Maybe my work isn’t good enough!? Then the paper calls for an interview about one of my recent pieces… Oh Good, Everyone loves my work again! OK, I can keep going for another week of waiting for approvals! 😉

  7. I ALWAYS knew I was an artist… I paint because I have to paint.
    There are so many times I finish a painting, stand back, look at it and say, “Did I really do this?” I paint what I am emotionally attracted to, refusing to be put into an artistic box of only painting one type of subject matter.
    I KNOW I’ve been given a gift, and in thanks, I give of my gift. My work means something, when someone looks at one of my pieces and starts to cry, my purpose is fulfilled.

  8. I read with interest your article about being born an artist and I almost entirely agree with all of the sentiments expressed except for a small issue that some people are more artistic than others. My experience of working for six years in a Kindergarten proved to me the absolute creative quality of each and every child, which in effect also equates to the adult in us all. Among other things It was my job to roll around the floor laughing ,redirect any problems which can arise and tie the painting smocks for all. It was also a pleasure to pronounce that a title that they can all acknowledge is the one of artist. Unfortunately along the way in our travels we are told in one way or another that we don’t make the grade. Children will accept this message very quickly to avoid further criticism. Being an artist is happily just a matter of getting through life without hearing any negative comments about that which can be of paramount importance to each and everyone of us.

  9. From a very young age, 3 or 4, I worked at art with a particular intensity… great grandmothers porch… crayons… paper… grinning ear to ear with joy… it was just in me all the way. But I recall a first grade experience. I was the only girl on a team assigned to create a miniature oil rig made of pop cycle sticks. I was the painter of the silver coat. When I finished I felt such satisfaction! I had made a real contribution, I knew it. The feeling was discernible and I was given a healthy dose of praise for the effort. That same year I made and sold (for five cents each) hand made valentines to the boys to give to the girls. Oh I loved that! That creative effort brought out an entrepreneurial side that always has been very motivating and very real to me.

    Later, when I was a junior in high school, I sat in my art class one day a powerful thought simply appeared. It was that I wanted to be an artist and an art teacher. From that moment on I never doubted. I had been doing creative, intensely art minded things since I was 3 but the full conceptual realization of an art career only matured, and appeared in that moment in high school. I pursued an art education, earned degrees, taught art in high school and am pursuing a full time painting career now.

  10. Even though I have been doing graphic design for three decades, any time someone says “you were born to do this” it feels like a huge trap, a life-sized mason jar I’ll never escape from. I have the aptitude and the talent, but … there’s this world going on out there, and I don’t want to be kept from it by a definition.

  11. I have been an artist all my life. I agree with the concept of being genetically predisposed. I have started this year focusing on my art full time and have felt the rollercoaster of the ups and downs of finding my voice. Fortunately the “ups” have been more dominent and I already have had some commissions. Art is my life and I know nothing else. My creativity is my strength and my cornerstone. Let the games begin!

  12. Hi Elaine,
    In 1963, the forth grade in school, I received first place in our school sponsored, coloring book contest, of which involved all forth and fifth grade students. Upon receiving that award, I’ve never looked back. To say a person is born with artistic talent, hits home with me. I’ve had an internal drive to create art or do art related things all my life. To me it seems as natural as the need to eat, to survive. In your comments about, interesting occurrences, and confirming that it is a devine gift, I agree, and I feel an emotional connection to all of them.
    Sure my art career has displayed it’s ups and downs, but I can honostly say, I’ve never felt like giving up. It’s like I don’t have a choice in the matter. Someone else is steering the car, and I’m going where they take me.
    All said, my art sales have bailed me out of many financial jams. One, $1260.00 jam, happened within the past month. Personal money obligations and unfortunate circumstances, got me behind in the studio rent. First time, since signing the lease four years ago. I was desperate, and had no outside sources to raise the money. Long story short, My art never fails me, and my driver always gets me where I need to go.. Life is calm again…and I will always be an artist!

  13. I’ve got painting imagery/composition on my mind all the time. I awake from dreaming them all nite, and day dream them all day. I have more imagery in my sketch books & floating around in my head then I would ever get to before I die, and they keep coming. If I have trouble falling asleep, I paint in my mind what I know to paint (I think “I’m such a pro at this I could paint it in my sleep”) conversely, while waiting for sleep I never think about imagery that would cause me a challenge.
    But currently I’m feeling pretty low. I worked very hard creating a large inventory (of various sizes) this last winter as I had 3 shows almost back to back spring thru early summer. I was in heaven having shows to work towards. None of the shows did well (2 sales) now most of the work is sitting in galleries where I’m just a gallery artist. I thought this was going to be a ‘break out’ year from me. This years imagery I thought was nicer, more refined then last years (which sold pretty well)…what’s going on? Nor did I raise my prices . Now I’m changing my imagery slightly since I’ve got about 20 paintings out there divided into 4 galleries that nobody wants!
    Right now I feel like ‘unfortunately I was born and artist’…but, there isn’t anything else I want to do, I just hate these confusing times.

    1. Kristy, what beautiful work you do. I noticed that, strangely, on your website, nowhere do you have your name, other than Studio Goggio on the home page. It’s not on the contact page, gallery, art images, even bio. If someone were to look up your name online, they might have a hard time finding you. I can only imagine the reason your compelling artwork doesn’t sell better is because you aren’t standing up behind it, claiming the space for yourself and your worth and your name. A photo of you would be wonderful, too! All the best–your work is a gift, indeed.

  14. Thank you for all the great information you give to the many artists out in the world, including myself. I have only been at my craft for three years, self-taught, and some days I feel discouraged about if I am a real artist. However, this does not stop me from creating. I am always changing my styles to fit my inner feelings and maturity. Every day I try to learn more by reading, looking at other artists, and going to museums for inspiration. Thank you again for sharing your wisdom! :):)

  15. Hi Elaine, At the age of 5, I was hooked on art due to a huge painting of a matador and charging bull on the wall of a beer joint. Then I saw a black lacquer jewelry box from Japan, the lines were elegant and so graceful. From that time on, my allowance went on paint by number sets and Walter Foster books. Painting and drawing were so easy, but I didn’t know how to sell anything, so I would throw it away, give away, or put it under the bed. All these years, I have been looking for how to sale. John’s book has given me the right direction. Your broadcast sounds great and it is marked on my calendar. So encouraging, thank you.

  16. I was always called “the artistic one” in my family. My 7th grade art teacher wrote a letter to the high school requesting I be allowed to take art as a freshman (which wasn’t allowed at the time). I got in. The real stamp of artist approval came with my first sales in high school from teachers and other parents. I was so surprised someone would be willing to pay money for what I had created.

    As for ups and downs, I’m struggling through a down right now. I am collaborating with friends about my favorite subject (horses) to keep me motivated. So far it’s keeping the brushes moving and spirits up. The money struggle is a specter I would love to whoosh away.

  17. I have always drawn or painted. It has always been a part of me. I pursued an art degree when my father wasn’t happy about it…” You’ll starve”. I taught art in schools, so that didn’t happen. I definitely feel a connection with God when I am deeply entrenched in my painting ( in the zone). My husband has been very supportive of my work and while raising children my art sometimes took a different direction.
    I am now back at the easel as much as possible, but frustrated with some galleries. My marketing component is something that may be weak. One gallery has been very supportive of my work and it is selling well there. I am pulling out of another one because they are not selling my work and am contemplating doing the same at another one.

  18. My family’s teaching was that art can not pay. Go Technical! So, I have a degree in Physics and almost a Masters in Industrial Engineering. I have been making a living from computer programming since before college graduation.
    However, I still have a wood sculpture I made at 13. I have sold through several galleries and I am working on a commission piece right now. I just set up a facebook fan page to keep the client aware of the progress.

    “Artist” is a mind set, a way of approaching problems, of how to know when something is right. Engineers have a very different mind set. Scientists have a different mind set from both of those. An artist will create no matter what the situation. An artist will work for beauty over technical correctness. An artist keeps on looking no matter how much we have seen before as there is always new beauty to be found. Thus, an artist will see things that others want to ignore.

    The practical side is coming back from seeing and asking how to put that beauty into a form that will greatly move others no matter if it never sells or into a form that will sell. An artist lives with the knowledge that some things we create will never sell.

  19. For me, the first comments from teachers started coming in third grade. I always knew my art work would get the best grades and wondered why others found it difficult. In my senior year I got the art award and decided to make art my career. Six kids, a life in the business world, and forty years later, I’m finally able to realize that dream!

    After many failed pieces over the first year painting, I’m now producing paintings that are selling. Over the last two years I have set up my web site along with the business end of things and take workshops regularly. John’s book “Starving to Successful” is becoming tattered! I feel that I’m “paying my dues” by setting up at local art fairs. I know that my art is improving all the time, but worry that I’ll get stuck in a rut and never go to the next level. My other fear is that I will get to the next level and not like the self inflicted pressure!

  20. My earliest memories include sitting on the floor of my family’s cabin high in the mountains of CO drawing. I was so excited about my creations that I would share them with the horses in the pasture after I completed each masterpiece. This was frowned upon since I was only three at the time,( a three year old in a pasture full of horses!) but I didn’t quit (woops, I was also a bit of a rebel at three I guess). The horses appreciated my art after all since they were generally my subjects. Horses and art are who I am. Always has been, always will be. Horses are my therapy, art is my passion! My inborn passion. Who decides at three to become an artist or anything else? An artist. It isn’t a process, it just is.

  21. My grandson is three years old. (I had not seen him since he turned two.) I bought him an art set that I carried around in my car for some time. I showed him how to add water to the brush and paint. Then, every time I took him to a park to play – where there’s lots of play equipment – he would just say “I want to paint”. He would actually paint for up to an hour before he would finally decide to go play on the playground. He gets very excited each time he puts a color on his paper – or cardboard – or whatever is in my car. He is now living with me part of the time at my house/art studio. He wants to paint when I do. Then he wants to lay down at my feet and watch me paint. I’ve just never seen anything like this before. (He’s still just three.) I think he may be “Born to be an Artist.”

  22. I first knew I would be an artist in Mrs. Brown’s fourth grade class. Impressed, or maybe frustrated, with my drawings in the margins of my papers and books, she recommended to my mother that I take art lessons.

    At the age of ten, I began private art lessons copying Currier & Ives prints. After school, I rode the school bus from my hometown of New Castle, Kentucky to the small farming community where Mrs. Charles Boyer taught both children and adults the fine points of oil painting.

    The Boyer’s large Victorian house fronted at the end of Main Street. Their cattle farm spread out behind in the pastoral blue grass. The studio, a large sunroom, looked out onto the green pastures. In the center was a huge country dinning table. We sat around it with our canvas boards flat upon it and a lazy Susan in the center stocked with communal art supplies. The atmosphere was like a Sunday dinner with the family. “Pass the yellow ochre, please.” “May I have some of that yummy beet red ?” Sitting elbow to elbow, we learned as much from each other as we did from Mrs. Boyer.

  23. From a very early age I have been a drawing enthusiast. My parents would give me paper and pencils during church services because it was the best way to keep me focused and serene. Usually the drawings were of typical children’s subject matter such as houses, trees and animals and I later began to seriously explore portraiture in a primitive fashion. I can also recall occasional attempts to draw complicated religious scenes. I wish I still had some of those! I did my first oil painting when I was five; I do still have that.
    Throughout my youth there were periods of art projects and periods when my focus was in entirely different directions. It was much later when I was in my late twenties while meditating in the mountains in Colorado I felt that I truly saw all the beautiful scenery around me in the way that an artist does and I began to contemplate how everything around me could be expressed as color and brush strokes. This was an epiphany; I realized for the first time that nothing is impossible.

  24. Thank you for your post. I would have to say I was born to be an artist, but although I have been selling my work since 1968 I still have a lot to learn. I’m always “drawing” things in my mind as we drive by: trees, buildings, people, whatever. In 1968 the owner of a little art supply store where I was buying my supplies wanted me to bring in some of my work so she could see it. So I did. She told me “Your work will sell.” That’s all it took. So 46 years later I’m still painting and selling. My nine children can tell you about all the shows they went to and helped me set up. Many hours of family time at these outdoor shows, as well as the rain, fun times and hard work. Gallery shows have been a great experience as well. Traveling to New York for 10 years for gallery shows has been wonderful. Over 300 shows, selling over 3100 pieces of art. A simple phrase that has kept me going through the ups and downs is this: “If you think you CAN do something or you think you CAN’T, you’re exactly right.” I learned early on that a painting that was rejected from one show might win an award in another show. I have had a huge advantage, though, my husband has always made a living for our large family, and we weren’t dependent solely on my art. I have really enjoyed all the comments!

  25. when I was in grade school I would draw on all my note book paper.my mom would be very upset with me.finally one day she said she refused to buy any more notebook paper.so I had to borrow from other class mates.when mom bought groceries I was always waiting for her.i wanted the paper bags the food came in.didn,t have plastic bags then.everything I see I draw a mental picture of it.and if possible I draw it on paper.yes,i think I was born to bo an artist.i thank god for my natural talent.

  26. Wow Elaine I loved reading this today. First it felt like you were telling my story about the light going on as I first began to paint, it’s truly hard to put into words my passion and drive for painting. I easily answered yes to each of your occurrences. I love this quote:

    There are people in this world who will look at your art, and it will communicate something silently to their souls. They will know when they look at your work that it was created just for them.

    I remember long ago when I took my first workshop with you and Jason, you mentioned that each painting was created for someone special, you don’t know who it is but when they see it they will know.

    I have held onto this and ever since and truly believe it. This helps in the highs and lows too. Lord knows I have been on the emotional roller coaster many times with highs from sales (like today) only to crash with negative feedback or lulls in sales. It’s ok though, I remind to myself “stop it” ,the right one has not seen it yet. God has a plan for my work and I trust in His guidance and timing. This calms me quite a bit along with prayer and listening to faith music. (So does my husband, Lucy…you are doing it again!) That will work too! I am very thankful to have such a supportive husband of my art and my passion for it. I really look forward to your webinar. In may have to cut out early, will it be recorded for later access?

    I believe I will post this one now, love it.
    Another thought that resonates with us both is: “In an easy and relaxed manner, in a healthy and positive way, in its own due time, for the highest good of all I am now creating wonderful art that finds homes with amazing people.”

  27. I learned I was meant to be an artist when as a young boy in our apartment in Chicago my mother had be carry a big bag of trash down to the basement to throw into the large incinerator. When I opened the swinging doors, on top of the pile was a beautiful red and black leather bound book. I took it and inside were some of the most beautiful original pencil drawings just of various trees. They were incredibly skillfully rendered. I could not imagine why anyone would throw away such a fabulous treasure. From that day I spent many hours trying to duplicate those drawings- but it was so hard and slow going.
    My family and friends religiously did their best to dissuade me from being an artist. When I dropped business classes in college to take art classes my Father cut off my funds.
    The life of an artist is very difficult and forces you to do many jobs that are really onerous. Also there is tremendous pressure inside to try to relax your integrity and cave in and make junk just to bring in a few dollars. On every turn someone is trying to use you- cheat you- steal your work, and the conditions of art shows have grown so manipulative and the costs so high, it is far better to put your work outside to weather or just throw it away, than to go to “Art” shows.
    I am 71 years old and have been making Art for most of my life. Over the course of those years I rung up mountainous debt, lost my home and most everything I owned, and now live in pretty dire poverty. I don’t make any art anymore except sometimes a few Art pots when I can afford some gas to fire them. Now what I do each day is go out in the woods and cut down trees to process them in to firewood which I sell locally. I don’t make much and it is really extremely difficult hard work especially for as old as I am. But I love being out in the forest- watching the shadows flicker on the forest floor, and feeling the cooling breezes and the warm sun. Instead of drawing these things for others, now I just enjoy them for myself.
    If I was to offer someone some real advice it would be- do anything you can to make a living but do not try it as an artist. You will get whipped your whole life like a cur dog, and be spurned and disrespected by both friends and family and end up broke as a joke. People do not respect you if you are poor and consider you a total loser. Being an artist means getting taken advantage of in the ridiculously high gouging material prices, The crippling cost of travel, The ruthless greedy manipulative show people with fees as outrageously high as 900 dollars to go sit out in the street and bake in the sun. And lets not forget The cheating Gallery owners. You take all the risk, do all the work, pay all the costs of huge show fees and road expenses, go to a show and it gets rained out or worse is a terrible storm which damages all you have. while the show promoters go home with hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    If you must, make art for yourself, and find some profession that will reward you financially rather than punishing you with all the negativity. I have been there and it is no cake walk. I wish the culture in the USA was more vibrant and that artists were respected and revered, and that an art career was something to covet.
    But unfortunately this is not the case, and trying to be a real working artist, will just end in poverty, heartache, and sadness.

  28. I knew I was born to be an artist when it wouldn’t let go of me no matter how much time and how many obstacles were put in front of me. Like many, I loved to draw as a child and teen. I was also good at math and science (it is all creative problem solving after all!). Like many, when it came time to go to college I was told to go into a career that would “make a living.”
    I ended up doing many different things but the urge to create, draw, and paint, stayed with me and kept insisting I pay attention. I finally got old enough to realize that like is short and sweet, and that there are no guarantees even if one does everything “right”. I now am focusing on creating, drawing, and painting as my life’s work.
    I am looking forward to your book this fall!

  29. Creativity has been in my life from day one. My maternal grandmother was very creative and my father liked to draw cartoon characters. As a child, I was provided time and materials to create anything I wanted to. I still have my first watercolor and many of my early works and it is so interesting to see how I have progressed over the years. While my parents thought creating art was a good hobby, they did not see it as a career path and insisted that I go to college and become a doctor. I ran away instead, working various jobs and creating art. Eventually, I wanted to go to college for art but that voice inside my head still said I would starve as an artist. Fortunately for me I found a degree program that would allow me to be creative and became a graphic designer. In the early days it was fun because I did draw, hand letter, cut and paste the advertising materials. I always continued to draw and paint throughout my 40 year career, but my heart always wanted to do more than be a hobby artist. Over the past 10 years I have really put my heart into becoming a full-time artist and am having some success, winning awards, selling works and teaching others. I couldn’t imagine my life without art. And neither should anyone else. Looking forward to your book!

  30. Dear Elaine,
    I have been working toward a full time art career for 14 years and often wonder where I fit in. I started my journey later in life and don’t intend on giving up. I have found your articles so helpful and inspiring. All the articles I have read from you and Jason have made a positive impact on my artistic journey. Very excited about your new book. Thank you for all the support and guidance!

  31. Embracing your words Elaine.
    It was a blessing to read your understanding and keen awareness to the inner turmoil that goes with the beauty of an artist ‘s offset mind.
    I wonder if their is a male species available with your qualities.
    Anyway, I may need to pour a cup of tea and read your comforting words again.
    I knew I had the talent as a child, imagination and ideas blink like the Christmas tree lights all the time. Commercial Art in college was a fun game for me. The happenstance freelance projects just kept coming in the most unusual fashion.
    The day came to take my toddlers and give the divorce papers…what would I do to move on? Paint. Paint a church came first. I did a lot of praying with every stroke! but did not respect it as a gift until the response came from the sighs and marvel.
    I still don’t know how I do it… but I respect it.
    Overcoming the ups and downs ….. I paint it out. When I reach a point of numbness, a wonderful post come through to remind me, I am not alone.
    Thank you

  32. Wow, I love this article. It gives more testimony that successful artists don’t just magically pop out of the woodwork. People don’t often consider the miles that others have walked to get to where they are today. We have a tendency to think that if someone has become a success, then it happened overnight because we weren’t there for the journey. That’s what makes siblings and childhood friends so precious. They know the whole story.

    I’m still re-parenting myself to truly settle in with the title of “artist”. It’s starting to resonate in my bones. My true nature has always been that of an artist, however, my family didn’t understand how important creativity was to me. Their reality was that of the depression era. You labored for someone and art wasn’t important…the blue-collar grind was important. So, there was a long stretch where I was running away from my true self. I always dabbled in art in one form or another, not realizing it was art.

    Age and experience can change a person, waking them up to who they truly are. I feel silly, now, looking back on all of those years. I was wandering through a fog. I’m very lucky for a lot of reasons, one of them being that I know what I love and know what I want. The struggle lies in always striving but not yet arriving. I’m tired of that mode of operation, and I’m changing it. I still have to climb the mountain to success, but I’m further up the mountain with my eyes on the summit.

    How do I overcome the ups and downs and continue on? I think it’s like what everyone else in the world goes through…the answer is suffering. Being discontent with the way things currently are keeps a person striving for their vision of Shangri la. If I weren’t suffering and were perfectly content with the way things are, then I wouldn’t do a thing. I’d watch Jersey Shore every night and drink beer.

    I think of that quote by Wesley from ‘The Princess Bride’, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

  33. Since living the life of an artist is emotionally based, whenever one realizes they are one, the roller coaster is the way it is. Elaine, your reminder of where the gift comes from, and the two affirmations in the text above are life-giving and sanity building. The 12 Step Program has it’s One Day at a Time…perhaps there could be a book of One Day at a Time for Artists! A book of affirmations to read each day, to keep one’s focus on what is real and true and off the anxiety and doubt — for artists! Life Giving. <3

  34. “When did I realize when I was an artist?”

    This is a hard question for me. I never called myself one, or even cared to be called one. When people asked me what I do for work I’d say “I make octopus chandeliers” or “I do ink/watercolor scenes of places around Oregon and sell stationery”. I got tired fast of people telling me I was “very talented” or “a good artist” as they walked by me while I was working, and these days ignore them like I didn’t even hear it. I was always much more interested in selling and being happy that people spent their hard earned money on something I created, or using my talents to make thoughtful gifts for people I liked.

    Some of my experiences that I knew I had a creative gift?

    When people would say things like “you have so much life in your paintings” or “there’s always so much going on in your pictures”

    How do you overcome the ups and downs of an artist’s life, and continue onward?

    I always had a nest egg saved to last me a couple years even if I sat home and did nothing, which is impossible because of the type of person I am, and would affirm.

    “It’s the damnedest thing, the business just always somehow comes in”
    “the Good Lord says spend whatever money you need and don’t go crazy, and you’ll make it through fine”
    “keep your health and your circle of friends and stay ahead of the law”
    “this is not a measure of your worth as a person”

    These days it also helps when I observe my next door neighbor, who has way more problems than me, never having trouble finding work through his friends and paying the rent.

  35. So many memories come to mind in response to your question. I resonated with every point on your list.

    For me, I realized that this is my calling when people started to voluntarily pay for my art even when I was willing to give it to them. You can’t get much more of a “sign” than that!

  36. Hi Elaine, What a wonderful show I am sure you are going to have, I hate that I have to miss it. I am hoping to be able to watch it later.
    I was reading about customers being spoken to by your art. I did a show this past weekend and I saw that first hand. My art very much appealed to young men under 30. There were a couple that I could see that the art was speaking too them. But the problem with most is they couldn’t afford the work. I wanted to find a way for them to have the work but didn’t know how. How do u handle that when you can see in their eyes that they would love it forever.
    Thank you Annette Taunton

  37. What a wonderful post…I have never once wondered what I wanted to spend my life doing. This I took for granted for many years until friends around me would complain how they hated their jobs, yet there was nothing else that interested them. To have this passion and talent to create is a gift that I no longer take lightly. I spend almost every moment imagining what I’ll create next or how to improve the painting on the easel in front of me. I am in the early stages of my career, trying to find my market and create top notch work. I feel very lucky to have a supportive husband who works extremely hard so I can live my dream. I tried very hard to go the practical route, even got a degree in the healthcare field post BFA and felt as though my soul was being sucked dry. I can’t imagine doing anything else besides creating art. This is how I know I am born to be an artist

  38. Elaine, you are so sweet and caring. I felt like you were talking just to me. Every one of the attributes you listed WERE me. Thank you. 🙂

  39. What a wonderful topic, and how inspiring to read other artists’ stories. For so many of us, being an artist is a life-long quest and the organising priciple of our hearts and souls.

    I had several childhood experiences that convinced me by the time I was 9 that I was born to be an artist. I was influenced by the support of my parents, the fact that we lived near Manhattan and visited museums often, and because the father of one of my friends was a working artist, and I admired the way he lived very much.

    I was an OK artist as a child, but somehow I just knew that I would get a lot better as I got older. I remember coloring with a friend and her older sister, and I announced to the big sister that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I felt very confident about my coloring because I had picked the best, the most interesting and yet lifelike colors for the landscape behind the animals. The big sister looked at me and said, Yeah, well, you’re not keeping inside of the lines at all! I looked at the picture, and realised that she was right — I hadn’t been very neat at all, but I decided that I liked my messy colorful way better. I offer this story as proof that I was born to be an artist, and I knew it and was one from an early age.

    But it wasn’t until I was 14 that I realised that people would pay me for my art. My art teacher had our class do a scratchboard project, and she liked what I did so much that she asked me to create a scratchboard landscape from a photo she provided. She paid me $60 (and this was in 1968!). I couldn’t believe it. Someone actually paid me a lot of money to make art!

    So, like a moth to a flame, I became a graphic designer and illustrator and got paid to design and draw other people’s needs and desires, for many long years.

    And finally, 5 years ago, I decided to get serious about painting. These have been the best 5 years of my life, even though there have been family tragedies and life’s usual troubles. Because for the last 5 years I have worked full time as an artist, just as I was born to be. My wonderful husband supports me in this adventure: getting off of the money machine and moving into a world full of joy and “flow.” No matter what else happens, I have lived my own personal dream for 5 whole years. Yesterday, 2 of my plein air paintings were placed in a show in the Steamboat Art Museum, in Colorado. I had a one man show in June and July, then am part of a group show that runs for 3 months, as well as being accepted into this year’s Open Studios Tour for the city’s annual event.

    The Open Studios event will be this weekend. Last year I sold 5 paintings at the tour, but I’m not sure I can do it again. Only one of the 5 paintings was to a stranger, and I doubt I can sell 5 paintings to strangers this year. I will plan on saying a higher power prayer and see what happens!

  40. Mine has been a life long journey to becoming an artist. I always dreamt of it, but never had the confidence. I was full of fear and low self worth. Now (after many years of self healing) I have left my career as a Registered Nurse and Energy Healer, and am taking the leap to full time artist. My passion is Spiritual art. I channel healing energy from the divine into all of my work. Most times I have no idea where it is going or how it will end up. It is during the process of theses paintings in which I know that I was born to do this. This is my passion, my love, my bliss. This is who I AM. The divine love that comes through me energizes, excites, and calms me all at the same time. There is no feeling quite like this in the physical world in which we live. I connect with my spirit, my soul, the source energy that lies within me. Then I allow it to express itself…..always creating, forever unfolding.

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