I’m amazed with how many wonderful, innovative, extraordinary talented artists there are around me, and yet, none of them have been discovered by the greater art world. In fact, there’s maybe one percent of one percent of the artists graduating art schools that ever make it to the big time. I’ve spent most of my life aspiring to become an artist, yet the dream was not just to make art but to be appreciated with a self-supporting career.
I’m often asked by parents of young art students, “Can you make a living as an artist?” Well-meaning parents push their children away from an art career with good reason. It’s a hard, often unreliable way to live. When the work doesn’t go well, it has a way of influencing everything around me. I’m tense, easily frustrated, walk around as if in a daze, don’t want to communicate with friends, and more times than not, come down with a nasty cold. In the end the work becomes everything. I often stay up late into the night working on a painting that isn’t going well, only to work over what I did in the morning. I learned never to destroy work before going to bed. And still, I continue to create art with a willing and grateful heart, knowing there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. The truth is when a painting or collage passes my expectations, there’s nothing like it. The high I get is worth all the low points I’ve suffered through.
So my answer to all those young students who want to know if you can make a good living at art, if you have to ask, you should find another means to support yourself. The call to art is something that can’t be explained, but when you have it nothing can sway you from doing it. I supported myself by teaching art. I waitressed and cashiered to keep myself in paint. My point is if your child can be talked out of pursuing an art career, then chances are they were meant to appreciate art as a Sunday painter.