Nov 11, 2007

Encourage or Discourage Young Artists?

In every issue of Wildlife Art magazine there is an article about a successful or up-and-coming wildlife artist which talks about how they got where they are today. Sadly, nearly every one of them I read about seems to have been discouraged from pursuing art at some point in their lives. No matter how talented and enthusiastic the young artist was there was always someone, often an art teacher, counselor, or parent, who strongly discouraged any notion the child may have had about being an artist when s/he grew up. Why is this?

I myself, despite having a father who was very artistic, was strongly discouraged by both parents from even thinking about becoming an artist. It was so thoroughly knocked from my brain as a child that after years of struggling in college to decide on a major I never even considered art an option. Now I look back and so often wonder why.

I just don't understand why every non-artist (and many artists) are so quick to tell you that doing art for a living is "impossible" and a sure path to homelessness and despair.

Yes, I understand it is often a difficult road, but there are many paths in life that are difficult. Being a doctor, for example, is actually quite difficult. Medical school is extremely difficult, takes many, many years, costs a fortune, and leaves the graduate stressed and in an enormous amount of debt. Then, of course, s/he has to survive internship, also quite difficult. But do parents discourage their child from dreaming of being a doctor? No! What "good" parent wouldn't prefer their child pursue a career as a doctor instead of an artist? Very few, I'd imagine.

Why? I'm not sure. But I'd imagine it's because they believe all doctors are rich, and all artists are poor. Yeah, maybe, on average there are more doctors earning good salaries than artists. But I have known doctors who struggle financially, and there are many artists who are doing quite well.

But it's more than about money. For some reason in this country having your child grow up to be a doctor is something to brag about. Having your child grow up to be an artist is something to be ashamed of and deny.

I finally graduated from college with a degree in Business Administration. Six months after graduation I decided there was no way this was the life for me. I quit my job and started painting full time. One day my father asked me what he was supposed to tell people I do for a living now. I told him to tell them I'm an artist. He visibly cringed and replied that he couldn't possibly do that. He'd have to make up something up because it would be too embarrassing to tell people his daughter was an artist.

But it wasn't just my father. My mother also discouraged me, not because she was embarrassed by the idea of having a daughter as an artist but because she really believed, for some reason, that no one buys art. How could I possibly make a living when no one would ever buy one of my paintings?

And, of course, there were art teachers. It seems every art teacher in school believed that all artists were either starving or teaching, so unless I wanted to teach, I shouldn't bother to pursue art.

Yet, every issue of Wildlife Art magazine has stories of artists who have managed to "make it" to some degree in the art world. And this is just wildlife art. I'm sure there are many more landscape, still life, and portrait artists, among others, who are doing OK for themselves in the art world. So every time I read the story of some artist who made it despite discouragements I have to wonder how different things would have been had they listened. And then I wonder how many more artists there are out there who actually did listen to the discouragements and are now working in some dead-end job they hate, the world deprived of their works, they deprived of their dreams.

So if you are a teacher, counselor, parent, or just a concerned friend, and you know someone with dreams of becoming an artist, please do not discourage them. Let them try and find out for themselves one way or another. You may think you are saving them from disappointment but you may actually be destroying a dream that could have come true and now, because of you, never will.


Tiger said...

Its really nice to see people following what they love.. :-).. If you love the work you do.. Then you will surely be successful..

Best of luck..
May God Bless You..


BoydGreeneArt said...

Best article I've ever read on the subject. I felt it myself but now know that I'd of made more money if I had of turned to art earlier.

I love your boldness and passion. It shows in your wonderful works.

Anthony T. said...

I must agree with bodygreenart your work is amazing. But I must ask myself one thing, If your parents encouraged you would you have done as well as you did? It is good to encourage people to follow their dreams but there are some people who must prove they can overcome the negativity and disbelief. Could the negativity and disbelief have helped you? Also how do you know you remembered what you forgot? If you forgot it, how do you know that you remember all of it? And if time travel is possible that must mean that life is predefined.

Rahul Parekh said...

Its very nice to read a positive thoughts to encourage young artist, instead suppress the new talents.

Many times I thought why only talents related to art forsed to end? Monetary crisis is a big reason as well as to become a successful artist is like a wicked way passes through deep into the jungle, and majority people do not opt this kind of way to get success or even do not like to support the lone explorer like artist.

Your work is wonderful and i think you love to show different expression, moods & feelings of every animals and birds in your paintings.

With best wishes & lots of success.

rahul parekh

Lisa B. said...

Thanks for posting this. Trying to please my parents instead of myself only led to a less than successful life.

Daniel Sroka said...

I never had this problem from my parents. When decided to go to the alternative college with no grades, they were jealous. When I started working as a graphic designer, they were psyched. Then, when I quit my regular job to focus on art full time, they asked "what took you so long?". I'll have to go and thank them again for all their support.

Tania said...

Crista: this was a great post! When I think back to my own early years, I can't say I was exactly discouraged from becoming an artist, but the message was clear, "You'll need a real job you can fall back on." Your post also got me to thinking about other discouraging experiences for wildlife artists in particular...

JB said...

Great post Crista. I came across your blog and work searching for photo reference for my own wildlife sketches. I really enjoy your art and mission.

The conflict described in this post is oh too common. In this day and age, pursuing traditional art as a career is too often considered impossible... (why else would the term "starving artist" have come to fruition?) and possibly why I ventured into "design" instead of being an "artist" or even an illustrator by trade. Either way I still practice and keep my traditional chops up to par and encourage anyone with similar interests to do so, no matter what their age or experience level.

Great work, I will continue to check up on your pieces,


Eric Wilson said...

Add me to your list of Artists who were discouraged. I spent 11 years as a police Officer because my father insisted I get a "Proper job"

Art won out in the end, and looking back, his discouragement gave me a lot of determination to prove him wrong.

Steve said...

I was fortunate.
My parents thought it would be a crime to waste talent, but I was strongly encouraged to do well at school, 'just in case'.

Aman L. Anderson said...

An article I will never forget. Thank you for this. Although im a graphic designer, artist have such close relations with many options to travel in. Thank you again, and I enjoy your paintings very much!

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