Pursuing art when you already have a career.

  • SVS OG

    I've pretty much only ever wanted to be an artist since I was a kid. But, life is life and things happened where that really wasn't ever an option for me. Like no money for art school, lack of talent, and no scholarships. I went to community college, worked a full time job as a plumber to support my family, and got my degree in Business Management and Accounting. (Two things way, way, far away of what I ever wanted to do.) Fast forward now I own the business I started at and looks like it's pretty much where I'm going to be forever now.

    But, I still only want to be an artist...it's a bit strange to me because I am very successful but at something I never wanted to be in the first place. And I still have that urge to create art. It's hard to shut that door after I've put so much time, money, and effort into it and hard to accept that it will only ever be a hobby for me. I don't know if there's much of a question here. Just where I'm at right now.

  • I'm sorry you feel that way. I looked at some of your art, and I think its looks incredible. I'm a high school student, so I shouldn't assume that I know what exactly you should do. I do know that so far you art is great! I think if you keep going you'll be able to create a impressive portfolio. I know that personally SVS has definitely improved my skill and process ten times already, and have received art book deals for my digital art. SVS is great because for people like you who haven't gone to art school can still get advice from professionals in the field. In one of Will Terry's videos on YouTube, he said that you just have to keep going and keep pushing towards that dream. probably not exactly what he said, but if your passionate and great at your craft, you can make it in art. again I'm just in high school, but I know I love to create art and I'm focused on always improving. I wish you good luck!

  • @evilrobot Can you pursue it as a part time career--that is, can you work on your own stories at your own pace, focussing on your strengths, rather than going all in to try to become a free-lance illustrator? I'm getting serious about art kind of late myself, and though I don't have a successful business to handle, I do have four kids I try to homeschool and a household I am trying to run in a responsible, frugal way (lots of healthy cooking etc.) I am still probably able to squeeze out art time more easily than you, but I do identify with the struggle. I wish you all the best.

  • @anthemsweet I saw I put "try to homeschool"--change that "I homeschool." 🙂

  • @evilrobot my father was one of the best golfers when he was a teen. He won everything, and was geared up to turn pro at eighteen years old, but then he was selected for the Vietnam draft and in order for his then girlfriend (my mom) to travel to Germany where he would be stationed with him, they had to be married. So they got married, pregnant and by the time he returned to the states he had a family. They went on to have two more kids, and I am the youngest. So long story short, they had me, and I am going to be a really great artist....jk. Anywho, for the next fifteen or so years, he did what he felt was expected of him, he worked and cared for his family, but just like many, he thought about the past, and never felt fulfilled. Well, one day he got fired from his job, and on the way home our only car caught on fire, and from what tells me, he stood looking at the car on fire and verbally said he gives up, and he woke up the next day with no car and no job, and had his friend pick him up and he went and hit golf balls. The golf course owner recognized him from his High school days, and started drooling over him being there, and offered him a job as an instructor. He actually turned it down, and somehow my mom found out and convinced him to at least try it. Thirty years later he has turned into one of the premier golf teachers in the world. Tiger Woods was even someone who pursued him prior to turning pro, and he now has had about 35-40 of the top golfers under his instruction. His life turned out better than he imagined, and it is all because our car caught on fire.

    So go and burn the business down, baby! (Not really 😉

  • Also, your work is really good. I can see it being a viable thing for you. Have you gone to any of the SCBWI conferences and made contacts? If not, I will be at the summer conference in LA if you need someone to cheer you on.

  • SVS OG

    @evilrobot It's hard, no doubt about it...so hard to know what are the 'best' choices to make in life, with no magic mirror to show what the alternatives would have been. The first thing that comes to mind after reading your post, was a point made by Will Terry in one of his videos (I forget which, if I find it I'll post it here)...he was telling the story of his career, and how he used to make a very good living doing editorial work for magazines, and so were lots of his friends. At the time it seemed like it would last forever, but the market changed, and lots of his friends ended up having to stop their artist career and go do something else to make a living. Will's point was, did those friends of his stop being artists, just because they had to go get another job? No, of course they are still artists and they will be artists their whole life.

    I know what you mean though..if your day job is not what you want it to be, it's frustrating. I trained in a non-art area and it's taken me a long time to edge my way where I want to be..because back when I was 17 and had to make those choices, I thought I should be 'sensible' and didn't take art. Once you've gone a long way down a different path, you have family, a mortgage maybe..it feels harder to take risks compared to earlier in your life.

    But even now I can say I make a living from art, and have been for the last 8 years...it's not easy, and it's not guaranteed to last a lifetime. For various reasons the craft market I specialise in has been really difficult...there are trends and changes, people can decide to buy different products that we don't manufacture. It is entirely possible that one day I will have to change tack (one reason I'm trying so hard to upskill my art so I can more easily get work in other areas) Will I stop being an artist if it is not my living any more? No way...even if one day it is just me, my art and my followers on social media..I am still an artist. And I would argue that it is still the same for you....even if it is (for now) just you, your art, and your followers....you are still an artist. You can upskill your art and grow the people who love your work...they may follow you for years, a lifetime even. And things can happen these days in unusual ways, you never know what interesting/fulfilling/paid projects might follow on from your personal work. With perseverance, anything can happen.

    At the start of my push to 'make a living out of art' I did care about the living part..partly because I wanted to be able to focus on it all day rather than do another job...so I definitely get that frustration....though these days with kids taking up half my daytimes anyway, the idea of being able to just draw what I want in the evenings, without having to appeal to a particular market to make a living, is quite appealing too!

    I'm not sure what my advice actually is here, just some thoughts 🙂 I hope you do get where you want to be, and find a way to feel fulfilled.

  • SVS OG

    @evilrobot I don't know William...i see your art as professional level and very unique somehow - it is equal to or greater than most of the art in the books i have bought for my kids - i feel like there is no reason you cannot be a professional artist who's work we will get to enjoy - your work just has to get in front of the right person - " It's hard to shut that door after I've put so much time, money, and effort into it "... this is troubling to me - we need to find this door you are talking about and take it off it's hinges my friend! I just checked out your Twitter feed... it is full of great stuff!!(maybe put that work on your website too?) Looks pro to me ....why does it have to be a a hobby?

  • @evilrobot Those who don’t succeed at their goals are the ones who stop dreaming. I understand how you feel more than you may think. I’ll be 70 years old this year and all my life, I wanted to be a successful illustrator. I mowed yards as a kid so I could buy the next Mad Magazine when it hit the stands. I loved Jack Davis and everything about his illustrations – I studied the ink and watercolor brush strokes. He was an amazing and fast artist. I couldn’t make living with illustration work, so I spent most all my life in film and video. I didn’t make much of living at that either, but I still had a dream that one day, yes one day, someone would pay me for my illustrations. That day is coming my friend, and SVS is helping me get there. Don’t give up on your dreams. I’ll let you know when I sell my first children’s book if you’ll do the same.

  • Pro SVS OG

    Your post makes me think a lot....Did I want to be an artist since I was a kid? No, I certainly cannot say that. I loved art, I loved drawing, but I most certainly did not have the idea that this is all I wanted to be in life. I wanted to be many many things, and I had no clue about any of them. I think analyzing your life in hindsight is a very bad habit. Life happens and every day you make choices and those choices are based on what you know and think at that particular time - you cannot look back after years and judge them, no more than you can judge somebody else's choices.
    The question you are asking is not whether you are an artist (you definitely are) but whether you want to support your life out of art and whether that is feasible. That is the question I ask myself too....but I am not even sure supporting my life out of art alone is really all that fun to start with. When I was young, the idea of turning something I enjoyed doing (drawing) into something I had to do (a job) was horrifying to me - that is one of the reason I chose to do something else. Now, after 15 years in a totally different career, I am coming back to art and wondering whether I can and I want to turn that into a full-time job - but that is only because my 25-year-older self now has a totally different perception of the difference between job and fun - and that has nothing to do with earning money out of it.
    No answers here either, but thanks for bringing this up and making me think about my own goals...

  • SVS OG

    Thank you very much for the words of encouragement and wisdom...(wisdom...makes it sound like I'm talking to a bunch of wizards..lol) It's been very helpful. Lots to think about.

  • Hi there,

    I'm a high school art teacher AND artist. It takes a lot of creative time management, but for 20 years I wanted to pursue children's book illustration. I've been working on fine art for a good chunk of that time, but also raised a family. My children are now 22 and 18 so a "little" bit of time is opening up to increase my studio time.

    But here's what I can offer you:

    1. You ARE an artist.

    2. If you are passionate about having your art move from "hobby" to "professional artist", you will make it happen. Look where you are at this point in your life. No one handed it to you. You worked for it. If you want to be a professional artist, you will make it happen.

    3. Work on your "exit plan"...you decide the number of years (mine was at 5 as of last Fall). Begin crafting your life based upon what you want that "exit year" to look like. You have to work backwards. So in 5 years I will be teaching high school art on a part-time basis and I will be in my studio on a full-time basis. I will continue working on portraits in my fine art part of my studio. I will be continuing to write/illustrate my Christian based children's books. Now I fill in the spaces in between then and now. I attended SCBWI NY this past February and I intend to go again next year. Networking and studying the market is very important. One of my main goals was to land a children's book contract by the end of 2017.

    Well, HELLO SUNSHINE! On Friday, I was offered a 3-book deal through a Christian book publisher. This is my first "official" children's book contract (I have been published in fine art book compilations and technique books along with educational books.)

    So it's baby steps. But your definition of what a "professional artist" means to you may be different to me. But take those baby steps because 5 years from now is still going to arrive. However, what you do during those 5 years will determine what it looks like.

    So it is only March and I have nailed a major goal.

    Keep us posted!


  • Lots of great encouragement on this thread!

  • SVS Team SVS OG

    I know where you are coming from... While in college I was going for animation, in one of my classes I overheard the instructor talking to another about how the internet is getting bigger and that there would be a huge market for web designers. After talking with my girl friend now wife, I decided to change course to follow the path to money and be able to support a soon to be family. Fast forward 16 years later, I am married with four kids, work full time as a web designer/free lance as a web designer. I still get to create art in one way and when i get free time it is spent drawing and creating side projects. But for me, its all about my family. Once they are happy, I am happy.

  • SVS OG

    Like Christine said, you ARE an artist! I wanted to pursue art as a career when i was younger as well, but at that point in time, my options were fine art or commercial art, neither of which i could see sustaining me in the manner to which i wanted to become accustomed. An opportunity appeared and i got a job working for the government. Flash forward almost 25 years, and i finally realized i can do both. The secure job allows me to take classes and buy materials, and supports me and my family. The only difference i see is that commissions would take a bit longer to fulfill due to full time work, but if it is lucrative enough, i can take time off of work or just be sure to schedule extra time. In the immortal words of Alan Rickman, "Never give up, never surrender"

  • SVS OG

    @evilrobot I found the Will Terry video that I was talking about earlier....a good excuse to listen to it again, just finished and found it very inspiring the second time round too:


    It's very philosophical, talking about how you shouldn't be defined as an artist by what people are willing to pay you, but instead he asks you to decide what do you really want to do/what would make you happy? ...he thinks having a balance between personal projects and client work is helpful...and you should dare to dream big...he talks about how personal projects can be successful in their own right...that if you're making lots of money from art, but you hate the art you're asked to do, it sucks...but on the other hand another artist might be totally fulfilled by (for example) being employed full-time at a studio. He gives various examples of journeys by different artists, and what defines 'a career step up' or fulfilment will be different for each artist. Definitely recommend this one (for anyone!)

    Also, there is this one, though only listen to it if you fancy taking @Eric-Castleman's advice to burn the business down 😉 ... it's very much 'life is short, you never know what might happen, take your opportunities' sort of thing. But it also talks about money vs happiness, and how life won't turn out the way you expect.


Log in to reply