Working artists



  • Hi everyone. I hope you all are having a great day, I just was wondering if there is anyone here who has studied something except art and now is a working artists?
    Or is even doing an other job and is persuing art as a hobby? This question is coming from someone who is currently very confused in her fluctuating decisions. 🙂


  • Pro

    @Eywin You should look into @smceccarelli ! She's a scientist turned professional children's books illustrator. She doesn't come to the forum very often anymore since she has so much work she needs to focus on - just goes to show that starting out in another field isn't an obstacle for success in the arts 🙂 http://www.smceccarelli.com


  • SVS OG

    I have a non-art related full time job and have no art background or training except books, and now SVS. I have pursued art as a hobby off and on throughout my adult life and now that my kids are grown, I'm doing it much more seriously (though still as an amateur.) My goal is to learn how to create professional quality illustrations without ever becoming a professional since I love making art without deadlines or clients. I'm not sure why if I intend to always remain an amateur, I worry about the quality of my work except that's kind of the way I am with everything -- if I'm going to do it, I like to do it right.

    Most of the people on the forum are working toward careers in illustration and many come out of some sort of art background, but not everyone. It's just a great place to share in the learning process whatever your profession or goals.



  • I studied something adjacent to art--interactive design--and have used my day job of graphic design as a way to pay the bills and support my love for illustration in my off hours. I think I only ever took one formal art class in school and otherwise just independently worked really hard to further myself and grow my skills. I can't say that I've never wished I'd taken more classes, if only for the environment specifically geared toward improvement and guidance from a mentor, but the amount of resources available online (most notably here!!!) has gone a long way to fill that gap for me.

    I don't know if I'll ever make art my sole source of income, and honestly: that's totally okay for me. I think if I made that the day job I would get pretty burned out and it would no longer bring me the joy that it does now. That could change in the future, and it's absolutely natural to have conflicting feelings about what you'd like to do with yourself--I think the important thing is to know that nothing is forever, and it's totally valid to explore interests and options. :^)



  • I always wanted to be some sort of artist since I could pick up a pencil but this was never presented to me as an option. In my family, art was not considered a job. Jobs were not things you enjoyed, that's why you had to be paid to do them. "Who is going to pay you for colouring in?"

    I was persuaded by my teachers and parents to study physics at university - they said that didn't mean I had to be a physicist because it was a degree that could lead to various careers. They were right, it's quite versatile and looks good on most CVs but doesn't open many doors in the art world! 😄

    I've been working in building physics (energy efficiency) for the past decade while painting and drawing on the side. I've also done some studying of architectural design. I've had a couple of v. small local exhibitions of watercolours, had an odd commission here and there and have been semi-active with urbansketchers.

    I realised last year that I still want to "be an artist" and while for some that could mean a hobby, for me I think that means that making art needs to be my primary activity each day and so also a source of income. I completed a little online illustration course that taught the basics of various types of illustration (editorial, graphic design, comics, picture books, etc) so I could try them out. I decided I was most drawn to picture book illustration and so I've ended up here. I started to work part time so I can focus on making art in more than just snatches of time at weekends and I'm at a stage of generally polishing skills, starting to create a focussed portfolio and finding out about the picture book world.

    I'm confident if I just keep working on my skills and portfolio then I will get to a level that could get me work.

    The part I find most difficult is not knowing anyone in or anything about the illustration world. I worry I'll not know the right terminology or I'll ask a publisher a stupid question. I'm not sure what disastrous thing could happen if someone found out I'm only a scientist disguised as an illustrator but my brain insists it's probably really bad 😆

    The SVS podcasts and especially hearing stories of all the trial and error and mistakes from Lee, Jake & Will's early careers have helped a lot with that and persuaded me I might as well try.

    I just realised this has turned into a bit of a wall of text - thank you to anyone that has read this far!



  • Hi @Eywin, definitely having a great Friday; hopefully get off work early today!

    I feel like you asked this question directly to me, especially since I often feel the impostor-syndrome.

    To explain, my career that keeps me very busy full-time is writing Contracts for the engineering and construction industry. I guess you can say I'm one of the few people that actually reads the entire contract, including terms in software licenses (hahaha).

    Hopefully my skills in Contracts will transfer nicely to negotiating the best deals for Children's Books one day!

    When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time drawing in my free time. I was the kid that preferred to draw rather than enjoy recess with the rest of my elementary class. By the time I was 8, the Simpsons were in full swing and heavily influenced my childish style of drawing. That, and of course Ninja Turtles, Voltron, Thunder Cats and Heman. I copied relentlessly trying to match the real artists. I would pour of encyclopedia books and redraw interesting images and photos.

    When authors and illustrators are interviewed, a question often comes up. What was your favorite book growing up? The responses yielded many wonderful books and descriptions of bed-time rituals involving thrilling page turns.

    Me, on the hand; nothing. I don't recall owning a single children's book.

    You see, as the years went by, my parents discouraged me from art because I was too distracted by it. My dad is old school Iron Worker and basically told me to grow up and learn a trade (like welding). The truth is, I didn't want to do anything but create art, and the consequences were poor grades that barely allowed me to progress to each grade. Mind you - I never failed, but I never did homework either...

    Fast forward to my senior year in high school and I discovered board drafting. That's right, actually drawing on a green drafting table and moving a huge T-Square ruler around for perfect lines. We even had an electric eraser that destroyed the paper if pressed too firmly! This was my first and favorite art class. With much dedication to making the most beautiful homes, my teacher Mr. Price said, "Work it Money!", which gave me the jolt of inspiration to pursue the engineering industry.

    Fast forward after college, I was actually being paid very handsomely to draw using AutoCAD and Mechanical Desktop in the engineering and construction industry. I had the opportunity to sit in an office in the air conditioning, and do structural detailing, which then went to the field to construct. I remember telling my dad, "Look dad, I get paid to draw things in the office with air-conditioning!" He was relieved that I chose a noteworthy career and said, "That's good son."

    Fast forward to today, I don't draw professionally anymore, but rather draft & negotiate contracts for big construction projects. I am 40, have a wife and 9-year old daughter, and picked up where I left off from 3rd grade. I don't know if I'll ever be good enough, but at least I can try. That's why I'm here.

    My dream is to make beautiful art that makes a difference in people's lives by way of children's books. I am happy to be a part of this community and hope to get 1% better each day.

    Thanks for reading and apologies for lengthy response...



  • Hi Eywin!

    I studied speech language pathology and have started my illustration business in 2012, alongside my other work. In September 2016 I started working an illustrator fulltime without other work on the side :). I now work towards my goal of becoming a kidlit artist for publishers.

    Good luck with your decisions!



  • @Jeremy-Ross yes! Your experience is very like my childhood, our parents sound like they had similar hopes for us 🙂

    I also don't remember having any picture books, but I loved reading so there must have been something!


  • Pro

    Some of the responses here are really highlight the strong, unfounded belief that persists always, that there's no work in art. This is simply not true, and so many of us are discouraged and pulled away from our passion because of it. It's well-meaning, but incredibly ignorant. I too almost followed that path. In my family, art was just not a thing you could do for a career, During my childhood and teens I was drawing at every spare moment and often during class as well, yet if you asked me what I wanted to do, I had no clue because art was just not a real option in my mind. It seemed as silly and impossible as a unicorn. I was fortunate enough, at 17, to meet an artist at my school's job fair, which was incredibly lucky because as I understand it, they're not invited to these events a lot. He told me about how he did illustration for advertising. I went back home that day and spent the whole night researching on the internet. Advertising, editorial, animation, games, packaging, publishing, stationary, crafts... There was so much you could do in art, it was like a whole new world opened to me and I never looked back. My parents were really concerned at first, but I always spoke about a game plan: where I wanted to work, what were the salary expectations, what I needed to study and do to get there. After a few years, they didn't seem to be quite as worried for me anymore or at least stopped showing it. I was really lucky! When you think about it, this whole thing is crazy. Not every child shows an affinity for their future career so evidently from such a young age, yet even I almost missed my calling entirely because of this persistent belief that society and our families force on us about art, a belief that's not rooted in any truth...



  • Keep doing art - whether you make it your full-time job or a hobby. The important thing is to show up and do it often enough if every day is not possible.
    Transiting from one career to another is certainly achievable, it could take a long long time, but it is doable. Keeping art as a side project is also a good solution depending on your situation and personality. A lot of beautiful picturebooks are made by artists who are doing books as passion project, rather than a full-time job 🙂



  • Check out the thee point podcast here if you haven't already. There are some great ones about what it's like to work as an illustrator on the daily and I thought this one might interest you particularly...

    https://www.svslearn.com/3pointperspectiveblog/2019/8/21/transitioning-to-an-art-career



  • Hi, you have over 2000 followers on instagram! Thats something 🙂 I have 200, finance education and 12 years experience in finance. Nevertheless I've managed to change my career towards illustration and I can proudly say thet i have 2 years experience as an illustrator now:-)



  • @NessIllustration thank you so much my friend for your help. I have read her story on her webpage and it is too inspiring for me. Cause she is exactly the person who I was looking for. I am a Physicists, but despite my love to art, I get no time to really learn or practice. Mostly I come home so exhausted and the time passes by. I am considering to quit my job and sit for a while and just persue art but this decision is very scary. I have enough money saved, but people say that I am going to destroy my resume with a year of not working and there will be no way back to science. Despite there is no garanthee for artist job as well. That is why I am so scared. I might ask her 🙂 Thank you so much 💙



  • @demotlj Hi demotlj, thanks a lot for your story. I've checked your works on instagram and they don't look amateur to me :). I wish you good luck with further improvement. Yes, I love this community. And also the courses. I've also always liked art but due to my busy work have never been able to really spend time to learn it and that is why I have stayed amateur till now. Currently am deciding to end this phase but spending more time on art. That is why I am in the confused phase of my life 😃 . I am so glad that I got to know so many inspiring people like you here.



  • @thousandwrecks thanks a lot for your encouragement and your story. Your works are so good💙 . I also thought that I want to continue my science job and persue art as a hobby, but since 2 years I have decided this, I get more and longer stuck at work and come exhausted to home. The fire of art and no time for it has been frustrated me. So, I guess I will take your advice: "nothing is permanent.".



  • @neschof thanks a lot neschof for your detailed story. Oh my God. You are also a Physicist? Me too. I've loved art since childhood, while my best friend entered artschool, my family also have not been conviced that art is a profession. My friend was not good in math, while I was so good in it and I honestly loved Physics. Physics was my own choice and I kept studying and working in it so passionately, till the passion is destroyed when I was doing my PhD. I have considered quitting, but didn't want to be a quitter. So, I destroyed myself to finish it and it made me hate Physics. I am still working, but considered to also make a part-time job. But everyone are looking for a full-timer. I guess right now I am exhausted enough to give it a break. I have no problem with it and have saved enough money for a few months to go. The only problem is that I am scared to ruin my CV as a Physicist by a few months of no work, as well as, I am not sure if I will one day reach to a level to get job as an artist to get paid well. Because yeah, there is a long way to improve. So, I guess I should search more for a part-time job. But my main concentraion is to learn as much as I can in the next few months and make a good art portfolio. I have to worriness with art:
    1- Not being able to do it for living
    2- I am a very extrovert and I have to always work alone at home 😃



  • It's great!!Thank you



  • @Jeremy-Ross Hi Jeremy, thank you so much for your detailed story. Don't appologize for lenghty explanation, because your story is one of the most encouraging one to me. I have written my story in the reply to @neschof so I don't repeat myself here. I wish you can also achieve your goal and make a positive influence with your coming book. I am so happy getting to know people like you here. Let's get everyday 1% better together 😃



  • @nadyart Hi Nadyart. Thanks a lot for your reply. I am so happy for you. I write you in private.



  • @neschof and @Jeremy-Ross me too :smiling_face_with_open_mouth_cold_sweat:


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