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Old 06-01-2004, 05:26 PM   #1
Heidi Maiers Heidi Maiers is offline
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Those who try to discourage us




I was just reading David's introduction and noted the discouraging remarks from his high school counselor about pursuing his dream as an artist. I recall a similar conversation I once had with my high school counselor who seemed to think majoring in fine art was a big waste of time. I brushed off her advice (can't even recall what it was she suggested) and pursued a degree in Fine Arts anyway. Along the way, when the subject came up of "what was your major", the reply of Fine Arts seems always to be met with the attitude that you opted for an easy pass through college, and that your parents spent a fortune for you to get a worthless degree since it wouldn't land you a "real" job. The same response I would expect if I said I majored in Basketball. or some other major league sport where only a very small percentage actually makes a living at it.

On the other hand, it may have been legitimate skepticism as it has been my minor in computer science that has provided my major source of income for these past 20 years, not art. I think we are brainwashed at a young age to think of fine art as a hobby and not as something we can actually make a living doing and structured support is severely lacking. Even as a fine arts major, there were no classes offered on the business of art, how to market or sell art - unless of course you major in business or marketing.

I am curious how many of you have met with words of discouragement while pursuing your dream of becoming a working portrait artist?
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Old 06-02-2004, 07:53 AM   #2
Mary Sparrow Mary Sparrow is offline
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Heidi, the reason I am "self-taught", is because I was told no. I wanted to grow up and be a painter. I wanted to go to art school.
I was told that was ridiculous. So I thought that maybe if I changed that a bit and told them I wanted to be a teacher (an art teacher) that would work. NO, my mother had been a teacher and talked me out of that. I was expected to go to UNC. So, that is what I did and majored in journalism. Did I ever do anything with that major? No. I went to work for a newspaper and within 3 months the art director had seen a sketch I did on my desk, he asked how fast I could learn to use a computer because they were short handed in the art department. That was the end of my journalism career. Next thing I knew I was the graphic artist and illustrator for an arts and entertainment magazine.

So, I ended up doing what I wanted to do anyway, but always wonder where I would be had I gotten the proper training. I will NOT do that to my children.
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Old 06-02-2004, 12:55 PM   #3
ReNae Stueve ReNae Stueve is offline
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Art careers of the past

I think many of us were subjected to an older paradigm about artists, and the possibility of making a living at it.

If you research through the bio-s of most of our best loved old masters, you will find that they had benefactors and wealthy supporters...... One who worked as an artist would have needed to be born into wealth or have connection to royalty or live out the starving artist fantasy.

Our consumer based economy provides many opportunities for young people to enter the art world through advertising in one way or another. Although our well meaning but old fashioned nay-sayers are behind the times, most portrait painters can tell you....it's still one in a millions (or 1/2) art students who makes a living autonomously, through Free Lance painting.
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Old 06-02-2004, 02:07 PM   #4
Elizabeth Schott Elizabeth Schott is offline
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Ah Heidi, even to this day - from people I most admire.

Interesting topic!
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Old 06-02-2004, 02:11 PM   #5
Heidi Maiers Heidi Maiers is offline
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Interesting that I saw this article on the MSN headlines this morning:

Quote from story entitled: What is your degree worth?

"Career satisfaction is key. If you like what you spend your day doing, you are more likely to succeed at your job. This could lead to faster advancement in your career even if your starting salary is modest. Conversely, if you pursue a major and a career track solely for the money, you may be headed for trouble.

Evidence shows that today's dynamic job market offers unprecedented flexibility in jumping between career tracks, and it's common not to work in the field you studied. For example, in the computer industry, which includes some of the highest-paying occupations, about two-thirds of workers did not actually major in IT or computer-related fields.

Opportunities for midcareer changes are enhanced by the proliferation of flexible and highly focused adult education programs. Online schools and universities offer alternatives ranging from single, focused courses and short certification programs to bachelor's and postgraduate degree programs.

In a sense, those who chose a major in college simply because they loved the subject, and left career questions for later, may have made a pretty smart choice. Today's job climate not only allows for professional reinvention; in many cases, job security demands flexibility and adaptation. And with higher education no longer limited to a four-year window after high school, workers can discover their interests and strengths in the 'real world,' and gain the knowledge and skills they need accordingly."
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Old 06-02-2004, 09:29 PM   #6
Terri Ficenec Terri Ficenec is offline
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As a kid, my parents encouraged my interest in art by sending me to painting lessons, etc. ... but when it came to college, they absolutely refused to allow me to major in art (they weren't going to pay for me to become a 'starving artist'). I bought into that outlook, I guess. So I majored in Biology, and took a lot of arts electives. But after college I got married, got my MBA, and worked in business for 17 years, without ever lifting a paint brush except for 2 quick watercolors to put something on the walls back when we bought our first house.

In 2001, a new neighbor in town heard that I was an 'artist' (from a mutual friend, referring to those two watercolors and some drawings)... and on blind faith she commissioned me to do a reproduction of Cezanne's basket of apples. That led to a reproduction of Van Gogh's Irises for someone else. After that I refused to do anymore reproductions, but was back into painting as a hobby. It was those people around me who encouraged what I wanted to do and believed in me that got me started painting again -- and together with this forum, gave me the courage/confidence to turn professional last summer.

The funniest thing is that my parents, (who were the biggest obstacle to my thinking this was something I could do for a living when I was younger), couldn't be prouder and are my biggest cheerleaders now.
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Old 06-02-2004, 11:26 PM   #7
Heidi Maiers Heidi Maiers is offline
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Survey: The value of a formal art education

There seems to be a common theme emerging here.

Since it is graduation time, here are some thoughts we can ponder. Perhaps our insight can help young art students who are at a cross road and struggling with decisions for their futures.

Question: Do you have a formal education in art?


If you answer Yes then,

- did you receive support for this decision from friends, family, etc., or did you pursue it in spite of a lack of support?

- are you making a decent living as an artist?

- do you work a full time job in another field and do your art on the side?

- do you now regret pursuing an art education rather than taking what others deemed the "safe " career path?

- do you think your skills are now more advanced than they would have been had you not pursued a formal education?

- have there been any instances in your career where having a degree in art has directly benefited you (e.g., gotten you a posh commission, gotten you into a high caliber show or gallery, etc.) that you wouldn't have had the opportunity otherwise? Along those same lines, has having a degree directly helped you sell a piece of work?

- do you rely on your spouse for the majority of your financial support? If so, has that diminished your sense of self worth?


If you answered No then,

- did you want to pursue a formal education in art but succumbed to pressured against it?

- do you regret not pursuing a formal art education?

- are you working in the field for which you majored?

- did you not have a desire to pursue art as a career, but developed it later in life?

- did you not have the financial means to go to college at all?

- do you plan on going back to school?

- do you now attend artist workshops to make up for what you feel you missed out on in school?

- do you think a formal art education is somewhat worthless and everything you need to know to succeed can be gained by practical experience, practice, and networking with other artists?

Perhaps someone could set up a poll..
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Old 06-03-2004, 06:28 AM   #8
Julie Deane Julie Deane is offline
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Reply to survey

Interesting to see what the survey will show. Here's my contribution:

I went to art school, but limiting myself by my own insecurities, majored in graphic design instead of fine art. The good thing is that Ringling School of Art insisted on many drawing and painting classes, so I got a good foundation in the basics.

I became a graphic artist and worked in that field thirteen years. Taught a few art classes too.

To any people out there considering art school - it's great for learning a lot in a little time. Just make sure the school emphasizes drawing skills.
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Old 06-03-2004, 06:35 AM   #9
Julie Deane Julie Deane is offline
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more info

Oops - didn't answer all the questions.

- did you receive support for this decision from friends, family, etc., or did you pursue it in spite of a lack of support? My parents made sure I had art classes from age 8 on. They were a "mixed" support - very little verbal support, but the finances were there to help me.

- are you making a decent living as an artist? No

- do you work a full time job in another field and do your art on the side? I am a full time speech therapist, and am pursuing portraiture/painting on the side - for now.

- do you now regret pursuing an art education rather than taking what others deemed the "safe " career path? No - I only wish I had dived into fine art.

- do you think your skills are now more advanced than they would have been had you not pursued a formal education? Yes.

- have there been any instances in your career where having a degree in art has directly benefited you (e.g., gotten you a posh commission, gotten you into a high caliber show or gallery, etc.) that you wouldn't have had the opportunity otherwise? Along those same lines, has having a degree directly helped you sell a piece of work? No - I really don't think a degree would matter for anything but teaching credentials.

- do you rely on your spouse for the majority of your financial support?
I wish! Nope, divorced and paying my own way.
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Old 06-03-2004, 02:04 PM   #10
Heidi Maiers Heidi Maiers is offline
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Polls online

Feel free to verbalize your responses to the above survey here. There are now two polls available in this section entitled "The value of a formal art education" that you can answer so that we can view the answers statistically as a group percentage.
http://forum.portraitartist.com/showthread.php?t=4447
http://forum.portraitartist.com/showthread.php?t=4448
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