Saturday, August 13, 2011
Should You Follow Your Dreams?
What kind of question is that? Of course you should...I mean, of course you shouldn't. I guess it depends on who you ask. I'm often asked questions like this by my students. They often want to know if it's possible to follow their dreams of becoming a professional artist/illustrator and can they make enough money to support themselves.
This is an impossible question to answer in a few short sentences. It's also probably impossible to answer yes or no. What I can do is offer my insights but, I would also council students to get opinions from other sources.
First, I believe that most successful artists have an internal drive to create. A need. A burning from within to draw, paint, sculpt, write, play, or whatever. I also see that this desire is stronger in some than others - think of it like "the force". And then there's that need to make money for survival. These two needs are often at odds with one another. Parents send their kids to school to prepare them for careers and everybody knows you can't make a living as an artist...or that the odds of making a living as an artist are pretty slim.
If you only look at the figures it's totally impractical to choose art as a career - score one for parents - but statistics can be misleading. Lets go off on a tangent...
In the United states there are approximately 8,000 poisonous snake bites each year. So if you live here you have a one in 43k chance of being bitten by a poisonous snake. However what if you're a home body - couch potato - a slug who lives in the city and never goes out? Are your chances the same? Also, would your chances go down if you never pick up snakes? Included in the 8,000 statistic are all of the 16-24 year old boys/men who "feel the need" to pick up snakes. In fact more than half of the 8,000 people bitten each year are morons who picked up poisonous snakes. So are your personal chances of being bitten really 1 out of 43k? I know I have a much lower chance taken these additional facts into consideration - I don't pick up snakes.
So how does this apply to your chances of "making it" as a professional artist? I think you need to take a hard look at yourself because in the end only you can answer the questions that can get you past the statistics.
Are you always creating? Drawing, painting, etc? Is it the most important thing in your life? Are you happy with the visualization of yourself doing something other than an art career? Do you give up other activities to pursue art? Do you identify yourself as an artist? Do you treat socializing on weekends as a sacred ritual or can you give it up to perfect your art projects? Do you have artist role models? Are you motivated to pursue entrepreneurial projects? Do you believe you can "make money" if you have a good product and are willing to work hard? Do you feel free to do what you want in life without the blessing of your parents, friends, or siblings? Do you like to improvise and experiment or feel the need to follow instructions on projects to a fault? Do you over-estimate your artistic abilities? - you should if you want to go for it.
These are just a few questions I think you need to be able to answer in order to know if your odds are better or worse for being able to "make it" as a professional artist. I believe that some have a much better chance simply because of their life style, habits, and choices, while others have a horrible shot at it because it's just not that important to them.
In the end one thing's for sure: There are lots of people who regret not following their dreams and lots of people who have regrets about following their dreams. Each probably feel they should have taken the other path.