View Full Version : How did you become an artist?

Roger Evans
01-31-2007, 08:09 AM
Kind of a vague way to ask the question but, what I mean is, what road led you to where you are now? The other thread about people's day jobs was so engrossing that I am interested in what others have to say about their journey to being an artist. I was asked this question on an animation forum years ago and, after giving it some thought, this is how I replied:

Since I started out as a cartoon animator, I guess I should really begin with how I ever became an artist, in the first place. After all, had I not become an artist, then I would not have been a cartoon animator and, logic stands to reason, I would not have made the move to stop motion and special effects.

So, here goes.

When I was in first grade, there was a coloring book with a big water oxen on the left hand page. Not only did I want to color that oxen, I wanted to take the picture home to show my parents; something that would be difficult since the coloring book belonged to the school. So, I grabbed a ubiquitous sheet of "vanilla paper" and, holding the coloring book up to the sunlit window, I traced the aforementioned aquatic bovine.

Once at my desk, I attacked the beast with my fully loaded Benny and Smiths, a different color stuffed between each knuckle. I was loaded for bear and REALLY getting into it when I felt a presence next to me. I looked up and my teacher asked,"Did you do that?" all the while pointing at my masterpiece. "Yes ma'am!" I answered proudly. She smiled approvingly and moved on down the row of desks. My moment of triumph was short lived as I suddenly remembered that I had TRACED the picture; I didn't actually DRAW it!

Okay, time out:

Now, any adult worth their salt would also know that a first grader does NOT have that kind of hand/eye coordination and she certainly did NOT dash off to enroll me in Pratt - so, in hindsight, it is safe to say that she knew I traced the damned thing. But, as a first grader that had been taught NEVER to tell a lie, my world suddenly became a living hell as I juggled the adoration of my teacher against the knowledge that it was all a front; I didn't REALLY know how to draw. I was a fraud.

Okay, resume play:

The day seemed to last for-EV-er. I wanted to go home and distance myself from the scene of the crime. The final bell rang and I was THIS close to a clean get away when THE HAND landed on my shoulder. In the other hand was the most feared item ever to be dredged from the depths of a dark and tormented six year old's imagination: A note to the parents.


This was it. I'd been pegged! Worse - the envelope was sealed, too! (I know, I know. I couldn't have read it even if it were open.) That's not the point! This was obviously a SECRET message to my parents THAT I LIED ABOUT DRAWING THE WATER OXEN!

The gig was up. I was a zombie on a bus full of afternoon crazies. All the way home, my mind was set on one problem: How to deal with "the lie".

And then it hit me!

It would only be a lie if I didn't know how to draw! So, I decided I better learn how to draw and I better do it right away. The bus was less than cooperative, hitting probably every pot hole the driver could veer into, but I managed to whip out a half a dozen or so shaky drawings before getting home. Despite their rather Thurber-esque quality, they would do. Mixed in with the troublesome water oxen picture (damn my vanity, anyway), the illusion of a budding prodigy was, I hoped, complete.

My parents bought it, hook, line and sinker, though I never actually saw their reaction to "the letter". But I wasn't going to bring it up!

Now, as the years went by, I was provided art lessons and I actually got pretty good, for a fake. But what made me REALLY improve was my Uncle Buddy. See, when you're a kid, you could take a crap on a piece of canvas and your parents or relatives would still say, "That looks great, dear."

But not my Uncle Buddy.

My mother's brother, I would nervously approach him with a new piece - something that I had KILLED myself on - and he would look at it and say,"I've seen better." And then take a swig on his ever present Jaxx Beer.

Ooooooo, Uncle Buddy knew art. Or so I thought. It wasn't until sometime after his alcohol induced death that I found out he just hated kids... but the results were the same. I forced myself to improve for the approval I never got; which was just karma for the approval I didn't deserve that fateful day in first grade.

And "the letter"?

Some years ago I asked my mom about it, coming clean about the whole sordid mess. She laughed, disappeared into a closet and emerged with a shoebox full of papers. 37 years after the incident that changed my life, "the envelope" lay in front of me, waiting to be deciphered with the same eyes that couldn't have read it then, even it I had tried. Silly as it seems, I was actually fairly nervous opening it. After all, it was STILL a note from the teacher!

The sinister communique'? It said, simply,"Roger shows an interest in art. You should encourage him."

I lost the letter in the 2001 Great Flood of Houston (Tropical Storm Alison). That single piece of paper had been the catalyst for a life of creativity and the foundation of a solid work ethic that still benefits me to this day. Now I feel a little lost and, indeed, a little sad.

My little girl starts school, soon. I've already got a shoe box ready. http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/dc/images/wink.gif


01-31-2007, 09:08 AM
Roger, that was a wonderfully well written story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading how you began your art journey which brought reminders of those notes from the teacher.

I was in my 30's when my interest in art and painting began, thanks to a lovely woman that is a watercolorist. She took me to galleries and museums in Anchorage, then introduced me to art demos and finally lessons. I did that for about three years then basically stopped painting for 20+ years. Now, I am learning again and enjoying every bit of it. My story isn't as interesting as yours or as well told but I enjoyed sharing it, just for remembrance of those days, and the joys I have had since, painting again.

01-31-2007, 09:13 AM
What a wonderful story!

Leslie Pz
01-31-2007, 10:30 AM
Born that way.... in fact my mom was a bit cranky towards me while growing up -- I used to say it was because I was born with drawing pencils in my hands and it caused her too much pain! LOL!

01-31-2007, 10:53 AM
When I was a kid, I used to dig up rocks and paint them and give them to my neighbors. I'm sure they were thrilled.:lol: :lol: I also used to get clay from the creek in my backyard and make bowls, set them in the sun to dry and then paint those. I always wanted to take art lessons, but my mom wanted me to take piano lessons instead - which I'm glad I did. I took lessons for 11 years, and played the violin for 9 years. When my daughter turned 2 years old, she started going to preschool a couple of mornings a week and that is when I started taking art lessons. I've never been happier!! It's amazing the things we do and go through in life to bring us to where we are supposed to be.

01-31-2007, 11:46 AM
I have trouble remembering what I had for dinner last night let alone what happened 40 some yrs ago:lol: But a very entertaining story Rodger. I to have felt the fraud monster after tracing something I either couldn't quite capture freehand or just to save time but Ive come to realize its a tool just like any other.

I don't remember when or why I first became interested in creating things with my hands, it seems like it's always been there. My dad and granddad are/where very good at drawing and other art forms, dad's sister is an accomplised photographer and his brother built custom motorcycles that were and are sculpture. I was probably 7 or 8 when I painted the name on my 1st boat and I can remember painting the name on a couple of my mom's dad's boats after that. Bicycles, wagons and school notebooks where always fair game and bread dough that granma was making for dinner was a great sculpture medium for a youngster (grandkids can do no wrong)

I don't create because I want to, I create because I HAVE to! Something tells me there's a face that wants to come out of a branch or that table wants a flag on it or those soda bottles want to be a scarecrow or a candle lantern, those stains on that shirt look like a seagull or an eye (out comes the permenant markers) turn that old spanish style lamp upside down and it could be a planter... it goes on and on

01-31-2007, 12:10 PM
Interesting - you're a narrator as well as an animator Roger! I thoroughly enjoyed your story.

Having been one of those who always "did something" with my hands, it seemed only natural that I'd "eventually" get around to trying to draw and paint and sculpt and... but it didn't begin to happen until I was into my 30s. Now 40 years later I'm still enjoying it. Once a dabbler always a dabbler!


01-31-2007, 12:27 PM
Roger, what a fun history! It also struck home so much!

I cannot remember how old I was at the time but it must have been about the age of six to eight. There was a contest in my class to see who could do the best portrait of Pres George Washington. Talk about a tough sunject to draw!

I wanted to win that contest in the worst way. I wanted the recognition in the worst way but I knew I could not do it justice. When I got home from school I tricked my mother into drawing George for me! And I turned it in the next day as mine. I still have this drawing and it is horrible. My mom was no artist.

I also had the same mindset as you; I have to cover my tracks by learning how to draw and learn it fast. Pencils went to paper as much as my schedule would allow. And then I began to receive merit based on my own compositions. I also felt like the biggest fraud in the world and was deeply shamed of passing off my mother's drawing for mine.

BTW, I did not win the contest but did get a letter of reccommendation to bring home to my parents. I of course, destroyed the evidence of my plagerism. ;)

It wasn't for another 20 years or so before I allowed myself to say "I am an artist!"

Your story made my day!

01-31-2007, 12:43 PM
I wish I had an interesting story to tell too, but it is quite mundane really. I used to teach french and along with some friends started an institute where we could teach the way we thought the language should be taught. Unfortunately I had to give up my stake in the partnership and move to a different city. For want of anything better to do, I enrolled in the pottery workshop there, made a "marine mobile" (that ended up so heavy, I can't hang it up!!) . Then stumbled into the ongoing art classes. The instructor decided to teach me Sumi-e, which I throughly enjoyed. Moved on to water coloursand was hooked!
Now i am back in my hometown and I am finally able to look back on the dissolution of the partnership without bitterness, even as providential! As they say when one door closes another opens that probably leads to a better road! For with my art now I feel I am a better person than I ever was. And there are days when I just feel so happy and have a smile pasted on my face because my painting is shaping up well.

01-31-2007, 12:48 PM
I'm not sure I consider myself to be an artist. More like somebody who occasionally paints to alleviate boredom.

But, I always liked to draw when I was a kid, and compared to most of the other kids, I seemed to be pretty good at it -- that is, able to make more realistic renderings than most other kids could -- but by no means was I "the best" at it in my school, there were one or two others that seemed to me to be "better."

But, for a long time, I didn't do much art.

One day, when my brother was home from medical school, and we had some time to kill we went to the art museum, and among the paintings we saw was a John Singer Sargent -- I forget which one, not one of his better known ones, and I haven't seen the painting since. It was of a doorway and a little garden, with an effect of sunlight and shade, as I dimly recall. Anyway, my brother saw this, and he really liked it, and I made some offhand remark like, "I think I could probably do something like that." (Heh!) My brother insisted that it was harder than it looked, and after some talking, we decided on a bet. I forget the exact terms of the bet, but it involved me painting a painting of some kind, in a sort of similar style, and he'd be the judge of whether it was "good enough" or not. So, I painted a pic of my Dad at the piano.
I guess I won the bet . . . it's not the best thing in the world, but it exceeded the expectations of my brother, I suppose. I think maybe it was the rug under the piano that won me the bet. Anyway, been painting off and on ever since.

01-31-2007, 02:02 PM
Wow Roger - fab story - told like it was yesterday..... what a laugh that yours is so similar Nancy.....I feel like a complete fraud 'cos I just started as too skint from traveling overseas for years to afford art .... and have only done one workshop last year - but have found some art classes for later in the year.
Drawing skills are from prob having a visual way of learning (used to draw anatomy from memory to ensure I knew the relationship of nerves, vessels, etc)

Lady Carol
01-31-2007, 02:47 PM
I started drawing when I was 6. One day my Dad was in the garage and I was bored so I asked him for some paper and I went outside and sat in the driveway and drew a tree that was there. I confess that I got the tree down quite well. My Dad saw it and was amazed. I still remember clearly the decision to draw and the feeling it evoked in me. My parents always encouraged the drawing and all through high school I was in art classes. My parents had a friend who was an artist and when I turned 14 this friend of theirs was going to give me formal art lessons. He wanted me to experience myself as an artist before he taught me anything formally about art but he died when I was around 12. So that was the end of that.

I continued on with the art, using oils and mostly drawing in graphite. In my last year of high school, the State has graduation exams and for art part of the exam is a major work, so I drew all sorts of flowers in graphite. These scored such high marks that they were exhibited State wide in an exhibition of the best major works for that year. My Dad being the proud parent that he was, took part of my major work to a gallery owner that he knew and the guy offered me an exhibition but I had to draw in colour :eek: I had no idea about colour and as I was starting a science degree, the whole art thing went by the way side. It was sent even further into the background when I got married and then subsequently did a PhD in genetics.

Rolling the timeline forward to 2001, my husband had a stroke early that year. He inherited the abnormality from his Mum who had a stroke at age 26 (he was 39). We were both too young to experience a catastrophe like that but it happened so you make the best of what you have. At that time I owned a horse and I became very fearful of riding him and he knew it so it turned into a nasty situation for my safety. So I sold the horse. I was lamenting to a friend that I had not outlet for all the emotion that I had, I wasn’t riding as I had no horse and then I said “and I used to draw and paint but I don’t do that anymore either.” His so simple reply was “why don’t you draw again”

So I did. But me being me wanted to start out with colour based on what that gallery owner said. Also I like watercolours so I played with that for about a year. :lol: I found out fairly quickly that watercolours are not for me and acrylics were better suited to the way I paint. More recently (well since August) I have gone back to graphite and this time I have an exhibition (April-May, 2007) based solely on the graphites :D :D

I now ask myself….”what on earth was that all about with that original gallery owner?”

01-31-2007, 04:16 PM
I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I started just from doodling spaceships blowing eachother to pieces when I was a kid... got into cartooning, which I almost regret because I feel like it makes realism very hard for me to get... and that's about it.

karma kat
01-31-2007, 04:32 PM
My story isn't quite as interesting as Roger's, but here goes....
I should start by saying that I'm an only child, and even when I was little, I was always too quiet. My parent's took me with them everywhere, even to their friends' houses because I was so well-behaved and didn't do much.
One evening, my mom and dad were playing cards with some friends. During a break, my mom gave me a pad of paper and a pencil and showed me how to draw a face. She first drew a "U", then added eyes, nose, mouth, and hair. I practiced and practiced drawing that face.
As I got a little older, I started drawing replicas of my favorite album covers. I never traced them, I simply looked at the album, and then drew what I saw. Sometimes I threw away a lot of paper trying to get it to look just right. I was happy, but the album covers weren't my idea, so it didn't feel like it was my actual creation.
Flash forward to my senior year in high school. I needed another elective, so I chose an art class. I had a lot of fun. Realizing that I could never afford to go to a "real" college, I pretty much knew that I was going to go to a community college. We did an art show, and I won several little ribbons that I still have in a box today. Turns out, the college I was going to attend had an art program. 3 years later, I emerged with an art degree, and finally, I landed the job I'm at now, designing memorials. Painting didn't come until last February. I was watching QVC, and I saw Donna Dewberry on there. I was fascinated by her "one-stroke" technique, so I ordered the supplies and got started. Then, I found WC!, and realized that I wanted to be more than just a decorative painter. And, here I am!
So, even though I knew I always wanted to create art, I think WC! is responsible for me really pushing myself to be the artist I always wanted to be.
Thanks for the encouragement, everyone!!

01-31-2007, 06:49 PM
My story's not as interesting as Roger's either, which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way!

Frankly I can't remember much before say the 2nd Grade, just sketchy "picture" memories, but apparently I've been painting all my life. I actually have a "portrait" of two people I did on freezer paper with Q-Tips and food coloring when I was 4 years old. It's quite colorful :lol: .

My biological father (whom I didn't meet until I was in my mid 20s) was an artist in high school. He was a senior and mom a junior. They shared art class together and she fell in love with him and married him the day after she graduated from High School. They were too young, had kids too fast, and unfortunately their mutual love for art wasn't strong enough for them to work out their differences. Sadly they were divorced and due to circumstances I won't bore you with, I never got to know him, he died about 10 years ago. He did however, send me two books that were very special to him: Michaelangelo and Favorite Impressionists from a museum in Chicago. That fueled my love for Impressionism for certain. I still keep the book on my desk and refer to it often.

Anyway, my mother always stimulated our love for art. I took lots of art classes throughout school as it was something that I felt I excelled in. In fact, I did so to feed my insatiable need for approval. I guess that's what happens when you're a child of divorce at such a tender age (18 months). I was horrible at sports and so being "good" at art made me feel good about myself.

I didn't go to college and chose a "practical" course going through business school to do clerical work. In my current job I have periodic opportunities to be creative. But the other experience I've gained in various areas has been invaluable, working with people, marketing, etc.

All during the years I'd occasionally paint something here or there, maybe write a poem and illustrate it, etc. Make a gift of a portrait, etc. but didn't paint enough to keep my skills improving or satisfaction for that matter. That all changed when my husband brought home information about an art contest sponsored by our municipality and the National Arts Program last September. Employees or their family members could enter two pieces in either the amateur, intermediate or professional level. Based on their "definitions" I entered in the "intermediate" level. I was blown away when I was judged/awarded 3rd place in the "professional" level!!! That was all I needed to launch me into serious painting. Then, I happened to go to a new hair salon at which they feature about 20 pieces from a different artist for a month at a time. I casually mentioned to the owner that I painted and he asked to see my work. He looked at it, said "call my manager and set a date, tell her 'I approve'". I did, she said "I've got an opening for the month of March 2007 and you'll need about 20 pieces to reach our quota". At the time I had about 3-4 paintings ready. That was in October 2006. I thought about it, figured the weeks and said to myself "if I get a painting a week done I can do it, what's the worst that can happen?" So I called her & committed! Since then I've painted about 20 pieces of various sizes and have grown in my satisfaction and skills. A real boon to my progress and stamina has been meeting everyone here at Wet Canvas. I don't know if I'd have made it without all of you! Now I'm ready and hope the show/sale goes well. I feel like a full-fledged artist now, really a professional!

01-31-2007, 10:06 PM
I'm not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I started just from doodling spaceships blowing eachother to pieces when I was a kid... got into cartooning, which I almost regret because I feel like it makes realism very hard for me to get... and that's about it. Check out Bill Wray's work (he frequents the plein aire and landscape forums). He worked on Ren and Stimpy.

02-01-2007, 04:45 AM
Mine was more ordinary - been drawing since before age of four, the earliest known or remembered drawing being that of the owl clock my parents had... it was done with crayons on a yellow construction paper [and long lost in the veils of history.... especially since we moved a lot as a kid, my father being in the Air Force and all]......

Took art in high school as a guaranteed 'A' since knew more than the teachers - but dropped it for seven years afterwards since was told only way to make it as an artist was if in commercial art, and w as not interested in trying to guess others' ideas and wants...... discovered traveling professional artists in mall one time, and found out such was not true - that one could make a living painting what one wanted to paint..... so, from that point on, returned to art.... and philosophy, to understand the nature of art, and how best to see the means of what to paint and render.....

mrs willow
02-01-2007, 05:24 AM
I started drawing quite early...about 4yrs. I think! At first I used to draw in the dirt... a pointy stick....in nice protected damp patches...in the shade ..easy to rub out with a swish of the hand. At one stage, I graduated to nice white or pastel coloured walls about the house....I sort of couldn't resist the lure of that fresh looking clean space!I got into quite a lot of strife over those impulsive choices!!I used to make up stories about the things I drew( usually people).... (I ended up being able to write fairly interesting essays later in life!) I loved what I did ! I made up such wonderful fantasies...every day was an adventure for me! My characters were generally based on the radio serials I used to listen to, in those days before TV.Later, when about 10 -12 yrs., I started entering drawing competitions... and won some! High School started me on a more serious track and I realized that art was my most exciting subject and an interest I wanted to pursue , over and above all other subjects.Finally,because I needed to actually earn a living,I ended up doing an art teaching course and taught art in secondary schools (Australia)for many years.Nowadays, when I can, I still just love to paint and draw in any medium.More importantly, I have a lifelong interest in art in general.

02-01-2007, 02:25 PM
Roger I'm going to write a note to your parents that says 'Roger shows an interest in writting, you should encorage him.' You better get your paper out ready.:D

Just to add my boring bit...

I've been doodling as long as I can remember. Compulsory birthday and Christmas gifts from my mother since I was a dot was a zillion pencils, rhemes of clean white paper and a mountain of crayons, every year from aged 2 to the present day, only now it's gift vouchers from art supplies stores. :D My dad is very talented so I guess I wear his genes.:smug:

Roger Evans
02-01-2007, 02:45 PM
Roger I'm going to write a note to your parents that says 'Roger shows an interest in writting, you should encorage him.' You better get your paper out ready.:D

Too late! If you like futuristic intrigue, send me a PM with your address and I'll send you a copy of my first novel!


02-01-2007, 03:42 PM
A few years ago my daughter started painting, she suggested that I try it, I put it off for a long time. The reasons for this include the fact that I still draw stick people also the fact that I couldn't draw a straight line to save my life. Well my daughter finally said here Mom just do it. Then I was able to join a seniors club where painting is one of the programs offered. So I joined and even if I never paint a masterpiece some of them turn out looking not so bad afterall. The main thing to me is that I enjoy it, have fun and it's also a great way to mix with other people. So that is how I became interested in painting, artist,well that is all in the eyes of the beholder.

chammi kaiser
02-01-2007, 07:07 PM
I decided at the age of eight, that I wanted to become famous, really famous so I decided to become a singer.:music: I organised concerts for the neighbours and included their kids to make sure they came along but I was always the star. They even had to pay for the honour of hearing my 'unforgettable voice'. More likely forgettable. I sounded like a frog with tonsillitis as my less than impressed brother so succintly put it.
I had to paint all the background scenery for these concerts myself and really didn't think too much about it, just painted away with poster paints, fairies, magical trees and whatever background suited my nighingale voice.
My long-suffering parents in desperation sent me to a singing teacher. Probably after receiving a petition signed by all the neighbours. She was a very French and very straight-speaking lady. :evil: She was more interested in music than money and told my parents in no uncertain terms that I was completely lacking in talent (not that they did not know) .:crying:
My mother, being the gentle , kind soul that she was, put up with sobs of despair and disappointment of the would be 8 yea old Maria Callas. With a moment of inspiration , she told me that my scenery was so well done and that everyone had been impressed and that I should perhaps try painting instead of singing.
Whoops, that was it, I was soon imagining myself the next Rolf Harris (the female version). I had seen him on TV. I drew and painted everything around me, and loved it.
I am still not a female Rolf Harris but I am still painting and enjoying every moment.

Marge Wms
02-02-2007, 03:24 AM
I had not really stopped to think about WHEN I started drawing until I read Rogers story... Sorry you lost your letter here in Houston during Alicia, Roger.

SO... I thought back to the first time I remember drawing anything.. a simple non descript house, a profile of a boy and then a girl. Must have been around 8 or 9.

Then when my DH was in the army at Ft. Bliss, TX I loved the landscape around there! I used charcoal and sketched the mountains across the river in Juarez, Mexico. I still have that sketch. When DH was shipped to Germany, I bought some art supplies to keep me busy when I wasn't working. I tried to do some watercolors...not good. I tried to paint a tree.. only fair.. Nothing seemed to turn out very good, but it gave me something to do. When he came home I didn't have time for it and lost interest.

Fast forward past 3 sons early years.. to about Jr. High School... bought some oil pastels and watercolor paper. What do I know about art? LOL I started doing some really WILD stuff with color! All abstract and free. I had a ball! I would start doing something and hours would pass before I knew it! I was totally lost in the art.. Some of it was fairly good and some of it was pretty dreadful! LOL But then I put some out for a sidewalk show and watched people and listened for comments. Most of what I heard was "what is it?" I have to admit I let it get to me.. so shortly after that I quit.

Fast forward again... past the kids graduating HS and/or college.. past my widowed Mom being here for 20 years... past our building a business and selling it.... past our retirement travels... (where I took many photographs)

November 2005... I took out my stack of old art while cleaning out some closets to paint THEM.. Looked at what I had done years before.. then I decided to see if I could "bring them around" to being somewhat better! I reworked more than 1/2 of them until they actually resembled ART!!! At Thanksgiving '06, I showed them to our grandkids and they were astonished. One of our grandsons has been interested in art for some time and he loved the paintings. I told one of my DILs that I wanted an easel for Christmas.

I decided to buy some acrylics and special paper for acrylics. When I had my easel and right after Christmas, I did a NEW abstract for our older grandson in the colors HE wanted... matted and framed it for him before his Mom and Dad came back through here at New Years. He loved it..

Then I looked through the photos I had taken on the Big Island near Pohoiki Beach and chose one I particularly liked to paint! Using acrylics for the first time, I finished it in short order. DH LOVED it and wanted it framed.. And from that time until March '06 I painted like crazy! Then I took a free course at the local Senior Center in acrylics and kept on painting. I have completed some 80 paintings since I began in January '06. Taken every free class at the Center and tried my hand at charcoal, soft and oil pastels, and watercolor. And now I'm into a class on H2Oils.. the water soluble oils. Have not started a painting in class yet, but have done two on my own already!

I'm really IN TO ART NOW... and forever.. Thanx Roger, for making me take a closer look at my "art history". Gigi (THAT'S WITH 2 HARD Gs. PLEASE) Marge