View Full Version : Art as a career?

12-15-2002, 11:10 PM
Hi everybody! I'm having a period of conflict and angst-please help. I'm 41 and I'm planning on going to college next fall as a freshman. My conflict is my major-art or nursing. I currently work at a hospital as a CNA and I'm being encouraged to go into the nursing field. And while that would make sense,(I would always be able to find a job), I feel this is my last shot at becoming an artist. What must be understood is I can't draw very well, I've never had lessons, but my pulse quickens when I see a good painting or sculpture. I subscribe to many art magazines, have spent a fortune on books and art supplies(that I've been afraid to use) in 4 different mediums.I can look at some paintings and know who the artist is just by the style and brush strokes. Now my left brain logical side tells me to be sensible-go and be a nurse it's a sure thing and you'll never be unemployed. But my heart and right brain say maybe you should try it (art). I have a choice at school My BSN(nursing degree) or a BFA. Any advice?:confused:

12-16-2002, 01:09 AM
no matter what age the choice of a major or the use of it is hard. i'm actually in my second year of working towards a bfa, which i think i'm change. i have two suggestions one is for the fact that you don't draw well- i have a book to suggest, 'drawing on the right side of the brain', it is an amazing book that makes drawing easily understood from highlighting to perspective. i don't remember the author because the book is not in my dorm room, but i'll attempt to copy it for you. second i say don't decide right away choose what feels right. but never choose simply because of the availibilty of a career, i would go into nursing too for that reason. but much like art nursing take a talent, and believe me i don't have it but i know a great deal of sweet women who do. that is all i can give as a fellow confused person who is debating their future.

12-16-2002, 10:00 AM
Hi b
Welcome to WC! :) Well, it's nice to meet you anyway :D
I went back to highschool when I was 42 then on to Uni. It was the best move I ever made.
My major was painting and my minor was drawing and I wish I had have chosen it the other way around. So, follow your heart and choose wisely :D Good luck.

12-16-2002, 02:49 PM
I personally feel that art is not a good choice if you have to make money. It seems to ruin the pleasure in being creative. If it happens, (paintings sell), then o.k. But you can't go into it thinking that way.

I did my bfa (20 years ago), It was a choice I made with my heart. I started university in chemistry. I decided that I would not be practical and take the concequences (artists often don't make alot of money.)

It is a lonely profession and not good for people who don't enjoy long hours alone. But I must say, my life is all the richer for having studied art. I just did a college diploma in web design (at age 45). I really enjoyed school and especially being with other people as I was a stay at home mom and felt isolated.

Even if you feel you would be a good nurse, you can still take art electives.(That is what I did in science) To me learning was the most important. A drawing course on or two can get you started. If it pulls you in, you can always switch. The journey is what counts, as much as where you end up.

12-16-2002, 11:07 PM
Well, here is my experience, take it for that. I would never dare to tell someone not to pursue their passion. I do believe that if I started sooner I may have been further along in my art career--but then I wouldn't have had some of the real life experience my job has offered me.

I am an artist with dual careers. I am 43 and have always done art. I came from the typical dysfunctional family who knocked my artistic abilities because they seemed impractical to folks of an older generation. So, I went out and got a degree in Psychology which I do not use directly. My career (job) is in marketing-both my career and my job have been helpful to me as an artist.

I do believe however you can make money with art but you need to understand the markets. I just had an opening and sold 7+ paintings and got 2 commissions. This is alot for me. It was fabulous. But, it took alot of hard work, networking and lots of painting. I hung 50+ paintings in this show.

Yet, I work a flexible but full time job marketing other folks not me, to pay my bills. As it so happened, this month and this show were really good for me. If I was able to do this monthly, I would easilly make the income my day job pays me. But I still wouldn't have the benefits.

My goal is to reduce my job time to 50%, and work 50% time as an artist. we'll see! I wish you luck, and I do believe if you do what you love, the money will follow. But it takes alot of hard work and determination, so it's good to have something you can fall back on.

www.madisonweiss.com (http://www.madisonweiss.com)

12-17-2002, 07:40 AM
I majored in Studio Art 20+ years ago even though people told me I'd never make money as an artist. I came out of school and didn't use my creativity--I worked for other people in the art field. After divorcing, I decided that I needed a "career" that would provide a good income for my son and myself. I was unhappy, but decently paid. After turning 40 I decided that it was time for me to do what I wanted to do. While I was trying to figure out what to do (and still not creating) I found The Artist's Way books. It's taken me a while (I'm now 45), but those books have been a god-send. I'm now teaching art and painting. I would love to be brave enough to paint fulltime, but the steady income is small, but addicting! I'm back in school completing courses so that I can get my teaching certificate. There are definitely challenges with all that I have to do, but being an artist is deeply satisfying.

My advice to you? Find and read Julia Cameron's books. She'll help you find your passion, get past the fears, and figure out how to have art in your life no matter what you study. Her books are full of stories of people who chose careers to earn a living and created too. Also get out the art supplies and figure out how to use them. What is the worse that can happen? You make a mistake and the art turns out yucky. Get over it and try again. All artists have a stack of work they'd never want anyone else to see. Matisse burned some of his paintings towards the end of his life because he didn't like them. I figure if Matisse can make mistakes I can too.

You have some big decisions ahead of you. If you are that passionate about art then you can find a way to incorporate it into you life no matter what career you choose. Look for the positive side of your creativity and you'll be fine!


12-17-2002, 08:43 AM
I didn't get an art degree and I regretted it almost as soon as I left college. I think sometimes too much emphasis is placed on getting degree to make money. When we come down to it, there are a lot of ways to make a living. One of my teachers told us that he took low paying low stress jobs when starting out so he'd have more time and energy to devote to art. (He even worked as a doorman for awhile) I wished I had had his guts and I still wish that I had your guts to even consider going back to school at this time.

But now that I'm forty, I've grown used to a standard of living that will be hard to give up. But make no mistake, I am paying for that standard of living because my art is taking a back seat - I just don't have the time and energy to pursue it so that I can get some momentum.

I think the main advantage of a degree is being able to spend four years solely focused on art so you can give yourself a chance to develop and see how far you can take it. If I could be flexible with how to earn a living (and how much I need to live off of) I'd take this option in a heartbeat.

This is a tough decision and I don't have any answers for you, but maybe hearing of my own story will give you some insight into your situation.

Good luck whatever you decide to do.

12-17-2002, 08:52 AM
Hi b-lansing! I would like to make a suggestion since you are already involved in the medical field and you love art...you can combine those interests by going into Art Therapy. You don't have to be the worlds greatest artist to be an Art Therapist..what you need is the ability to understand art and work with patients. Seems like it might be a natural for you. I don't know that every college offers an art therapy program...you may have to hunt a bit. But I think that might be a field you'd like. Good luck!


12-17-2002, 11:56 AM
I guess you have to decide on your reason for doing art. You can make money doing art but it is the customer's needs that you will be responding to. If you absolutely need to create to satisfy the inner urge to express yourself, you may sometimes find that what pleases you is not always understood or appreciated by your customer.

When I create work to sell, I really had to change my approach to being creative. You have to put your feelings in second position, and go with feedback from your clients. That takes a deliberate effort and focus, I had to learn it and it was a transformation. I can say that sometimes it would be nice to have a job that is low stress, non art related, and do my art just for myself.

12-17-2002, 06:58 PM
Originally posted by swan
I can say that sometimes it would be nice to have a job that is low stress, non art related, and do my art just for myself.

LOL, swan, that's what my teacher did when he started out. Do you paint on commission or do you have gallery representation? I heard the two sides are very different.

12-17-2002, 10:00 PM
I work graphics for the fashion industry and web design. I do painting and pastels for myself, but lately, I find keeping up with my job takes all my energy. With two kids.....well, I don't get to do much art work lately.

I want to put together my portfolio(online) and contribute to the html library in this forum, there was a request for templates.

12-17-2002, 10:55 PM

I can relate to your story. I did graphics for the training department in my company for five years and it was really frustrating. Not that I didn't want to please but everybody had a different opinion so I felt I was bingbonging all over the place. It didn't help that trainers are extremely detail-oriented with not a creative bone in their bodies. I moved out of that to project management - it has its own problems but its not as frustrating.

Good luck with the portfolio and the templates.


I know for the artists who sell their paintings, there's galleries (hard to get into), commissions (kinda like mine and Swan's day jobs), and Ebay. There may be other markets but I don't know. A good forum to check out is the Art Business forum. You can get an idea of what the working art world is like over there.

elizabeth ours
12-17-2002, 11:03 PM
hi, b-lansing

you have a difficult choice to make between art and nursing. i have been a registered nurse for 16 years - the profession is not what it seems. be sure you are ready for long hours and low pay. sure nurses can make up to $36.00 per hour, but they are caring for as many as 7 to 10 patients in an 8 to 12 hours period - if you have 10 patients, then you are making $3.60 per hour, per patient. the responsibilities placed on a nurse these days are insane - the nurse is responsible for everything - it seems that no other individuals in the medical field are held accountable - only the nurses. my suggestion, talk to other nurses and see what they think and feel about the field as it is today. i worked for 16 years in hospitals and am presently working in home health (much better than hospitals). I consider myself a novice artist - never thought i could draw or paint, until i tried - work, work, work, practice as much as you can. nothing comes easy, but the rewards of hard work are great. good luck to you - let me know if i can help.

Ron van den Boogaard
12-18-2002, 02:47 AM
My very early working carreer I started out as a nurse. That I found that to be a very emotional drain. I did some drawing (mainly on nightshifts) in those years, but a production hardly worth mentioning.
I did work as an advertising illustrator and later as an art-director for over 20 years. I found that being creative during day-time prevented me from making my own art in my spare time. Not to mention the stress sometimes (actually that was a part that I liked)

Last year (at 47, we all seem to have the same story here) I quit advertising and went on to do my own art. Took a lowpaying job on a computer helpdesk. Was stressful at times, but it only drew on the leftside of my brain. I found this to be an excellent combination. No matter how tired I was, I could always go to my painting and get into it in a short period of time.

As you can imagine my income is fractional of what it used to be. No more goodies, toys and eating out. But definitely the best decision I ever made. Could I have made it earlier? I'd like to think I should have, but that is not true. I could only do it last year because I did need all that experience to do my art in the first place.
And the biggest help? Julia Cameron's book. Not with the decision itself, but definitely as a motivational force, and more for my life than for my art.

But b-lansing, when I look at your question. I think you have already made up your mind about art, it is just so scary to take the actual step. Just go do it, you'll always find a way to support yourself, it is such a rewarding step.

12-18-2002, 12:34 PM
With a degree in nursing you can still do art.

With a BFA you can't do nursing.

You can take art classes getting a degree in nursing.

I don't think you can take nursing classes while in a BFA program, but even if you could, why would you?

Job prospects with a nursing degree are good.

There are jobs available with a BFA, but they are not at good. (talk to the counsellors about career opportunities with a BFA)

If you are trying to get into a gallery a BFA in your Bio should help.

Most art collectors don't ask the artist if they have have a BFA.

You will have to take classes in a BFA program you really don't need or want.

You will have to take classes in a Nursing program you really don't need or want.

Artists who make a living at art probably spend an average of 25% of their working career in the "Business of Art". Nobody has the luxury of just painting all day.

The list could go on and on, but those are a few of the observations that leap to my mind that may or may not be important to you. I guess I could add one more, like "What is your soul telling you to do?" But, I'm not quite sure how to frame that question.


12-18-2002, 03:29 PM
At 45, my POV regarding "do what you Love and the Money will follow" has changed.

Far too many artist friends complain more and more about how sales this year are down from last year...

There will always be a demand for those in the medical professions, and with the demand comes income.

There isn't always a demand for artists, and with or without a sheepskin, you can't turn around without tripping across something "artistic," be it e-bay, a gallery (which is NOT easy to get your art into), or the mass produced crap at Costco...

The bottom line at your age is how stable are your finances. Can you afford to chase a dream that up to now you have no experience and self-admittedly little to no training or talent with in the HOPES that you can learn enough to make a living at it? The art therapist suggestion might be your best avenue, in that it would cover your bases, leaving you enough room to pursue the production of art should you find you do have the talent. All the cheerleading in the world isn't going to help if you spend money to get a degree (which you WILL get, even as a very mediocre artist) that will be worthless once you are trying to survive as a producing artist...

Open those art materials you're too afraid to play with and make something. Make lots of somethings. Good or bad, you'll never be an artist just reading about it, and you'll never get any better at drawing, painting, or anything else unless you practice. Don't spend all that money on an art degree if you haven't even burned through an introductory oils set!

Ron van den Boogaard
12-18-2002, 03:53 PM
I think it was in the "Procastrinating" thread in the "Creativity Corner" where someone remarked something to the effect like; Come important decisions I picture myself in a rocking chair on the verandah (that's the porch for you guys 'n' gals across the pond) at the age of seventy and think what that decision would mean for me at that age.

12-18-2002, 03:55 PM
In an admitted digression, I feel compelled to note a career that combines the "Art Field" (at least loosely) and the "Health Care Field" (at least emerging). I was looking at the website for a local model co-op and yesterday saw for the first time an advertisement for "medical models" . I guess some rules have changed and medical students can't probe each other anymore so for $50.00 a medical model can go to hospital and get fondled and probed for about a 1/2 hours work. As the ad said, that's $100.00 an hour!

Although, I will admit that trying to combine a calling for a nurse and artist by becoming a medical model is probably not the best choice. :)


12-18-2002, 04:59 PM
:clap: Have you considered combining the two professions? Occupational Therapy or a field that might combine your love of art with physical rehabilitation might be a good way to go.


We must be the change we wish to see. -- Mahatma Gandhi

12-18-2002, 06:44 PM
b-lansing, another thought, it looks like you have an either or decision here. From what Ron and elizabeth wrote, if you go the nursing route, you'll have little time or energy for art and obviously if you get the BFA, you can't do nursing.

This is a tough one. I just don't think its a good idea to find a career that combines your creativity with a more practical profession like art therapy. It sounds great in theory but in practice, it can drain what little creativity you have. swan was very wise when she said she sometimes wished for a low stress low paying job so she could just do her art for herself.

If you're considering an art career, its obvious that you want art to be a major part of your life. It can be whether or not you actually sell a piece but I don't think it can be if the rest of your life i.e., your job is very stressful.

Ron van den Boogaard
12-19-2002, 04:24 AM
To elaborate some more on the above, there is stress, emotional drain, hard work.
Nursing here, some 25 years ago was physically very hard and low paying. A patient dying under your hands is not anything like working against a deadline in advertising. But in advertising you have to use your right brain a lot and after two days of doing concepts for the next mayonaise ad, it is a tough one to paint on the weekends.
The computer helpdesk had loads of stress: targets to be met, clients waiting on the que, co-workers not capable of dealing with stress, falling ill, so more stress. But these are things you can easily forget as soon as you close the office door behind you. I found that an excellent combination with pursuing art.
I did a brief stint working in an art supply store. No stress, but after over twenty years in a desk-chair physically very hard. Unloading a van with rolls of canvasses or a pallet of paint or paper is just plain hard work. But it really was the best: after spending the day between the art-materials and artists you don't know how fast you need to get near your easel (and the job gave a healthy discount on materials as well which compensated for the low pay)

Just some thought, looks like we might be adding more to the confusion by trying to help you.

12-19-2002, 08:51 AM
I can understand what Ron is saying. I was writing a technical manual for a fashion design program, using the logical side of the brain, it requires attention to detail,pressure to finish, etc. I treated myself to a figure drawing class, and to my great surprise, my artistic side was complimented by my analytical side. I never experienced this before. It was actually better :because the more analytical side helped to balance out the process. I can take off on my idea, with an emotion, and actually hear the analytical voice inside my head saying, "proportions, and organize your palette ...." I realized I work best with both sides of my brain. I was designing towels and sheets, it was very creative, and I came home exhausted (I gave it everything I've got.) when I tried to do artwork, only sheet designs came out....like lending your voice and not getting it back when you need to use it.

Now I finished a diploma in web design, to my surprise again, I wanted to be creative, but actually enjoyed the programming side of web design.......
There is a big difference between creating an art "product" and creating a work of self expression. There is no room for self expression in most "art products." It has at times made me feel a bit stifled actually.

Ron van den Boogaard
12-19-2002, 10:00 AM
Hear! Hear!

Webdesign is actually great, though I am not in the programming side of it, unless you call juggling HTML programming.
The graphics demand a little creativity, the rest is purely analytical: what properties do I give a table tag, how is the navigation build, where do I steal the next bit of javascript to create a random sheep poetry generator (sorry wrong thread)

But then I just do sites for (mainly glass)artists and I'll swap them for their work rather than asking money for it. I might not have the money to buy beer, but I have the best set of handblown beerglasses in the world!

I only do what is fun, I'm just a bit underfinanced. My life is so great, just my life-sitation leaves somewhat to be desired. There is a distinction between the two. Don't confuse them.

12-19-2002, 11:16 AM
Yes, I was in that thread. I will have to think about the poetry program, actually, that sounds like a great idea....using asp and generating random words, from a database maybe...therapeutic art programming, a new career!

12-19-2002, 12:49 PM
Thanks everybody for the advice!:cat: . You all have been so helpful, I still have a month before I have to chose a major. The Occupational Therapy is also another avenue I will look into-thanks for the suggestion on that career. You all are just super, Thanks so much!!!:clap: :clap: :clap: -Betsy.