Help! My Kid Wants to Be an Artist!

Long ago, when my own parents had to deal with this conundrum, the career path toward professional artist was very, very different. It was much simpler. Go to art school, build a portfolio, start visiting galleries and companies with your portfolio… get your work represented, get a job, boom! Paycheck and stability….

In the recent years, I’ve had many a parent visit me at art festivals and exhibits and confess their fears that their child has expressed interest in pursuing a career in the creative arts. They look at me with expectation and hope that I can tell them it’s going to be all right and that their child will be able to pursue his/her dream. They are looking for some word of advice and wisdom. How in the world to do I help my child do this!? There’s an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and doubt. For good reason...this is NOT an easy path and it is littered with defeated creatives who didn’t “make it.”

I also run across a lot of highschool and college students who come visit me and express the same thing…”I want to be an do I do that?” I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and with the changing landscape of art education and economy, I have a few suggestions.

Encourage and Equip-- if your child wants to make art a career, let them know they can. You can be’s not going to be easy, but it can be done.

Pay attention to their art projects.

Go to their exhibits.

Expose them to the arts in your town.

If there are artists in your area who are open to it, consider having your child visit their studio or even intern with them. Trust me, most artists are looking for cheap help! (Me, for one!)

If you have the opportunity to have your child take art lessons, do it. If not, there are guide books, online classes, etc that can give your child extra training and help them blossom in their art.

Think Diverse-- The big difference between making a living as an artist then and now is that now, it is necessary to diversify your education so that you can be a jack of all trades, or at least know enough to seek out the right kind of hired help! Along with being able to create a piece of art, play an instrument, or perform on stage, an artist must now know how to:

Navigate and market on social media.

Write a press release.

Write contracts and agreements.

Keep accounting books.

Build a website,

and basically run a business.

I’m not kidding, people. Jack. Of. All. Trades.

If I had to go back to school, I would sign up for business and marketing classes. Some writing classes wouldn’t be a bad idea either. There are so many ways to accomplish this additional education: community college, online courses, going to a liberal arts college that offers many other degrees alongside their art offerings.

Maybe art school is out of the question financially (this is more of a reality than ever before!). That’s ok. You don’t have to go to an art school to be a professional artist. I didn’t. Neither did many of my friends who are totally killing it as artists. Pick a school that has an art program as a jumping off point and then once you (or your child) has a better sense of his/her artistic “bend,” have them take workshops and add to their artistic training in non-traditional (cheaper) ways.

Better Together--another big thing that is changed is the idea of solo artist...lone soul. This might have worked in the past when galleries and industries were sustaining the artist, but now, most artists are on their own and need to band together with other artists for support and knowledge gathering. It's all about networking, people! If your child is interested in pursuing an art career, make sure they start hanging out with older artists and artists their own age. There are many collectives and artist communities, online and physical, that can be tapped into to help foster this idea of community and teamwork. And you know what? If you are a budding artist and don't have a community, you can be the brave soul that starts one.

The path for professional artists has definitely changed, but it can definitely be done. I’m proof of it and I have a lot of friends that are living proof as well. Our world needs artists more than ever and parents behind them that who cheer them on the whole way. And in case you were wondering, being a professional artist is a worthy career. Just like schools need art (see my previous post), the world needs more than ever.

If you’re an artist, what was your career path? Anything you would have done differently? What is YOUR advice for young artists? If you’re a parent with a creative child, how are you helping them pursue their passion? Share your tricks, please!

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