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An Artist’s Struggle to Please Parents

Updated on May 15, 2020
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Me working on a digital photo composite.
Me working on a digital photo composite. | Source

I Am An Artist

I am an artist. I used to feel guilty saying those words because I wasn’t sure if I could call myself that when I hadn’t sold much art or was not making a living wage doing art. Since then I know that an artist creates art. That is what I do every day. Even when I’m cooking or doing something else, I’m thinking art, so that makes me an artist.

My father tried his best to discourage art, telling me that I would starve to death, and artists didn’t make any money until they were dead. He said I wasn’t talented enough. Actually that’s not entirely true but often it could be. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t talk me out of what was on my heart from the beginning. Art.

Me working as an announcer on the radio.
Me working as an announcer on the radio. | Source

Career Choices

I understand what he was trying to do for me. It is true that artists don’t really make any serious money. You have to be seriously deranged or in love with art to pursue it as a career (maybe a little of both). But artists don’t go into art for the money; they go into art because they are possessed by the love of the craft and the drive to do art at any cost (even eating regularly). Dad was trying to prepare me for a harsh world that doesn’t care if you are gifted or talented. He wanted me to be self-sufficient. I really appreciate that about him now. Back then I felt unloved, unworthy, betrayed, and confused for having a passion for something he didn’t approve of.

As parents, I think the more important thing would be to believe in your children and not belittle their dreams. There is a difference in gently directing a career choice and completely dashing dreams.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.

— Henry Ward Beecher

Cat Portrait

Famous Artists

There are many famous artists throughout history whose parents felt the same way. Michelangelo’s father wanted him to pursue a career in law, that would replenish the family fortune but couldn’t dissuade him from art, which he thought would ruin them financially. John James Audubon’s father wanted him to join the military and become an officer just as he had done, but the boy couldn’t pass the exams. He kept spending his time out in the forest drawing the birds. Beatrix Potter’s parents wanted her to get married and take her place in upper-middle-class society, but she spent all her time in her room drawing and illustrating rabbit stories. I suppose that puts me in among very good company.

My watercolor painting "Darling Angel"
My watercolor painting "Darling Angel" | Source

We have art so that we shall not die of reality.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

Did you go against your parents to pursue some creative endeavor?

See results

Children’s Book, The Dot

In one of my favorite children’s books, an art teacher tells her students to create anything they want. At the end of an hour, the students all turn in their art except for one student who has a blank paper. She tells the teacher she can’t draw. The teacher says anyone can make art even if you only put one dot on the paper it’s art. So the student very angrily picks up her crayon and makes a stab at the center of the paper, exclaiming “THERE!” The teacher looks at it and nods. “Now sign it.” The next day all the students enter the classroom and notice that only one creation from the day before is framed and hanging behind the teacher. It is the dot. Everyone admires it and comments on how beautiful the dot is. But the girl who made the angry dot said, “I can do a better one than that,” and begins making more dots. She makes large ones and small ones and dots of all colors. Later she has an art show of her dots and people want her autograph. One day a child comes to her and says, “I wish I were an artist like you. I can’t draw anything.” The girl says, “Nonsense. You can make a mark, can’t you? Anyone who can make a mark can be an artist.” So she hands the child a piece of paper and says, “Here. Make a mark.” The child makes a slash across the paper and the girl looks at it and nods. “Now sign it.”

Painting a rose.
Painting a rose. | Source

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Those Who Can’t Do, Teach

After a while, I found I could teach art to both children and adults, even without a college degree or teaching credential. I wanted to encourage children to try, that creativity came from within and that they could do anything they tried hard enough. Plus, art has the added benefit of having no wrong answers. It’s not like math or science. Even if you make only one mark on the paper, it is still art. So my mantra became “never tell them they can’t do it”. Soon people began calling me “the encourager” everywhere I went. I figure if you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything so why not. I always try to find the good in my student’s work and accentuate that. I may point out one thing that could be improved on, but I won't belabor the issue. Besides success in art is less about talent and more about being in the right place at the right time. Because of my father, there are several of my former students pursuing a career in art. One young lady lives in New York City designing for a shoe manufacturing company. Another dear student has become a fashion designer creating theatrical costumes for a drama troupe. One of my three daughters is not working for a video gaming company as a character designer.

My best advice is to become an encourager. It is sort of that old adage, that you catch more flies with honey. A sour disposition and constant nagging that your child will starve to death will only get a sour return and disappointment. I have to say my dad turned me into an encourager because I never wanted another person to feel their limitations but instead, their possibilities.

B is for Boy of the Red Twilight from the FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World.
B is for Boy of the Red Twilight from the FairyTale Alphabet Book, Fairy Tales and Folk Tales from Around the World. | Source

When you buy something from an artist, you’re buying more than an object. You’re buying hundreds of hours of errors and experimentation. You’re buying years of frustration and moments of pure joy. You’re not buying just one thing, you are buying a piece of a heart, a piece of a soul… a small piece of someone else’s life.

— Anonymous
Support Your Local Starving Artist!
Support Your Local Starving Artist! | Source

Final Thoughts

Art is a matter of the heart. Even when things are unsure and the economy is in the tank, I will continue to do art. Writers write. Musicians make music. I make art. What could be better?

Comments

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      12 days ago from Fresno CA

      Lawrence Hebb,

      Parents can be crushing with just a few careless words, can't they? I think we really have to watch what we say to kids or they will take too much to heart. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      13 days ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Denise

      I still remember going home from school excited to tell Mum and Dad I'd been picked as a substitute for my school soccer team, and being crushed when they said, "well if you aren't good enough for the team, why bother?"

      I never went to another soccer practice, and I never told my parents when I tried new things out again.

      They had a few surprises over the years with what I actually did!!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Peggy Woods,

      Yes, The Dot story is a wonderful story. My favorite, I think. Although as a children's book illustrator, I have so many. I'm so glad you like my work. We are each unique and no one person expresses the same thing in the same way. That's why art is so important. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      First of all, your art is beautiful. I love the fact that you encourage children and others to make art. Whether or not one makes a living at it, the creation of art is a journey into our souls. What we create can express so many things in unique ways. I am glad that you persisted in your love of art. The dot story is priceless!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Nithya Venkat,

      That is such a nice thing to say. I do hope the world is a better place with me than without me. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 weeks ago from Dubai

      Your students are pursuing successful careers because of your encouragement. The world needs people like you who encourage youngsters to follow their dreams. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Devika Primić,

      Yes, parents want you to choose something that will make a good living for you. Not something that will make you struggle all your life, even if it makes you very happy. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      William Kovacic,

      It's true. I could be describing a writer or musician or sculptor or even actor. All the creative arts are similar and are not held in very high esteem by the general public or by parents, for the most part. It's a shame that we admire the product but not the producer. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Marie Flint,

      I too, give a lot of artwork away. Too much I think. Still, it gives me joy to do it. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Linda Crampton,

      Yes, I wish I had written the Dot story. It totally resonates with so many and is exactly what I try and tell my young students. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Demas W Jasper,

      I'm glad you think that is the best of all. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      7 weeks ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi Denise such an interesting write up. Artists are not well recognized and most parents do not want their children to be who they want to be instead want them to be to their expectations. Glad you chose your way . Your work of art is perfect and entertains all walks of life.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      7 weeks ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      In your description of an artist, you could very well be describing a writer. The similarities are too great. Nevertheless, we carry on. Thanks for your thoughts, Denise.

    • Marie Flint profile image

      Marie Flint 

      7 weeks ago from Jacksonville, FL USA

      I know the frustration and the love that you have written about so well. Whatever comes from the heart is art. Art is part of the word heart, isn't it?

      Marketing, of course, is the key to any business (busyness). I'm a terrible marketer.

      My artistic expression has been my quilts, and I always gave them away. I believed everyone in the world should have one. There's even a beautiful story of an old woman who makes quilts for the homeless so they would have something to keep them warm on cold nights. The king, who has everything but is unhappy, meets this woman. She advises him to give his possessions away. At first he rejects the idea, but bit-by-bit, he begins giving his material possessions away each time a visitor expresses adulation for one of his items. Guess what? He has a blast! And, for the first time in a very long time, he's happy!

      What more can one ask?

      I love your artwork, love the fact that you pursued something that makes you happy, and love the ideal you express in this article.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Virginia Allain,

      You are so right. We are all storytellers down deep. Isn't that what any phone conversation is about? Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Linda Lum,

      It is the right path for me. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      DreamerMeg,

      It's a shame more value isn't put on artists. I think they are just as important to society as ballplayers or TV celebrities. Yet they can hardly earn enough to buy lunch. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Bill Holland,

      Your "bravo" means so much to me. I feel like a very disobedient and contrary person but I just had to be true to myself. In the end, I'm the one I have to go to bed with. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Eric Dierker,

      I think we hold ourselves back with the thought that we can't or aren't supposed to do things, when in reality, if we only tried we could accomplish a lot of things. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Lorna Lamon,

      I agree. It is my favorite escape. I need it to feel whole. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      John Hansen,

      The Dot is a cute book. I use it when I'm teaching children. They love to see the cute pictures and the message resonates with them. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      7 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      Liz Westwood,

      I'm so glad you think so. I try to be positive. Thanks for commenting.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      7 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You've shared some excellent advice, Denise. There are many memorable points in your article. They include your statement that "there is a difference in gently directing a career choice and completely dashing dreams." The story about the dot on the paper is lovely.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      7 weeks ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Best of all? You are an artist who knows and appreciates the art of writing, too.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 weeks ago from Central Florida

      I consider myself an encourager, though for writing childhood memories rather than creating art. Too many people say, "I'm not a writer," but I tell them don't worry about the grammar or skill. Only you can tell the stories of your childhood.

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      7 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Denise, thank you for such an uplifting, encouraging article. The quotes that you selected are perfect. I'm so glad that you listened to your heart; you chose the right path.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      7 weeks ago from Northern Ireland

      Great hub and love that story about the dot. I must find that book. There are a number of "starving artists" where I live. I must post the link to this so they can read it too. So many good points about this article!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I love the first sentence in this article, and I love that you overcame the parental discouragement. Bravo that you forged ahead so that the rest of us could enjoy your talents.

      Blessings always

      bill

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      7 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great piece. I got a little teary eyed. Your passion and "The Dot" showed great insights. I was told early on to learn a trade. I was not "college material". Youngest of 6 siblings, first to get a degree and only one to have a doctorate now. Writing is my passion. But I am not disciplined. So I needed the structure.

      Hey I am not supposed to be able to draw. I just drew two awesome birds in sketch. Thank you for the impetus.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      7 weeks ago

      This is such an encouraging article Denise and gives hope to those who perhaps didn't follow their passion and ended up unhappy and frustrated. Art in all its forms transports us to another realm and we all need that escape.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      7 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing this Denise, it does show that you should pursue your passion no matter what. "The Dot" sounds like a great book and I love that collage "Darling Angel."

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 weeks ago from UK

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. This article is so positive and encouraging for everyone.

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