Thursday, May 18, 2006

Out to Prove Something

I wonder sometimes how many artists are occasionally motivated by the desire to prove other people wrong in their notions about what a career in the arts is all about.

I know I am, but sometimes I think that’s because I’m constantly surrounded by people who don’t take art very seriously.

I work full time as an engineer, and engineers (and perhaps accountants) should be placed at the very top of the list of people who think that art is not a practical career choice. The people I work with think it’s just plain odd that I paint – they don’t really know what to make of it. Apparently it’s unheard of for someone to be an engineer and into anything remotely artsy.

Because I went to an engineering school for college, most of my friends are also engineer types. When I tell people I plan to eventually drop engineering and paint full time, I get replies that fall into one of two categories. The first includes jokes ranging from, “Glad your husband has a good job,” to the oh-so-polite, “Well, there’s a reason they call them starving artists.” The second is the more positive response category, which includes any response that implies that a person approves of the idea of quitting what you tolerate to do what you love.

More and more, I find myself judging my friends by which of these categories their responses fall into. I’m very defensive – if someone who I consider a friend makes a snide comment about the money-making potential of art, I seem to unconsciously check them off of my list of allies.

Apparently this art stuff is really important to me. After all, you could make degrading comments about engineering all day and I would laugh along with you. I have no such lenience about art!

I’ve met plenty of artists who make a decent living and are able to support their families with their art. It’s damn hard work, and it takes some sacrifice, but it’s possible. And everytime somebody makes me feel like it’s not, it’s just more fuel for me to prove to them that it is.

It might take me a while to get there, but I’m working on it. I’m always up for a good challenge!


  1. from another engineer who appreciates art (and only wishes she were as talented as you and could quit the engineering thing for the art thing), I envy your conviction to work towards doing something you love!

    and I love the painting in this post!

  2. It's funny how different people have such different outlooks on what kind of a living an artist can make. Many people that I know assume that artists are or will be rich and famous. HA! I am surprised that engineers are not too understanding about art, isn't there a lot of creativity involved in engineering, problem-solving rather than expressive, but still. Many of the people we know are doctors and they mostly seem really impressed that I am an artist, which seems odd to me, somehow.

    Anyway, hope you don't waste too much energy on being defensive, they'll come around after you are able to quit in order to paint full time!

  3. Tracy - I wonder if some of the difference in attitude about art comes from your location, so close to the NY art scene?

    I don't waste too much energy on being defensive - I think that would bring me down. Just enough to keep me motivated :)

  4. Stacers,

    On my blog someone once commented that when she mentions she's a poet she gets one of two reactions--their eyes light up a little two brightly with expectation or they simply glaze over. I think the same is often true when I mention I'm an artist, though I'm fortunate to live in an artistic community with a lot of people who can relate.

    Congrats on your pregnancy! It does get easier in the second month. I was completely exhausted during the first trimester of both my pregnancies.

  5. In my line of work, everyone totally envies anyone who's creative, whether they get paid to be creative or not.

    You know what's really funny? Dad always forbade me to take an art class in college because it would be all subjective grading; but he was totally gung-ho over the whole creative writing thing. Pfffft. Crazy ass Engineer...

  6. As an artist and full time software engineer I completely understand where you are coming from.

    Some day I'll make the leap and quit the job and just do the art but as a single mom I'm still not ready to take the leap.

    Congrats on your pregnancy!