So Why Did You Become an Artist?


I once asked a little boy if he was going to be an artist when he grew up. He answered me "I am an artist".I laughed a little and was somewhat impressed with his audacity.When I was young I was going to be an artist. And a nun. And a ballerina. As it turned out I didn't have the calling to be a nun (surprise!) or the skill to be a dancer but I always thought about art.I escaped into the woods with a pencil and paper to sketch. And escape was the right word because art was an escape from a childhood lacking in kindness, love and support.When I thought of the future I saw myself wearing a smock and a beret in a loft in Paris. The idea was lifted whole from a black and white movie and I hadn't thought it through any further. In high school I had a wonderful art teacher and a French teacher who let me illustrate Baudelaire's Fleur du Mal on her classroom walls.I won awards, including one statewide competition because my art teacher submitted my work.

With top SAT scores and grades I was accepted by several Universities. I had no idea how to get a scholarship and could not get student aid because my father continued to deduct me  on his taxes while not supporting me. I was faced with putting myself through school at minimum wage. And so I did. But having come from poverty, and barely getting by on my own, I didn't have the nerve to pursue art. I needed a real job. So I majored in Business Administration, and upon graduation was hired into a management job in the Fortune 500. I left art behind.

That is not to say that I abandoned creativity, but it was limited to crafts, painting walls and my nails.An MBA followed a a career straight from the Doonesbury comic strip. I did get the gumption to leave when it finally dawned on me I could get a corner office by walking out and renting one. And so I did.Being an entrepreneur was demanding but I managed to take some art classes on the side for fun and stress management.

Fate intervened in the form of a near fatal car accident. I knew I'd go back to art someday but I was forcefully reminded we aren't promised a "someday".I went back to painting, met other artists and people started to buy my work. When others took me seriously I took myself seriously.I had to make a lot of changes like selling my business, downsizing to a smaller home and spending a lot free my time for painting. And I haven't regretted it for a moment.

I sometimes wonder what might have happened if I'd gone to art school, if I hadn't let fear and baggage redirect me. But in truth I am happy with the way it has turned out and I am glad to call myself an artist again.