Seeing that a lot of questions are from youngsters about career paths in the arts I thought it might be helpful to have a thread that dealt with the issues all under one roof.
"Should I choose a career in the arts?"
Many will have answers to this. I'll kick off this thread with mine:
The best way to answer it is for me to give a quick potted history of the state of the 'art world' both 'commercial' and 'personal'.
The great days of illustration are over, the days when magazines competed for artists to produce work for their covers, publishers for book illustration, strips for newspapers...all has dwindled to a fraction of what it was even in the 1980s - and that was a fraction of what it was in the 1930s to 1960s.
Nearly all the artists of today who would have been gainfully employed in those years are now clinging to one life raft.......Fantasy Art. It's a big raft, since it is blown and maintained by the abundant economic winds of the games industry, but it is a very, very overcrowded one as you can imagine.
Also the gallery system is not what it was during the great days of the Paris Salons and is only a husk of what it used to be in the early part of the 20th century. This is because of the emergence of the new information delivery system; namely the modern media explosion and the internet. The 'superstar' artists of today are therefore no longer plastic artists (painters and sculptors) but media savvy essayists with the conceptual objects they produce being judged and accordingly valued by how successful they are at provocation and the celebrity it generates....tailor-made for media reportage and dissemination.
Hence the plastic arts practiced by the 'gallery painters' exist under the main commercial media radar whilst still maintaining the high artistic concerns (among the serious and dedicated) that the practitioners always had from Giotto to Rembrandt to Picasso. The difference is that the 'high priests' of society no longer sanction or patronise it on anything like the scale they did in the past and the artist is left to find buyers in the bazaars of the connoisseurs; the 'gallery system'.
You need to know this. Very few will tell you this either because they are clueless or do not possess the wit to realise it, are deluded or lie about it.
You need to know this because the pursuit of art as a 'profession' or 'life calling' is unmercifully hard due to attitudes towards the plastic arts in our current global culture and its impact on those practicing it within the context of that culture.
And there's the thing. It is a sense of context within society that will hit hardest on the individual, more so than difficulty earning money even.....To forego the sense of belonging, being valued, being needed by the society you live in for the sake of pursuing something means you have to love it....love it even more than yourself. Because your heart will be broken many times.
So, here you are, a young man or woman of 18 standing before all this and thinking "How the fuck am I going to know if I want to commit myself to a lifetime of that?" Some days you think: "Yay, I don't care, I love doing this stuff, its wonderful, I don't care, bring it on I'm up for it, the artist's life of beauty and dedication and passion and magic....yippie!!"
Other days you think: "Boy, that friend of mine who's just got himself a job in the bank, saving up with his girlfriend to get their first little place...all set to enjoy the little things of life, delight in a new dress, friends round, a dog, picnics with the kids and growing old together...it ain't so bad, that's what Norman Rockwell painted and what he obviously loved."
So this is the question you must ask yourself, not lightly or as an amusing diversion, but acutely aware that 'this is my god damned life I'm talking about!'
It can be put like this:
Your chances of living the life that Norman Rockwell painted are far higher than becoming Norman Rockwell. So what kind of person are you deep, deep down? How important is security, a sense of place in society, a sense of context, a sense of belonging, really, honestly, deep, deep down? Because if you know this you will have some idea which to choose, which way to place your bet. It will even help you with how to spread that bet if you are so inclined.
Only you will know the answer to this and it may take a little while to find it. I can only lay before you the facts as I see them from my experience.
You are probably someone with great sensitivity to the subtleties of life, far more than is average. This is rare and it is what is awakening the artist within you. But sensitivity to the subtleties, the beauty of life has to be seen along with other character traits. You must see yourself as a whole human being, not just as the artist bit. Because it is the whole human being that walks through life, not just the artist.
You have asked me for diamonds and I seem to have only given you a broken bit of mirror. But the answers it holds will be far more valuable to you than anything else I could ever give you.
Good luck my friends. Whichever road you take.