I used to be an artist. No, really.
August 9, 2009 4:41 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone gotten back into a creative field after years in another profession? I'm contemplating this, but it feels an awful lot like jumping off a cliff. How did you do it; what were the pitfalls and successes.
posted by nax to Grab Bag (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, a lot of it depends on what kind of artistic field you're talking about. Some are a lot more competitive, fickle, and unpredictable than others.

Not having done this personally (except as a pastime), I'd guess that the best way might be to just do it on the side, but have a real job in the meantime to support yourself while you see if you're good enough to do the art thing for a living.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 5:29 PM on August 9, 2009


It can take a while to get your groove back after not being immersed in creative work for so long. I'd advise taking on creative work as a sideline, and not be too surprised or disappointed if the work falls short of your expectations or previous standard. Also, don't expect that your style will remain the same as before; in most cases your style will change (speaking from a web/graphic designer's point of view).

YMMV, and good luck!
posted by titantoppler at 6:35 PM on August 9, 2009


It is quite a bad time to chuck it all to "be an artist". Are we talking about fine art? Graphic art? You have a chance if the creative field is one that translates to money--ie: advertising, animation, textile, etc..if you are talking about becoming a fine arts painter...WELL. you had better have a savings account full of money.
Money certainly can be made in the arts....but much depends on your education, skills, the market for the work ..on and on. Very FEW people are money-making "fine" artists....but if you are savvy you can apply for grants, etc. It is a long haul--and not to rain on your parade but most people make more money as wait staff than they do in the arts! If you know of a successful person in the field you are interested in..make an appointment with them to discuss your situation. People are flattered by being asked their opinion.
posted by naplesyellow at 8:30 PM on August 9, 2009


What I say is that while my income comes from my investments, what I AM is a writer.

Tweak phrase as needed.
posted by brujita at 9:27 PM on August 9, 2009


I can't give you any advice, but I'll offer this website as something useful if you're looking to escape the rat race: Escape from Cubicle Nation.
posted by Enki at 12:31 AM on August 10, 2009


It really does depend on the field.
Writing would probably be the easiest field to re-enter. Fine arts would be relatively easy, too.

Dropping back into graphic design, otoh, could well be a herculean effort. Depending on how long you've been away from design, you would be so far out of date simply with the necessary software and knowledge to even get an entry-level job, let alone work as a freelancer. The skills required of a designer today is a lot different than they were even 5 years ago. Quadruply-so is, when you left design, your skills were largely dedicated to print design/production.

Again, it depends on the particular field. A little more info would be helpful.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:51 AM on August 10, 2009


Quadruply-so IF...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:51 AM on August 10, 2009


Response by poster: Thanks for the good start. I originally wrote the post with chapter and verse, but it was too amorphous, so I thought I'd take some more direction from the responses before adding details.

I made my living as a visual artist (!) in the 80s until life and economics got in the way (namely, coupla kids). I've worked subsequently in arts management, but basically stopped painting and drawing when my oldest was about 4, so it's been two decades. I know the practicalities haven't changed-- trying to get shows, talking to gallery owners, making yourself do the work, economic concerns (like a job to keep food on the table) etc. and I suspect the mechanics of all that haven't changed that much, but I'm more wondering what the psychological costs are for older artists getting back in. In particular I'm very skittish about "youth culture" and about reestablishing myself within a community of working artists. I know literally NO artists right now.

I really don't want to be the old lady who thinks she can draw. I used to be pretty good, and I did sell enough to make a meagre living. Sorry to be so vague, but anything remotely on subject is welcome.
posted by nax at 5:58 AM on August 10, 2009


I suspect the mechanics of all that haven't changed that much, but I'm more wondering what the psychological costs are for older artists getting back in. In particular I'm very skittish about "youth culture" and about reestablishing myself within a community of working artists. I know literally NO artists right now.

Well, the web has certainly affected things to a degree. I have heard that some galleries would rather have access to an online portfolio of your work, rather than having to deal with slides.

You DO have the advantage of living in a city (your profile says Chicago) with a pretty strong art scene. I completely understand your fear about "youth culture." But, the diversity of the galleries in the area should work in your favor, allowing you to find a suitable showcase. And, there are always the co-ops, of course. I sometimes go to gallery walks in Indy and have to admit to being very threatened/overwhelmed by a lot of the younger "culture" art. I mean, I like the stuff a lot. But, it's not where my head is when it comes to my own work and it makes me doubt that I could ever find an audience for my stuff.

I'm sort of in the same place as you, but have come to it by a different path. Old graphic designer who would really rather paint. But, I have no contacts and no clue how to enter the scene, such as it is in my little neck o the woods.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:10 PM on August 11, 2009


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