Art as a Second Career
February 8, 2013 12:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for stories from people who became artists at a later age.

I'm working on an article that has personal as well as publishing (hopefully) significance for me. Everyone always hears about artists who are making a living at what they do, went to art school at 18, and had no trepidation about whether the art world was suitable or even possible for them.

I want to write about those who weren't always that sure of themselves. Who didn't go to art school. Preferably who started selling art at 40 or older, and how that's working out for them. I'm curious about whether they're making a living at it, are discriminated against for not being young art school grads, and the characteristics which make or break emerging artists.

I'd love to hear your stories, especially if you're in the DC area. Thanks.
posted by tuberose to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
You might find this an interesting read.

Disclosure: I edited it and have a minuscule financial interest, but I think that's kosher in this context. Otherwise please flag for deletion.
posted by aqsakal at 2:58 AM on February 8, 2013

Grandma Moses is a classic example.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 3:38 AM on February 8, 2013

The very talented Lisa Congdon talks about this a bit here and here.
posted by Wantok at 4:13 AM on February 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Rosalie Gascoigne is a major figure in Australian art, and she had her first exhibition when she was 57. There's a whole bunch of material about her on the web, but the wikpedia page isn't a bad place to start
posted by bunglin jones at 4:45 AM on February 8, 2013

Are you looking only for contemporary stories? If not, Mary Delany (whose life is chronicled in The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock) is a fascinating one.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:30 AM on February 8, 2013

Henri Rousseau toiled away in civil servant obscurity until he started painting in his late 40s.
posted by Rash at 9:42 AM on February 8, 2013

Kathie Taslitz

(You have googled art as second career, yes?
posted by IndigoJones at 11:03 AM on February 8, 2013

I don't have any personal examples, and this doesn't conform to your under-40 rule, but hip hop is well known as a world that loves young prodigies, and that's what makes Jay-Z so special: he went to high school with Notorious B.I.G. (who was younger than him), and watched Big blow up at a much younger age while he was still hanging on to Jaz-O's coattails and selling drugs. Jay tried repeatedly to get a major label to sign him, and failed repeatedly. Eventually, he got a minor label to sign him, but was so disappointed with the poor job they did of promoting his shows that he ended the contract prematurely, and started his own label with two partners. In a world that prizes brilliant 19 year olds, Jay released his debut album at age 26 (ancient, in hip hop years), and built up his success slowly, over time. Now he is widely considered to be at least the equal of both Big and Nas, if not the greatest rapper of all time.

There are two really good books about Jay-Z - his own "Decoded" and "Empire State of Mind" by Zack O'Malley Greenburg. In both, Jay makes it very clear that he never seriously thought he could make a career of rap - and when he began to, he invested his earnings in a diverse portfolio of businesses, because he was so uncertain about whether his rap career would ever last. His entire career is the story of a man who felt he could probably never make it, and thought it would end rapidly if he did - that he's one of the highest paid men in America (in any field) is a great testament to just how wrong he was.
posted by sidi hamet at 7:06 PM on February 8, 2013

tl;dr: Jay-Z made his debut at age 26, that is seriously old for a debut in hip-hop years
posted by sidi hamet at 7:07 PM on February 8, 2013

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