WHAT?! 011: You Can’t Make A Living At That

[image: yelling dog, annoyed cat]

WHAT?! is Drooly Dog’s Advice Column for the Creative and Perplexed. In which I answer burning questions about the creative process and what might be holding up that brain of yours. Send your questions to: hellodroolydog@gmail.com.

Dear Drooly Dog: I am a visual artist. I have drawn all over everything since I was able to hold a pencil. I always decorate all of my school supplies. I have even been asked at school to paint signs and help design a mural. I sell my work at shows, and I even have a website where I sell sketches and commissions.
I want to go to college to study art and design. But my parents tell me that in order for them to pay the tuition, I have to pursue a “real” or “practical” major, so I can get a “real job” when I graduate. They are fine with me studying art, just not exclusively. They want me to get a business or economics degree or something. Then I can do a double major or minor in art.
I don’t know how studying something I hate and am bad at is going to help me get a job. Am I doomed to go sit in a cubicle no matter what, and then just draw on meeting agendas the way I draw on my school folders now? Is my talent really a dead end to nothing and no money?
– Sincerely, Creative and Career-Oriented

Dearest Creative,
First of all, congratulations on sharing your talent at your school and with people over your website. You clearly think of your work as a business and a serious pursuit already. And you are looking for ways to do your art for people who value it.
This, dear Creative, is the essence of literally any career at all. There is no difference between getting good at engineering and going to work for a construction firm and getting good at visual work and going to a design firm. You develop skills, you find ways they are valued and paid for, and bam, that’s what we call a career.
Unfortunately, in recent decades this thing we call “the arts” was done a tragic disservice. I will say that some of this took place in the schools, when funding was so tight that bureaucrats were under pressure to cut things but still be able to claim their schools were “excellent” or “effective” or something.
And so they focused on what they understood. Math and science and English are all wonderful. Foundations of many an important advance. Fascinating. But also they lend themselves to measurement in a way that bureaucrats can put on a chart and measure and use to do budgets.
So the visual and performing arts have often lost out, not because they are of less value, but because they do not fit our dominant (corporate) ways of measuring things.
What does this have to do with you? Well, those priorities and budgets translate into messages that move through society and eventually make it to your dinner table where someone says, “You can’t make a living at that.” And this is when your world starts to shrink and you see cubicle farms in your future.
Creative, I can’t tell you how much industry is accomplished in the name of visual and design and other creative thinking in our world. What is that huge film industry? What about television? YouTube? What about all the products you buy? The buildings you walk around in? The clothes you wear? The car you drive? The books you read? Everything around you is the result of someone creating something new. And that is art.
I got this same message when I was in high school, and I have worked in probably five or six different industries – and for myself – doing everything from graphic design to special effects to comics.
You have a good business head on your shoulders already. Use it. Go out and find opportunities to do good work with good people. Go to school to get better. Show your parents that you know how to get paid for your work, and educate them in all the industries that need people like you. They need their eyes opened. They want you to be safe and able to take care of yourself. Nothing wrong with that, but part of that is doing what you are good at. This is your highest value.
Which is a long way of saying, screw that. Go kick some ass and make the world a better place with your talents.
Sincerely, Drooly Dog


Drooly Dog offers creative advice only. Nothing legal or medical, please follow of your own accord. It’s up to you, man.

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