NOTHING is wrong with being a young aspiring artist. Or even an old aspiring artist!
If you haven’t heard the controversy yet, another retailer has managed to outrage lots of people on the internet. Big surprise! Old Navy decided to remove a shirt from their shelves that has offended many artists. The shirt had the phrase “Young Aspiring Artist” on it. “Artist” was crossed out and replaced with other professional occupations (Astronaut, President). I imagine the shirt was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Kids often have lofty ambitions and say they’ll be President or an astronaut when very young. So I get the humor in the shirt. But some felt the shirt discouraged kids from being creative. Others thought it was an obvious jab at professional artists. You mean art isn’t a good career choice?
A good fix for this shirt faux pas would’ve been to create another shirt with Illustrator or Graphic Designer as the occupation. That would reinforce that art shouldn’t be disregarded as a profession. But hey, yanking a shirt from the shelves works too.
The age old misconception that you can’t make a viable career in art still persists. My high school guidance counselor told me years ago that I would be wasting my brain by going to art school. Back then, I was really angry with her comment. I’ve always felt that a guidance counselor’s job is to ask a student what they want to do and then help them get there. Now I clearly see how ignorant and insulting her view was. Really? Artists don’t use their brains? I recall having my brain taxed every time I worked on a catalog, paint-by-number illustration, or retail display. The point isn’t to just paint a pretty picture. You need to research your market and competitors, and engage consumers so they buy a product. If you aren’t using your brain to do that, then you won’t be successful as an artist.
Some people still visualize an artist merely as a fine artist trying to get their work in galleries. I admit, that seems like a stressful and difficult career. Commercial art is definitely a more stable option for an artist. Designers and illustrators work on a variety of projects for clients in diverse sectors. Many also create their own products for passive income. I run an Etsy shop full time, do stock illustration, and some client work. Jason and I also work on fun personal projects that we sell in our online shops. It’s good not to have all your eggs in one basket in any career, especially art.
We started an art scholarship years ago to help Ohio students pursue a college art education. One of the application questions asks students “Were you ever told not to pursue a career in art? If yes, what were the reasons, and why did you ignore that advice.” The submission responses are usually split down the middle. Half of the students say their parents support them in their art career choice. The other half has been told they will never make any money and starve. And why do those students ignore that advice? Usually because they LOVE art and can’t imagine doing anything else. Money matters little to young people with aspirations, especially artists.
Thankfully Jason and I both grew up in homes where our parents encouraged our artistic endeavors. They were never worried about us being “starving artists”. They knew we were both driven individuals who could succeed no matter what. But every time I visit my parents, they LOOK at me like I’m starving based on all the food I cram in my mouth. But that’s just because I get to “cheat” on being gluten-free during family visits :D Art has been pretty good to me!