Questions from young artists, 7 of 10

Ceramic rattle with handpainted and drawn patterns by Dawn Yoshimura

Question 19: Did you love to do art?

The other questions from this young artist were: When did you know you were into art? and What was your first drawing or painting? I think several of the students who gave me their questions revolved around probing the ʻpracticalʻ obstacles to becoming an artist in their mind. So the short answer is Yes, I always liked art classes and I suppose my first drawing I remember was when I scribbled onto my momʻs sewing box a picture of me being happy at the zoo. I only remember because she was upset at first and then decided there were worse things I could have done.

Here is my two cents IMHO on these questions: Most kids unfortunately self identify as -not creative- by the time they hit middle school. This is a tragedy. Everyone can be creative, and with the right training and encouragement can all be more creative but everything in our world supports not being creative. I donʻt mean willful and odd. I mean truly creative in forming new connections and insights, methods of doing things better, safer, or more elegantly. Wouldnʻt most kidsʻ first paintings or drawings have been when they were first given crayons or such? But the question is revealing of the socialization at work because I think she was asking what was the first drawing or painting that someone else told me and others was of any value. The result, the prize, the grade, the purchase, this is not what matters. But the sad truth is maybe without this, many young artists donʻt even try for mastery.

Question 20: How is life like as an artist?

Life as an artist is much like any other occupation. It requires discipline, passion and luck to be successful in the worldʻs eyes. Some would say you need the added social support, of networks connections and influence to ʻmake itʻ. I think this is true in that there are many ʻtalentedʻ and skilled artists I know who arenʻt able to make a living off just sales of their work to finance the making of their work. I think, again, that is what these young artists were after in their questions.

But my answer is that you need to reframe what you mean by being an artist. If you mean to be paid to use your creativity and brain to solve problems worth solving and serve others, it is certainly possible. I have used my creativity to illustrate books, design brands for ski lodges, companies, create infographics to celebrate good works and get support for good causes. I have used my creativity to help others in other fields of expertise create the first hybrid diesel electric bus and truck for Volvo, and many other projects I am proud of, all using my creativity and getting paid for it. Others use their creativity to make knives, clothing, jewelry, furniture, parks, toys, games, food. Denzel Washington gave my favorite commencement speech in 2011 to the University of Pennsylvania of all time, I watch it at least a couple times a year.

Question 21: What made you to be an artist? Why did you become an artist? How much is your salary? Did you graduate high school?

Again, about a third of the questions were of this nature, but I think that was great, because it meant the seed of possibility was in their eyes of a creative job as a possible career choice. I am posting them here because if you are an artist or parent, please have these discussions with young artists and give them images of how it can be done so they can maybe dream better for themselves on how their path may take shape.

I knew I wanted to do good in society, I just didnʻt feel I was as good in other areas as I was in drawing and being a creative thinker and problem solver. I didnʻt pick from what I couldnʻt do: Iʻm not good in math so I wonʻt be an engineer. I am not good with people so I wonʻt be a doctor. That just leaves me with the leftovers and that is not a way to make choices about your life. I didnt know if I could be an artist, I didnʻt know anyone who had done it or could help me. The closest thing I had to role models were women of color starting to pop up on tv. Rita Moreno on Electric Company, Barbara Tanabe on the tv news. But no one was doing what I really wanted to do. Iʻve made enough to do what I have wanted–time to paint, time to make art and take vacations, money to take a workshop or class, etc. Yes, I graduated from high school, went to an art school and got a BFA, and went back later to get a BS in IT summa cum laude and a MBA. I am still learning, but just not academically, I am now self directed and driven in my studies.

My answer to these questions would be, I became an artist after working on being one until one day, somebody surprised me by describing me as an artist. I didnʻt know I was an artist, I was just someone who did art. Like David and Goliath, he was a shepherd boy who knew how to use his sling to protect his flock and I guess he was pretty good at it. But not just good, he was excellent and that is what brought down Goliath.