The Crucial Question That Could Save Your Art Career [Part 3]

In parts one and two of this series, I emphasized that most artists will never find a financially sustainable career until they develop a complete, professionally viable skill set.

…but why invest the time and energy necessary to develop a financially sustainable art career if you don’t love the work?

…or at least like it?

We saw how Mary Blair struggled to pay the bills with her passion for fine art, then settled for a steady paycheck in animation.

…but got bored with the work just a few years later.

If she hadn’t given animation one last chance, by joining Walt Disney’s visual development research trip to Latin America, she might never have discovered the skill set from which she derived creative fulfillment, a steady paycheck and her legendary career.

Today, in part three, I’ll share how and why I wasted a lot of time pursuing a career I never loved and three steps you can take to avoid the same mistake…


The Crucial Question That Could Save Your Art Career [Part 2]

In part one of this series, I posed a mostly rhetorical question:

Are professional artists (whether aspiring or experienced) foolish to believe that their work could be both financially sustainable and creatively fulfilling?

This page from 'They Drew As They Pleased, Vol 4' by Didier Ghez shows a collection Mary Blair's character designs for 'Sleeping Beauty'.

Then we observed a struggle between these two extremes in the early life and work of Mary Blair, a genius of color and design who became one of the most influential artists in the history of Disney animation.

…but before that, she quit.

…after just fourteen months at the studio.

…and then abruptly changed her mind.

Today we’ll learn that, after her return to Disney, Mary Blair discovered, in effect, one crucial question that led to an elevated role in which she soon found the work to be both financially sustainable and creatively fulfilling.

…a crucial question that led her transformation from versatile mimic into the marquee artist of Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan and the animatronic wonder It’s A Small World.

…a crucial question that every professional artist (aspiring or experienced) would be wise to apply.


The Crucial Question That Could Save Your Art Career

To pursue a career as a professional artist is to expect a lot from your job.

…more, it seems, than most people expect from their own.

Professional artists and those who aspire to the same status expect the work to be both financially sustainable and creatively fulfilling.

A watercolor self-portrait by Mary Blair featured in Mindy Johnson’s book ‘Tinker Bell: An Evolution’.

Some people seem satisfied, simply, to find a day job they don’t hate and compensate for any lack of creativity with hobbies.

…and others view their vocation as a tolerable compromise that buys time for the art they place at the center of their lives.

Regardless of which takes priority, it often seems that we have to choose: Art or a steady paycheck.

But why would it have to be one or the other?

Why couldn’t our work be both financially sustainable and creatively fulfilling?

Why couldn’t our work be both financially sustainable and creatively fulfilling?

Are we asking too much?

Is it even realistic to imagine?

In this first lesson of a course titled You’re A Better Artist Than You Think, we’ll introduce a crucial question that could save your art career (even if you don’t have one yet) and rethink a common belief that often prevents artists from becoming professionals.

But, as with every lesson throughout the course, we’ll begin by looking to history for answers. (History always has answers.)

This photo featured in John Canemaker's book 'The Art And Flair Of Mary Blair' shows Mary Blair's illustration of two giraffes from 'It's A Small World.'

Today we’ll hear the “origin story” of Mary Blair, a mid-century Disney artist whose “renown in the company,” writes historian Nathalia Holt, “was second only to Walt’s.”

In her life and work (which is on display throughout this post) we’ll find a more vivid picture of what it means to make a living from one’s creative passion, what often blocks many of us from a similar experience and how this fundamental shift in the way we think about the art vs. money conundrum can affect the quality of our work, whether we find it fulfilling, our sense of self, of belonging, of motivation and inspiration.

Click through to continue part one…

Interviews Self-Care

How Artists Can Avoid Hand, Wrist & Back Pain With Healthier Work Habits

Stanley Drucker became the principal clarinetist for the prestigious New York Philharmonic at age nineteen and retired from that position at eighty.

He worked as a professional artist for over sixty years.

Unlike professional athletes, professional artists can enjoy their craft for most of (if not their entire) lives.

Unfortunately, we often develop unhealthy work habits that increase the risk of serious problems like RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome and burnout.

Author/ illustrator, massage therapist and health science educator Kriota Willberg has devoted much of her long career to helping artists take better care of themselves.

She’s here today to share tips and insights from her book Draw Stronger: Self-Care For Cartoonists And Visual Artists.

Interviews Theater

Forgotten History Of Visual Storytelling: When Black Artists Came To Broadway

It stands to reason that most Visual Storytellers want to learn everything we can about the origins and evolution of our chosen craft.

Unfortunately, certain aspects have been all but lost.

With his new book Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote The Rules Of The Great White Way, author/ historian Caseen Gaines is helping to preserve and promote the story of Shuffle Along – the first all-Black musical to succeed on Broadway.

He was kind enough to swing by Room 2 and talk about why this century-old production should be remembered…

Interviews Personal-Projects

For Artists Who Tend To Bite Off More Than They Can Chew…

Author/ illustrator Lindsay Gardner‘s new book Why We Cook: Women on Food, Identity, and Connection is so ambitious in scope and so beautifully crafted, one would never suspect it’s her first.

The tactility of her watercolor illustrations, to the cozy-but-modern design and the humanistic ethos it conveys all combine, like an ideal family dinner, into a visceral warmth.

…and, yes, the book does, in fact, smell good.

Lindsay visits Room 2 today with insights from the creation of this epic, personal project…

Interviews Video-Games

Unionizing & Decentralizing The Video Games Industry

Despite daily reminders that the video games industry is problematic as heck, many artists and developers still hope it will change for the better.

Games journalist and author of Press Reset: Ruin & Recovery In The Video Games Industry Jason Schreier visits Room 2 to talk about how unionization and the normalization of remote work could help to calm things down…