Is There an Alternative to Being an Artist?

Is There an Alternative to Being an Artist?

Posted by Robyn Wall on

As a child, they ask you “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Sometimes it felt so repetitive that you wondered why grownups were so obsessed with knowing the answer. Lots of children had grandiose dreams of being superheroes, politicians, or famous actors. Some had fanciful answers about being a dinosaur or a mythical creature when they grow up. And their parents would smile and nod as if the answer satisfied them. I never really thought that grownups really cared about what your answer was, it was more just what you ask a child to ascertain what their dreams are.

But when I was asked, I would always answer enthusiastically, “I want to be an artist when I grow up!”

This is common for us creative types. Many of us have wanted to be or have considered ourselves artists our entire lives. We float around in the clouds of our dreams all day long. Imaging ourselves as glamourous artists doing nothing but making art all day long. It’s certainly a plausible reality.

There is a sobering thought that brings you back to earth, though. “What would you be if you couldn't be an artist?”

Such a question can distract and discourage. As someone who loves creating, I do not really think of myself as being an artist. I create art. But I am still just me, Robyn. Just a human doing human things. Creating art may be what I do to sustain my life, but I am so much more than just an artist.

So the question people really mean to ask you is “What would you do if selling your art couldn't sustain your life?”

For a long time, I never considered any career path that was not aligned with creativity. In high school, as I was preparing for a college I never attended, I thought about maybe being a graphic designer. The thought was to design art for video games or movies. There it is, though. Art. So even though I would be a graphic designer, wouldn’t I really still be an artist??? Maybe I would be an art teacher or an art curator for a museum. Fashion design captured my attention for a while as well but that seemed about as lucrative as just being a plain old artist.

And that’s the real reason parents ask you that question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” They want to see if your dreams are lucrative, if your answer would make a suitable career.

 Yes, pursuing a future that can sustain your life and the way you hope to live is important. It just isn’t everything. It isn’t the only option. There can be more to life than just growing up and getting a job and paying your bills.

I choose to live a life aligned with creativity. I choose to pursue the glamourous daydreams of making art all day long, selling it to collectors who admire my work and use it to decorate their eclectic homes, and sustaining a life filled with happiness, love, and adventures.

Even if my dizziest daydreams don’t work out, I will always create art. So, in the eyes of society, I’ll always be an artist.

But what if I couldn’t create any more? Physically could not.

Psychiatry is the likely route I would take. I love dissecting people’s minds, including my own. Gaining a full understanding of how someone thinks has always fascinated me. My partners get annoyed with how often I ask what thoughts are swirling around their minds.

The brain is just such a fascinating place, one we know so little about.

And I think that, in a way, being a psychiatrist would align with the reasons I create art. That even if you are scary and damaged, your darkness is magical and can lead to marvelous change if you let it, if you work for it. Helping people see through their darkness, accept it, and learn from it is why I create and I could achieve the same through psychiatry.

I think it would be a fulfilling career, and even if I could never create art again, perhaps helping people in such a similar way would be satisfactory.

If you couldn’t do your very favorite thing anymore, what would you do instead?

Thankfully, creating is still within my capacities. So, for now, I'm on a mission to show you through my story and art that even if you are scary and damaged, your darkness is magical and can lead to marvelous change if you let it. 

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