Don’t Let Others Steal Your Dream

By Mark Hilsden in Art Business Advice > Motivation

It’s too easy to let others steal your dream of being an artist.

Often it’s the people who are closest to you, or the ones that you perceive to have authority, that cause the most damage and can easily destroy you and your precious idea. Yet they will happily tell you it’s because they love and care for you.

Here is my story. . .

Many years ago I had a dream of fusing the excitement of rock music with rich harmonies from classical music. I played the piano and other instruments, studied harmony and composition and, in pursuit of my dream, even went to evening classes run by a university professor. Unfortunately, I came away disillusioned because nothing I was learning was about the musical ideas that I wanted to create.

Around that same time, one of my parents asked me why I kept wasting my time writing music. This was regularly followed by “how many rich musicians do you know?”

The end result was that I became dispirited, lost my dream, and left my music behind. But I also started to learn a very important lesson: don’t let others steal your dream.

In my thirties I became unemployed and wondered what to do with myself. Since I loved drawing houses as a child, I started up again. For a year I drew at least one a day sometimes more. Eventually a friend saw some and thought them fairly good, which was encouraging. I also had a remarkable tutor who thought that the idea of creating house portraits had some mileage as a niche market.


It took several years and a number of part-time jobs before I worked out who my potential customers were. I didn’t have much money, but I used my calligraphic skills to pen a sales letter, which opened with this line:

“Your home is fascinating and unique, it would make a very special picture. . . ” and then it continued . . . “in a few days time I will be calling on you with my portfolio and discuss with you how your heirloom will be created.”

The key to this (successful) marketing letter was the personal visit “in a few days time.” It allowed the idea to grow, and when I arrived at the door with my portfolio, it was a much different reception than if I had arrived unannounced.

Naturally I developed this letter over a period of years, but in the time I used it, it got me hundreds of commissions across the country. Remembering my parent’s dream-crushing words from past, I decided not to communicate with them about this new direction I was taking. I didn’t want another dream destroyed, and truthfully, it ended up being one of the most creative periods of my life.


I grew the business from nothing, from sleeping in my car and creating pictures in McDonalds, to a size where I even employed others to help with certain aspects of the business. Eventually it got so busy that I would often wish I could create pictures for myself, and simply didn’t have the time. So, over the next few years, I reverted back to a normal job while still creating commissions and learning new skills.

Slowly I re-opened communication with my family. I got a proper job as a bus driver, which made them happy, and shortly after that I met and married a very special lady.

I credit my wife’s patience and understanding with a newly rekindled desire to pursue art. I kept on thinking of how to promote myself as an artist, and discovered the FASO newsletter where I learned about galleries, exhibitions, and work being critiqued. Soon I began looking for similar opportunities for my own art.

Eventually I found a gallery that was interested in having an exhibition of my work. I was over the moon and most of my friends were pleased and happy, too. But when I shared the news with my dad he decided to try to steal the dream again. This time I didn’t let him.

You see, I’ve learned a lot over the years. I know that you cannot choose your family, but you can surround yourself with people that are prepared to help and support your dream. And you can distance yourself from those who will only try to keep you from it.


For the last four years I have been preparing for my dream. I have created around forty works of art based around Napoleon’s younger brother, Lucien Bonaparte, who was one of the few to stand up to his brother.

I’ve also written a book that is nearly finished which tells the underlying stories behind each piece of art. The exhibition (Home in the Country) will be showing this month, September 5th through the 24th.

It’s been many years in the making, and now that it’s here, I have a new dream—that this exhibition will kick-start my life-long career as an artist.

The path ahead will probably be long, but at the same time it is truly exciting, invigorating, and fulfilling.

And the moral of this story? No matter what your dreams are, no matter what your ambition is. . . NEVER let someone else steal it away.

To view more of Mark’s artwork, please visit his website at


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