I Chose a “Sensible” Career Instead of Art – Now I Wish I Hadn’t

By Mark Leggett in Art Business Advice > Motivation

When I was a boy my sister and I spent most of our spare time entering painting competitions. We were both quite successful and won a lot of prizes, everything from bicycles to holidays. People told us that we had talent and should become artists. But I wasn’t so sure.

I also had an art teacher at school who was also enthusiastic about my art, but I found her constant praise of my abilities a little over the top. She seemed to think that art was more important than all the other subjects put together.

So, in my youthful wisdom, I decided that even though I loved art I should work hard at my academic subjects, go to a good university and have a “proper” career. I convinced myself that there was no lasting money in a career in art.

In short, I decided to be sensible rather than following my heart.

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I did well in my exams and secured a place at a prestigious university. I thought I was following my dream. In actual fact I was conforming to societies idea of a good career. After many years of struggle I achieved placement in a tough and demanding job with long unsociable hours and enough stress to outweigh my job satisfaction.

To this day, my current work pays the mortgage and allows me to live in a beautiful area. I’ve learned to cope better with long hours, and the on call rota is far les onerous than in my first job. There are many aspects of my career that I like and it can be very rewarding.

And yet. . . and yet. . . it does not feed my soul. It’s not me.

I cannot stop wishing I had more time to paint. I have shelves of art books and dvds, loads of art equipment, and I constantly read lots of art blogs. I sketch at every opportunity. I yearn for a more creative and less stressful occupation.

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Over the last few years the internet has opened my eyes to the legions of people who are quietly making a living from their art. I have started to think the unthinkable. I don’t entirely regret my career choice but I now believe that I was wrong and my art teacher was right. I should have followed my passions and worried about income later.

I feel I have spent an enormous amount of time and effort trying to make myself the person I thought that I ought to be. . . rather than embrace the person I am.

So I’ve decided to change course—my goal is to start obtaining at least part of my income from art. It is an exciting but scary prospect because currently I’m caught in the classic chicken and egg situation. To create an income from art I need to paint more but can’t do that without reducing my day job (which I rely on to survive financially).

However I feel that the time has come to take the plunge. I’ve been sensible for 20 years—it’s past time to follow my passions. If you’re in the same boat, I encourage you to take the plunge with me. There’s no time like NOW to make a change.

And if you’re younger? Perhaps weighing a “sensible” career against your love of art?


Well, speaking as someone who’s taken a longer, more roundabout path towards my true passion. . . I hope you’ll make the choice that brings you the most happiness.

For more from Mark Leggett, please visit him at sketchingontherun.blogspot.co.uk.


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