So, you want to be an artist? 3 Good Ideas…

Beautiful Blonde Woman Painter

So you want to be an artist?

professional artist

8th grade.

Counselor’s Office.


Mr. Ollie Gratz, Junior High Guidance Counselor.

Obligatory on both parts, this solitary, required, 20 minute career counseling session in the second semester of the 8th grade, just prior to “going over to The Big House” for high school.

Ollie: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up, uhhhh [shuffling papers to find my file] uhhhh, ah!, Tony?”

My eyes went to a shiny, thick, rectangular box on Ollie’s desk. I had first glanced at his boots, visible under his desk. Ollie was an Ohio dairy farmer as well as a certified guidance counselor. His boots still bore elements from an apparent tour of his cow barn that morning.  In other words, my noticing was not by eyes alone.

This was going to be a great 20 minutes.

“What do you want to do with your life? What career? Job? Do you have anything in mind?”

Breathing only through my mouth, I thought a few seconds, reflecting on all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends of older relatives – all who seemed fascinated with my possible answers to that question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

It happened so often, that I had carefully crafted answers after about the 12th time of getting frowned upon when I gave my brilliant response of “Uh, geez, I dunno.” I mean, it started when I was like 8, and never seemed to get boring for them.

I decided to spring it on Ollie: “Well, I used to want to be a cowboy.” [He smiled sweetly.] “Then, I grew up a bit and decided I wanted to be a fireman.” [Same smile, with a slight upward tick of an eyebrow. Just one eye, and just a little.] “But lately, I been thinkin’ I would make a great rock and roll star.” [Ollie’s smile was now what could be described as ‘patiently plastered on’.]

I continued, “But now, now that I am older and more mature, I have finally decided.”

[He waited.] [I waited.] [He waited.] [I waited.]

A bit impatiently, yet still indulgent, Ollie blinked first, and asked, “Well?”

“Well, what?” I replied innocently, with eyes widening just a bit – to show how charmingly innocent my soul truly was, and that I had drifted into a dreamy world of seeing my future famous self.

“Well, what DO you want to be when you grow up?”

“Oh, THAT,” I replied. [pause – pause – pause] “I want to be a firefighting, rocking and rolling cowboy. I want it ALL!”

And there was that frown! The one I had almost come to enjoy.

But he got me. Adults: Sometimes a bit smarter than you think they are.

“Funny, Tony.” He grabbed the mysterious box and lifted the thick, glossy sleeve from the box to reveal a container of slick, little four-page pamphlets, made of extra thick paper, I suspect because the manufacturers just knew kids would be gratefully poring over these, reading and re-reading them with eager, sticky, Cheetos-yellowed fingers.

Ollie pulled one of the files and showed it to me. Top of the first page it said in big black letters,

So, you want to be a Dental Technician?

“Dental technician? I hate the dentist!” I practically howled.

Ollie: “No, no, this is just one I picked out at random. There are 99 other occupations in this box, and they are in alphabetical order.”

“But I bet they all start with ‘So,’” I offered.

“Not funny again, Tony.” [NOW he remembers my name!]

“Well, what is the first one?” I asked.

Ollie replaced the Dental Technician and thumbed to the front, pulling out the first pamphlet.

“Architect!” he exclaimed as if he had drawn the last ball before someone screamed, “BINGO!”

“Architect? What is that? I don’t want to do that. [pause] Do I?”

Ollie breathed out in near resignation, “NO, Tony, I am not saying that…you asked for the first one, and it’s Architect.” He showed it to me:

So, you want to be an Architect?

“What else you got?” I asked.

“Tony, there are 98 others in here. I want you to take this box over to the side table, sit down, and go through all these folders. See if any of them grab you.”

“Okay,” I replied, “but, to save time, will it be will be under F, R, or C?”


“Fire-fighting, rocking and rolling, cowboy!”

I was ushered over to the side table.

“You have 15 minutes left,” he glowered.

“15 minutes! To decide my whole future?”

BAM! the box hit the table, a large farmer’s mitt pushing me firmly into the chair.

“Get busy!” he ordered.

I went through the remaining 98 while Ollie graded papers from his class. (I will tell you later which folder(s) I chose.)

—  Let’s come back to the present.  —

There was NO pamphlet in the 100 that said, So, you want to be an Artist? (I’m thinking right after ARCHITECT. You?)

I look back and think about that: Why was Artist not a choice? Is it EVER a choice with career counselors?


so you want to be an artist?

I think that one reason it might not be a formal career selection is because the pamphlets had condensed its information for each possible career choice under the following categories:

Job Description:

Salary Range:

Education Needed:




Think about being an artist and being interviewed by the Pamphlet People as they gathered information for preparing that new pamphlet:

No. 101: So, you want to be an ARTIST?


How would you fill in the following? This could be fun!

Artist Job Description:

Salary Range for Artists:

Education Needed to Be an Artist:

Work Hours for Artists:

Benefits for Artists:


We will talk more about this.

But one of my key questions is this: How MANY items of true importance to an artist will be overlooked by limiting information to just these five areas?


P.S. I can tell you one thing for sure: Not mentioned anywhere, even in an updated pamphlet in the box, was large wall art artist, or artists who do tall wall art, or Light Sculptor.

PPS: One should not send people away from your blog, so you know this is a good article if I send you to it: How to be an artist!

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