Recently at an art show I encountered a former student and his 18-year-old daughter. In the course of looking at my work the daughter mentioned that she'd done a little painting and was considering an art career. Her father seemed surprised. (He'd seen her work and hadn't been impressed, but then, he was never exactly an art connisseur.) Then just a day or so ago, I got an e-mail from her asking about various art schools and a few rather naive questions about art in general. Here, (in part) is what I wrote back: [bracketed text was not a part of the letter].

Dear Candy: [not her real name]

Some of the questions you ask I cannot answer having met you only for a few minutes at the art show. You seem like an outgoing, reasonably intelligent young lady but before offering any kind of advice about art schools, an art career, or any OTHER kind of career I need answeres to three questions.

1. What hobby or hobbies have you enjoyed now and since childhood? [I can't think of a single successful artist I've ever known or read about who didn't displayed a love of drawing since childhood.

2. What are your best and worst subjects in school? [She'd not mentioned any art classes and from the nature of the questions she asked at the art show, I gathered she'd either never taken any or hadn't learned much in any case. Art is an ACADEMIC subject and for all the stories of self-taught artists, these individuals are people who have learned to succeed IN SPITE OF BEING SELF-TAUGHT, rather than BECAUSE of it. Choosing a career of any kind should play to academic strengths.]

3. What have you done in the past (or presently) to earn money? [Art is WORK, and the most telling predictor of success in art is ones attitude regarding work. Art, by it's very nature, attracts lazy people--people who think that can knock out two or three canvases (often BAD abstracts) in a week or so, then kick back and wait for the big bucks to come rolling in. Man, it just ain't gonna happen! Creating is an excruciating experience, and RENDERING that creativity effectively and quickly separates the men from the boys...or the women from the girls as the case may be.]

Candy, these may seem like pretty simple questions but from your answers I can tell a LOT about you and your chances for success in art. Additionally, based on your replies, perhaps I can guide you in some direction OTHER than art if need be.

--Sincerely, Jim Lane