Working in the Arts & Graphic Design
Berkeley Parents Network >
Working & Careers >
Working in the Arts & Graphic Design
I work in the public health field and my government job is
driving me crazy (bureaucratic, redundant, ineffective, no
control over work products, etc.)--my independent, creative
nature is being stifled. I'm drawn to graphic design because
I'm looking for a career with creativity, flexibility, and
variety. I would also like to be self-employed. I'd like to
hear from others in the field.
1)How does someone with a non-art educational background
become a graphic designer?
2)What kind of training/education is needed? What's the
reputation of UC Berkeley's Extension Graphic Design
3)Is a 3-year MFA degree necessary?
4)What are your major likes/dislikes about your job and this
5)What percentage of your time is spent doing what?
6)What is the employment outlook for this field? Is it
7)What do you wish you knew about this profession before you
trained to become a graphic designer?
I've been a graphic designer for 30 years and still really love the job! Beware,
creativity is only a **small** part of the profession (for me, maybe 10%). I was
an English major who took design classes after college. I studied at Laney,
Extension, and CCAC (now CCA). I think the less expensive classes
(Laney/Extension) are a good way to get your feet wet, but the CCA classes
had higher expectations and really taught me how to be a designer. The long
hours and sometimes brutal critiques tempered my personality for the
profession. I only took 3 semesters of intermediate classes at CCA and then
started working; I don't think a degree is necessary. Education in this field is
expensive--in addition to tuition, you'll need a Mac and the Adobe Creative
Suite. These are not quick applications to learn, so you'll need lots of practice.
There's a lot more work for web designers these days, so I'd recommend
concentrating in that field. Your design skills will still come in handy, but
companies are getting more green and more frugal, so print design isn't what
it used to be (so many printing plants have gone out of business these last 5
years). I'd also suggest taking digital photography and film production
classes, as this adds to your skills portfolio. Things I wish I'd known: design
technology is constantly evolving, and you have to be open to learning new
skill sets. You also need to work ergonomically and learn to use the mouse
with your other hand (I've spent a chunk of change at the chiropractor's.)
Also, be prepared for working weekends and nights. When there's a deadline,
you'll need extra childcare. Good luck!
In a word: NO. You would be entering an extremely
competitive field that is becoming more competitive every
day what with all the jobless designers out there trolling
for business. And good luck getting a full-time job without
tons of experience and skills out the wazoo.
Do you like working for $25/hour in the Bay Area? Because
that's about what it's coming to.
Yeah, it's creative and all that... but make sure you check
out the 'all that' part of the biz before you get into it.
Trust me when I say it's about a lot more than spec'ing
fonts and PMS colors.
-- been designing too long
Think very, very carefully... I've been in the industry for
almost 20 years and many of my peers haven't been steadily
employed for months.
It's a field that's been devalued due to the abundance of
free templates, software that the average person feels
comfortable with, and cheap overseas competition. Few people
want to pay livable wages for the skill, talent and knowledge.
To get an idea of the level of frustration, there are a few
videos people have made - go to YouTube and search ''stupid
clients'' and view the first two that come up...
To answer your specific questions:
You need an education. It's not enough to feel crafty/arty -
you need critique, background, understanding. Online can do
for some requirements but best to get real people. A real
classroom situation will provide you with networking, job
leads, motivation. You need people to know you, recommend
you, guide you.
Can't speak on reputation of Berkeley Extension.
MFA - no. Bachelor degree - probably.
What I wish I knew? Wish I got in on the web stuff earlier
and kept my brain limber instead of trying to learn too much
I saw you got a couple of fairly negative responses, so I
thought I'd write in with my point of view. I've been a
graphic designer for the past 10 years or so, and I love it.
I don't have an art degree. I started out in marketing,
working for a start-up that was so cash-poor they let me do
their ads, web site, brochures, etc. in-house. It's not the
typical situation, and who knows if you'd ever find
something similar, but it sure worked for me. I got tons of
hands-on, practical experience, not just in the art side of
things but in business, working with clients, managing
deadlines, taking criticism gracefully, etc. (And those are
all big aspects of it -- it's not just drawing pictures all
day, although I do a fair amount of that, too.) When I got
out of marketing, I started telling people I was a graphic
designer, and slowly built up a clientele, mostly through
word of mouth, and now have a solid little business. It
helps to know lots of entrepreneurs - most of my work is
with small businesses. Do I wish I had a formal art school
education? Maybe a little. But I've yet to run up against
something I couldn't figure out on my own or someone who
wouldn't hire me because I didn't go to CCA. How's the pay?
Less than I made in marketing, but so much more rewarding.
My advice? Don't drop everything and switch careers. But
take on some volunteer/charity design projects, enter some
contests (Woot, Threadless, Spoonflower, Minted, 99Designs
and many other websites run regular competitions to design
cards, tee shirts, fabric, logos, etc.) and pay attention to
the feedback you get. Get your feet wet, see how you stack
up against others and if you really enjoy the process, and
then make a decision. The design business isn't all
sunshine and kittens, but it's not all doom and gloom
either, in my experience.
Two years ago I started to do some basic web design and
absolutely love doing it. I have a couple of clients and truly
enjoy my line of work. I want to do graphic design as well, but
don't know where to start. Can anyone give me some direction?
Should I take a class or start learning specific software? What
software do you need to know to do good graphic design?
i am a graphic designer (with a bfa in graphic design) and went to art school to study
it. a lot of people think that graphic design is just knowing ''software'' but it is far more
then that. i would recommend taking some introductory design classes at a local art
school---typography especially. you really need to learn how to organize information
clearly--that is part of what graphic design is all about. i would recommend ccac or art
institute or academy of art. but first you might want to take a few classes at a
community college or extended learning center to make sure you really want to put the
time into it. i think berkeley extension has some good graphic design classes that you
can take at night or one weekends. there is a lot more to design then simply knowing
photoshop or illustrator. of course you have to know them--these are your tools. but
you can't just call someone a ''painter'' if they know how to use a brush and paint. good
Most print designers use Adobe InDesign, though some use
QuarkXPress or Adobe Illustrator. Perhaps Berkeley Extension or
the continuing education department at CCA offers courses. Good luck.
--20 Years as Graphic Designer
I graduated in 1994 with a degree in graphic design. I worked in-house in
marketing departments fo a few years, and then left the business all together in
I went back to school and got a BFA in sculpture in 2004.
Here I am ready to get back into the graphic design field, but I have NO idea how to
start. I have had about 3 jobs fall in my lap in the past 6 months. All were start up
companies that just needed logo design, there would be nothing beyond that.
I do strictly Corporate ID, and print design. I have no experience in web design and
frankly it does not interest me.
Do any of you graphic designer mommies have any tips for me on how to break bak
into the business?
post samples of your work on creative hotlist on the communication arts website.
www.creativehotist.com It's been a great resource for me.
I'm a production artist with no web skills (alas), and have been
steadily employed in the Bay Area for over 15 years in
BUT - to survive in graphic design in the future, you do need to
know more than ever - web and print. No longer can you stop at
just the logo design - you should know how to Photoshop it on 10
different items, animate it in Flash, and mock up a website. The
CS3 applications are amazing and make things faster and easier
than you could imagine - but there is the expectation and
pressure to know ALL apps now.
However, Lynda.com is an EXCELLENT resource for online training.
Well worth the subscription. Start there!!
Join AIGA http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/about
InDesign User's Group http://www.indesignusergroup.com/
Attend Adobe launches and promos
Sign up with agencies:
are just a few - more advertise on Craigslist and creativehotlist.com
Some agencies are better than others. Most will make you take a
test on-site in the applications, and some will offer training.
But, if you are a parent, temping is not the most parent-friendly
way to get started. It works best for those with a LOT more
But since you a)have a degree and b)real experience, you
shouldn't find it too hard to get back in the game.
1) Get your portfolio together of the stuff you like best (the
stuff you'd like to do more of). On-line portfolios are great,
because most of your work will be word of mouth and folks can
show other folks your portfolio even when you're not around.
2) If you are going to look for freelance work, make yourself a
professional looking business card. (No ''print it yourself at
home'' stuff. The cheep, 4/c, quick-print, on-line places will be
good enough if the design is good.) And CARRY THEM WHEREVER YOU
GO. I meet potential clients at the playground as well as
3) Get familiar with Adobe Creative Suite 2 or 3 (InDesign,
Illustrator, Photoshop). I used to be a Quark-head but have no
doubts about switching over and think that's the way things are
going for most companies. ''Real World Adobe In Design CS2'' (or
CS3) by Blatner and Kvern is a great reference. Blatner also does
free on-line seminars through the Adobe website specifically
geared toward Quark-to-InDesign folks.
4) Talk to everyone you know and tell them about your on-line
portfolio and that you're open for business. I did an email
announcement, but maybe even a cheep postcard announcement would
be good or better. And get back in touch with the folks you used
to work with. They may be your best connections. Clients build up
Working independently is both good and hard. About half of your
''work'' time will probably be spent on accounting, billing,
writing letters of agreement, and any other aspect of your
business, let alone the hardware/software expenses, health
insurance . . . The other half of your time will be the actual
design/production work. So, bill what you need, I'd say no less
than $50/hr., but really, more is better if you can get it (to
cover all that non-billable time/expense). ''The Graphic Artists
Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines'' book is also a great reference.
And think about whether you'd rather work in-house, as a staff
person. Either way, the portfolio, business card, learning the
software, and talking with everyone will help.
Best of luck!
I am interested in entering the field of Arts Administration and
would like advice or
resources for doing so. I am happy to begin with volunteer work or a
internship position in order to gain experience, but would also like
to hear any advice
that others may have. I should note that I have a MA degree in
Industrial Design. Thank
you for any feedback that you can offer.
Apply for some jobs! I made the transition from retail to arts admin
theater) when I was about 26 or so. I later (at 33) completed MS in Arts
Management - but didn't need it to break in to the business. I just had a
great opportunity to attend Boston University while working for a non-profit
theatre in residence there so I snapped it up. I'd be happy to talk to you
further about it - but my main suggestion will still be the same. Just go for
a job. If you have a Master's you can transfer all kinds of skills to the
arts - remember, it's all just business - but with a twist.
The Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership is a loosely organized group of
educators, policymakers, arts administrators, teaching artists, parents, and
others, that joins people in Alameda County who believe in arts learning for
every child, in every school, every day. If you have an interest in the
educational side of this world, you should check out the website and try to
attend some events. You'll have a chance to get a really good sense of who's
doing what, as well as to meet lots of individuals. If you check the
''resources'' part of the website, you may find some organizations you'd be
interested in getting to know. Website is http://www.artiseducation.org.
I am interested in becoming a graphic artist at the ripe old
age of 48. I had a career in the law for many years before
having two kids and have been out of the work force entirely
for over six years. I am a pretty artistic person and had a
studio for a while, but want to find something artistic that is
gainful employment as well. Am I dreaming or is it possible to
break into this field now, or is it dominated by twenty-
somethings? Do graphic artists have to pursue a degree
program? What kind of hours do most of you work? Is part-time
work even possible? Where are the best local schools? Any
advice is greatly appreciated.
Need to draw
HI, I am a painter of portraits and landscapes, but I am making
a career change too. I want to do book and magazine illustration
rather than graphic arts. Graphic arts may be logos, but it is
also web design (which I am studying on my own) and the use of a
lot of different software, rather than drawing skills. I visited
the admissions at the California College of Arts and Crafts in
San Francisco, because they have a big graphic arts program, as
well as illustration. The two often go together. There is a
small library there of significant books that you can browse
through in the waiting room, and stay as long as you want to
read them. These books explain everything! I love working in
Photoshop and Illustrator, but I am not interested in the
software products for graphic arts, which include animation and
filmmaking, and by the way it costs a fortune to study, mainly
because they would take too long to learn and there is too much
competition from competent graduates in that field for me.
Hayward also has a graphic arts program I understand.
I would be willing to show you some things that would get you
drawing, because you would have to present a portfolio. If you
have some good ideas for logos, maybe we could collaborate and I
could trade with some drawing skills for you. I find that local
businesses will hire us for illustration and some graphic arts
and it is good to just begin with what you already know. You
were a lawyer, you have good contacts. How about we work on a
logo for your beginning artistry?
I've been a graphic designer for about 16 years. Yes, it is a
''creative'' job, but not the self-expression kind. Basically, you
are hired to solve business/communication problems. A company
needs an indentity or a website, and you have to channel their
''personality'' or ''brand'', not yours. I also notice that a lot of
designers these days (especially the ones that are older and have
been doing this for a while) are getting marketing degrees or
certificates and some even MBAs. The emphasis on being able to
solve ''business'' problems is growing.
Another thing to consider is that most designers these days need
to be willing to do online/web design. I suggest taking a look at
commarts.com for the job listings. 85% of them are for online
design professionals. So that means knowing Flash and how to
create webpages/sites (not to be confused with programming, which
is really a different skill).
I guess bottom line you should be interested in problem solving.
How to solve the communication/marketing problem, how to solve
the design execution problem, and then how to solve the
implementation (technology) problem, i.e. how do I build this in
flash or with html and .css? (or both).
That said, I love what I do. I have worked in both big agencies
and been self-employed, so there is a lot of flexibility with
this career. And it pays very well. Good designers with online
skills are in demand.
Now, if you want to be paid to draw, then you can always be an
illustrator, or even a fine artist. With the web you can reach a
global audience and sell your work to the masses! People are
buying art and cool tshirts like crazy. Check out
www.threadless.com for tshirts designed by artists and designers
and see http://www.beholder-art.com/ for artists who are selling
their work online (there are tons of these sites, by the way).
Good luck to you, and no you are NEVER too old
HI, I think it's great that you moving forward with a job change.
It's hard to stay in somethihng for so long and not feel bored or
what to expande and use another part of your brain or body, oops,
am I talking about myself?? Anyway, I AM working as a graphic
designer and have been for many years. I thought about not
answering your posting because I thought I would be too burnt out
to have any good answers (I am thinking about a job change also).
BUT that said, here goes... I think the first thing you must do
is learn the computer programs that you will be using either
InDesign or Quark Xpress, AND Photoshop and/or Illustrator). I
think the best way to learn is to take a longer class where you
can do projects (Laney, CCA, UC Extension?), not the three day
intensives. I think they combine the basics of design with the
computer these days so you will be getting both. Getting a few
books about type and design is a good idea to start thinking
about it. Pick up brochures, flyers, posters, newsletters, any
printed material that you are attracted to and figure out why you
like it: the color, open space, the font, the photos, look at all
the elements, get a feeling for your own aesthetic. I'm not sure
if employers are looking for a degree or not, They wnat you to
have some experience, which is harder to list on your resume when
your just starting. But if you can make some samples of items
you've designed and make those part of your portfolio, you're on
the way. Oh, the portfolio and resume are REALLY important
As far as the field being open to twenty-somethings only, I don't
think it is. There are SO many places you could work, that want
someone who is fast and good. You may have to work at a lower
rate of pay at first to get the experience, which is pretty much
the same in all fields, I think. You can also freelance. That
might be harder at first, just because it's great to work around
others when you are starting. You can ask questions of your
co-workers, and give feedback on projects, all that you can't do
when working for yourself. I work full-time, in a flexible
environment, so I can also leave early if there is a family
emergency or sporting event. I also worked for myself for many
years. they both have their good and down sides. If you like to
spend time alone, manage your own schedule, freelancing is great,
on the other hand if you don't like husseling for work (you
really have to sell yourself in the begining), and working longer
hours at times, freelance might not be your first choice. I think
it's good to try both though to what you like.
One word of warning, this is not a field of art that you are
working with your hands very much. You are pretty much sitting at
a computer and, as you know, that comes with it's own problems.
Also, I find that what this field is about is pleasing other
people and being a good problem-solver, both in your design and
also getting the client to explain what they want. You must be
organized and clear. And with practice you can give the client
what they want without agonizing over a design to the point where
you end up making $2 an hour!
You might try looking on craigs list to see what jobs are out
there and calling around to ask more about the jobs and what they
are looking for. It might be helpful to say up front that you are
thinking of going into design as a career and what words of
advice can they offer.
I, myself, am going to move on (eventually) to something that
involves being outside and combines art and gardening! I haven't
figured it out yet, but until then I'm staying organized and clean.
graphic designer who wants out soon
I have been a graphic designer for the past 8 years. It is defintiely a younger field
with designers coming out of school in their early twenties. You really don't need a
degree as all that is important is your ''book'' (i.e. talent) but it is hard to put
together without some projects - in school you would get ficticious projects and
start that way and replace them with the actual projects you worked on in the real
world. Another thing to consider is the age disparity in the work force - you may not
fell comfortable with a 30 year old art director telling you what to do (they might
also feel uncomfortable with it). In this field, usually by 48, you are senior art
director or you own your own firm NOT starting out as a ''junior designer'' - but if
that is something you think you can work around...
A good school to check out would be CCA (California College of Arts). That is where
I went; started in my mid twenties and even then I felt much older than the majority
of the student body which was comprised mostly of kids right out of high school.
And school will only teach you how to be a compentent designer (you will learn the
programs and work on formal visual problems) but the rest is up to you. Would be
happy to talk more about it with you. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
To become employed as a graphic artist you don't need a degree. No one will ask
you where you went to school or when. But you will need a portfolio and one of the
easiest ways to put a portfolio together is to take classes. The classes will also
improve your skills, introduce you to other design students and help you with
networking. One of the best ways to get started, without having to take the plunge
and quit your current job, is to take evening classes through Berkeley extension.
They have an excellent program in the arts and you will find people there from all
ages and career backgrounds. If you want to dive in more seriously there is the
California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Their classes are excellent, but
more expensive. But remember, you don't have to do their complete program. I
recommend staying as a long as you need to get confidence and a portfolio.
Another way to get a portfolio is to try and do work for small companies. They
usually can't afford to hire agencies or even experienced freelancers but are very
appreciative of having someone improve their logo, brochures or website.
Partly it depends on what sort of work you want to do (web,
print, etc.) and what types of clients (personal, small biz or
big accounts) you want to go after. When I switched from
marketing to graphic design a few years ago, I pretty much just
started telling people I was a graphic designer and people
started giving me work. My only formal graphics training was
back in high school, but it helped that I had been working with
designers at my previous job, so I could talk the talk, and I
already knew the Adobe products inside-out - if you don't, I'd
start by taking some classes in Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. UC
Extension, while lacking the cache of someplace like CCA or
Academy of Art, has some well-priced basic classes - check out
their catalog at
need to buy the (pricey) software you plan to use. Outside of
the art stuff, research a good contract and any other legal
paperwork you'll need - business license, self-employment taxes,
etc. - it's easy but fatal to forget about the business side of
things. Lastly, before you start advertising, try doing some
free or spec work for non-profits, startups, etc. to build up a
portfolio. A good practice project is building your own website
with your online portfolio.
It's rewarding, but it is still work
Hmmmm... Couple of issues -
1) Being artistic doesn't necessarily translate well into graphic
design. They are not always transferable skills/talent. I've seen
a lot of terrible design done by painters and jewelry makers, but
one of the best designers I worked with is also a very successful
2) I'm 40 something and the designers in my age bracket are
either in a big corporation or freelancing (and neither group is
exactly happy or thriving).
3) Degree programs absolutely give you a bonus. It means you've
learned the current computer applications, you've been
stimulated, inspired by and humiliated by others pursuing the
same goal. I got my degree b.c (before computers), and learned
some hopelessly outdated skills, but that degree gets me noticed,
and I still remember how good others were, and gained a better
understanding of why and how they were good.
4) Hours can be stupid if you let them. I'm freelancing, and I'm
often firing up the mac after the kids have gone to sleep and get
queries on Friday afternoon for something done on Monday. But if
you work in a more corporate environment (that is NOT advertising
- notoriously insane), it can be better. Yes, part-time is
possible, but you have to go into it with a ''ready to do
full-time'' attitude to get a complete understanding of how it all
works and know the ropes.
5) Talk to counselors/advisors at CCA or Art Institute. Work on a
portfolio. To get into most decent programs, you have to show you
have aptitude, so design some pieces.
6) Keep an eye on Craigslist and Creative Hotlist just to see
what's posted, what they look for, where the jobs are.
7) Never say never! Hey, it's a lot easier than me going into law!
I found this link which pertains mainly to Graphic Design, it's
description and available courses and colleges.
Hi ~ I was a graphic designer for 14 years and changed careers
to become a career and business coach - which I've doing for
the last 5+ years. I recommend researching a variety of
different schools and see which ones have the classes/schedules
and types of course work you are most interested in - they will
give you a broader range of skills and more importantly, how
the 'business' of graphic design works. Seek out and have
informational interviews with graphic designers that you know
and find out what they did, what works and what doesn't these
days as well. Design programs can last anywhere from a year to
4+ depending on the level and depth of what you want to learn.
I did a 1-year program at night through the Art Institute which
gave me a certificate of Graphic design and landed a job out of
school and I had a successful career for many years. The great
thing about design is it is something that you can do from home
as a ''freelancer'' or go to work for someone else. There are
lots of possibilities out there.
Need to Draw: your message struck a cord in me, because I made a
career change as you wish to do, only in the opposite direction.
I started my career as a graphic designer (five year degree at a
top design school) and was quite successful, practicing in three
key urban cites, rising to the top level of my professional
organization, winning international and national awards and
distinctions, etc. Yet my satisfaction with the field continued
to decline. I realized that as computers made performing certain
tasks easier, people began to confuse artistic talent, training
and skill, with the ability to run a few filters in Photoshop or
create a report in Word. Our do-it-yourself culture does not
respect the contributions of professionally trained artists and
designers, no matter what their field, architects, interior,
landscape, stylists, etc. Everyone thinks they can
do-it-themselves. And the client base does too. They argue about
fees, change their minds constantly, dismiss your thoroughly
considered recommendations for their friends' advice usually
drawn out on the back of a bar napkin, and have turned this field
into a land mine of frustration for anyone who dares to enter
into it. I had patience to last twenty five years, then switched
to a field that didn't require so much subjectivity. Perhaps
your experience will prove otherwise, I can only hope so. It is
not like this in Europe, where professional designers are
respected and valued. Good luck!
Tired of ''I don't know art, but I know what I like.''
i've owned my own freelance design business for 7+ years and have a total of 15+
years in the industry. i believe that being a graphic designer is a great option while
raising kids. if you have natural talent it's a relatively easy field to break into.
however, you need to keep current with all the software that most designers use to
produce print and/or web work. the industry is mac based for the most part, and
the software is constantly evolving. you don't necessarily have to have a degree,
especially if you work for yourself, but in my opinion an education is essential. it's
not easy to learn about paper types and printing processes, for instance, as you go.
not having been educated in the bay area, i can't say firsthand what is the best
school but know that california college of arts and crafts is well regarded. as to work
hours, it's very flexible time-wise but does depend on your clients. i generally work
9-1 most days and some evenings/weekends. i'd be happy to talk with you further
We have two kids, a toddler and a baby. We both believe in shared
parenthood. Between work and family our lives are very, very busy. I
know that that is inherent in being a loving, involved
parent. However, I have deeply strong creative urges that have no
outlet because I have no free time whatsoever. It is very frustrating
and my resentment is growing. I do photography.
How do you balance being a parent and an insatiable appetite for
creativity? I've tried working at night on still lifes and whatnot,
but for me such a part of the photographic process is putting on a
pair of hiking boots and getting out to photograph nature. Plus, there
is the time required to process images, both digital and film. I've
tried stifling the desire by getting rid of cameras, but it cannot be
done. I consume Flickr, photography books, web sites, blogs, anything
I can to at least see it and share in it as a passive observer, but
again this does not quell the internal desire to create it myself.
Any advice? Give up? Stifle it with medication (my work requires
design creativity as well, though)? The shared parenting thing gives
me guilt for not being around, and my wife needs her own time. And
photography (or any art) takes time to get into and perform. I've
tried but I can't just do it for 15 minutes every day and be done with
it. At this point in our kids ages taking a few hours on a weekend
morning to go out is a huge burden on the spouse. I've tried to
satisfy it with family snapshots, but as far as you can take these
they are still not art that comes from a vision in one's mind.
I know our kids are young and things will get easier, but still the
desire is not there tomorrow, it is there today. Ideas float
constantly around my mind and I want to practice, practice, practice
to get better and better and develop my vision. It's fun, it's deeply
relaxing and energizing and invigorating.
So, is there any way to come to terms here? Is there any way to
accommodate both parenting and art? Is there any way to avoid
resentment and depression? Any advice appreciated from those who have
dealt with this type of thing. Thank you.
Looking for time for art
I wish I had asked for the same advice when my both my kids were
under 2.5. They are now teenagers and I can look back with a
little clarity. I sorely wish I had been more present with my
children and less greedy about getting my studio time. It hurt my
bonding with the younger one and put a terrible strain on my
relationship with my husband. However, these things did heal in
time. Keep in mind that the kids eventually go to school and get
into routines where it becomes much easier to be alone.
I still do not get enough of what I need in this area (so many
school holidays!), but I realize the benefits of giving in to
whatever is happening at the moment. And each year will bring
more time your way. Keep sketchbooks and journals, write down
your ideas, keep your camera ready everywhere you go (even to
work) and take lots of pictures. These photos will likely feed
you later on. Balance with patience and you'll be a much happier
artist and mom
Oh, I feel your pain! Yes, you must find a way to create. The
best way I've found is to work an 80% job and have a spouse who
understands I need that 5th day as a studio day. But there were
several years when I had my second kid home on that day and
really could only get art done during the summer (I teach). Still
I knew she would go to kindergarten eventually! For me having
time I can count on is essential, it's never enough but then I
squeeze in a few minutes or hours on the weekend, draw or think
about my projects...but having that thread is crucial. When they
are young is the hardest time, because you have to watch them
every second. Can you hike with the little one in a backpack and
There's a new movie called ''Who does she think she is'' about
artist/moms. One of the women has 5 kids and manages to make art.
She keeps sketchbooks in every room and brings her kids into the
studio. When I saw her I thought ''oh I'm giving myself too many
outs, if she can do it, so can I''.
Resentment is a killer. I have my bottom line- I must have a
studio to work in and some time during the year and ideally each
week to make art. If you can come up with what you must have,
maybe that will clarify things.
I don't know if this is helpful but it's what came to mind.Your
passion really comes through in your post and I feel certain
you'll find a way to express it!
another artist parent
It is clear from your posting that your need to create your art
is very strong, so I commend you for thinking so seriously about
your responsibilities as a father given the strength of that
call. As someone who used to be married to an artist, I would
like to caution you to include your partner in any plans you make
to give over more time to your art. If possible you should try
to combine making a living with your artistic drive or perhaps
wait for awhile until there is more time in your schedules. My
ex-husband made his art the very top priority in his life and
thus in our relationship -- he contributed pretty well to
childcare but not at all to economic support, and he had rather
grandiose visions (IMHO) of the importance of his art. I have a
friend whose husband is a serious artist, and the time he spends
on his art (which actually occasionally makes real money for the
family) really grates on her. Be careful about integrating your
artistic drives with your marriage and the family economy (both
time and $$). It sounds like you are a thoughtful person, so I
just wanted to put that out there.
former wife of an aritst
I would like to congratulate you for still having an urge to
do art with two kids. It must be frustrating not to have as much
time for your art now, but I have seen many parent-artists who
had reduced their amount of work, or scaled down the size and
method of their work when their kids were very little, and come
back fully to work more later on. You will have more time later,
though not now, unless you have extra childcare,,,.
I am no longer a full time working artist (due to unexpected
sudden growth of my family with 5 kids), but when my first one
was born, I was still actively presenting my work through
well-known galleries throughout the U.S. After my son came, I
drastically changed the way (or the process) and the scale of my
work (I did sculpture using thin rice paper). I lost my studio
after moving, so what I did was to work during my son's nap time.
You may laugh but I kept all the tools and materials in a couple
of shoe boxes, and took them out as soon as my son went to take a
nap. I would make parts in 15 minutes increments, and every once
in a while (maybe,, once in every three months or so) I asked my
husband to give me one full weekend to complete my work. I also
have a very small blank notebook to keep my journals, and
whenever I have a moment alone, I do a journal writing.
Now, I no longer have time to do anything but housework and
taking care of kids, but I still keep my journal with me, and
keep my ideas there. For now, my journal notebook is my mental
mom of 5 kids, and feeling now that juggling housework is almost like an
You hit the nail on the head here--it's a complex issue. I wrote a play
about it! No
simple answers, but I suggest you absolutely keep doing your photography
things so that your spouse doesn't get left holding the bag. This
getting babysitters, taking a child with you sometimes, or finding your
ways to keep doing what you love and take good care of your family. It
can be done,
but yes, it will be done differently than before you had kids. But what
now, right? Good luck.
My husband is a general contractor/photographer/father. I read your
post to him. He
wants to talk with you. Before I could even finish the last sentence,
out...''does he give a phone number?'' We have been through this exact
Sometimes more successfully than others. But if you email me, I will
happily forward it
on to my husband. And I would be happy to speak to your wife about how
gone from my end.
I felt similarly after my daughter was born. My now ex-husband
didn't understand that I needed time to be by myself to work
through creative urges. Sounds like you have a supportive spouse,
but also have TWO kids! I guess I would suggest not suppressing
your muse, but to work when you can and get the most out of those
times. I began to take photos of my surroundings which included
the laundry room, kitchen, and on walks with my daughter. You
have to adjust and do what you can, but don't let the resentment
build up, it's just that time of your life when you have to
juggle everything. Try portraits of sleeping children, take the
family on walks put the kids in backpacks and take outdoor
photos. I found digital is the way to go as you can get faster
results. You may have to stay up late to do your printing, not
such a bad sacrifice! At some point you will be able to do art
with your kids and that will be fun! If your spouse gets you then
it's 100 times easier! You are at the most time-consuming phase
of child-rearing, so be patient also. BE CREATIVE in your search
for an outlet, it can be a fun challenge! I wish you the best!
My husband and I both write. I also do visual art (painting and
photography). Our children are now 2 and 5. You have to come to
terms with the fact that your children are demanding right now.
That's it. You have a responsibility. For now, you can't just go
hiking and take photos and spend time in the darkroom. So, mourn
your past but rejoice in your family. I have an unfinished canvas
that is just sitting my garage from five years ago! I don't even
know where my film camera is and the only pix I take now seem to
be on my cell phone (tho, camera bag for the iphone is quite
cool). I lament this all the time and feel that sometimes
parenthood has stirred up even more creativity. I have started to
do a few things. My husband and I each get a night off to do
things we want. We can also call for a date to go do things in
the morning alone. It is not spontaneous. We have to plan it all:
time for kids, time for errands, time for each other, time for
ourselves. As an artist type, I HATE THAT. But, that's how it is.
One day, those kids will sleep until 11am on Saturdays. That's
what i'm told. And, the days of basking in their babyhood will be
gone. So, suck it up. Try to do what you can. Sorry to lecture,
but really, we need to accept our lives. I have to listen to my
own advice here, too.
Wow your email could have been written by me. I have two kids 5
and 2.5 and I have been struggling with this kind of balance too.
I still haven't found that balance. It's a bitter pill to
swallow. I feel my creativity all by smothered any more. Don't
let this happen to you! If your wife is at all compassionate and
understanding, she will get why this part of you need attention.
Can you get a babysitter, friend of your wife, family member, or
local high school kid to help out your wife with the kids for
half a day? I am sure you could find some local kid who will work
for peanuts. If money is an issue, how about doing a babysitting
exchange with another family. That way you both get time out for
free. Get your time down on the books. A regularly scheduled time
every week or two. (But do the same for your wife too. She needs
her time for whatever doesn't she?) Don't sacrifice this part of
what you want because you WILL be bitter and resentful if you do.
I am already there. I can't justify doing this because I am not
pulling in income to pay for extra help. You are. Make it happen.
So you don't lose your mind. Good luck. Feel free to email me if
you want to. (AND DON'T GET RID OF CAMERAS! That's like a band
aid on a gunshot wound. Some day you will teach your kids how to
I would suggest that you hire a babysitter for a couple of
mornings a week (or whatever schedule works for you) so you and
your wife both get a break and you can have regular time to
work on your photography. You probably will not be able to
work as much on photography as you would like for a few years,
but perhaps having some regularly scheduled time for that each
week will get you by, even if it's only one morning a week. If
you hire a babysitter, you won't feel guilty about leaving the
kids with your wife and she gets a break too, so you may enjoy
the short time that you have to yourself more.
Please don't give up! By now, I have seen this from a few angles.
I am a full time performing violinist and a mother of a 5 year
old. I am also a creative coach who works with career
professionals raising young children in improving their creative
relationships with themselves, their family and their world.
Remember, your children look to you for their own relationship
with their creative selves. By feeding your own creativity, you
are feeding theirs.
Here are few things that I have discovered through my own
experience and working with clients that may help you get past
that ''stuck'' place.
1. Get organized in your creative vision-
Try thinking of your connection to your creative balance as a
process in itself that must be broken into bite size pieces.
Imagine your perfect day. Chart out how much time/energy is
devoted to what. i.e. time with kids, time with partner, time for
your art, work, etc. Next chart your time/energy distribution now.
2.The next time you have 15 min ask yourself ''what is 1 step that
will bring me closer to my perfect balance.?'' Make a time-line
with a few simple achievable steps toward your goal.
3. Remember as long as you are taking steps however small toward
that ideal day you WILL get there eventually.
4.Schedule creative ''dates'' with yourself- In addition to small
steps that can be taken in little windows of time every day, you
need some larger chunks of time. The ''burden'' of being left with
the kids for a few hours on a weekend pales in comparison to the
burden of having a partner who is feeling resentful and
unfulfilled. Your relationship to your art is part of what makes
you whole. That relationship deserves respect and attention too!
Your wife needs creative time too. See if you can trade off.
Look to your community for support. Do what you can to write it
on the calender! It helps to know that there is something on the
horizon even if you have to wait a few weeks. If not for
yourself do it for your family. They will get a happier,
healthier, and more present father and partner.
Please keep in mind this is all super compressed for BPN.
It can also be helpful to work with someone who can provide some
outside perspective, ask powerful questions, and help break
things down into clear, simple steps. If you have any questions
or need further clarification please feel free to call or email.
Been there too,
This could be a great opportunity for you as an artist and a
parent. I see parents hiking with toddlers and babies strapped
to their back all the time. Try taking them out on short
hikes--with your camera. Also, see if Sierra Club or the parks
offer some sort of children's hikes--so you can learn how to
interact with them fruitfully on these hikes. Photograph them
and show them the photographs, and talk to them about it. You're
fortunate to have two wonderful photographic subjects!
I completely understand where you're coming from as I am also a
photographer and started putting 100% of my energy into my own
business in it just a few months before I discovered that I was
pregnant and the pregnancy was rough. So balance is something
that I'm having to wrap my mind around.
I would encourage you to find a way to include your kids in the
process. Use them as your subjects, take them on your hikes with
you and find them a spot to lay them in to play while you go
around and photograph around them...
You might also want to see if you can work out a schedule with
your husband or a mother support group so you can get some time
to yourself and you can exercise and create on your hikes...
Definitely pursue it and don't let it be stifled or fade out.
keep clicking away
i can really relate to you here. My art is more with child
birth, I have an insatiable appetite to learn everything about
it, and take part. In my situation, my husband is the
breadwinner, and I need to be home alot. I will say this; PLEASE
do not medicate (that's absurd, btw), give up, or lose hope! If
you love nature, why can't you get out there with your kids? The
four of you, kids in backpacks? Have you tried giving the older
one an old camera of their own, kids will copy you for hours!
One thing you mentioned is that your wife can't keep the kids
for a few hours on the weekends? Uhmmm.... I don't get it? Is
there something missing to the story here? Are either of your
children special needs, is your wife ill? Why on Earth would she
not be able to give you a break on the weekends? That's what
couples do, and one would think that with you suffering for your
love of art, a spouse would be even more eager to provide that,
have you actually asked? most mothers would do anything for their
spouse, if it meant she was going to get an evening off in
return! C'mon, it's two kids, not a daycare, anyone can do it.
Another idea is to look for groups/ clubs, anything you'll be
held responsible to attend, that do photography. This works well
when couples with young kids are trying to feel out the personal
space thing. Join others.
The last thing I want to say to you is that as parents, we all
suffer some loss. You seem to realize that. We lose some of
ourselves, some of our dreams, passions. We gain amazing love in
return, you seem to know that, too. But some people have more
pull than others, more passion. This is something you should
accept now, don't question it, analyze it, or try to suppress it.
It belongs to you, and it's there for a reason, you're in for a
sad life if you try to fight yourself. Figure it out. Fight for
your needs, and the needs of your wife. Hire a babysitter or do
trade. Figure it out. As a famous artist/ parent once said ''
Don't do it because you want to, do it because you have to,'' Yes,
it won't be what it would if you had no kids, but it'll only be
what you make it. Don't give up!
light burning from the inside
My husband is an architect and he is an avid painter and
illustrator on the side. We have two kids, ages 2 and 4. In the
beginning it was really hard for him to find time for art between
work and parenting responsibilities. It was a really big deal
and he was depressed for a long time. What worked for us was to
firmly schedule uninterrupted time for him to work on paintings.
On the weekends he will often take a four hour chunk of time to
paint and once a month he takes an entire weekend day. On
weekday evenings after the kids go to bed he often works on
paintings for 1/2 hour or so as well. It's true that with this
arrangement I end up bearing slightly more of the household
burden, but in my opinion it's worth it because he is
exponentially happier now than four years ago. Plus, I reserve
chunks of time for myself too, so it's not like he's the only one
who gets a break from household responsibilities.
If you love it and NEED to do it, then I bet you can work out an
arrangement with your spouse where you get more than 15 minutes a
day. You say that it's a burden for your spouse to have the kids
for a few hours on the weekend, but honestly... it's not that
difficult to watch a baby and a toddler for a couple hours. Just
give your spouse four hours to him/herself the next day while you
watch the kids. It's important for both of you to have alone
time to pursue your interests, creative or otherwise. Your kids
don't need to hang out with both of you at the same time, all
weekend long. Good luck!
Married to one
Just negotiate with your wife to trade off weekend mornings. It's
not that big of a deal to be with two kids for half the day! Many
nannies and all daycare providers do it all day long. (As well as
many stay at home parents). You can also get up early (5 am) to
do some of your digital work every day, instead of staying up
late. Keep a notebook for your ideas so you can jot things down.
I do realize it's hard to find time but unless your ''day job'' is
7 days a week.. there is wiggle room here. I think if you give
your wife the same time off, you will reach an agreement.
Your post caught my attention because I have had a similar
problem. However, I'm older than you and hopefully have learned
a little. I also have the professional perspective from my
doctoral studies in Human Development. Here are my thoughts:
1. Congratulations for having creative passion. Appreciate this
about yourself. Seriously.
2. Know that you have time. The span of adult life is quite a
few years, and there are seasons, if you will. You have probably
completed your student season and your single season with all of
the advantages there. Now you are in a parenting season as well
as marriage and work. But as many a parent with grown kids will
tell you, the parenting will pass (or at least the time they are
home). What you don't want is to MISS OUT on it. That can
easily happen if you are not present. In fact, much of human
unhappiness is simply due to comparing what is with what ''should
be'' instead of being with what is. The truth here is that you
have small children, a wife, and a job, and only so many hours in
3. You can look forward to a time in the future when you will
have more time for making art. But instead of a frustrated wait,
you can be happy, and grateful that you have something wonderful
to look forward to. Not everybody does.
4. Keep a notebook or folder where you put your ideas, like a
5. Rethink the short times that are possible. Is 15 minutes
really worse than nothing? Is there something that you can work
on very gradually? People have been known to write whole novels
by writing 20 min. a day.
6. Can you very occasionally have a few hours to get out, say
once every one or two months? Is there something else you are
willing to sacrifice to have that? What can you give your wife
I am an artist, a father of a 14 year old and run a commercial
studio. I learned a lot about being and artist/parent from the
woman I shared a studio with the year my child was born. I
watched as she worked her one or one-half day every other
week. I thought she could never get anything done like that
but, over the year I was there, I saw paintings in process,
finished, gathered into sets and hung in galleries. Her work
was slow but very persistant and diciplined and effecient. I
realized that some amount of time dedicated and used
effectively could result in good work finished.
I also, away from my studio, found how very humanizing it was
to be with my child. Things I have learned during the time
spent with her are always coming up in my pictures (and
not ''cutesy kiddy'' stuff although inspiration does come from
I just wanted to say, as one artist to another, that it can be
done and done well. It is good for your family that you make
art. You can be a better artist for the experience. Make art
that you can make with the time and situations you have.
(poetry fits lots of places) Everything you have is an asset
depending on how you work it.
And, Best luck!
this page was last updated: Nov 9, 2010
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network