Raising An Artist
by Jeannie Albers
Many of you know the struggle, the struggle with Raising an Artist. You have a child whom you’re concerned will struggle in school, they may have trouble focusing on lessons because they can’t help but stare out the window and daydream, and they’re always managing to turn every blank space in your home into an art canvas or musical instrument. I was that child, and I’m here to give you a few tips on helping yours!
1) Don’t Over-Test/Analyze Them: While every child is different, I can tell you what worked/didn’t work for me growing up. My Momma lovingly homeschooled me all 12 years of school, and what a great advantage I had there. And trust me, in as much as you may spend your time fretting and wondering what possible career paths your child can have a future in, the artsy child (if anything like me) spends just as much time wondering the same thing. Mom put me in every kind of test she could to try to help me hone in on what I am good at, and what I found out was probably more discouraging than helpful at the time. I recall one of the results I was given was a florist. A florist! I’m pretty sure most kids don’t aspire to use their creative gifts to arrange flowers. I had different hopes. My point is not to say that strength/personality test-taking is bad, it’s just to say use caution, you don’t need to put your child on a career path in grade school, nor do you want to unintentionally put them in a box. Rather, help invest in their gifting and allow them to explore their interests. For me it took years of trial and error for the puzzle pieces to start to make sense.
2) Support support support: Most artists struggle severely with self doubt, even when we are really good at what we do. As kids and teenagers we may not always believe you when you encourage us, because in our minds it’s your job to do so (even if we totally stink at what we’re doing). But we DO need to know you are on our side, and won’t be disappointed if we don’t one day grow up to be a doctor or lawyer. I’m also not suggesting that you should falsely praise everything your kid does, but you will begin to see at an early age certain tendencies… maybe they have a good ear for music and can pick up tunes they hear on the radio, or they doodle fun little cartoons on their napkins at dinner. Praise those things. As they get older, support them if and when they choose to study the arts in college, or choose to work part-time as a server so that they can invest time into their creative endeavors.
3) Teach them how to work: Being an artist is no excuse to be lazy. Mom and Dad taught me from a young age how to be a good worker. I would pick up small jobs anywhere I could: mowing/weeding lawns, dog walking, babysitting, etc. Mom and I sometimes laugh recalling the long list of hilarious jobs I managed to work; I just wanted to earn income any way I could! I learned SO much in the process, and really feel that I have a greater understanding of myself and other people because of the diversity I encountered in the workplace. I also saw how if you set your mind to something, there is often money to be made no matter what you choose to do. So you need not fret that your child will end up homeless just because they don’t have a salaried job. Teach them to work and invest in what they love. Chances are, they will be far happier making less money but really enjoying their work & hobbies.
4) Connect them with people who have succeeded as artists: It’s like getting a glimpse of the finish line, being warned of any pot-holes in the track, and gaining a few tips on how to pace yourself.
5) Make sure you understand the value of art, and that THEY understand their art has value: I’m not sure I even understood this until my mid-twenties. Art has SUCH value. You should be extremely grateful to have an artistic child; they can teach you so much about life and beauty if you allow them to. The ability to create and inspire others is a huge calling in life. We bring into existence things from an unseen realm, things of beauty that benefit communities and homes, possibly even the world. Art has the ability to alter an environment, spiritually and aesthetically.
6) Help foster an environment that is conducive to art: My mom and dad were such great examples of this. They had a piano in the house and I was never given restrictions on playing it. I’m sure there were times I annoyed the snot out of everyone, but I was never discouraged from practicing. For Christmas and birthday (and even at the beginning of a school semester) I was given art pencils, markers, canvases, brushes, paints, chalk, etc to create with. Mom showed me that she valued my learning as an artist as much as she did my Algebra. They gave me nearly entirely creative freedom at our home. I decorated for holidays, painted murals on my bedroom walls and even the guest bathroom in my college years.
7) Don’t compare: One of the hardest parts of growing up, was realizing how different I was from my older brother. He was better/faster at school, had a better memory, performed better in sports, and for a while he was better than me in music because he was able to learn to read music faster. It didn’t get easier as we got older. He received loads of scholarship money, breezed his way through college, got a good job straight of school, bought a house, and got married. Picture perfect, really. And there was I, struggling to figure out what I was good at, what I enjoyed, and just having a “figuring-out-life crisis” every few months. I received a scholarship too, and did well in college, but I certainly had to work harder for it. It’s very easy for an artist to feel like a failure just because our lives don’t “measure up” to those around us. Thankfully, Mom and Dad never favorited my brother or implied I should be/learn like him. They just loved me and helped me learn and succeed as best as they could.
Raising an artist is a challenge, mainly of trust and patience, but it’s also rewarding, as I hope my parents would agree. Just remember a career isn’t everything. Stewarding gifts to better serve family, the community, our World, and the Lord is where the attention needs to stay, and let hard work and the Lord’s direction open doors for you and your artistic child. I hope this helps you and encourages you if you are on the colorful journey of raising an artist.
We would love to know if you are raising an artist too!
Jeannie is my daughter who has taught me so much about seeing the beauty in art. She is a fine artist, photographer, and musician who aspires to bring beauty to others through her work. You can see more of Jeannie’s work on Facebook. She is currently working on building her new website.
One frequently asked question I get is how I raised an artist. So I asked Jeannie to write a letter to moms from her perspective. I trust this blessed your heart. Don’t worry mom, focus on nurturing and cultivating their gifts and talents. There will be more on this topic in a future post from me.