by Hilda Lockley Rueda
How far into your artist career did you start answering to the ever-present question, “What do you do?” with a smile
and an assertive reply “I AM AN ARTIST”? This is a query I presented to all my mentors at the beginning of my
artistic career some years ago after switching from Petroleum Engineering and International business fields.
I would like to revisit this question once more on behalf of all those people out there considering changing paths in life
and crossing the bridge to becoming full-time artists. To the question above, some artists said they always responded
with “I AM AN ARTIST” but most replied that they avoided the question, sidetracked it, redirected it or simply ignored
it to avoid the obnoxious looks from friends and family expecting them to have grown up and taken a “serious track.”
In the words of the artist Ben Shahn, “I believe that if it were left to artists to choose their own labels most would
Is an art career even worth pursuing? After all, only the most determined artists can sustain themselves with art-
related income. Isn’t it true that many artists have been ignored all their lives only to be recognized for their vision,
genius and creativity until much later after their deaths? We admire and revere the works of artists such as
Brunelleschi, DaVinci, Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Vermeer, El Greco, Rembrandt, Gaugin and other artistic
geniuses. Weren’t they for many years the outcasts or had careers marred by debt. Some, nobody knew about until
their works were found in dark monasteries, forgotten and uncared for, then studied, revived and given the value they
deserved, decades or even centuries after the artists were deceased?
“Starving Artist” is a cliché that has been casted by well-intentioned people to deter us from being successful and
happy. Art is, in my opinion, a very rewarding career, but it is not an easy tag to put on your head and display proudly
to those close to you. Art in our society tends to be perceived as the choice of irresponsible, unreliable people and
that of dreamers. Family pressure to stir you out of your path is often very painful and difficult to overcome.
Of all those artist-to-be, some who are strong and stubborn enough will pursue an art degree even at the cost of their
family disapproval. Others, like myself, will take up a different career altogether, following the advice of elders and
peers. Those who persisted and managed to go to art school enjoy tremendously the learning process and the
exhilarating sense of creating out of simple thoughts what they perceive as a reality. However when school was over,
and there were no projects to submit, no classes to attend, no teachers to please and no peers to offer support, many
art graduates found the irreconcilable truth that their creativity was drained and creating was now a painful process.
Many went into other fields just to avoid the risk of displeasing the world. Many denied they were artists choosing to
wear a different hat and label.
On the other hand, those of us for whom the influence of our peers, siblings, parents, teachers, guides succeeded in
rerouting our destiny, go through life carrying with ourselves mixed feelings of guilt, remorse, regret and a sense of an
unlived life, questioning who we are and what we are supposed to become, where and why we strayed. In both
cases, it is only by the tenacious and persistent tug of your “true call” that a trained but forgotten artist in the first
scenario or the hidden artist in the second, becomes a real artist.
Many people in the engineering, medical, science fields are returning home to what they feel is their true path: doing
art. Workshops, ateliers, art schools, continuing education classes are full of those lost artists, talented, determined,
ready to shake the shame off and create. I did it several years ago, transferring from petroleum engineering to art,
without any previous knowledge or experience and not knowing where to start, but being blindly guided by an intense
desire to do what I came here to do. I applaud those people, who like me years ago, are jumping in now, because
giving up a financially prosperous career, steady income, promotions, benefits, stability, in lieu of a profession where
nothing is certain, requires a monumental leap of faith and an unfathomable amount of perseverance and courage.
I can assure you, having been through it, that once on the other side, you will never regret it. The happiness of living
your true call is absolutely priceless, especially when you can experience the most exhilarating moments immersed in
your own creations and the immense possibilities that your mind will open to you in a creative career such as in the
The transition cannot be left unplanned though. There are several strategies that you can use to make the leap less
strenuous. I am listing below the ABC’s that personally helped me with a swift and smooth shift.
•Art books and guidance books such as Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, The Artist Way by Julia
Cameron and Accelerating on the Curves by Katharine T. Carter will boost your creativity and will help you find the
courage and confidence needed for the switch.
•Be prepared. Prepare a financial plan that allows you to leave your current job without monetary distress. Assessing
your resources, expenses and savings will reduce the pressure of meeting financial obligations on top of the
•Connect. Find a mentor, willing to support you from the beginning. Look for artists whose art you admire and enquiry
on mentorships. Contact art communities, Art Leagues, and colleges where you can associate with other artists.
These groups will motivate you, and encourage you to improve and grow.
•Develop your skills by doing art daily and by registering for classes, workshops at art schools, art organizations or
individual teachers near you. On this topic, I’ve heard this wise quote from Bart Lindstrom, “Step one is to get really
good. Step two is to get out there. The better you do step one, the easier step two is.”
•Establish realistic goals both short and long term. Knowing where you want to go will help you see the opportunities
available to reach your set objectives.
If you are in the midst of making the decision of crossing the bridge, I would recommend you to go ahead and do it.
Start by proudly calling yourself AN ARTIST!
In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson “What lies behind us and what lies before us is tiny matters compared to what
lies within us.
OIL PAINTERS OF AMERICA BLOG. ON ART GLOBALIZATION
Mobile Masters Make Art Instruction Accessible to Artist Anywhere
November 17, 2014 by Hilda Lockley Rueda ·2 Comments
CLAYTON J. BECK III-AN ARTIST WITH CHARACTER
FIGURE PAINTING WORKSHOP AT THE WOODLANDS ART LEAGUE, Sept. 8th-12th/14
The Woodlands Art League, www.woodlandsartleague.org , a 30+ year old, nonprofit visual art organization that
operates in the Woodlands Tx,, was visited by Clayton J. Beck III, one of America’s more acclaimed and recognized
artists. The Woodlands Art League is proud of housing more than 300 members, whose careers have been notably
carved and enhanced by the training and knowledge visiting masters have provided throughout the years. Clayton,
who was teaching his third workshop at WAL, is one of those artists who has enriched the league’s history not only by
means of his unconventional training philosophy but also with his professional advice related to the improvement of
the physical space necessary to produce better quality art, lighting, space distribution, etc. Robert Liberace, Judy
Carducci, and many other masters have pitched in to make art instruction accessible to a whole Houston community,
thus facilitating the means of progressive artistic development for all, and the cultural enhancement of the entire area.
Clayton, walked in with a confidence that is at the same time intimidating and reassuring. New artists were not sure
what to make of his well-worn out hat which didn’t seem necessary in this “dark cave”, as he calls the wall to wall
mirrored studio where WAL currently functions. As he introduced himself and the workshop, his eccentricities became
less eccentric and turned into logical statements. Clayton, reminded us, artists, that nothing that shows up in the
canvas is a mistake or an accident but the result of a thought we consciously or unconsciously deposit in the painting
surface and that in order for our art to improve we have to recognize what those thoughts are and change them. He
pointed out that not having a goal to strike for, at the beginning of a painting session is like getting in a car and start
driving not knowing where you are going.
All artists have at one point or another attempted to do color charts but being frustrated we dropped the chore off the
list. Clayton encouraged us all to complete them and used them. Debra Latham, one of the artist attendees, from
Kingwood, Texas, when asked about the most important thing she had learned from Clayton’s workshop, puts it this
way: “The biggest thing I learned was the importance of doing color charts. I’ve only dabbled with them a bit in the
past but never to the extent he had gone to. He had such an elaborate way of doing them that I had never seen
before. That is one thing on my near future “to-do” list”.
Is it in the light or is it in the shadow? All artists wrestled with that question while we attempted to look at the model as dispassionate as we could to avoid falling into the trap of painting eyes, mouths and hair instead of the patterns of the light and shadow, lost and found edges. We tried to take ownership of Clayton’s remarks, almost never addressed to an individual attendee but to the group in general, prompting us to put the brushes down and observe the model to
collect certain information, before we pick them up again and decide where the next brushstroke is supposed to go.
Is It In the Light? Oil on linen, 20×16, and exercise on light.
Workshops like the one offered at WAL by Clayton are valuable for artists of every level. Beginners and advance
students take pride on absorbing or recalling knowledge that will help them improve their artistic careers. Suzie
Baker, an accomplished and nationally awarded artists, who also participated in the week- long course expresses her
foremost lesson as follows:
During Clayton’s workshop, he mentioned several challenges as ways to break out of old ways of thinking, one
challenge was to create a painting with no more than 10 brushstrokes per model session. So, let’s do the math: 6
session, 25 min each, 10 strokes max per session, that’s 60ish strokes. The economical nature of this way or painting
required a deliberate thoughtfulness. I had to spend more time mixing the right value and color of paint, choosing the
right brush and amount of paint to load onto that brush, planning the brush stroke (angle, direction of pull and
pressure of the stroke). The challenge was as rewarding as it was nerve wracking. Now, I just need to keep it up
when Clayton isn’t watching over my left shoulder!”
Suzie Baker, www.suziebaker.com
“Keli in 60 Strokes or Less, 20 x 16“, Oil on Linen, 2014.
The week dwindled down as we attempted to recognize our own mistaken perceptions. We are determined to
eradicate all those thoughts and habits, which although feel comfortable, hinder our progress and make us repeat the
same mistakes over and over, piece after piece.
The guidance Clayton, and other masters, have provided us with, is invaluable, not only individually but as an art
community which intends to be true to its mission of promoting the visual arts, enriching the general community
through art education and offering our artists easy access to professional instruction. We believe it is possible to make
art available to all and it is through workshops with traveling masters that big groups can be reached at a reasonable
price and at convenient locations and thus the goal of art-educating all can be achieved. Isn’t this the globalization of
our art world? We genuinely so hope.
NOVEMBER 23, 2019
Having traveled for a while in the art world, back and forth, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes
stagnant and cold, I can attest to the feeling of being lost, sorrowful, sometimes ecstatic and confident,
sometimes drained and disengaged. Having traveled for a while pretending to be mature and serious in
my attempts to become one of the few to reach the stars, sometimes being an artist is better than being
a star. Sometimes the need for outside recognition is the need for inside recognition and that is as
difficult to have a consensus on as the outside one. Sometimes the fight is so deep that you hardly