Please Pursue Some Other Career in Life

How I discovered I was an artist

By Carm Fogt, guest blogger

Sitting in a warm summer meadow, next to a creek in Yosemite, all I can think is, what the hell did I agree to? On my lap is sketchpad. In front of me is the most gorgeous waterfall I have ever seen. Over my shoulder, my sister-in-law is gently coaxing me in her kind and patient voice saying, “Just sketch the waterfall.”

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Oh my god, I think, this can’t be happening. My palms begin to sweat. I know I will never be able to draw that waterfall. 

I’ve known this since grade school. I have no ability to draw or, for that matter, do anything artistic. The first realization came when I was in first grade and confronted with a mimeographed bear and a box of crayons. My exuberance couldn’t be contained inside the lines. The kids around me–the beloved rule followers–laughed at my frenetic coloring. Clearly, I was no artist. 

And, if that wasn’t enough to keep me away from crayons, Elmer’s glue and construction paper for good, the TV Guide arrived weekly with that tempting ad of a little cartoon animal and the teaser: “If you can draw Winky, we’ll hook you up with art supplies and free art lessons!” I was in high school by this time, the crayon fiasco behind me, and so thought I’d give art another go. I traced the little animal, sent it in and…failed. The powers-that-be sent a short, cutting reply that read, “Please pursue some other career in life. Thank you for your entry.”

Jumping In – and I Don’t Mean the Creek

Back in the meadow, reminded of past failures, I begin to rethink the decision I made earlier in the day. It was either a hike up the 4-mile trail with my husband and his brother or sit in the valley with my Yosemite artist-in-residence sister-in-law, Janis, while she taught her daily watercolor workshop. Hike and sweat or sit and chill by the creek. It was a no brainer, right?

How is it then that a sketchpad and pencil can send me right back to the horror of being made fun of in elementary school? All I can think is, will anyone notice if I sneak out? I glance at my watch hoping it’s almost time for lunch. 

But Janis is a persistent champion of art and, for some reason, she thinks I can draw Yosemite Falls. I had confessed my insecurities to her before we started; thankfully she didn’t laugh. Instead, she suggested that when I noticed something in my drawing that was out of whack, I should simply erase that part and fix it. She said that my eye would tell me what to do. 

Janis teaching watercolor class

My eye? What? Now it was me trying not to laugh at her. Seriously, erasers are allowed? No way. You mean that people who can draw–real artists–use erasers?!

Incredulously, I start. I draw and erase and draw some more until I make something that looks like the waterfall. But something else begins to take hold. Suddenly, I’m living in the moment; I’m a part of the creative flow. Years of doubt, years of believing what others told me are erased like a badly placed line. 

That Was It

Over the next couple hours, I lose my anxiety over putting down a mark. Just as Janis said, it wasn’t permanent. I have unlimited do-overs. My hand relaxes and does what my eyes tell it to. I am completely engrossed.

The sun sinks low in the west, mosquitoes start to buzz around me, and yet I just don’t want to leave, I don’t want the magic feeling to end. 

Back in the cabin, I search for something to draw, light upon my well-worn sneakers and start drawing them. Soon I’m drawing just about everything in the cabin.

Thus began my journey into art. I drew that waterfall. I drew Half Dome. I drew chairs, shoes, people (well, almost people). It was a miracle. I could draw and I loved doing it! 

How could this be? I couldn’t do it before. Why now? Why here? All those years wasted, believing something that wasn’t true. I had always thought it was strange that my mom could draw, so could my nephew, but the rest of the family, it seemed, were just missing the art gene. Or so I thought.

If I Could Turn Back Time

How strange that just a few dings on my young ego were all it took to steer me away from ever trying art again. Why did this happen so easily and so firmly? Thankfully, albeit, years later in life, all it took was a little encouragement from a trusted instructor to turn it around. 

And it wasn’t just encouragement and kind words; Janis gave me permission to fail.

I wonder, would the world even have art if artists didn’t know they had permission to make mistakes and erase them, start over, let go of what didn’t work and keep searching until they found the right path? 

What Janis shook loose in me started a journey that took me to Asia to study with master brush painters. I don’t know exactly why their work captured my imagination, but that first trip, the artists I met, the instructors and the creative atmosphere brought me to a place that I never would have found had there not been a warm meadow and a kind-hearted instructor to coax it out of me. 

Carm Fogt, Blue Love, Acceptance Series, 12x12 inches, Chinese ink and watercolor

Lifting My Brush with Confidence

I can’t turn back time, of course, but I can look to the future. I can give children the encouragement they need to pursue their innate love of creativity. And I can keep pursuing this career. 

Maybe that’s what caught my imagination when I began learning Chinese brush painting: a quick brush with something negative could turn into a lifelong false belief just as easily as a quick brush with something positive might turn into a lifelong pursuit.

To see more of Carm Fogt’s work, please visit her website,

Interested in being a guest blogger?

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Curator, writer, and strategist for artists and non-profits, Rose Fredrick has spent the last three decades producing exhibitions that have not only raised considerable funds for scholarships and education, but have also launched artists’ careers. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and her essays and interviews have been used in workshops, college courses, and museum exhibitions. She has won the National Endowment for the Arts grant, Rock West Curator of the Year, Denver’s The Big Read, Best Multicultural Book from the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards, and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Awards.

6 thoughts on “Please Pursue Some Other Career in Life

  1. Creating the art is sadly the first, and most enjoyable hurdle. To be a professional artist… to make a living at it.. you have to get over the hurdle of the gate keepers: the magazine editors, show organizers, and curators and get it in front of collectors; and you have to continue doing it. It has to sell. It has to sell at a price that allows you into the club of those artists already selling at those prices. It has to sell so that you can survive minus the entry fees, the 50% commission, the cost of the hand-made frame, advertising, and the very expensive shipping fees. -BUT…. If you survive to that point it is worth the sacrifice.

    • And, all along the way, I think it’s vital to keep checking in with yourself, the pure creator who gets pushed around and told to make for the market. It’s not an easy vocation, but I’m convinced, it’s one of the finest and most worthwhile. Thank you for reading, Dan! -Rose

  2. Fogt’s observation of being in the moment while engaged is an unadulterated profundity. As spiritual beings expressing as human beings (NOT “humans doing” as the case generally is) it is postulated that, as such, and having been created in the likeness of God, that we are most aligned with SOURCE when creating. It only makes sense then that since “god” (whatever that is for you) represents a pastless and futureless paradigm, we as co-creators, would be steeped in the same. I’m almost certain that this engagement with “present time” is what constitutes the addictive nature of painting etc. Who would not desire a joy state beingness? Not happiness but joyfulness. For myself personally, creating is an affliction more than an addiction. BTW I believe more practical creative endeavors, like baking cakes, knitting, business planning etc are ways that people experience this joy to mitigate their aborting their dreams….. which generally revolves around expression.

    • Addictive, indeed. Well said. I do think the act of creation is the art, the result is simply that: the finished product. I’m working on a blog about the creative life that live within works of art long beyond the creator. Anyway, wonderful observation. Thank you, Patrick. -Rose

  3. This resounded SO deeply. “How strange that just a few dings on my young ego were all it took to steer me away from ever trying art again”. That sentence could be taken from my own life story and I’m sure from many others here too. Even our adult ego takes a beating. When I returned to art 10 years ago, the naysayers and critics in my life appeared on scene very quickly. Delivering some self-perceived wisdom they had about MY journey and how hard and fruitless it would be. That was a quick lesson in who you allow in your circle of support.
    Thank you Carm for sharing your story. Hearing another artist vocalize this was very reassuring.

    • It’s amazing, isn’t it, how close to the surface the desire to make art and feel acceptance reside in us all. I am truly grateful Carm shared this with me. So very glad you enjoyed the read. Please feel free to share with friends…or those annoying naysayers. -Rose

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