I have a confession: School was incredibly hard for me and I actually hated it most of the time. There were, however, a few classes that I really liked and excelled at like Anatomy, Art and History. Looking back on it now I realize a lot had to do with the fact that my Anatomy teacher, Mr. Fenton, was the best human ever! History had images, and Art was a way for me to express myself and I only took art once in high school.

Despite that, I thought my Art teacher was a jerk. I remember I had done this really cool chalk picture of fruit, that I loved and felt really proud of. It was done in mostly black and white and he decided to add blue to it! Literally, as I was telling him how proud I was and how much I loved what I had done, he reached over, grabbed the chalk and scribbled blue in the shadows. I walked out of class that day and never went back.

History was fascinating to me due to the images inside of the textbooks. There was this incredible power within them that the text just simply couldn’t convey. The stories came alive for me when I saw an image or watched a documentary. I could actually visualize the event and noticed all the little details that were missed in the text. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if someone wasn’t there at that time taking the photo. If someone hadn’t learned how to work a camera. If someone had not become an artist. History would have been just a story without any proof in my eyes.

I pushed through it though, graduated high school and went into the medical field. I contribute a lot of that to Mr. Fenton in fact. He continued to push me to do great things and when he realized that I had memorized the human anatomy he pushed me even harder to go into the medical field.

I enjoyed it, but I think I knew I was destined to be an artist. Even though a photographer or an artist never came to career day and no one ever told me that that was even an option, I knew it. All anyone ever said was you can be whatever you want but doctors, nurses, lawyers and police officers are pretty much the coolest most important things, so here, learn from them. Don’t get me wrong — I think all of those and hundreds of more career paths are hugely important and very much needed — but so are artists.

Maybe that’s why I love going around to the local schools on career week and speaking to the younger generation about the importance of becoming an artist. Making sure that they understand that you can make a living while doing it! Telling them about the time my art teacher drew on my project and turned it into his own and letting them know that your art is just that. It’s yours! It doesn’t have to fit this insane model of what others think is art or how it should look. Take for instance this image, “Unknown,” by Cy Twombly, done in the 1970s. It sold for a whopping $69.6 million dollars!

Andreas Gursky is a landscape photographer. He sold a piece of his work below for $4.3 million dollars!!! THAT IS CRAZY!

For me, now seven years later, after officially “retiring” from the medical field and just doing photography. I realize that it is hugely important that we let kids know that being an artist, in whatever capacity that means for them, is totally acceptable. Whether they are a photographer, videographer, graphic designer, painter, etc. that it doesn’t have to just be a hobby. That it can also be a career path and a pretty dang cool one at that.

So maybe next time your kid decides to paint on your wall or ask to go to art camp or maybe when the school sends home the form asking for suggestions for career week, suggest an artist!