Deciding to pursue an artistic or creative career path isn’t for the faint of heart. Challenges will abound, but so many of the artists we speak with couldn’t be happier with their choice. So, we asked them about how they made the decision in the first place.

Yeltsin Penado | Artist

I have always respected other artists and love collaborating. I get a sense of freedom when I approach a new project. A new project is a challenge to convey my thoughts and ideas into a tangible format for others to experience. I like that art can be a pursuit of knowledge and empathy. I decided to pursue a creative career because I am interested in learning and collaborating with other creative thinkers. Art is very welcoming and communal. I enjoy that my career path allows me to engage with talented and bold thinkers. Read more>>

George Bennett | Storyboard Artist and Illustrator

I’ve always been passionate about two things: drawing and playing pretend. These two things have consumed me since the beginning. I would play for hours and hours outside with friends, family, or just by myself. I would fight in epic battles, solve great mysteries, and discover whole new worlds! When I went back inside I was drawing the things I did, the characters I had met and places I had seen. Storyboarding allows me to tell stories through drawing. I still get to play. Read more>>

Kayla Tange | Performance Artist – Producer

I always found a sense of transcendence in art making and yet never pursued as a career, possibly due to cultural expectations, until more recently when I realized that this is what I am here to do. Read more>>

Sparkle Clark | Wedding & Party Planner

I am passionate, artistic designer who devotes to utilizing my creativity to make memorable experiences that will last forever. I love creating moments that will bring joy and families together which defines my creativity and design. Read more>>

Nina Tran | Calligrapher & Teacher

Although I’ve always loved art and dreamed of a creative life, I never actively pursued a creative career. In fact, I went down the opposite route in college and studied the sciences, falsely believing that art was reserved for the already-creative, not someone like me. As it would happen, things sometimes have a way of manifesting themselves. At the end of 2014, a friend asked for my help in a onetime DIY calligraphy project. By the time the new year came, the project had developed into a feverish fascination for letters, lead by my curiosity and fueled by my desire to learn. I soon found myself welcomed into a community of letterers and calligraphers online (via Instagram) and in person through guilds and conventions. I felt right at home. In the months and years that followed, a series of seemingly spontaneous events began to unfold before me and I found myself presented with opportunities to share my love for letters — ready or not! “Leap, and a net will appear.” – John Burroughs However insignificant, I am leaping all the time and hoping to experience a more creative life. Read more>>

Michelle Okpare | Artist(Painter)

I wanted to be an artist because first it’s a part of me that helps me express my true self, where I can be free no limits and I love that part of me. Read more>>

Tiffany Frances | Filmmaker, Director

I’m extremely passionate about filmmaking and being creative; it’s not the easiest road choosing it as a career, but it’s also my dream to make a living doing what I love… so ultimately I had no choice but to pursue this 🙂. Read more>>

Jeff Poe | Photographer

I’ve always been a creative person for as long as I remember. I was always playing with the latest and greatest point and shoot camera while in high school and college. Photography has always been a way for me to document my travels and I often printed my images as wall art to help immortalize a certain memory from a trip. Things changed in January of 2017 when I had a near death car accident. I hydroplaned on a 3 lane highway, did multiple 360’s through traffic, and got hit head on by a 16 wheeler. When I escaped unscathed, I knew life was too short to not follow my passion and I started to devote more time and energy to photography. I slowly started building my business up on the side, and in 2020 I took the leap to go into photography full time. It’s been an exciting and rewarding journey and I’m just getting started. Read more>>

Mary Phan | Author, Design Educator, Founder

I think I’ve always gravitated towards being creative and design industries. As my earliest memories are of me sitting and sketching for hours. I knew it was something I was good at and that made me different. It was something I took to very early on and could sit and focus on for hours even as a little kid. It’s part of my identity and I don’t think I wanted to do anything else in my life. I remember when teachers would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said either a “teacher and artist” so it’s rather inline with what I do now, which is an educator empowering creatives to build sustainable design businesses. Read more>>

Thunderstorm Artis | Singers-Songwriter & Musician

Because it’s who I am Meaning even if this wasn’t my work I would still 100% be doing it I believe God creates us all with a purpose and it’s our job to find that purpose and live it out That’s a quote I try to live by, when I Play music I feel so alive and free but that isn’t the main reason I do what I do, it’s because of the live I can change by doing what I do, since I was young I wanted to change the world for the better, And I have is my Gift and my words but I believe the sky is the limit to what I can accomplish with those two things. Read more>>

Andrew Rurik | Filmmaker @ Third Shift Creative

Honestly, I’m not sure if there was another option for me. I picked up a camera in first grade and haven’t looked back. Every major job I’ve had is linked to filmmaking or storytelling in one way or another, and all roads — no matter how winding — have led back to having a camera in-hand, crafting a narrative for someone, somewhere. Read more>>

Miika Kivilo | Fine Artist & Graphic Designer

I was raised in a house of artists who were always very supportive of all my dreams. I spent most of my childhood taking art classes outside of school and doing arts and crafts at home. I loved just about any form of art (I still do) so I knew I would always want to pursue an artistic or creative career. I started being more serious about art in middle school so I applied to the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts for their fine arts department. After graduating, I then started attending Otis College of Art and Design where I got my BFA in fine arts. I have been continuing to pursue my creative career in many different ways but my main focus at the moment is being the head graphic designer for a rave clothing company. I know I want to stay involved in the rave scene somehow, so right now graphic design is what I’m really passionate about, but I still have my life goal of making giant interactive sculptures for raves and music festivals. Read more>>

Abbygale Chung | Dancer & Choreographer

Growing up, I always loved performing. Dance was my creative outlet. When I graduated high school, I followed my friends to university and started a Bachelor’s of Science degree. My heart wasn’t in it, though: I knew dance was my real passion, but I felt pressured to pursue a traditional education. I finally had an epiphany while sitting in class one day. I realized I only had one life, one shot at pursuing what I really wanted. There was no need to conform. I had the option to pursue something different, something extraordinary—why was I forcing myself to do what I felt was expected of me? I knew I had the potential to do something challenging, something different. Dance had always been the thing I’d excelled at, the thing that made me truly happy. I realized I needed to be doing everything I possibly could to make a career out of it. Even though I ultimately chose not to continue with post-secondary, I think it was an important experience for me to have. It solidified my pursuit of dance as a professional career, and helped me realize just how lucky I am to have found my true passion. Read more>>

Marika Takeuchi | Composer & Pianist

I always loved music. I started classical piano at the age of three, played the violin and french horn for several years, and loved singing, dancing, and writing songs. But when I was in high school, I suffered from severe depression and stopped all the music lessons. I didn’t fit in at school and spent most of the time alone. Listening to music and playing my favorite songs on the piano, and watching movies, were the only things that calmed me down. Eventually, I decided to go to a music college in Tokyo to formally study composition. I missed a lot of classes at the beginning because of my depression. But when I finally composed and produced a song and everybody loved it, I felt something so profound that I had never felt in my life before – I felt like the hole in my heart I had had for a long time was finally filled. I cried on the train back home that day, and I eventually overcame my depression by continuing to write music. Read more>>

Amanda Roy | Sound Designer & Sound Artist

Art was actually not my original path. I grew up in a very creative environment and I always enjoyed it but for most of my life, I intended to become a scientist. After I graduated high school I moved to Australia to pursue a degree in marine biology and ecology but quickly decided that it wasn’t what I wanted anymore. One of the things I’ve always loved about science is the need to think creatively to problem-solve, so at that point, I decided that I wanted to pursue a creative and artistic career that I could combine with my passion for science. Having been a violinist for most of my life, music was my first instinct but I’ve never enjoyed performing for others. After doing some research I discovered sound design and sound art, which I quickly realized are great ways to combine those two passions. When I found a school with a sound design program I enrolled and immediately felt at home among my peers. I had incredible professors who encouraged me to pursue my interest in things like acoustic ecology and installation art and now I can’t imagine doing anything else. Read more>>

Jenna Rose | Wedding & Portrait Photographer, Jenna Rose Photography

I chose to pursue a creative career in photography because I wanted to find a job that first an foremost made me happy. I wanted to be able to be creative, help others and I wanted to work for myself. I think it incredibly important to love what you do for work, and I knew I would not thrive in a 9 to 5 environment. Read more>>

Jessie James | Choreographer & Dance Instructor

I feel like that decision was made subconsciously from an early age. My mom tells me as a child I would tell her that I wanted to “be a star”. At a young age it’s all sparkles and flashy lights but as I grew older I discovered I wanted to pursue an avenue that was more behind the scenes. I wanted to create the movement that I was seeing on stage and be involved in overall creative decisions . Thankfully, my parents were in full support. I was expected to do well in school but they were clear that I wanted to pursue a career as a professional dancer and choreographer. I had great teachers growing up who allowed me to shadow their process as creators that eventually sparked that interest. It hasn’t been an easy path. One that’s been filled with a lot of “no’s” and “your not right for the job” but the gratification of creating something visual to be enjoyed keeps me coming back again and again. Read more>>

Milana Burdette | Filmmaker | Large Format Photographer | Artist

Every morning before school, you’d either find MTV music videos playing on the television or the morning news. It’s during this time I noticed an abundance of what seemed like pure mayhem throughout the world and was determined to understand the “why.” I made it a goal to study the human condition and to determine what compels us to do what it is that we do. What sets us off, and how are we a product of our environment? This eventually sparked an interest in criminology, forensic psychology and science and for many years, I wanted to join the FBI in hopes of uncovering answers to the many questions that plagued me for the majority of my young life. The downside to this level of curiosity meant I was encircled by constant sorrow, leaving me in a state of anguish and I soon realized this life was not meant for someone who takes on the pain of others so I changed interests, immediately. During my high school years as a introvert, I was unable to communicate effectively with my peers and was in desperate need of something more fulfilling. Read more>>

Diana Mora | Visual Designer

From a young age, I had an interest in art. I attribute that initial spark to my crafty abuelito, who loves making leather belts and wallets for family and friends. I also had a neighbor who was an artist, and she was kind enough to share a lot of drawing books, paints, and pastels with me. When I started high school, I realized my passion for design. I became interested in learning how to edit photos and customize my MySpace profile (shoutout to the early 2000’s internet kids!). I taught myself how to use Paint Shop Pro, a more affordable version of Photoshop at the time. I had a great time designing everything from band posters to wedding invitations for family. Initially, pursuing a career in art seemed risky going into college as a first-generation Latina student. The college application process was entirely new for me and my family, and I didn’t have much knowledge of graphic design careers at the time. I was fortunate enough to have extremely supportive parents who were excited for me to enroll as a Studio Art major at UC Santa Barbara. Read more>>

Cameron Thrower | Director, Screenwriter, & Producer

I’ve never thought to myself, “I want to be creative, I want to be an artist.” It’s something that’s always been there. I’ve always had a love and respect for movies when I was a kid. A few of my favorites influential films growing up that would significantly impact my work were E.T., Labyrinth, Coming to America, Short Circuit, The Lost Boys, Dirty Dancing, Heathers, Adventures in Babysitting, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. They were an escape, introducing me to a world outside my small town in South Carolina. By the time I was seven years old, I wanted to create my own stories and make people feel like I did when watching those movies. I had my dad’s giant VHS video camera on my shoulder, always filming family vacations and making short films with my siblings and neighbors. At ten years old, I knew my purpose was to make movies. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really set out to do career-wise; there was no plan B. Living in Los Angeles for over a decade, I’m incredibly grateful to work in the film industry, surrounded by talented individuals who have an infinite passion for telling stories and creating movies. Read more>>

Natalie Abbassi | Art Collection Manager

I am the daughter of two artists, so creativity was always appreciated in our home. My father is a retired stained glass artist and my mother is a French translator who’s always dreamt of living off of her paintings and crafts. From ages 9-20 I grew up in Iran with my father and siblings where all students choose their majors in 10th grade: Mathematics and Physics, Biology, and Literature being the main three. Or the Arts. I applied, took an entry exam, and got accepted into a prestigious art school in Tehran. But I went into Mathematics and Physics instead, wrongly thinking it would make my family more proud. It was a long 3 years, and I often found myself day dreaming of reversing time and changing my choice of study. After receiving my High School Diploma in Mathematics and Physics I moved to the United States to reconnect with my mother and attend college in North Carolina. This time I wasn’t going to study in the same field; I was going to get an art degree! I started focusing a lot of my studio time on photography, and lectures on art history. Read more>>

Kimon Kirk | Musician

After a certain point it seemed like the only choice. After college I got a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and taught school for three years, and then worked in publishing for a couple after that. But music was always in the picture and eventually it became obvious that it was what mattered most to me. Unlike some people who play music for a living I didn’t go to school for it exactly; ironically, my parents both have advanced degrees in music and sometimes I’ve wondered whether that was a reason I hesitated to go that route initially — I didn’t feel I had the necessary training. But over time I realized that being a musician was what made me happiest and that I wasn’t interested in having anyone but myself dictate how to structure my time. It’s been a gradual but steady process. Read more>>

Hedy Torres | Artist & Advocator

I pursued an artistic career because I always felt the need to express my feelings, thoughts, memories, background, experiences, and present with art. Back in Mexico, women’s opinions was limited or sometimes undervalued, and I saw it growing up in TV and the worst case with women in my Family. Therefore, I thought that art would be a safe place and platform to talk about uncomfortable topics or just topics that were often ignored. Read more>>

Carly Chubak | Artist & Teacher

Sometimes it seems like I’ve already lived several lives. I published astrophysics research and was a piano accompanist. Then I was an test engineer working on space satellites. I decided to pursue an artistic career because I just never felt fulfilled, and decided I’d rather take the risk sooner rather than later. I didn’t want to wake up 30 years down the line filled with regrets. Ultimately I decided to quit my job as an engineer, took a summer to figure things out and ended up going to art school. With my scientific background guiding me, I was able to carefully create a life and career that lets me do the things I love and allows me to use my strengths to help others as well. And honestly, I still live several lives! I teach fiber arts at my alma mater, Art Center College of Design, alongside tutoring physics & calculus to high school students. I continue my personal art practice and work with a collective, Acceptable Risk LA (@acceptableriskla). I also create work for a boutique online store, A Softer Process (@asofterprocess). Read more>>

Sharyl Holtzman | Event and Communications Specialist

I think it’s more the other way around, it pursued me 🙂 It feels more like a calling, instinctual. I actually produced my first fundraising event when I was 8 years old – it was a carnival, with music and food to raise money for my neighbor/classmate who was diagnosed with meningitis, his family struggling financially. When I was 10 I organized the neighborhood kids to do perform shows with lights and dancing, I loved the dance scenes on shows like The Monkees; when I was 12 I started keeping a journal, and all I wanted to do was write and read. Two other significant things happened at that age: I saw David Bowie and Tina Turner for the first time on Midnight Special. I was electrified. I became a journalism major in college, and worked at the newspaper, spent one year in the newsroom before moving over to arts and entertainment becoming the editor. I ‘scandalized’ our advisor by launching a weekly a arts and entertainment section, doing a cover page that was either a photo or graphic design, no ad. I hired music, art, film and book critics and writers. It was a huge success and was awarded prizes by the Society of Professional Journalists. Read more>>