Stupid Advice from Smart People

Stupid Advice from Smart People

Stupid advice has brought down more artists than you can imagine. It can hinder you from achieving your goals.

"Ruby's Dilemma" painting by Tom Laura - it's Mature!

"Ruby's Dilemma" painting by Tom Laura - it's Mature!

Some “well meaning” people will give advice, not knowing how bad it is.

And others, well, they are bitter and their advice comes from a place of anger.

If you are going to take advice from someone, take it from a person who has already achieved what you are striving for.

Don’t take advice from someone who has failed, because their advice may just get you to where they are: failure.

Here’s a short list of some of the worst advice we’ve received over the years:

  • You can’t just surf and paint the rest of your life (Drew’s high school guidance counselor)
  • DON’T EVER WORK WITH YOUR WIFE! (From the founder of one of the most prominent sandal companies in surf)
  • Don’t stop working for …Lost you’ll never get work anywhere else (same guy, above, in 2001 when Drew decided to sever ties with …Lost, a company he no longer shared the same values with)
  • You can’t make a living as an artist. BE A TEACHER INSTEAD. (A teacher in High School)
  • GREEN PAINTINGS DON’T SELL.  Paint blue. (From a gallery owner who told us that he couldn’t sell Drew’s “green” paintings. He had them stored in his back room for months. We took them back to our studio and within one week sold 3 out of 4 of them.)

I asked some of the successful artists out there to share the worst advice they’ve ever gotten:

  • Paint what is mainstream, paint what everyone else is painting.” (A member of a Santa Barbara artists’ association, when denying membership to artist David Loueau.)
  • “Nothing in life or making art, that’s worthwhile, is fun.” (Mr. Faust, an art instructor at Pratt Institute to then student Phil Roberts – who has fun everyday with his art.)
  • You need to progress from painting in Acrylics to working in Oils, a more ‘mature’ media.”
    (Laguna Beach gallery owner to Tom Laura, aka BIG TOE )
  • “ART IS A BIG WASTE OF TIME.” (Professional artist Al McWhite’s father, to Al as a kid.)

As a general rule, Drew and I don’t listen to negative advice. I guess that’s what’s gotten us this far.

Never listen to stupid advice from smart people.

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WHAT’S THE STUPID ADVICE YOU’VE GOTTEN?  Tell us in the comments below.

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  • meh
    Posted at 11:51h, 31 October

    screw this
    whoever wrote this has no idea about how much u can do with art
    (fashion, interior/exterior design, construction, graphic design, animation etc etc etc etc…)

  • Maria Brophy
    Posted at 09:12h, 20 July

    Glen, LOVE IT! That’s the best one yet!

  • Glenn Waggner
    Posted at 09:10h, 20 July

    In 6th grade my teacher, a nun, told me, “Well, Mr. Waggner, I sincerely hope you find a job that pays you to draw all day, because that is all you seem to do.”
    I’m an architect & artist, and I get paid to draw all day.

  • ricardo m. rosa
    Posted at 16:28h, 26 January

    adimiro seu trabalho e sensacional ,pois pinto prncas aqui no brasil ,e ja fiz varias copias do seu trabalho ,q e realmente insuperavel , grande abraço.

  • Branding Art from Surfboards to Greeting Cards – by Kate Harper | business of art - Maria Brophy
    Posted at 18:53h, 02 November

    […] your site, you have a humorous list of stupid advice you’ve gotten from smart people, and you say how you think artists should only take advice from people who’ve already […]

  • Karen Embry
    Posted at 08:01h, 09 October

    Sorry I left out my stupid advice (question) in my last post…
    Actually it was years ago when I was home raising my children and creating my art….Someone asked me, “when was I going REALLY going to work”? Ha- I had one year old and a three year old, was painting
    at nights, weekends and whenever I had an open moment. I did art shows on the weekends. My oldest has now graduated from college, the second is in his third year in college getting a degee in Media Arts & Animation and I am still painting/designing
    (working)…and earning a living from it.

  • Karen Embry
    Posted at 07:45h, 09 October

    What a great web site you have! I totally enjoy your posts an am looking forward to your upcoming book. I can relate to so many things you have to say!!! I am an artist focusing on the licensing industry. I have had to develop some “thick skin” to make it through my journey. It has been years of an uphill battle and things now finally are going my way…go figure – in this economy. It didn’t just fall in my lap, believe me it has taken hours, days and years of endless work. It is so well worth it when you finally start to see it paying off. Good luck to you. I wish you much more success!!!!

  • M. Nosepicker
    Posted at 15:03h, 19 September

    You’re so ugly, your doctor is a vet.

  • Heather
    Posted at 20:29h, 17 September

    This is a breath of fresh air. Especially in this recession family and friends ask me if I am “doing well” in art. What does it matter as long as I am on the road to success. It is a journey. It can get discouraging when people think what artist’s do is secondary to a “normal” career. What is that anyways if that isn’t what you want to do? I am so thankful for you guys and all of the amazing people that I know that encourage artist’s to create and be happy.

  • Bob
    Posted at 04:32h, 07 September

    Haha, I got some funny advice:

    Don’t throw a brick straight up in the air.

  • Charls
    Posted at 11:16h, 01 September

    oh I remember this one:

    “Get yourself into this style(insert a name here) and keep yourself away from other trash”

    PD: please break the limits

  • Mario
    Posted at 23:14h, 02 August

    Thank you Maria! Your advice was exactly what i needed to hear. Thank you for your time.

  • maria brophy
    Posted at 19:36h, 02 August

    Hey Mario,

    Don’t worry about having confidence in your artwork – it will come eventually. Did you know that most artists don’t have the confidence they should have?

    If you want to have a career in art, don’t worry about who likes your art. If people like it, that’s great. But it doesn’t matter – because the only thing that matters is what you want.

    If you DECIDE to be a professional artist, then that’s what you should focus on. And you will get better and better at art, the more you create it, the better you’ll get.

    What you paint or create today will look primitive compared to what you will create 10 years from now!

    And so, enjoy the journey, keep creating, and make a plan for your career.

    The confidence will come in time. Just keep going!

  • Mario
    Posted at 11:21h, 02 August

    Hey Maria and Drew. I need advice for one thing. Im 16 and in high school and i want to pursue an art career but I have no confidence with my work. I get compliments on my art but I still don’t feel like my work is that great. How do I build confidence?

  • Tokes
    Posted at 04:11h, 15 July

    Thanks Maria,
    The advice really was for a friend (lol) I will pass it on. I’ve been a professional Artist for about 15 years. I was just a bit stumped on what to tell him.

    Many thanks


  • Maria Brophy
    Posted at 10:18h, 14 July

    First, decide what you want. Sounds like you have – you want to be a comic book artist, you want to earn a certain $ amount and you want to be married & buy a home. All attainable.

    Next: Everything you do, have it be connected with cultivating your comic book art. Do jobs that are art-oriented, or create your own work. Every day, ask yourself, what can I do today that will keep me going on the path to having what I want?

    Then: Stay on that path and never give up. Most people quit before they make it, never knowing how close they really were.

    You have a great advantage to most – you are single without kids. This is a time when you can do your most important work for your growth as a professional artist.

    I hope this helps!

  • Tokes
    Posted at 06:33h, 12 July

    Hi Maria,

    What advice would you give a 20 year old male who LOVES comic books but whose drawing skills show he’s never going to cut it as a comic book artist, well not in the next ten to fifteen years anyway. He believes he can make it though and his goal is to be making fifty grand a year sometime in the next five years. He has a fiancee and they plan on buying a home and starting a family within five years also.



  • al McWhite
    Posted at 10:00h, 08 July

    Good read Maria…me likey! The way I look at it is like this. People by nature have this sort of built-in guidance system or compass if you will, directing you toward a particular path or direction. This internal compass (intuition) is never wrong, but most people tend to ignore it. Instead, most tend to listen to what their mind is telling them to do. The problem with that is you tend to second guess yourself due to the collective dissuasive input from a few pessimistic individuals. Simple solution…ignore the conflictive mind chatter and go with your gut instincts! Big Smiles 🙂

  • e. lindsey hornkohl
    Posted at 13:22h, 06 July

    Drew (and Maria),
    Check out my first attempt at painting a surfboard on my blog…I also gave you a little shout out!
    Thanks for not letting me use acrylic by the way, I just went to Aaron Bro’s and got Sharpie paint pens and sealed it with a spray sealer for fiberglass etc.

  • Maria Brophy
    Posted at 08:56h, 06 July

    Being a teacher is a great thing to be, if that’s what you WANT to be. But if you set out to be an artist, and you are discouraged by others, and you then settle for something else (because you listened to bad advice), it’s a tragedy. There are so many good teachers out there that see their students’ potential, and they help guide them towards it. Then there is that occasional teacher that gives bad advice and discourages potential, because they don’t recognize it. That’s the “bad advice” that I’m referring to. Please, don’t read into this as a hit on teachers!

  • Patti
    Posted at 07:56h, 06 July

    Do you consider being a high school teacher (or a teacher at any level) failure? I understand the point of your posting, but it does sound like *BE A TEACHER INSTEAD* (all caps) is a put-down. Granted teachers don’t make a ton of money, but there are millions of teachers who LOVE what they do, have FUN doing it, and do not consider themselves to be FAILURES in any way…and YES, I am one of them.

  • rob schwager
    Posted at 19:11h, 05 July

    “Your stuff is cool, but it will never sell. You need to do smaller paintings. Ones that people have room for. Your stuff is just too big. Also do characters. People like quirky characters.”

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