About 15(ish) years ago I was finishing up my degree in Fine Arts at California State University in Long Beach. I chose to specialize in drawing and painting, although I wasn't sure what I was actually going to do with it. I did, however, manage to find art teaching opportunities in a private school and a few workshops over the years.
Fast forward to the present...after coming home to homeschool 3 kids (which is still in progress), I've found myself working part-time in a bookstore. Not long ago, I picked up an issue of The Artist's Magazine that showcased an article about Caldecott winner Paul O. Zelinsky. It turned out to be an unexpected turning point for me when I read the following:
"...art purists have traditionally made a distinction between fine art and all forms of illustration, often viewing the latter as inferior work that can't hold its own."
Mr. Zelinsky goes on to speak about his experience at Yale: "In the art department, illustration was a derisive term."
BINGO! I completely understood what his experience had been, because I had gotten the same (mostly) unspoken message in my art department. I can even recall one occasion when my professor got into a heated debate with a classmate (who happened to be an illustration major), insisting that illustration was not real art.
Why did this matter? Well, I guess back then, my youthful ideals and I didn't want to pursue a "lesser" form of art. In spite of the fact that my work fit quite naturally into the illustration category, I fought against that tendency and never really found my artistic groove.
But time, wisdom, and a few words in a magazine have started me on a new creative journey. At long last, I've come to embrace the idea of illustration. Who knows...maybe I'll have a future in it as my kids become more independent. Regardless, I've never had more focus (and fun) building a portfolio!