When I first started taking art classes in high school, I didn’t expect it to open up an opportunity to make money. As a freshman, I wasn’t doing much art in my free time, and consequently, the only money I had saved was from several years of birthday and Christmas checks.
This changed, however, when I decided to pass some time with a drawing of a labrador in one of my many half-filled sketchbooks.
My First Dog Portrait
I used the writing utensil that was sitting closest to me on my desk: a black ball-point pen, left over from my last school supply run. It took me a few hours, but by the end of the afternoon I had hashed nearly every strand of fur on the dog’s face, and the page that I tore out of my sketchbook had become a satisfying portrait. My mom was impressed, and because it reminded her of our own dog, she framed it and hung it up in her office at work.
A few weeks later, she came home with an exciting opportunity. One of her coworkers had noticed the portrait of the dog, and asked if I was willing to draw a picture of her three chihuahuas. The best part: she was willing to pay me, and I just had to name my price. I accepted, and after taking two weeks to sketch a photo of her three dogs, I sold it for forty-five dollars in cash.
Starting To Sell More And More
The idea caught on better than I would have expected. The woman was so happy with her original portrait that she showed it off to everyone in my mom’s office. Several of her coworkers presented me with photos of their dogs to draw, including her own boss. It became a product that advertised itself, and pretty soon I was a fifteen-year-old with an exciting new source of income.
My clientele extended to my teachers, relatives, and friends of friends. I continued to use the ballpoint pen as my medium, but once each drawing was matted and slipped into a plastic sleeve, it looked no less professional than a gallery piece. I would spend my free time in English and math class with a sketchbook in my lap and a ballpoint pen in my left hand, and each time I would get impressed glances from my classmates–and sometimes my teachers.
Each commission was unique because I had the opportunity to see so many canine friends that had captured the hearts of their owners. Among other breeds, I’ve had the privilege to draw a dalmatian, labrador, springer spaniel, weimaraner, boxer, dachshund…and two cats. Every client was always impressed by how I was able to capture the unique appearance and personality of their pet.
Some people came to me with a photo of their dog that had passed away, and these portraits were the most touching because I was able to memorialize a special member of the family through my art.
You can see my portfolio here: Anna R. Lawrence Portfolio.
Although I’ve been earning money for my art aside from my education, I am ready for it to become my main source of income. I have thoroughly committed myself in my high school art classes, but now as a senior I am looking towards furthering my education in an artistic field of study and preparing myself for my future career.
My aptitude for art and my experience with commissions has led me to become interested in a career in Illustration. My talent for capturing the character of over a dozen different dogs along with the strengths that my portfolio has exhibited proves that my style would be advantageous to the field.
I am preparing to face the challenges that come with pursuing an artistic career, but the first step is affording the cost of attending an art school. I am intimidated by my estimated student loan debt, as all of the expenses will be coming from my pocket. However, my continuous success with selling my art makes me confident that I can find ways to pay for the cost of college, as long as I’m willing seek out opportunities for my work.
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Check out the other finalists here: 2018 Side Hustlin’ Student Scholarship Results Page.