Engineering or Art?

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As a child I had always loved drawing and colouring for hours on end. I went through hundreds of colouring books and tried every medium of art imaginable. I was forever creating and imagining beautiful animals and plants to draw until I was told I had to pick a ‘real career’. I don’t understand why we are told, so young, that art and music are just hobbies, not career paths. Becoming a doctor or an Engineer is the ideal path and so that is what I chose.

Sema Martin Pet Portrait Artist

I achieved a masters in Aerospace Engineering and a Masters in Space Studies. Then went on to intern at NASA Ames Research Centre and started a PhD. I am really proud of what I achieved before the age of 25 but I had always felt like something was missing. I didn’t wake up every day, excited about engineering or staying late at work because I just couldn’t stop myself working. I had no idea why other people could do that. Was there something wrong with me? Was I just one of these people that lacked passion for my career even though they liked doing it? I honestly didn’t have the answer at the time.

One day my friend asked me to draw a picture of her cat that sadly passed away and I was very touched she wanted me to do it. I had no money at the time because I was waiting for my PhD to start and just moved to a new city again, so it was very nice of her to offer to pay for it. After I had finished and given it to her she was so happy I could see the tears in her eyes. It made me feel so amazing that I could do something so special for someone, this was a feeling I hadn’t really felt before. I posted the picture of the cat drawing online and was shocked by the response. I had such a large number of people asking me to do the same for them and since I was still pretty poor I couldn’t exactly turn down the money. My Pet portrait business was born but I had still had my ‘actual career’ to do.


I struggled for a few moths juggling both and realized, all I could think about was my pet portrait business. I was no longer interested in engineering or my PhD. It didn’t give me the excitement and fire I was looking for. I stayed up night after night and woke up early every morning just so I could draw as much as possible. This is when I recognized, I wasn’t broken or lacked passion, I was just doing the wrong subject this whole time! Every morning I wanted to draw, and send emails to possible clients and research new pencil techniques to develop my skills. I felt like I could live and breathe art and it was the passion I was missing from my career.

Then came the choice… Engineering or Art? As people we are always changing and developing, things we like can become things we don’t like and Vis versa. It’s so important not to feel like your trapped in a career just because you have started it. It is never too late to start something new, no matter your age. So I decided after much deliberation that I was to start my career as a full time artist. It was defiantly a scary step. Not only was I no longer doing the ‘normal career path’ but I was also becoming a free-lance entrepreneur and had to find the money every month to pay for my life instead of just going to a job every day. I was my own boss now and it actually felt like the best thing in the world. Not only was I drawing for people in the UK but I had so many customers from the US and Australia, it was so incredibly exciting and fulfilling and I just wish I could have let the young me know that Art was an option for a career, and you should always do what you were born to do.

Sema Martin Pet Portrait Artist

I don’t regret doing the engineering because I really showed all those people that doubted me what I was capable of. I am so proud of myself for that but now I am doing something just for me. I don’t have to prove myself to teachers and or professors. I’ve built my own business from nothing and touched so many lives around the world with my art and that is probably something I am more proud of.  

What is your story? Have you faced a similar dilemma? I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading.

Welcome to my blog. I’m Sema and from my little cottage in Wales I have created this series of blog posts to help other artists on their journey of becoming great! I specialise in colour pencil as a medium and have created many pet portraits for customers all over the world. You can read more about my journey by clicking the button below.