For high school art students hoping to make their passion their vocation, becoming the stereotypical starving artist is a fear in any economy, let alone the current one.

Local artist Susan Daly told Absegami High School students during a Dec. 20 visit that with planning, hard work and determination, it's possible to find a lucrative niche even though that's tougher in the art world than in the cubicle jungle.

"There are so many people out there who want to go into the art business, and they're turned down by their parents because they think there is no way to make a living, and there absolutely is a way to make a living," Daly said.

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Daly, who lives in Northfield and runs a commercial and residential studio out of her home, met with Art II and III and upper-level Spanish students to offer her own experiences and give them advice on how they might succeed in the art world.

Daly has been active in art since attending the School of Visual Arts in New York, where she earned a degree in illustration, in the late 1970s. Since then, she has made a living doing work by commission for clients ranging from Atlantic City casinos to private residents. For her latest project, she spent a year and a half illustrating a Spanish children's book, "Lightkeepers to the Rescue."

After the discussion, several students approached Daly for guidance. Junior Fayo Mamme, who was one of those who stayed behind to speak with Daly, said she found the talk valuable.

"Originally, I wanted to do fine art, but lately I've been thinking of working more in teams and animation," Mamme said. "I'm still unsure, so this helps with my decision this fall."

Daly dispensed several pieces of advice during her half-hour talk, chief among them the insistence that students make their work known through a personal website or social media.

Ramon Gonzalez, who attended the talk, said while he has showcased his work through social media in the past, he'll do it more frequently in the future.

"Right now, I like Tumblr, which is a blog website," Gonzalez said. "You can post pictures there. I guess I could post some of my pictures there and get myself out there and do that."

Daly's visit was organized by Absegami art teacher Maureen Sullivan, who has been friends with Daly for a long time and followed the progress of her children's book on Facebook.

Sullivan said she believed Daly's talk was helpful. She hopes to bring Daly back to Absegami.

"I think she gave a lot of students a good (push)," Sullivan said. "(She) gave them inspiration, so they could continue to move forward, and maybe gave them some fresh ideas and sparked some interest, so that they continue to draw and become better artists."

Despite her endorsement of art as a viable career path, Daly cautioned the students that it can make for a difficult life. When business was booming at the casinos in the '90s, Daly's annual income could stretch into the hundreds of thousands - yet at her worst years, her haul was a pitiful fraction of that, she said.

And while she has been through hard times, Daly said, for her, choosing art wasn't a choice at all.

"It's not an easy road, and it's not secure," Daly said. "I'll have projects, and then I won't have projects. I pursue projects, and I don't get projects, and some of the projects I do get. But I can't imagine myself doing a 9-to-5 (job) at this point. I've made my own life, and I haven't looked back once, really."

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