A year after graduating with a fine arts degree, Aaron Wilson is still working at Whitcoulls as he struggles to afford materials to submit artwork to galleries.
Worried he may not get a job after four years of study, the 33-year-old waited until he was 29 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional artist.
"I am quite a practical minded person, so I always thought 'I've got this passion for painting and art making, but there are no real jobs in that field, so I don't really need to do - or it's not a great idea to do - a fine arts degree course'. I figured that if I did do the degree I would end up four years later with a piece of paper that said I was an artist and a huge student loan."
After plucking up the courage to enroll at Auckland's Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, he had to cut back his hours at the book chain, where he had worked for seven years.
"I haven't spent any time on the benefit yet, but I have struggled as I have been picking up work when it is available," he said. "It is still a struggle to live in that situation, not knowing how much I will earn each week, so not really being able to commit much to anything."
Mr Wilson has exhibited in two galleries since graduating.
"Other than these two shows I have not really been able to make or submit any other proposals mostly due to financial constraints."
He believes his degree is often misunderstood.
"There could be misunderstanding from both sides, as in, maybe the graduate doesn't know how to articulate the many transferable skills they actually have."
He is now contemplating a change of career path to work in IT and believes the skills are transferable.
"This type of role requires a process driven, methodical and critical approach. A fine arts degree teaches you to be process driven, to be methodical and critical about what you are making and how you are making it."