If you want to be an artist, I'd get into the best art school I could and get an MFA. Then you can teach for a living and still photograph as an avocation. And that way you'll never have to compromise your art for anyone.

If you want to be a commercial photographic illustrator, then I'd apprentice myself to the most successful pro I could find who will take you on. Then start your own business. You'll have to cater to your clients for your bread and butter, but you'll still be able to do your personal work any way you want to.

Either way can be a great life. Take your pick.