Let’s talk about a real art life. At times I get frustrated with my life as an artist. I want to be so much farther along than I am. It’s such an interesting career because there is this duality between creativity and business. I’ve been developing my talents at both, although I would say I’m farther along in one than the other. But it’s wild, it’s a challenge. But I think it’s a challenge that a lot of people can relate to. I’m not really sure how to break this down in a nice orderly fashion so I think I’ll just stream of consciousness write it out. Here goes…
This artist life is tough, and I definitely haven’t mastered it yet. In this reality we have to make money to pay bills and pay for what we want to have/do/experience. Art is such an interesting thing to monetize. First off, it’s subjective. Secondly, it’s not a necessity. Thirdly, it’s an ever changing world with no rules. We as artists are creative, but we also need to be entrepreneurs so that we can navigate through all of this. Reconciling both sides of the coin is a trick that everyone has to figure out for themselves.
I’ve been making money from my art since college. I’ve had exhibitions, done commissions of all kinds, and done art specific jobs. I’ve also had side jobs (Serving tables, Bartending, framing houses, etc.). A year or so ago I began working with a friend who does murals, assisting her with her art. She was really good with her online presence and had tons of mural work constantly lined up. The structure of my art business wasn’t strong enough to provide me with consistent flow, so I was happy to help out while I did my stuff on the side. Through a twist of fate she got hired on as the foreman for a construction gig at the hospital where we were doing murals (Her husband was a contractor so she had lots of experience in that world). She needed an assistant with that project, the money was solid, and with my minimal construction background I got hired to help get it done.
Now it’s ten months later. I’m still working doing construction, remodeling operating rooms. I’ve learned a ton, I can use tools and build stuff, I’ve enjoyed the experience, and the steady flow of cash has really helped out. It’s made it so that I can finance my artwork. It’s really nice to create without any worry of how I’m going to pay for paint and canvas. Making commissions for people where they pay for supplies is one thing. Going out on a limb, making expressionary, explorative, cutting edge type work where I don’t know if it will even sell is a whole different thing. If my bases aren’t covered, then it doesn’t feel right using my time and funds to artistically experiment. To truly be creative you can’t be thinking about whether or not people are going to be interested in buying it or not.
I’m really appreciative of the opportunity though. It’s been awesome, and a great part about it is that I listen to podcasts 40 hours a week. I’ve been studying and learning art history, business, tricks of entrepreneurship, and social media. I’m feeling so close to having my business setup and structured to take off. I’ve got my business plan lined up and it’s starting to be set into motion. Sometimes I get so worked up though, because I want to take the leap right now and just go after my art full on. I feel that my time and energy is being put into this job for steady money, which is good on one hand, but if I were to put all that time into my own art and the business of art I would have results sooner. But there’s the time in between leaving the job and the independent income. Right now, before my own art sales are ripping, it would be a leap of faith.
I’m feeling like the way to go is to just work hard in both worlds until my own artwork can steadily float me. I’m putting my social media work in, streamlining my website, developing my market and most importantly, developing my art. I wake up at 4 am, do construction from 5 till 1, come home, work on my art and my art business until about 7, then relax, eat dinner and go to bed to do it all again the next day. It is what it is until it’s something different. But that’s the reality of life as an entrepreneur. People from all kinds of different fields of starting up would say the same thing.
I know I’m here with a purpose, and it is art. I’m here to be an artist and to live an art life. I’m going to figure it out if takes another month or if it takes years. Either way, I’m going to keep pushing pencils and paint, looking at the world through my visual lens. I do feel that this is the best time ever to be an artist with social media and how connected we all are. Also, I feel really, really blessed that this is the biggest frustration that I face in my life. So many people have and have had life so much more difficult than me, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t take my frustrations seriously. I believe we should all strive to live happy and fulfilled because when we are at our best, the best can be brought forth through us.
That’s the state of affairs at this point. Keep on crushing it in your world, and I’ll do the same. See you at the top.