( Decided to do a 3 part series in light of the fact that i think we are all kind of sick of talking about the pandemic- So, here’s something different for ya’ll)
I haven’t spoken very much about my life as an artist on here because, well..it’s usually not a grand topic of discussion no matter who is listening. But today, you lucky people, i’m gonna expand on that mysterious topic – What actually is the life of an artist like?
Yeah, i know – you are waiting with baited breathe, right?
Let me start by saying i haven’t always been what anyone would call an “artist”. Sure,i colored in coloring books, did some drawings in high school , and even entered a few local contests ( albeit the ones my mom entered me in for coloring in the lines of a newspaper illustration to win a basket of candy or some such). But it wasn’t until 2009 or so that i decided to actually try to put any real effort into it. And it wasn’t until 2011 that i began pursuing a life consistent to the ‘stereotypical’ artist. It was the year i left my comfortable, stable, normal life of domesticity and strayed directly into the wild bohemian lifestyle.
Now, i was going to get into how that all came about, etc. But that isn’t the point of this post. What i really want to talk about is what i learned, and to dispel any mythical beliefs, and confirm others.
First of all -IT IS NOT FOR THE WEAK.
I learned rather quickly that you cannot just walk into a nice gallery and expect them to show or accept your work. Hell, you can barely get anyone to take you seriously unless you have been around for 20 years, belong to several ( paid) art associations, and have gobs of money and connections. And don’t even bother submitting work to well known art magazines unless you are willing to pay heavily for one small advertisement. Those featured artists have all of the above, plus are very very very good. Most also have art degrees from prestigious schools. I also learned that it is super easy to fall into addictive, destructive behaviors because it is oh-so-acceptable in the crazy artist world.
Ok, next- it isn’t something you can live off of -not for a long time or maybe ever. To this day, i know very few local artists who don’t also have to have a “real job” to supplement. So, no- you won’t be spending all day in the studio playing with your paints and having famous people “drop by” for tea and to admire your latest work. Generally, you will be using whatever bits of time you can manage to practice, using whatever bits of money you might have left over after buying Ramen Noodles for the week, and using whatever bits of energy you can conjure up when you are done work , chores, and errand running. If you have kids- it’s even worse.
And here is the part almost no one ever sees or understands. When you do get that time, money and energy it isn’t simply pouring a glass of wine, putting on some inspiring music and gloriously brushing the canvas in a passionate madness .
It’s spending hours stretching canvasses by hand because it’s cheaper to than buying them (after you have enough used frames or recycled something like old window frames.) It’s using up old house paint because you cant afford anything better( thank god i haven’t had to do this in years).It’s spending hours painting edges, framing, and putting hanging hardware on .It’s painting in sub par spaces, with make shift props until you can do better. It’s cleaning out old paint jars, brushes, and surfaces. It’s stressing about how & when you will be able to get better materials. It’s trying to find storage for the oodles of pieces you don’t sell and likely never will. It’s looking at the hundreds or even thousands of dollars you have spent creating/practicing with little or no return, because , if you don’t do digital stuff- the amount of material waste is un-imaginable . It’s trolling internet options for selling your soul on the blackmarket ( for pennies on the dollar) on sites like Zazzle or DeviantArt just to possibly make a few bucks ( IF you want to spend hours creating and managing a page).It’s a roller coaster of depression, self sabotage, and reckless/destructive behaviors to cover up a deep self loathing that comes from barely EVER selling your work. It’s watching others sell pieces that you know you could do in 5 minutes with a crayon. It’s attending every event you can to get your name out there, and entering as many ‘calls for artists as’ you can find ( especially the free ones which are not easy to find). It’s being thought of as lazy, irresponsible, crazy, and sometimes, pathetic. And believe me , i could say so much more.
Now, i don’t mean to paint a picture ( pun intended) of a living night mare that never ends . Because if you get through these things and continue on despite the hardships- you can maybe, possibly, at SOME point start selling regularly ( whatever that means) . It means that eventually you will become known as an actual “artist” ( and not some loser that just wants to fritter away their life pursuing the meaningless).I can tell you that you will never forget the first time someone refers to you as an artist, it’s one of the greatest highs you will get along the way. BUT, the only things that are gonna get you there are: patience, practice, and passion.
The 3 “p”‘s.
And i find that this is true with almost anything in life. Whatever you want to become, you have to be willing to do all three to get there.
Call me crazy, but here i am- 10 years later- still doing those very same things.Everyday ( Well,almost).