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Confessions of a Full Time Artist

Confessions of a Full Time Artist

Tammy January 10, 2012 23 comments

Artist Date Botanical Gardens, DC, Jan 5 2012

 

Being an artist is a 24/7 occupation.  It requires being your own coach, your own administrative assistant, your own PR expert, your own idea and design and implementation person.  You must be a top sales person, be willing to be assertive and be able to play the role (on days you aren’t really feeling it) of the self-possessed creator.  And you have to smile when a potential customer says:  you want how much for that?  I can buy it at WalMart for half that price.

Just so you know, the proper response to Ms or Mr WalMart buyer is:  “Yes, my work isn’t for everyone.”  Big smile.  Onward.

Some days I look at that list and it is thrilling!  It means that I will never get bored doing the same thing over and over again.  It means relishing the experience of taking abstract ideas to concrete actualities.  It means seeing the final product and being able to say:  “I did that!”  It means seeing potential and possibility everywhere and realizing that you have to focus or much of that potential and possibility will never come to fruition.

Thus, being artist also is taking baby-steps in pursuit of the yet unmade, falling down, getting up, falling down, getting up and falling down again.  It’s about dark nights of the soul when you wonder why you were given this “gift,” this driving need to create when all you want, some days, is to have a regular 9-5 job, with a regular paycheck, so you can pay your bills.

Yes, even we full-time artists, following our dream, have days of yearning for something more steady and secure and not so out there all the time.  Because the truth is that being an artist full-time means all those things named above along with making art,  which means making art is still only 20% of your time.  That’s an average.  Sometimes it is non-stop art around the clock and that makes it all worthwhile!  Even 20% is better than not making art at all because you have given your energy over to safety and security.

Here’s a secret: there is no such thing as security.  Ever.  Things happen.  Most of them outside of your control.

So being your own coach is important.  As your own coach you will make sure you have a support group or at the very least one support person to whom you can turn when it gets really dark out and you’re sure you’re the only one in the whole world who is trying to make art and not making a living. You are not the only one and you are not alone.

First and foremost the ArtGalPals or whatever we’re calling ourselves for the times being are the rocks of my art making.  There are about 9 of us now that come together as a whole or in varying arrays and numbers to play at art.  If you don’t play, the serious stuff will never happen – or you will repeat until you can’t stand the sight of it.  We go to shows together, experiment together (safety in numbers), borrow each others ideas and technical skills and tools and enthusiasm (there can be no room for squinchy in this kind of group).  I absolutely could not do what I do without them. And yes, they are required before “the supportive partner.”

Still, it is good to have a supportive partner.  These are not necessarily born, they are created – formed through years of bumping up against each other.  It is good to have helped them, at some point, follow their dream.  And, a real partnership works for both partners, not necessarily at the same time, but in the same way:  each gets to be who they are with a promise of baby-steps toward their own dream for as long as it takes and for whatever it takes.  Hubby is awesome when it comes to setting up and tearing down and driving long distances in a van that is quirky and needs love, bubblegum and bandaids to reach its destination.  Oh, do I have stories!

I am an introvert.  I like long stretches of being by myself.  It helps me think.  But sometimes thinking isn’t what I need.  I need communication and access to diverse and generous communities.  Blogging and Facebook both have created communities for me that take me outside of myself, inspire me, and remind me that I am doing what many others are still only dreaming of:  I am running my art business full time.  On days when the bank account is dwindling (and oh, there have been many since 2008 when the economy took its nose dive thanks to folks who are so insecure they have no concept of “enough”), and new ideas are starting to feel like banging my head against a wall, I have a mantra that goes like this:  It is better to make $10/hour being my own boss than $25/hour harnessing my energy to someone else’s dream/star/regular paycheck.   It is on-line that I can niche down to others who are in the exact same space, who are writing about it, and whose words I turn to when it’s midnight and very dark.

Keep reminders of how to get from here to there, “there” being “the Wylde Way.

This is my confession:

On days when it feels as if everything is conspiring against me – the economy, my age, people who name Andy Worhol, Thomas Kincaid and Jackson Pollock as artists and not cults of personality -I start thinking that hiring myself out for a regular paycheck is the easy road.  I forget that I like to lead or at least walk beside – I do not do well following unless the person I am following has earned my respect (and there are plenty that have.  But most of them are doing the same solopreneurship thing I am.  My admiration comes from their tenacity which I desire to emulate).  As it happens, today I am in the midst of the dark winter days when that regular paycheck looks very enticing and I have the Sunday paper’s job list with individual jobs circled.  So I am writing this to remind myself that when one goes for security, one gives up much.  Life is lived on the edge where every day we learn how to think bigger because we fly higher, where we can see the possibilities that persistence will yield.

Wylde Women’s Wisdom

(if you’d like to see daily Wylde Women’s Wisdom, you are welcome to my FaceBook fan page:  Tammy Vitale’s Wylde Women’s Wisdom where I share a daily quote and art)

How to recognize Wylde Women:
They listen to their heart.
They take at least one step every day
toward following what they hear.
They are not afraid of the dark.
They recognize fear of the unknown
as the norm for someone creating a new path.
They take their step(s) despite the fear.
They find a person or a group or a community to walk with them.
They are not afraid of their own power, and so
They believe that dreams can come true.
They persist.
They persist.
They persist.
Tammy Vitale

 

 

 

Comments

23
  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    January 10, 2012
    Tammy

    “Life is lived on the edge where every day we learn how to think bigger because we fly higher where we can see the possibilities that persistence will yield.”
    Absolutely Brilliant!! Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your beautiful world! Your persistence makes the world a more beautiful place!!

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    Tammy Vitale
    January 10, 2012
    Tammy

    Thanks Pam! It won’t hurt me a bit to be brilliant for a day. In fact, I needed that!

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    January 10, 2012
    Tammy

    I so totally “get it” Tammy! Thanks for having the courage to confess. I bet every professional artist has had a day similar to yours, I know I sure have.
    These “long dark tea times of the soul” do pass. You’re doing great! Thanks for sharing.
    Aloha, P

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    January 11, 2012
    Tammy

    Even though I have never been self-employed, I can attest to the fact that there can be little security in that weekly paycheck, either. Follow your bliss! Hang onto it by your fingernails!! :):):)

    BTW, I tried to send you a Christmas card to the PO Box address here on your blog and it came back. 🙁 It’s the thought that counts, right? 🙂

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    January 11, 2012
    Tammy

    Wowzers Tammy! I believe you tapped right into many arterpreneur’s mind. Okay at least THIS one’s head. *lol*

    Support is so important! I have an online community to go to in those times. I believe it’s time to create a physical one. Thank you for that inspiration!

    I love how you said, “These are not necessarily born, they are created – formed through years of bumping up against each other.” I know that’s exactly what has grown between The Hubs and I.

    You are one of those people who light the way when things look dark in my corner of the world. Thank you for that!

    Warmly,

    Tracy

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    January 11, 2012
    Tammy

    I think you might like this…. http://burlapnbeads.com/2012/01/11/benefit-2/

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    Tammy Vitale
    January 11, 2012
    Tammy

    Patrice – thanks for the encouraging words. I know the cycle – am almost (*almost*) to the point where I can laugh at it. =]

    Rita – hanging on by broken fingernails, yet am hanging on. Leaving space for the Universe to surprise me!

    Tracy – thank you for your kind words! And the hubby thing: we’re lucky they’re willing
    to take the bumps and they’re lucky they have us so it all works out well in the end!

    I figure all of us artrepreneurs/solopreneurs run up against many of the same feelings. May as well write about them. I can’t stand people who are always chirpy – well, I can stand them. They remind me to reset my thoughts. And the Universe(Tut) reminded us yesterday that chaos and crazy are okay. I think we worry about failure in the midst of that and forget that everyone goes through it. Life goes on. It’s always an adventure. I woke this morning wondering exactly what lesson I agreed to come and learn this go round! You’d think I’d have it figured out by now!

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  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    jotree
    January 11, 2012
    Tammy

    This article is filled with such honesty it brought tears to my eyes…On my path of healing and growing you have become such an inspiration but it is this honesty that most touches me and helps me feel like I have a chance of being who I am.. You are such a spetacular mentor but to let down that mask and show us the anxiety makes you seem more real more tangible…I am grateful for all you share .. Thank you

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    January 11, 2012
    Tammy

    What a great post, Tammy! Besides being an artist, I am a self employed sign shop owner (for 20 years) and I soooooo understand what you are saying. Every day, I am thankful that I can do what I love for a living, but I need to re-energize my own attitude from time to time. I get the creative juice thing met, but sometimes it is filled with worry and fear, combined with heartache and exhaustion. On these days, it’s nice to know that we are not alone. Thanks for reminding me to reach out to my friends for the inspiration and gratitude that helps me keep going when it’s dark out. I needed this today! Thank you for sharing your feelings with us.

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    January 11, 2012
    Tammy

    Geez Tammy, make me feel like a whimp! Haha I am going to pass this post on to others for sure. I appreciate the advice on the spousal support. I have major trust issues (with everyone not just my hUsband) & also issues with asking for help. But I suppose that comes in time. 🙂 Keep up the good work lady!!

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  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    January 23, 2012
    Tammy

    For the record, your response to Mr/Ms Walmart buyer is very kind, since it is clear that there is NO WAY they could find what you do at Walmart.

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  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    Air
    November 6, 2012
    Tammy

    I just divinely happened upon this blog post, and thank you so much for your honest, encouraging, and inspiring words. Thank you for confirming that I’m not alone in sometimes feeling like being an artist is burdensome, ridden with struggles of what to create, why I create, and can I survive without creating (I’ve tried & the answer is NO). Art making can be a yo-yo of emotions, with the brain sticking its analyzing & practical nosey face where it doesn’t belong, but your insights are nice reminders of staying present, remaining open, and being gentle.
    Thanks again!

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    Tammy Vitale
    November 6, 2012
    Tammy

    you are most welcome! So glad you ran across the post! We artists spend so much time alone in our studios it’s hard to remember that it’s up to us to reach out and find a supportive community – I highly recommend it. Hang in there!

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    March 6, 2013
    Tammy

    Excellent post, Tammy. Thank you — I’ve printed a copy for myself and passed it along to some of my artist friends. Wise words 🙂

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    March 6, 2013
    Tammy

    wow – Christine – that’s awesome! thank you so much! both for stopping by and
    for sharing.

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    April 30, 2013
    Tammy

    Thank you for writing this post and sharing your experience! This is just what I needed tonight… One of the web pages I visited before finding yours was a local job posting site for the marketing & media industry and I felt tempted to apply! But you are right, there is so much – too much – that I’d be giving up, and I can’t really imagine myself working for someone else again! Keep up the great work you do – with your art AND your writing! You are inspiring and motivating fellow artists… 🙂

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    April 30, 2013
    Tammy

    Janet – thanks so much for your kind words. I am delighted that my experience
    was helpful

  • Joined:
    2009-10-19 15:07:50
    May 5, 2013
    Tammy

    Hi Tammy,

    When things look rough and people get nasty I always imagine how Matisse would deal with it.
    He simply refused to be intimidated no matter what.

    The following is a true story…

    After WW II, Matisse was asked how it had been possible for him to continue painting during those dreadful years. Wasn’t he concerned with what was happening around him? His answer was that, first of all there was not much he could do about the war, and secondly that if he had allowed fear to overwhelm him, the nazi’s would have laughed at him. But by painting as if nothing happened, he kept himself sane and also he was more or less laughing at them instead.

    Never let others or ‘the situation’ dictate your life too much…. I think.

    There’s always doubt or fear.
    Some even say that there can’t be any art without them.
    Because they give you a sense of urgency.
    🙂 All the best JP

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