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.
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.
(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)