Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Art IS a job

I keep telling people that I don't have a day job anymore or saying that I am unemployed. I'm sure many people see me as unemployed too. "Artist" isn't usually a job title that makes people think of as stable employment, but does that mean it's not a "real" job?

I quit my teaching job to pursue art full-time this past June so it feels a little strange not going into my "regular" job every morning, and it's a little hard to get used to my new employment status after doing the same thing for 13 years.  I blame that for my verbal slip-up on my employment status. I'm not quite used to the title "artist" yet. Despite my own slips, I am a full time artist and that IS a real job. I do go to work during the day. I have a regular work schedule with deadlines and appointments. I am employed, even if it is SELF-employed.

It's hard to get out of the mindset that making art is not a real job. Why is that so? Okay, so I may not be getting a regular paycheck, but does that make what I do not a "real" job? Do I not work just as hard at this as when I was teaching? If anything, I work harder at this job than at any other job I've ever worked. If I don't paint and self promote, I don't sell work and GET PAID. There's no automatic paycheck, like when I held  teaching job, or any other job, in fact. My getting paid is a direct relationship to the amount of work I put in and sometimes that doesn't even matter. Working hard is not a guarantee for getting paid. Working hard is not a guarantee for making sales.

Is it the artist work schedule that makes this seem not like a real job? I'm sure there's the mindset that since we don't have an office to go to or a boss over our head demanding work to be done, that our work schedule is easy or even that what we do is easy. Yes, I will admit it, my schedule is more flexible than it used to be. I can probably meet you for lunch or schedule a doctor's appointment without having to notify anyone, but my schedule is pretty strict too. I go into the studio every weekday and paint for at least 5 hours a day. That may not seem like much time, but that's 5 hours of complete concentration on a piece, usually with no "regular" breaks. And if I do break for lunch, I'm usually at my easel contemplating the work I did, updating twitter or Facebook. Sometimes I even paint while I eat because I have deadlines just like everyone else. I have people depending on my output of work for shows and possible sales. It can be pretty stressful sometimes. In addition to painting time, I spend at least two hours a day answering emails, shipping paintings, updating websites, writing blog posts, promoting my work, marketing, and any other various things that will help get my work out there.

This is a real job. It is hard work, and in this economy, it is even harder to maintain a good living from selling and creating art. I am an artist and art is a REAL JOB.

Images: "Night Out",  2010, 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.
"Wheel Barrow", 2010, 16" x 16", oil and encaustic wax on birch panel.

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