Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Two Jobs

When I first started painting, many years ago, people would ask me if my dream was to be a full-time artist. At the time, painting was a huge struggle. It wasn't that I lacked the skills to become a full-time artist, but what I did lack was the inspiration and motivation to have art as my main career. I couldn't imagine doing painting all the time. I didn't think I could come up with enough ideas for paintings to make a living off of them. I also thought I would be completely bored, isolated, and generally unhappy. 

"Three Surfers", 16"x16", available at JoAnne Artman Gallery.
Fast forward to 2009. I now have a new series that really inspires me. I am painting on a regular basis, and feel like I am ready to make art my career. At this time I was teaching middle school math and while it was a good job, I didn't really want to make it my main career. I worked pretty hard at refining my series, saving money, and really pushing my to get my work out and into galleries. I was ready to quit my job. 

I quit my teaching job and was living the dream. I was a full-time artist, making a living off of my art. During this time, many things happened. I got married and my husband quit his job and was working free-lance. Here we were, two people without health insurance, trying to make a living do what we loved. It worked for about 9 months, when I got the call from the principal from the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. A math teacher was taking a leave of absence in January and he had heard that I was a math teacher/ artist and currently not teaching. After some negotiating, I decided to take the job since I would only be working until 12:30 (academics are taught in the morning so that the afternoons are free for the arts) and I would have health insurance for both my husband and I. I also thought it would be a temporary job and I would be able to go back to painting full-time.

A painting I was commissioned to do. 
Things never really work out the way we plan though. The school and students liked me so much they wanted to offer me a permanent position. I had a hard decision to make. After much debate, I decided to take the job since I would still have most of my day free to paint. After all, there are very few full-time jobs where I only have to work from 8-12:30 and the thought of health benefits sounded great. It was a good thing that I did take the job because a few months later, my husband was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer. He is fine now, but without health insurance we could have had a very different outcome.

Fast forward to 2013 and I am still teaching at the school of the arts. A friend recently asked me when I thought I could quit my job again and just do art. It's a question I often get asked. It seems natural to think that an artist would want to just do their art, free from any day job. In fact, if you ask most artists, they would love to quit their multiple day jobs and make their living making art. I am no longer one of them.

While I still want plenty of time to create art (which I get since I am done teaching at 12:30), I also learned that I need some mental stimulation that can't be provided through painting. I love math and I am good at it. I am good at translating this foreign language and explaining it to students in a way they can understand. Because I struggled in math in high school, and I am a visual learner, I can relate to my students, what they are going through, and teach them well. I love the challenge of doing pre-calculus and calculus (the subjects I teach) problems and can get absorbed in solving them. It's actually fun to me. I enjoy the fact that I am an artist who teaches math at a school of the arts. (You should see the shock on people's faces when I tell them this!). I like my day job. I like my day job enough that I don't mind having two careers, art and teaching. So when people ask when can I quit my day job and just paint, I tell them I actually don't want to quit my day job. I am an artist AND a math teacher and I love both jobs.

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