Being an artist is not a job. It's a lifestyle. Art exists in all of us. Some of us choose to express it. Some of us find other ways to experience the world. But to consider art as a career, we must be prepared for the detours.
When I was in my mid 30's I stopped doing art all together and instead obtained my real estate license and sold businesses. I worked in Orange County CA and we were a very successful team. For 2.5 years my creative pursuits were back burnered and my left brain was massaged into numbers and forms.
But when I chose to leave and pick up the art again, I had that schooling under my belt and it was a very helpful tool. My work transformed and took a new and professional turn. I also, really appreciated it because I had missed it so much. My side step was a career advancement. Artists NEED to know how to do business. We need to understand that there is more to art than creation. There is the mundane. The risk of the no. The financial cost of doing business. There is shipping...lol. (That is for my patient collectors who know, it takes me a bit of time to get the art out the door.)
When I hit my next road block I had taken a job working as a manager in the mall. I was there just long enough to develop a very strong discipline. It had me showing up every day and dedicating my thoughts, time, and energy into success and progress. Artists, we need discipline. We need to treat our art business like a "real job". The artist lifestyle actually allows for flakey behavior. People almost expect it of us. But really, it doesn't pay the bills. Showing up day after day is what gets the work out there. Finding our way into the world on a daily basis whether it be through expression or simply talking about it in the coffee shop we frequent. We need to be hitting it hard. All the time.
It worked for me. When I quit that job I went directly into my 100-4-100 series and sold 95 of them. I worked every single day. I didn't party. I didn't go to festivals and party. I painted, I shipped, I marketed, I sold. That is what it is to really do art.
Fast forward to this day. I put the brush down again. I have put myself into life school once more only this time, selling art for 6 to 25 thousand dollars a piece. I hold the keys to the gallery. I hire, I fire. I contact framers. I meet with resort managers and I mop floors. But I see the daily work. The real stress of creating and managing a full team to be as successful as the artist is who sells his work at this price point. The risk is massive. He really puts himself out there and he "works" all the time. Not most of the time. All the time. He doesn't flinch. He doesn't give up. He doesn't pull back. He creates and does what ever it takes to continue to grow.
This is hard. But this is the artist lifestyle. To be an artist and really make it means to actually work every day. Not when it's convenient. Not when family isn't in town. Not even when we are at our physical peak and the festival season is over. It's about sobriety. Taking ourselves seriously and getting down to business. It's about consistency, dedication, and responsibility. So many artists wonder why they don't make it. From what I have seen, it's because they simply don't treat it the same way they would any other business.
It's a lifestyle. Just not the one that includes getting high or drunk or staying out all night. It's waking up early, going to meetings, carving out time to create, being willing to put the work out there and have it rejected. It's about leadership.
When I graduate from this one, I am very curious to see where my art goes. I know one thing. It will be another jump from where I am now. I'm already feeling the pull of the canvas.