|ARE YOU A FULL-TIME ARTIST?
This is a question that I’ve found many artists don't love, although they often claim to be fine with it, but I know better.
Some of the artists who tell me that they are indeed full-time artists also add that it took them many years to achieve that status. Of course it did. The best artists are the ones who’ve got some miles on them, gained a little wisdom and worked out the kinks.
They’ve probably also earned a wrinkle or two. The road to being a full-time artist takes time. If you’re a young, full-time artist and you’re supporting yourself solely through your art, count your blessings.
Let’s face it, unless you’re extremely successful – by society’s standards – or you’re a trust fund baby, reality and common sense dictate that you must do something outside of your personal passion to keep a roof over your head, pay other bills and hopefully have money remaining to finance your passion. This often means you don't spend as much time as you'd like creating art.
Nothing comes for free, does it?
While many gifted artists have admitted to me that they’re not full-time artists – which hardly surprises me – they also don’t want me to reveal it and they certainly don’t want me to say what else they do to support themselves. I once had an artist who flat out didn't want to discuss his full-time job outside of his art career. Believe me, I totally understand. Some people function better by compartmentalizing their lives. However, it did make me wonder ...
"What? Are you working at a strip club or as a phone sex operator or something?"
If that were the case, it would certainly make for a more interesting interview.
It’s as if some artists think that by revealing this “secret,” they’ll shatter the whole charade and potential buyers will grab their chests in shock and horror to learn that they’re patronizing someone who doesn’t even take their work seriously enough to do it “full-time.”
“What? You’re NOT a full-time artist? How DARE you try to sell me this part-time crap! What do you REALLY do? Work at Home Depot? Ugh! I’m outta here!”
If anyone says this to an artist, full-time or part-time, they don’t deserve to own the work in the first place. Have a nice life. However, no one is ever going to say that.
Ultimately, I think it’s a prestige thing in the minds of many artists ... particularly younger artists. It seems very committed and glamorous to say that you’re a full-time artist. It lends a certain kind of mystique and elevates you in the minds of the public and perhaps the art world too.
I always try to remind artists that this is ME they’re chatting with. I have a very finely-tuned, bullcrap detector. I think that more artists need to get REAL. This is just another veil that the art world perpetuates in its attempt to preserve some sense of mystery in an effort to command higher prices for art.
We all understand that. We should all get paid top dollar and get top consideration for what we do. However, I really do think that it’s possible to be totally real and down to earth AND a big dreamer at the same time. It’s really the best way to be; we’re living in the real world while also pursuing our dreams … the best and worst of both worlds.
When anyone asks you this challenging question or any question for that matter, I still think it’s always best to stand in your own truth.
That’s why I prefer the term, “professional artist.” It covers a multitude of scenarios without being evasive.
Many of us – including yours truly – are pursuing a private passion without pretense. We have to get out of bed every day and so something else so that we can feed our souls, if not bodies – in our free time.
You know what artists? If anything, I think people will respect you MORE when they know how hard you’re working to support your art and the concept of contemporary art in general.
Most people know that art isn’t an easy gig. Of course you must do something else to support yourself. This is hardly breaking news.
Until you achieve that distant dream, you must pay the bills. It comes with the gig of life.
Are you a full-time artist?