Recently, I was speaking with someone about one of my trips who said he would never stay in an Airbnb like I did. He only stays in Marriott hotels. Calmly I said, "It's nice that you can afford to do that." "Well," he shot back, "I've worked hard for my money!" Hmm... Was he being defensive or was he implying something about me?
I often wonder what people think I do as an artist. When someone seems offended by the cost of a painting, do they imagine me whipping it off in an hour and then spending the rest of my day walking through gardens with a faraway look in my eyes? I wish that were true! When I had what some might consider a "real" job, I had plenty of time for walking through gardens. Since deciding to be a full-time artist a year and a half ago I've been working at least 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, and often doing things I've never done before that are way outside of my comfort zone. I'm not painting that entire time. My art is my business, so I have to do all the tasks that any other business does:
- Buy painting supplies (online or go to a store)
- Take reference photos or sort through previous photos
- Create paintings
- Photograph finished pieces
- Document painting info in inventory catalog
- Frame pieces
- Update website with new pieces & remove sold ones
- Update inventory catalog with customer info after sales
- Take a class to improve painting or business skills
- Create social media posts
- Write a blog post or create a newsletter (or both)
- Attend networking events
- Meet with potential business partners
- Create printed materials (business cards, postcards, etc.)
- Create, rework, or update website look and capabilities
- Analyze website & social media stats
- Create advertising
- Research new ways to advertise
- Research opportunities for showing work
- Submit work to shows & galleries
- Set up and be present for fairs, receptions, & open studios
- Meet with potential customers
- Deliver finished paintings to customers
- Deliver paintings to current art reps
- Create & send invoices
I don't do every single one of these things every day, but I do almost all of them within the course of every week. And they all require time and effort, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the task and how much of my Self I have to put into it.
Tasks aside, painting itself requires a lot of time and effort. There have been a few instances when a painting has sprung fully formed from my mind onto the canvas, but only a few. Typically they take many hours - especially for commissioned portraits when it's critical to get not only the physical likeness of an animal but also exude its unique personality. That's why custom work costs a little more, though I try to make it more affordable by offering occasional sales, layaway, and discounts for repeat customers.
But the truth is that the value of a piece art to the person buying it can't be measured by mere dollars anyway. They're not buying labor or materials, they're buying the intangible feeling the art gives them: joy, memory, hope, beauty, or fulfillment. That's the artist's job - to make the intangible real. And if that's not a real job, I honestly don't know what is.
PS - Someday I expect my bank account will reflect my efforts but either way I'll still stay in Airbnb's.
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