Get a "Real" Job

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:

Artwork

  • 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

Marketing

  • 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

Sales

  • 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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1 comment

  • Well said, Lisa….And most artists would rather just create their art and leave all the other stuff to someone else…but can’t afford to! My husband is a musician and faces the same issues…getting gigs, selling educational books and cds, keeping track of royalties, maintaining a website, teaching, etc. Wouldn’t he rather just write music and play it??? I think this relates to almost any creative self employed aIt’s really a 24/7 job. If you’re not physically doing it, you’re thinking about it.

    Roberta

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