Wednesday, March 13, 2019
The Starving Artist
When I first declared to my family and friends that I wanted to quit my job to pursue an art career I got the same reactions from nearly everyone, "You want to be poor and broke all the time?" Of course all they could see was the idea of a college educated woman giving up a "secure job" for an unknowing life as a starving artist. I can't blame them really, as none of them had ever known a successful artist personally.
At that time, you couldn't tell me anything! I had just walked out of countless galleries with art priced in the thousands; some of the work had sold stickers on them. So, if there are people out in this world buying the art at those prices, then there are artists selling art at those prices, and if all of that was true, every fiber in my body told me I could be that artist! My parents pleaded with me to at least keep a part-time job to secure my rent, not jump head-first, which is the sensible thing to do really.
I have always been a determined person, when I make my mind up, no matter what people say to me, my faith has always guided me. This has been an aspect of my personality for as long as I can remember: ambitious and determined. At the time that I began believing a successful art career was possible, I was immersing myself in Law of Attraction literature, audios, videos and seminars. All of that gave me the fuel to battle outside opinions that it was too hard and not possible; the majority of "advice" I had received from the people around me was to not do it... so I did!
This all started back in 2010, when the idea that I could be this artist living off my passion and with control over my own time and schedule occured to me. Once the dream was imagined in my mind, I could never lose the desire to be a professional artist. I didn't first pick up a paint brush in 2010, that part happened LONG before that! But 2010 was when I started believing it was possible and I had begun pursuing the career.
Fast forward to April of 2016 when the company I was working for had decided to cut costs and close the training department (where I was employed as a trainer). While the position was the most enjoyable position I had ever held, it was a job working for a company under a long line of management I had to work for. In other words, this was not my passion or my calling. So, when the news came that I would be let go along with many of my peers, there was a big sense of excitement that finally I would have the opportunity to turn my dreams into reality!
Finally, I would fly from this tree of life into the unknown. My art was hanging at the Wandering Eye Art Gallery in Ybor City, so I had a home to sell my work, and all I had to do was actually SELL my work! Sounds easy enough, right? Little did I know, there would be spurts of sells followed by "dry seasons" (which ate through my entire savings), yet I continued to believe. I continued to grow my business by developing an entire apparel line and an online store where people can purchase art and unique art apparel easily with the click of a button.
I've been consistent in posting about my art work, participating in art shows and applying to various art opportunities. Soon, I got into painting murals. Murals are currently my biggest achievements (both literally and figuratively) because they have received the most appreciation and feedback. It's odd to think the greatest accomplishments could be the least paid, lol. Money isn't everything, but we need it to live.
This entire journey hasn't been all smiles. To be completely honest with you, dear reader, there have been many, many dark moments. For some reason, art in the US is looked at by society as a hobby, not so much as a career, so people want free art all the time, or my buyers wouldn't have their payment on time (I actually have multiple artworks that have YET to be paid in full) because for some reason (probably because I don't have a collection agency working for me) so prioritizing paying for art work isn't as important (to them) as paying for rent, or gas or insurance or all of those other monthly bills.
I know, I'm not the only artist who has gone through this, in fact, I believe this to be the more common experience for artists everywhere. Statistically, there are more artists not living off their art then there are successfully living off their art. So, do I even have a right to be upset? How am I supposed to feel about all of this?
I follow blogs, vlogs and email newsletters of other successful artists and business people. I listen to and do positive affirmations about my capabilities and my value as a artist. I work every-single day on the business, marketing, structural and administrative aspects of my business (even when I'm traveling, or have a "day off" I'm posting, researching, networking). All of this is work mostly unseen or unnoticed and unannounced. You would have to visit my website frequently, or follow my pages to see the changes, the posts, ect.
Some days, usually depending on the time of month and bill needing to be paid, I am elated with optimism; looking forward to all of the possibilities unfolding for myself as an artist. Other days, it's the complete opposite feeling; feelings of despair and worthlessness, literally to the point of questioning my reasons for living. How can both exist in the same person? Is this what success looks like? According to most of the success stories I read about people who have accomplished great feats to creating their business/career, it seems pretty common that frequent failure happens to those who ultimately become successful. It's good advice to know you're going to get far more rejections than acceptances, and that you have to keep being persistent in going after every opportunity you want. I know this, and still I've struggled with it.
I suppose, the reason I am writing this, essentially divulging the darkest truths of my personal experiences is to give you something to relate to. It's for this very reason, that I'm an artist worth investing in. If you are an artist, or any other dream chaser, know that you are not alone or a failure if you don't see the outcome you've been expecting. All of us dream chasers will have to endure time and time and time again of ups and downs. It's the universe asking you how badly do you want it, pushing you down to see if you want it so much you get up every single time. I'm positive that eventually the universe will say "Okay, they've proven themselves, here you go" and you will find yourself exactly where you've been dreaming of being. <3