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Are you a “Real Artist” If You Have A Day Job?

How do you define being a “successful artist”?

Many artists definition of success rest solely on being able to support themselves entirely from their artistic endeavours without having to do any other work to make ends meet.

However, is this a realistic view of success?

The majority of artists will, in reality, have other work too as part of the rich pattern of their everyday life…

This, contrary to what some people say is NO BAD THING!

The truth is, successful artists often have lots of strings to their bow

Just because you have another job doesnt mean you are not a “real ” or successful artist. In fact, working in other areas separate from your art can have distinct advantages…

  • Having a defined and confined time for you creative work can focus your art and make you achieve more in the shorter space of time that you have to work in. Faced with unlimited time it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and lose focus.
  • >

  • Our economy is changing {see my recent post – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised} In this new and shifting economic landscape, having multiple income streams is a very important survival strategy which will enable you to surf the vagueries of the art market.

  • If you are combining raising a family with your art, you may not be able to spend 100% of your time creating but may be able to find a balance which works for you.

  • Your “day job” may provide inspiration which feeds into your art and helps to fire your creativity.

We really need to change and widen the definition of SUCCESS in the art world…

The down side…

As in all things there can be a down side…

The common problem with other strands of work, comes when the “day job” takes over and hurts your creative energy leaving you too tired to do anything else.

Many years ago, when I worked in advertising agencies, my job was pretty creative but I was expected to start at 8am and leave at 8pm or later – After a sweaty commute on a crowded tube I had barely enough energy left to eat, let alone create. Life was pared down to a bleak cycle of getup-commute-work-commute-eat-sleep. In that situation it is really easy to make yourself ill by trying to draw out more energy than is “in the bank”

Like everything, it is important to find the balance between work and art which is sustainable and right for you. This can take a long time to get right.

If you are struggling with this balance at the moment, keep taking small steps to getting yourself into the right situation and position. Don’t give up. Creating may be difficult at the moment but if you keep fighting for it you will get there in the end…

Artists on Twitter say…

I wanted to find out how artists combine the spheres of work and creativity so I threw the question open to my friends on Twitter. The replies that I received were positive proof of the fact that it is possible and also very normal to be a “real artist” and juggle other commitments and income streams too.

Many many thanks to everyone who replied. I hope you find their thoughts enlightening and reassuring.

My question…

Artists. Do you have a “day job” too? Please tell me what u do. Do you love or loathe it? Does it help or hinder yr art? For a post..

And the answers from artists around the world…

 

For 3 days a week I work as a research consultant on education/technology projects – the geekiness offsets/informs my art 🙂

@iamcreative

http://letcreativitybegin.co.uk

 

I’m studying an MA in Art, and find it difficult to find work alongside this. I’m freelancing for a website and doing bar work.

@MelanieK__

 

I have a day job as mgr at an accessories boutique. I love it but it eats up a lot of time. I do all the creative stuff there

Himself & I share studio space in our petite apt. It gets messy….

@mizelissa

http://msalzmanart.wordpress.com/

 

I do, I work in Human Resoures, don’t love it, it helps financially but hinders taking time away from creativity

@pulpsushi
http://www.pulpsushi.com

 

I used to be a software engineer manager. It consumed my life and made me sick after too many long hours. Almost no art made.

@violentbloom

www.trollop.com

 

Programming || depends on the day – a zen-ish like is the average || ++ discipline, supplies$, – steals time to work

@babaheath

http://www.windyhilldesign.org/theheathergarden/

 

Hey. Got a day job. LOATHE it. Totally. Work in accounting. Go figure.

@thefadderly
http://fadderly.blogspot.com/

 

Other job: web designer. Sort of a neutral effect on my art; doesn’t take away creativity, but doesn’t contribute either.

@smlacy

http://smlacyart.com/

 

Hi Helen, working as a pt teaching assistant + artist gives security of regular £s + people to talk to 🙂

@JaneCarlisleArt

http://www.braemoor.co.uk/ajc/

 

My day job is tattooing. It helps. And yes, I love it!

@justteejay
http://www.whitetigertattoo.com

 

Policy Writing pays the bills and buys my art/photography supplies!

@AkrotiriArt

http://www.redbubble.com/people/akrotiri

 

Art is my day job, and I fully expect to be paid accordingly for this. Still waiting for the world to realise this!!!

@Blackbird1976

http://www.helendblackbird.co.uk

 

Web strategy/editing. Like it. Hinders only b/c it takes most of my day. I steal time to write. Early am, train, late night…

@petercrowell

http://www.lifeismaking.com/

 

It helps…. IF I make the choice to let it be a steppingstone rather than a stumbling block.

@zahndrew

www.zahndrew.com

 

My ‘day job’ is tattooing, I love it and I think they help each other.

@BiueStarr

http://www.blue-starr.com

 

I work for the FAA as an electronics technician. I love it but it does hurt my art and energies because it’s often like 2 jobs

@parachutepromis

http://www.parachutepromise.com

 

I’m an art teacher for a secondary school.. I love it. I feel like it encourages my own creativity! I do get tired, though…

@ArtistThink

http://www.artistthink.com

 

I hope you find these artists inspirational. They are absolutely REAL ARTISTS finding their own balance.

Do you work alongside your art? Please share the work you do with us in the comments below…

 

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Are you intimidated by successful artists? : You are not alone…

Many many moons ago, when we were young, footloose and fancy free, before the kids/mortgage reality check, me and my bloke used to spend all our time {and money} going to see live bands.

One evening found us in a smoky jazz club in the heart of Leeds in the North of England watching a particularly virtuoso band rattling through some jazz-funk numbers.

I have to point out now that my bloke plays jazz funk bass [which is pretty complex] and he’s no slouch. He’s good enough to play in 4 bands one of which is semi professional and he actually gets paid for, pretty good going as any musician will tell you. As bassists go he’s pretty damn good {I know I’m biased ;-)}

Introducing… THE GOD OF BASS!

 

Well the bassist in the band we were watching that night was amazingly incredible. Combining perfect technique with awesome coolness that exuded from his every pore, he OWNED the stage, blowing the audience away with his funky vibes and stage presence.

I started to notice my other half slumping lower and lower in his seat and staring miserably into his beer. I squeezed his hand. “Are you OK?”

He gestured weakly in the direction of the GOD OF BASS onstage.

“Look at that guy. He’s amazing!!!. Just listen to him!. I’ll never be that good even if I practice 24 hours a day for the rest of my life! Bloody Hell!!”

And so a phrase was coined…

To be “BLOODY HELLED” – To be so intimidated by the god like majesty of another artist that you believe your work is the worst thing on the planet and just give up there and then.

My bloke stopped practising and even for a while seemed to stop enjoying playing so much. I suspect that whenever he picked up his instrument, all he could see in his head was the GOD OF BASS pointing at him and laughing.

The fragile confidence of the artist.

 

As artists it’s INCREDIBLY EASY to be “bloody helled”

We have to put the inner workings of our hearts, soul and mind out in our work for everyone to see, which puts us in a very vulnerable position. We therefore tend to have fragile ego’s and low levels of confidence in our own abilities. It’s very easy for this confidence to be shattered either by negative criticism {which people LOVE to do} or by judging ourselves unfairly against the abilities of others… and we always judge ourselves too harshly.

At it’s worst, this harsh judgement can actually prevent us moving forward in our career and making the most of the opportunities that are presented. At it’s best it just makes us feel really crap about what we do…

Everyone else is NOT a Picasso

 

When I was an art student I went for interviews for art courses and whilst waiting with the other interviewees I was convinced that the contents of their black art portfolios were probably on a par with Picasso whilst mine contained only badly drawn student life drawings.

I went into the interviews with such an incredibly negative and apologetic attitude to my own work that I’m surprised anyone offered me a place. It was only years later, when the boot was on the other foot and I was working in an art college looking at students portfolios that I saw the incredibly varied quality range of applicants. Amazingly they weren’t all Picassos! Who’d a thought it!

I had been “BLOODY HELLED”

Whilst working as a designer there were many jobs I would have loved to apply for but didn’t dare as I imagined the interviewers looking at my portfolio and and pointing at me and laughing me out of the building. Again, it was only when I later ended up interviewing designers applying for a job in the place that I worked and saw their portfolios that I realised they weren’t all brilliant designers and I really should have taken some of those opportunities.

Bloody Helled” again. Damn!

Remember… You are FAR FAR better than you give yourself credit for…

 

So how can you stop being BLOODY HELLED and have the confidence to move ahead and grasp some of the opportunities that are out there?

  • First of all you have to realise that there will always be artists better or worse than you. IT REALLY DOESNT MATTER. YOUR work is what matters. Be happy and enjoy and cherish it.
  • You also have to realise that your brain will generally always talk you down and you are far better than you think you are.

Ignore the negative inner voices.

 

Realise that your own brain is a bit of a traitor and will disparage you and your work at any opportunity with negative self talk. You know what brains are like…

You can’t paint… you will never be as good as X… your mum was right you know, you will never be a “proper” artist… X has so many more collectors than you, no one likes your work… etc etc etc ad infinitum.

Sound familiar?

There are many techniques that you can use to combat the natural negativity of your own brain.

My favourite one is a bit of NLP {Neuro Linguistic Programming} which works wonders in stopping your brains negative talk undermining your confidence.

Next time you get BLOODY HELLED and you get the negative inner voice telling you “ you will never be that good!” here’s what to do.

  • Listen to the inner voice {for the last time} Is it your voice or someone else’s? Get a clear picture.
  • Now that you know whose voice it is, you can control it.
  • In your head, change the voice. Try giving it a comedy voice like Homer Simpson or Daffy Duck. Make it sound like it has inhaled helium or slow it down to a standstill. Remember, you control the voice now.
  • Can you take the voice and its sill negativity seriously now? No.
  • If it’s STILL undermining you, imagine the voice out of your head and into a little bubble. In your imagination, place the bubble with the voice in on the floor in front of you.
  • Let it sit there whinging and undermining for a few seconds. Then STOMP on it and pop it! Imagine the satisfying “POP” {or “squelch” if you’re a bit more sadistic}and then the blissful silence. Hooray.

Every time you look at another artists work and feel self doubt just repeat the steps above to stop the mental tyrant of your brain undermining you.

You are SO much better than you think you are…

 

So the important thing with all this is to recognise when you are being “bloody helled” and stop it in it’s tracks. Give yourself some credit and stop that negative self talk. That way you will never be “bloody helled” again.

Are you easily “bloody helled”? Share with us in the comments.

 

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Why redundancy might be the start of something beautiful

Now I want to say right from the start that I’m not making light of the horrible trauma of getting laid off. I’ve been there more than once and its not pleasant.

I know first hand the gut wrenching feeling of getting called into the bosses office at an odd time in the morning when you just know something is wrong because he won’t look you in the eye and all the things that you need to pay for, house, car, kids flash before your eyes and you think “What the hell am I going to do?” I’ve been in that position and it is truly horrible. Then you go home with your little box of stuff from your desk and cry into your wine and wonder why they didn’t like you enough to keep you on. It’s a stressful and confidence sapping experience.

But having said that, being made redundant CAN be one of the best things to ever happen to a creative person because it shakes you out of your comfort zone.

When you work in a nice place it can be like a comfy pair of slippers. You know what you need to do workwise. You go in, you get it done, you chat to your colleague about the last episode of Lost and flirt with the guy in the IT department and at the end of the month a nice secure dollop of money appears in your bank account. Excellent.

When you get bored around 3pm you will probably start to think about selling a bit of work on Etsy or how great it would be if you could make a living selling your paintings, but the comfort of your situation means you won’t do much about it, and its frighteningly easy to coast along like this for years. You don’t really need to try to do anything about your creative dream because nothing bad will happen if you don’t. That dollop of money will still appear and the bills will get paid. You are missing one of the major ingredients that can help you set up a successful creative business. Positive Fear.

Positive Fear comes when you step outside your comfort zone. Positive fear is not the energy sapping, panicky sweaty 3am kind of fear. It is the kind of fear that sharpens your brain and focusses your goals and makes you think “Right. I need to get this working or no one will be paying the mortgage. Lets do it!.” Fear is not your enemy. It can be your friend and an extremely useful motivator towards your creative goals.

Nothing of any great importance usually happens within your comfort zone. To achieve stuff you generally need to be outside it and sometimes your boss rudely shoving you out can be the first step on the path to great and exciting new things.

So if redundancy looms it might just be the time to become a full time artist, sell your crafts at fairs or on the internet, or work on developing your sculpture business. You have the time and the motivation and focus to make it work.

If you think there’s a good chance of redundancy looming on the horizon, start preparing now.

  • Start to formulate a plan for if it happens. Think about your options, what you love doing and if any of it would make a viable business.
  • Make stock. Start to prepare by getting a body of work together ready for sale.
  • Start researching into where you could sell your work. Could you sell at local craft fairs? Through shops, on the internet. Do you need to start setting up a website now?
  • Start networking and meeting people that might be able to help you and your creative business. Use online social networking as well as making contacts in your creative community.
  • Start creating a name and brand for your business
  • On the more mundane side, check all your financial out goings and see what you could downscale for now. If you can get by on a little less for a few months it will take the pressure off as your business may take a while to start generating money.
    Martin Lews, Money saving expert has a great online budget calculator here

If you have just been made redundant.

  • Remember that it’s not personal, it’s just economics Don’t let it upset you or knock your confidence.
  • Take a day off to let yourself recover and watch some rubbish daytime TV.
  • Then pick yourself up and focus on what you really want to do with your life from now on. Do you want another job or do you want to do something different?
  • Check if you have redundancy cover included in any of your insurance policies [say to cover your mortgage]
  • Find out what grants or training might be available to you. You should be eligible for help and advice which will make the journey of setting up on your own a lot smoother.
    In the UK, Business link have a great selection of useful information about starting up in business here
  • Take stock of your creative talents and what you love doing.
  • Start planning your creative dream business

So when the boss calls you in to the office at that odd time of the morning its not the end, its the beginning of something new and exciting. Embrace the fear and jump. You might look back in 5 years and realise that this was a wonderful pivotal moment in your life.

Ps I was last made redundant in the Dot Com crash in 2001, have worked for myself ever since and would never ever go back. Plus I’m still friends with my old boss too. Result

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