Making a career from my art was always the plan, even as a small child. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. So goes the old saying. I’ve made my living from making and selling my creations for more than half my working life, either for a ‘boss’ or as the owner/designer/maker of my own arts business. I never hated the work, but I’d be lying if I said there was nothing to hate about the process of making a living as a creative.
Early on in my giftware business, it didn’t occur to me to create original paintings to sell. I was selling hand-made in Australia giftware lines and original artwork wasn’t ‘scaleable’. Sheesh! When I look back now, I wonder how many paintings I could have sold, but hey, hindsight is 20-20 as they say. As that market changed with the influx of cheaply made imported giftware, I backed away from that industry, leaving it to the two other local giftware companies to fight it out. Both had decided to go offshore and brought back cute, well made, cheap-as-chips lines that flew off the shelves at trade shows. They are both still out there in the marketplace, and I’m not going to comment on that except to say SELLOUTS! Joking! Each to their own, and good luck to them. I personally made a conscious choice to go into another business that would allow me to focus on my child and not import tonnes of future land-fill from China.
Flash forward a couple of years and I’d landed my dream job! Well, it was my dream job on paper. If you’d asked me at 14, at 24, at 34 if I would like to create artwork for interior design projects? If I would like to work in a high-end commercial art gallery? Would I like to work on large, international projects with a talented team of arts-professionals? Hell yes, I would! Unfortunately, by 44 I realised it was more of a nightmare than a dream but I loved the work! The problem? That old chestnut of having to work with other people! Most of the staff were awesome, but unfortunately, I had to work alongside a couple of lazy phonies. A few years and a bit of perspective, coupled with some excellent therapy (Thanks Mish), I believe I have the tools now to deal with a similar environment, but hopefully, I won’t need to again. The problems we encounter as artists are more often than not, unrelated to the actual process of making art!
There are so many tools out there for dealing with issues such as I was going through, but I wasn’t aware of them. I worked with a gem of a human being who introduced me to podcasts. This incredible woman, I believe, was truly the reason I worked there so long, the universe must have been having a hell-time getting her to cross my path… Herding Tigers the book and the podcast would have come in really handy. If you’re working with creatives you might want to check it out. Another excellent book to read is The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck. Read it at work. It’s more subtle than How to Murder a Co-worker and Get Away with it. (Not a real book, although I do sniff a gap in the business-book market!)
If you’re like me and you’ve ditched the 9 to 5 to work 24/7 from your home computer or studio, you need to ask yourself where you’re going with it? You might not be able to be 100% honest with anyone else but it’s super-crucial that you’re honest with YOU! I was bashing my head against a wall, trying to get passionate about making paintings again. Correction – about making sellable paintings again. I had to get honest with myself and just walk away from it. My husband thinks it’s easy – I’ve done it for years for someone else, I should be able to do it for myself, but faster and better because I don’t have to deal with bullying and other people’s poor work ethics. It’s hard to make a living from visual art but it’s POSSIBLE! I know people who are doing it, but you have to show up. You have to treat it with respect and put the time in at the easel, not just in forums on Facebook talking about how hard it all is because you’re an introvert. (Ouch? Truth hurts)
If you’re going to do it, start today.
Tomorrow – Can you sell something in the next 30 days? Maybe not, but you can ship!