The Truth Behind Being a Professional Artist.

I’ve been paying the bills my making art for over a decade now. When I was a few years before turning thirty I thought I just can’t serve another table so I took the plunge into trying to pay the bills by theatre-making only, and although every month is tight, it’s working. But I wanted to tell you honestly, why.

Because you’ve got an image in your head of what an artist does- don’t you?

 She gets an idea.

She goes into a studio (alone or with friends)

She starts “being creative”. It’s a messy process. Probably there is some paint throwing and contact improvisation and tears.

She takes lunch.

She works long into the night.

Finally, she wipes her brow and stands back to see the finished product. She’s finally made her ART.

It’s opening night. Her dress looks amazing. Everyone loves her ART. She drinks a glass of champagne. She deserves this. Because she just made ART.

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*this is me and my gals making some art

Of course you know, the reality is very different.

Professional Artists:

Don’t take weekends.

Make well below the poverty line annually.

Work for free. All. The. Time.

Work multiple jobs at once. (Right now I’m writing a grant, a blog post, an advice column, a book and hosting a radio show)

Don’t get vacation pay, parental leave, maternity leave, dental or medical insurance.

They work anywhere and everywhere they can (I’m writing this while waiting for my doctor appointment).

They usually have partners that support them (financially and spiritually).

Their houses are a fucking mess.

This isn’t a sob story. It’s a reality check.

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*my bedroom

Being an artist means you’ve sold all your baubles and sacrificed your security.

You probably don’t own your own home or have any savings.

You also don’t go out for dinner anymore and you home brew.

It also means you’re a navel-gazing twit (but that’s the fun part).

But mostly it means you’ve been slogging away for a really long time.

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I don’t mean to sound like an asshole but if you think you’re going to up and make some art and then because of the bravery of that act, it’ll all just fall into place, you’re living a grand delusion that will break your heart.

I’m talking about how art is valued in North America.

If you have the ability to quit your day job, just know that is the very first step.

If you feel the need to follow your muse, just be aware that is the easiest part.

Next comes: Self-doubt. Worry. Depression. Anxiety. Poverty. Exhaustion. Workaholism, Lack of Interest. Fear. Bad Reviews. Bad Ideas. Boredom. Shame Spirals. Regret. Horror. Identity Crisis and Self-Hatred.

And that’s if you’re privileged enough to keep at it.

But here’s the silver lining (I’m sitting in my car in the rain now, sucking www from the community center).

It’s worth it. I swear. Every minute.

I wish everyone could give it all up for what they love.

I think it might be the. most. important. thing. in. the. world.

I just wanted you to have the full picture.

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*my dog wearing a tutu and my husband playing drums in some art I made

 

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