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It should be to the surprise of no one that I love art. I enjoy talking about art and artists. I will chat with anyone about painting, the art scene-- even the onerous stuff like art marketing. What I don't like to talk about is my art. As a reader of this blog, you might notice that on occasion, along with my usual blather, I will post a painting of mine. I might talk about how I did it, or what inspired me to do it, but I don't often tell you what I think of it. The reason is simple: I feel a painting has to speak for itself. It is what it is. As soon as you view my painting, you will form an opinion of it that no words of mine will change. You would either agree, or not.
When I'm out in public, I don't talk much about my painting or my vocation, only to answer the question, "What do you do for a living?" with the reply, "I'm an oil painter." That is usually followed by murmurs of appreciation. "Oh, my--an artist! And you paint all day. How nice!" Quite often, the follow up question is, "Does your wife work?" I'm an honest guy. I tell the truth. So I say, "Yes she does." That does it right there.
"Oh... well then... You don't really make a living at art then..."
In the minds of the questioner, I have gone from Professional Artist to Un-Employed Wannabee.
Wanna know a little secret? I punched a clock for many years before I painted full time. My wife worked too back then. We needed two incomes to help pay the mortgage and feed the kids. Did that mean that I didn't make a living at my job? That I wasn't really working?
These days, I leave my house every morning to go to my studio and work on my art. When I have a painting done, it goes to one of the galleries that represent me. Then I hope for the best, and work on more paintings. So does that make me an "amateur" if weeks go by without a sale, and a "pro" only when one sells?
Like I said, I'm an honest guy; I have had times as a painter when paintings flew off the walls, and money was coming in at a steady pace. I will also freely admit that there have been occasions when times where tight enough for me to go pick up a job. Back in the day, I would often work two jobs when I needed to. But if I do that now, is it now my vocation, or am I moonlighting? Does it push me back to wannabee status?
We all know that there are only a damn few artists (and I will wager that like me, you're not one either) who know that they will quickly sell whatever they produce. The rest of us? We soldier on. Look, painting is hard enough without worrying about someone else's opinion of your status as an artist. It shouldn't make a damn bit of difference whether you are rich or starving. The only thing I personally care about is making the best painting I can produce. It isn't what I do for a living--
It's what I do for life.
Editor's Note: You can view Kevin's original post here.