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Shifting Goals

by Lynne Hurd Bryant on 9/29/2014 6:03:37 AM

This post is by guest author, Lynne Hurd Bryant.  This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in theFineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 25,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.

 

I have to be honest.  My goals as an artist have never included painting full time and not having a job with a regular paycheck.  I was raised to be responsible, not to take risks and to maintain the status quo, at any cost, even one's dreams.   I'm a single woman and there is no one else around to have my back and pay the water bill if I didn't sell a painting that month.  I also clearly realized when I started my professional artist journey in May 2009, that there would come a year when everything would start to cut loose and my working full time at a day job was going to become unsustainable.   In that time since, I have wisely paid off my living situation free and clear, paid myself out of debt, and have begun to tackle some of the bigger projects around the house that need to be seen to before I move to part time employment. 

 

Earlier this summer, I read a blog that outlined rules about working full time and transitioning to full time artist.  These rules are the ones I have been following all along and I've made great strides.  I was encouraged by what I read and decided that I would keep working full time until it didn't make sense any more.  My life has been conspiring behind my back.

 

I had no idea going into 2014 that this would be one of the hairy, busy, "cut loose" years.   I had been happily putting in overtime whenever there was any available, collecting my paycheck and painting when I felt like it in my off hours.  By the end of July, I had completed quite a number of charcoal drawings for practice and 17 finished watercolors.  My output has never been great owing to time constraints, but 17 by the end of July in any given year is a lot for me.  I had 12 exceedingly busy days at the beginning of July and sold more in that time than the entirety of 2014.  I've never sold many prints, but began to do so.  Nice work if you can get it, I told myself.  All that was quite pleasant, but it is over now.  I need to clean the house and think about something else for a time.  

Then, I had an author approach me about illustrating a children's book she had written.  I'm not trained in illustration and the subject matter is not exactly up my alley.  The story is lovely and this is a project I'd quite like to be involved in.  After talking to several genuine illustrators, she chose me to do the work.   I thought I had most of the fall, but I was only going to have six weeks to turn out 16 illustrations.  I said yes.  This six weeks of work would double my output for the year.  The house isn't going to get cleaned.  

Before all of this happened, I had made plans with a fellow artist to go gallery scouting out of state.  We are friends, have a great admiration for one another's work and have similar work ethics and attitudes about art.   This would be my paid vacation for this  year and I thought it would be a wonderful trip.  I said yes.  I'll be out and about in October, talking shop with a good friend, what fun.  What if I come home with a gallery or two who want my work?   I think 2015 could be even hairier.  

This past Monday, I got up to an email inquiring whether or not an original was still available.  The piece is question is one of my all time favorites of my work.  I've put it up for sale and taken it down a number of times, thinking I would keep it.  Technically, all my work is for sale, so I sold it.  It hurt me to the core to part with it.  Usually, I don't mind, but this time I did.  I had to remember why I do what I do.  It isn't to keep every piece of watercolor paper I have touched with a brush, it is create beauty, to touch someone's heart, to bring pleasure.  Sometimes that pleasure is at the expense of my own feelings, but such is an artist's life.  

 

Tomorrow is Friday, the Monday of my work week.  My heart is no longer in this job and with outsourcing my work to India on the horizon, it is feels like it is soul destruction to continue.   My house, the place I call home, my refuge, my studio is a mess that will take a month to straighten back out again.   Working on the book illustrations is time consuming to the point of losing any hope of feeling like a balanced human being, but it will be over in a month or maybe less.  While I feel like falling into bed and crying myself to sleep, I can't crumble now just when things are beginning to shift.  It is a hard spot and I'm next to a rock with no wiggle room except upward.  Time to get a good foot hold and push.  

Whether you sell a painting near and dear to your heart or take on a project that is bit more than you can do comfortably, it is all about the choices you make.  It is my choice to continue working, my choice to take on big projects and to sell a special piece.  Now, I'm going to have live with my choices, especially the choice to be an artist because it isn't a job, it is a way of life, and not an easy one.  

 

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Editor's note:  You can view Lynne's original post here.


 


 

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Doug Hoppes
via faso.com
Really good article, Lynne. I struggle with the same thing that you do. I have a lot of friends who are professional illustrators for the sci-fi/fantasy market (games, books, movies, etc). I've heard all about the short deadlines.

This is one of those areas that, honestly scares me. Next year, I want to do my gallery work and create a set of fantasy illustrations for conventions, etc. However, if my work is received well, I can see that I would have a chance to work with some art directors.

However, the balancing of illustration work based on a deadline, conventions/art fair sales, gallery work AND maintaining a 40 hour work week seems extremely daunting. Not sure that I'll be able to do that.

I do understand that, when things are going really really well with the art work and sales, it does make it hard to be interested in your day job. However, my wife and I have a bargain that, if I can match my salary 3 years in a row, I can be a full-time artist. So, realistically, I would only have a crazy schedule for 3 years. ;-)

Looking forward to seeing how things go with your transition.

Karen Burnette Garner
via faso.com
What a timely article!!! I can say a hearty "AMEN" to your situation! My house is a wreck, dealing with serious family illnesses, and I'm selling another house. Oh, and I love to paint, and do it, in spite of the laundry and un-vacuumed floors. I'm working full time, prepping for transition, and I, too, see life conspiring to lead me through a career doorway. My daughter is fond of saying "this is only a season", and she is so right. In time, things sort themselves out, and the choices you make reveal themselves to be good or not so good. Continue to follow your heart, and good things will come. You've done your prep...now boldly go!

Mary Paloma Diesel
via faso.com
Thank you for this article. I cannot believe how many parallels there are in this story to mine. However, I stopped working full time before all those debts were paid down, as I was in a marriage and had been promised the support I needed to make the transition. That support did not come, and three years later, I am on my own, still working part time, and having a great time developing and learning as an artist. But the debt remains, and I applaud you for taking care of it first, even though it put another kind of stress on you, which I also understand.

The impulse - need, desire, whatever you want to call it - to live as an artist and to sometimes make art that we sell (and often give) to others, cannot be quantified. Each of us must find a way to balance that life with the life of a person who must have shelter and eat. The more I accept that, the easier it is to live these seemingly two lives simultaneously. But I need lots of reminders, like this one, about where I truly belong.

Yes, the nearly 1000 sq. ft. wrap-around porch is falling off. My solution seems to be to let that happen, and to build a rock garden instead, with a smaller stairway to my studio!

David Randall
via faso.com
I grew up in a family of artists. My dad was a "commercial artist" my term for it. He could illustrate almost anything. By that I mean he could and did tight illustrations of ships and planes or cartoons from Prince Valiant to Popeye, etc. He did pretty much whatever was needed by the company he worked for in NYC. For a long time would also paint at home but after some years he lost the energy or drive to paint after a long week in the commercial world.
I watched him lose the very thing that he loved most supporting a family.

I have always kept myself away from the commercial end for that reason. I do what I am excited by not what others tell me to do. If they like it fine, if they don't I say, "you can't please everyone." Everyone is different however and we each have to travel our own way. Illustrating a book may be fun now but be careful would you like it all year every year as a job? Maybe maybe not.

John
via faso.com
Yes, this artist life can be challenging. I wanted to study art but my father encouraged a more "conservative" career route. I ended up in law enforcement for the last 25 years. But I continued to paint, draw and cartoon. Now, on the cusp of retirement I have a pension and the financial security to go into art full time. Best of luck with the challenges ahead!

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Chipping away at debt is one of the best moves an artist can make (aside from avoiding debt from the get-go). Sadly, debt is a way of life in our society. It is easy to get caught up in credit cards and living beyond our means. I raise my glass to anyone who decides to ward off debt.

I've learned a few things in life:

1.) It is always wise to have at least $1,000 on hand in case a financial crisis occurs.

2.) Don't forget that we still have freedom of movement in the United States. You don't have to feel 'stuck' in an area that is costly.

3.) You have to rely on yourself at the end of the day. Relationships come and go in this day and age -- not to mention that marriages have a high rate of divorce. I

4.) Learning how to cook can easily save you thousands of dollars each year. I've read that the average US adult spends upwards of $4,000 each year eating out and on overpriced brands. That is insane!

We all have to start thinking about how best to use what we earn.

A friend of mine worked at a factory for 5 years. He lived with his parents and saved all of his money up save for money needed for fuel, food and occasional entertainment. He chose to do that while his friends went off to college or joined the military. Today he is doing better than most of them.

In that amount of time he earned enough to buy three small homes with cash in hand. He lives in one and rents the other two out. He was also able to get a loan for an apartment complex. Technically, he would be doing just fine living off what he earns from rent. It has allowed him to work less hours and focus on things that he wants to do.

Marsha Hamby Savage
via faso.com
I think this is one of the articles I have loved the most over many years of reading the FineArt Newsletters. There are so many artists ... and the public ... that just do not understand what you have been going through (and the majority of serious artists out there).

The balancing act is probably the key element in making it as a professional artist. Making a living so we can eat and have shelter, keeping a spouse and family happy, putting on the marketing hat, refilling the creative well... and most of all doing the work we love just for the sheer pleasure of creating it! This is hard, and yet it is priceless at the same time.

Very good article, and thank you... I deal with this every day and your article has made me feel much better about those compromises I make.

Kerry Dexter
via faso.com
it is about choices, Lynne, as you point out. I have had -- am having my share of challenging ones as well. here is wishing you all the best as you make your way through these changes and challenges. I for one hope you'll continue to let us know what you are learning, and to seek support here when you need it as well.

Brian Sherwin
via faso.com
Marsha -- You said, "The balancing act is probably the key element in making it as a professional artist. Making a living so we can eat and have shelter, keeping a spouse and family happy, putting on the marketing hat, refilling the creative well... and most of all doing the work we love just for the sheer pleasure of creating it! This is hard, and yet it is priceless at the same time."

It can be easy to focus too much on this thing we call the 'art world' instead of locking down on issues that truly matter to the majority of artists -- issues that they face day after day. Your comment has reminded me of that.

All the articles in the world about gallery representation and other art world business topics don't matter when the issue of surviving as an artist -- those daily struggles -- need to be faced. I'll keep that in mind for future articles. :)

Marsha Hamby Savage
via faso.com
Brian, thank you for the comment on mine. I would love to read more about what you think with regard to these struggles. I know it will be different for each individual artist... but bringing these thoughts to the forefront will help. Many times we get so bogged down and begin to think we are in the minority, but really most artists are suffering through the same issues.

Look forward to a post from you (always do)!










 

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