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Kathy DelloStritto - Kathy's Got Them Ol' Kosmic Nightmare Day Job Blues Again, Mama
oil on canvas, late July 2002, now hanging in Picture Yourself at The MAC. photo by JRC
I'm consumed with job-hunting again. It has become an annual summer occupation — one that breeds its own frustration and anxiety about getting a decent job and adequate income while preserving time and energy to create.
This is tricky because I already have a career as an artist. So, I am required to make promises to employers of my undying loyalty and desire to become Employee of he Month. What I really want is a Day Gig — money to pay bills and health insurance. Any other benefits are icing on the cake.
What this also does is make me aware of other artists. All to often I assume that other artists are successful financially. I alone cannot make a living at my art. But is this True?
When I really think about it I recall hearing allusions to employers, hints of other work, covert absences from studios, and other hush-hush stuff. Not that having a JOB is a dirty little secret, but our passions, our souls, and our identities are wrapped up in our art. Why mention other stuff. Right?
I know of a dozen Art Teachers, some in private schools, some in public, and some in college. Most are frustrated that they have no time for their own art. Two or three artists I know work in galleries or museums. One artist is an x-ray technician, one is a computer techie, several are photographers (of all kinds of stuff), and several others are graphic artists.
Which brings up a painful yet pertinent question: Why is it that Graphic Artists and Illustrators always promote themselves and make money, with written contracts and Reps that will find jobs for them, and other Artists more often than not underprice our work, are represented by galleries that take 50%, are hounded for discounts, and give away our work? It seems that Graphic Artists don't ever do anything for free, and other Artists don't do anything for money.
OK. Here's what I want to know:
What is your Day Job? Give me feedback, please.
You don't have to give your name, just a brief job description. And if you can, tell me if your job allows enough time and energy for you to do your art.
E-mail feedback or post it ( anonymously, if you like ) to Day Job, c/o DARts, 914 Grandview Av., Dallas 75223, and we'll publish responses at the bottom of this story.
The feedback keeps coming
in regarding artists and their other jobs.
And it seems that some really interesting responses have come recently..
Juan Farias in San Antonio writes passionately that:
I've been known to wake up at 2or3 in the morning to do my art regardless how tired I am Or how early I have to wake up. I won't let up, nothing is going to stop me from doing it. It's what I live for.
...for the public you give them something to believe in. what ever it takes so that when show time comes around they'll come. But you have to knock them out, with what you are presenting. You have to hunt them in their dreams and keep them awake with your art, steal their soul and you become their muse.
Like a singer who can make you cry or fall in love, You have to squeeze there necks, to get there attention. It's show business. Only the strong survive. You should treat your art like an angry lustful affair that you can't help but to give your self to, a once in a life time experience. Like kisses that last for three days. Believe in your self show some cockiness all this ingrediance,
Be ready and then some and you know why? Because I'd rather be a chef then a short order cook, a Race horse not a mule that they can pin the tail on. And most of all it has to do with money so you can continue to buy material to do your art.
And while JR and I were playing those images in our heads, this came from photographer Steven Barnwell, who adds a new dimension to the art vs. job delimma by telling us more than we wanted to know about his personal life.
Finding time to do my art has always been a problem. As a passionate artist that had to pay bills, something had to give. What "gave" was my social life! I went to work, came home, and worked on my art. Period. Dates? Hah! I finally lifted my head from the grind to get married — at the age of forty!
So, all you young artists out there, you've got a choice:
1. Pay bills, have a roof over your head.
2. Make art.
3. Get laid.
Pick two out of the three!
Then the ever sane Carol Wilder wrote:
Larry and I have recently taken up jobs (equivalent to 1 1/2 full time) that use our creative abilities. I know some artists who do not want jobs that use their creative energies so they can save them for studio time. That would drive me nuts. I am coming to realize (in my "mature" years) that living a creative life is important to me.... Art making is still important,
but how I live my life on a daily basis is just as important. That keeps me sane.... for now....
Your responses to my
questions about your art vs.your Day Jobs have been heartfelt
as well as prompt. Many of you
have a lot to say. Here are some excerpts.
Thanks for bringing up this issue. It always helps to talk about this with other artists. We encourage each other to never ever give up on our dreams.
Patty Rae Wellborn
C Hurt observes:
I have come to realize, perhaps imagine, in order to paint on a regular, consistant basis.... you have to
- be on some kind of trust fund
- married, where someone else foots the bill
- make art for commerce ( mass production)
- wealthy to begin with
- live in impoverished conditions for a very long time
- win the lottery
- have some kind of manic disorder where you only sleep 3hrs a day
- have a real lucky year... I mean years
A Chamaeleo dramatically relates:
Do I have enough time and energy to do my art? Let me look that up in the Employee Handbook and get back to you... I give ownership of my time to this empire, much like prisoner trading time to pay their debt to society....
Your question is, "Are the conditions of the prison such that artistic expressions are possible?" My answer is, "What else could there possibly be?"
And the former graphic artist James Michael Starr offers this insight:
I was a graphic designer for thirty years and I think it all comes down to this: Graphic artists and illustrators are paid well because they relinquish control of their product to the one who hires them. So that, as a kind of corollary to the cynic's Golden Rule ("He who has the Gold Rules"), the guy who's buying not only rules, but is usually willing to pay a lot to have things just the way he wants them....
You and I as fine artists, on the other hand, have made the choice to retain control over what we do. Compared to the client hiring graphic artists to execute HIS vision, far fewer people are willing to pay much for a vision that is more personal to the artist who created it.
Please send more feedback — or feedback on the feedback.
The first edition of this column is still available.