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Monday, March 14, 2011


For eighty thousand USD, this preliminary space plan of a kitchen remodel, copied onto 8 1/2" x 11 copy paper,-- premier, but not acid free--brought smiles allweekend long.

This is why I hold out for my day job. It pays better than selling my art. And I still get to paint what I want when I want--not what the crowd demands.

Artistic freedom has always been something I've held on to dearly. The thought of possibly losing it by going into the business of art always held me back. As much as I would have loved, would still love, to have been a famous artist, an artist recorded in the art history books for young artists to admire and emulate, I never wanted to play the Famous Artist Game of over-the-top PR--like having yourself shot standing outside Studio 54 (Warhol)--or signing reams of print paper, before the images were even printed on them and with no plans to destroying the plate after so many were made, (Dali). I wanted to keep my art separate from the rat-race business of fine-art-for-fame-and-bucks.

I never wanted to teach art in a classroom either--or sit in a booth at art fairs with my bin of drawings all nicely matted and a few larger pieces framed and hung about the tent waiting for hours for people to stop by and notice. I didn't want to have to schlep the stuff for miles to sell or not sell depending on the weather. I've always wanted to keep my art to myself and separate from how I made a living.

I wanted a job that was art related but paid. Spacial design and construction did just that. I am a designer who works to support her artistic habit. My dad would have approved whole heartedly. He always worried I would run off and "live in a garret" and starve for my art. When he said it, I had to look "garret" up in the dictionary. When I saw synonym "attic," I thought, "No way, not me." I liked the thread count in my mom's sheets too much.

This last year plus, when the housing market went to hell with the banks and any businesses connected to it did also, I was nearly jobless as a designer. And I did consider art as a possible livelihood. I started the blog, investigated PayPal and got a shop on Etsy's thinking that maybe I could make some money this way? But I never hung anything in my shop. I couldn't commit. I'm a Capricorn; I'm stubborn. I like designing residential spaces. I'm good at it. I wanted my profession back. I've been a little pouty about it over the last year and a little. My pout went out the door this weekend when the check came in.

Now, one very nice sale does not mean I'm back in full time business as a designer--nor that the economy is booming again. All it means is that there is a stirring out there, a coming to life that I find very hopeful--hopeful enough where I got a bottle of champagne out of the fridge yesterday morning and a couple of flutes. I poured and Honey and I toasted the past week that had this sale PLUS THREE OTHERS! (Honey does his share). This surge could be brief, but it really has lifted my spirits. I feel energized. And I'm in love all over again with my T square, right angle, compass and protractor. My joy will show in the studio as well. Winter Woods may not be as bleak now that I'm feeling upbeat. How good or bad that painting turns out doesn't matter the artist isn't dependent on it. A stress has been lifted.

Having a profession aside from art, enriches the art experience. The freedom from business concerns, the diversity of two occupations is stimulating. With a head not weighted down by worries over paying bills from the sale of the product, the artist is free to paint with no strings, no sweat, no cares if anybody likes the output or not. With a care-less attitude, her price is the price. Take it, or leave it. That's a luxury I do not have in the design business.

Willem de Kooning's day job was house painter. Sometimes I wonder if he would have lived up to my expectations on a design/build job? Would he have showed up on time? Would be have brought along enough drop cloths? Would he not smoke on the client's driveway and put his butts out in her bushes? Would he show the client the proper respect? I like to think he would. He was my hero. I wonder if he would understand my attitude? Do you? Is an artist an artist if they keep their art separate from their livelihood?


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  2. Bravo! Bravo! Well said. I've lived the same life. I'm in an identical situation. Yeah, times are tough out here on the firing line. The illustration industry is shot. But then there's that ubiquitous glimmer of hope. And my art still goes where it needs to go--full freedom, unattached to the whims and demands of the art marketeers and all their nonsense. Thanks for writing that out! Dittos to all of it. Incredible post.


  3. Thanks Bill, The post took me a long time. I worried about writing it in art blog world. I don't think it's a popular viewpoint among full time artists in spite of the appeal of earning 80K doing something arty, but different from their fine art. Business takes the fun out of art--and a lot of the heart. I learned that too on my day job. I used to love to plan architectural space. I still do, but it has become more of a chore and less of a joy. Sacrifices have to be made to earn a buck. I don't want sacrifice to have anything to do with to my art. I've seen artists who paint the same painting over and over again--slight differences, nothing much. One painting looks very much like the next, because the first painting like that sold. They've got to be bored as hell. I've walked into art shows of these artists, looked at the first painting, then the second, then glanced around the room and saw they all looked alike. I left.The guy or gal had one message--a one trick pony. How good is their business? I'dlove to know.

  4. Your day job is also art. I drew the plans for gutting & remodeling my house. When everything ended up in the right place, I considered it my best and largest piece of sculpture.

    As a kid my favorite toys were T squares, plumblines and levels.

  5. Extremely well stated! I think you have exactly what you want out of life and I commend you for that.
    Jeff and I have our business (motorcycles) and hobby combined and it does take some of the joy out of it. I'm glad my art is separate from my livelihood because I wouldn't want it constrained by the very real issue of survival.
    Congratulations on the commission! I agree that things are turning around ever so slowly. Doubtful it will ever be back like it was, but perhaps better is good enough.

  6. Such a great post Linda. Very well put.

  7. Yes, it definitely is, Hallie. But not everybody sees it that way--until they try to alter the plan and notice and you move this, you'd better decide what to do with that. My favorite toys in my forties were my saws--trouble was I was always setting off the smoke detectors.

  8. Pamo every step back is appreciated. I do agree though that it's going to take some time. We have a friend who was in the recreational vehicle business. He didn't even put his business up for sale, just closed it and retired.
    I hope motorcycles wasn't hit that hard.

  9. Thanks Agnes. When do you take off? Malaysia seems like the place to go from what I gather at Evelyn Howard's site. I envy you your knees.

  10. The motorcycle business is down about fifty percent nationwide. We haven't been hit quite that hard thankfully. Character building, I guess.

  11. From your work, I'd say you're brimming over with character. Enough with character building, I say let's swing back to over indulgence.

  12. Congratulations!! Looks like some busy times ahead :). Looks like you've found a good balance that is right for you!

    After art school, I had a year of meddling around thinking what I would do with my life. It was a difficult time. I had left a career to do art... But being poor was not an option...

    So I understand where you are coming from.

  13. Dear Linda,
    Congratulatio~~n~~s!!! Oh, what wonderful news! Among illustrators, we often chat over, "How is a day job going?" Indeed, our illustration teachers said, "Picture book illustration is not a day job." Once, Australian Author Society sent envelopes to members (=writers&illustrators)for donation for poor members... This was no joke. So, we celebrate our meeting each other at ASA Christmas party:). "Oh, you're alright!" "I'm still on the earth!" Hugs and kisses.
    Cheers, Sadami

  14. Thank you Evelyn, The good part of our business is that the busy time for me is relatively over. Once the final space plan is approved by the client,quoted by the trades,and the client accepts our proposal, my work becomes a bit easier. With the project documentation all drawn up,the only work I have to do--and it isn't work at all--is take the client shopping for granite and tile, cabinetry styles and stains, plumbing fixtures. That's an afternoon or two out and about. Often we made a full day of it and do lunch. After that Honey becomes the main man on site while I stop by to check up on how things are going. We are a team. --There will be a tile design diagram for me to do --and I still think some glass panels--milk or leaded-- would be nice to break up all that wood. Work gets me out of the house--which is a good thing. I tend to be a bit reclusive. I like to be alone ala Gretta Garbo. And most of all I like to be on my own clock. Work shakes up my boring (by other people's standards)tendencies.

  15. Congratulations!

    And, yes. I think day job can--and often must--co-exist with being an artist.

  16. Sadami, your teacher is partially right. Book illustration is an art, but it is also a day job. You can earn a living illustrating--a good one. Look at all the great PR you're getting on your blog! Indeed, your blog is an excellent portfolio to e-mail out to publishers--or whomever puts illustrators in touch with writers. Yesterday I made a list of all the paying art connected jobs I could think of. There's quite a few more than were offered in my days at the uni. I'm hoping money making art opportunities are being emphasized much more these days than in mine. The job of educators is to prepare students for employment--not for a life in the poor house, albeit garret.

  17. There's no other way Jean. Art is a skill, a vocation. We are not hifalutin prima-donnas in ivory towers. We're blue-collar workers until we're not. Yet the art world of galleries, museums, critics that we came into would have us think of ourselves as high society--want us to hold ourselves aloof to the mundane chore of earning income. Art first, money last. Art is above it all. Its a horrible injustice to the young who may not have incredibly wealthy and generous parents--who may not want to marry for money--who might not be realistic enough to realize they've got to figure a way to make it pay. F--k masterpiece thinking. All of this is said my one who got taken in years ago. Now I'm one who thinks business courses should be offered at art colleges.

  18. I once submitted a course proposal to my college that would have helped many students break into being able to make a living. All my artist friends were dropping like flies.

    It was called, Brush Lettering: A Job Oriented Approach. The final exam was to locate a lettering project, write an agreement, do the job(s) and repay yourself for the cost of the course.

    The people running things said na, we're more fine art oriented here. We don't do vocational training. Try a local community college..

    This was around the time I was doing those trucks I posted recently--another bum's rush tale. Never went back there.

    Looks like you've really struck a chord here, Linda.


  19. Earning a living in the arts is a real big chord with me. Whether the "hifalutins" admit it or not, making objet d'art, "an object valued for its artistry", albeit workmanship, is a vocation, "a regular occupation or profession for which one is particularly suited"--all the way back through history. Look up "arty in the dictionary. Nevermind, I've got it here in my lap. Arty, according to the American College Dictionary, means: "Ostentatious or affected in trying to appear artistic." Love it. LOL as they say. Then another laugh-out-loud: the book defines the word artless: "Without guile, cunning or deceit..." Does that mean that we artists are ostentatious and deceitful, full of guile? Well not this kid--but for sure the folks running those damn schools.

    I would love to hear about an art college that offered business courses to the fine artists an area restricted to sculptors and painters by the by. It would be refreshing and reassuring.