Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day jobbing and art

About 14 percent of artists rely on solely on their creativity and art sales to pay the bills. The other 86 percent have alternate jobs that bring in the bulk of their revenue and use their spare time to create and market their art.

I am one of the 86 percent.

Day jobbers go off each morning to serve coffee, teach children, manage corporations and a myriad of different tasks, shedding that skin each evening to become someone different, someone creative and productive. While we fill our day job roles and do them well, the day job doesn't always get 100% of our brains. There is a part that is constantly in creative mode, thinking about what will be done next, seeing inspiration in a corner of an office or meeting room or inside a coffee cup. Often we are silent about our other life, as if to speak about it too much jinxes it and it is at risk of dissolving.

Or we do talk about it to colleagues at breaks and lunch and see in their eyes that they don't understand the passion or why you forego the latest episode of a current television program to sequester yourself away in a room or corner and find your own world of imagination

I'm asked how I am able to work full time and still have time for all the activities that go along with creating and selling art.

Well the primary reason I work is that I need to pay bills. There is no choice in the matter. Starving artists are a cliche. A starving person can't create or buy materials to create. An artist needs a roof over her head, heat, food and clothing - and these days a computer, scanner and digital camera!

There are a few things that carry me through times when I'd rather be in the studio and some things that I do to push myself to create.

1. Know what you want to do

Do you want to write sonnets, draw animals, paint oceans, illustrate greeting cards? Knowing what you want to do keeps you going through those times when the tedium of daily work wears at you. Having that vision spurs you on.

2. Make a plan

Once you know what you want, how are you going to get there? You need to know that otherwise you move in circles constantly and have no benchmark by which to measure progress.

3. Make time for yourself

Everyone has busy lives, too busy a lot of the time, but it is often of our own making. Do we feel less important if we take lunch away from the office instead of at our desk? If we turn off the cell phone so we can have uninterrupted time to sketch at lunch? Will anyone die? No.

4. Get up earlier

Adults often sleep more than they need. And early morning when it is quiet is a perfect time to work on a painting or drawing. Try getting up 30 minutes earlier. If you're still tired, go to bed earlier. You'll go to work feeling that you've accomplished something, I promise. And you'll be more productive.

5. Turn off the television set

Sure come home and watch the news, get sorted out but then head to your creative spot and give yourself permission to do nothing but draw or paint. You've worked all day, you deserve it. If a partner protests at being left to amuse themselves, either find a new one or limit your time creating. But don't abandon your creativity or you get sucked back to where you started.

6. Find creativity in your day job.

No matter what you do for work, you can find creativity in it. You can glean ideas for marketing or planning. You can develop networks. You can find ways to benefit your work with your art and vice versa.

7. Take 10

Take a 10 minute break to devote to sketching during your day. Sketch anything, anyone. Who knows, that sketch of the coffee cup or client chair could be the inspiration for your next major piece. That 10 minute sketch will refresh and inspire you as well as keep your mind/eye coordination sharp.

8. Make your space at work your own

If you work in a cube farm, make it your own little piece of heaven. Bring in art, be comfortable. Take your favourite mug, listen to your favourite music if you can. You will enjoy work more and put yourself and others you work with in a better frame of mind.

9. Downsize your job

If you're constantly stressed with work, constantly at breaking point and caught up in the vicious cycle of 'who can do more' game at work, get a job with less responsibility. You'll have all the skills and it will make it seem easy. The new company will love you and your stress level will drop dramatically. You may even find that you'll soon be making more money than at your previous job. Take on a consulting role, teach art or workshops, find more time to paint, draw, market your art.

Little steps to change how you view your day job and how it interacts and benefits your art move you closer to your goal. You may push the statistics up to 15% for artists who get their sole income from their work, but if you don't, at least make it pleasurable being a day jobber.


Diane Hoeptner (hep-ner) said...

Well put, Jeanette. Great post.

Niall young said...

I totally agree with you...however sometimes it takes something unforeseen and unplanned for to bring you to the place you actually wanted to be. I was made redundant from a job I loved and would still be doing to this day...but it was the kick I needed. I now work full time on my artwork...together with my wife Jan ( who left her occupational therapy job of 18 years to study theatre and writing and is now a busy actress with her own theatre company) we manage to pay all the bills and get to do what we've always dreamed of!

Jeanette said...

Thanks Diane.

Yes Niall, sometimes we do get a chance for change through unexpected sources. Often being pushed is a good thing. :)

Jo Castillo said...

Great post. Encouraging, too.

Jennie Norris said...

What a great post! I will come back and read it often, Thank you.