Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Part 1: Battling the Monkey: A request and warning from a dedicated working artist

I've thought it over and over and over again...

How will I ever make this studio business work?
I mean, really, don't they call it STARVING ARTIST for nothing?
I mean, where is this REALLY going?
How in the EVERLOVING HELL will I make a living being an ARTIST?

For years, I've battled many doubts about this path. And I've mentioned them.

Here.  and Here.  and Here. and Here.

"How will I ever pay my mortgage, build a website, master the in's and out's of social media, conquer fancy cameras, keep electricity bills at bay, build portfolios, wholesale goods, keep gas in cars, find good gallery representation, hover over latest and greatest work in my medium, find inspiration to fuel work, pay taxes, mow lawn so neighbors aren't pissed, re-fuel creative well, keep current friendships in tact, continue pursuing other hobbies and passions, grow gardens, call mom, entertain friends, enjoy love at it's best and at it's worst, produce holiday shows, write blogs with integrity, build brand, etc."

And the list goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

Ya' know what, though?  I'm still here.
After nearly 6 collected years of spotty schooling, debt, un-paths,
and the horrible misfortune of realizing my trust fund was....a fantasy,
after starting this *for real* 4 years ago,
R&S IS a business.
I pay taxes (30% people!), and a mortgage.
I feed myself, and occasionally get to travel.
I even bought *SQUEAL* new BOOTS this year! (Yes, the ones you wear. on your feet.)

I love it.
It's not easy.
But I love it.
In fact, I'm not sure how I lived life WITHOUT IT.
My bank account nears the red-zone more than I care to admit,
and I know the city water shut-off guy by name now.
I constantly am battling the "am I good enough" monkey on my back,
and I didn't even qualify for Obamacare because I'm too poor.
I don't have a savings account, a retirement plan, or a 401-K.
But I couldn't imagine life without such a raw outlet for whatever this world throws me.
I am blessed with an audience of stone and silver lovers, a few collectors, and a vibrant art scene.
I am blessed with the day and age where fine art is taught to be valued,
where artists are taught to be business people.

But I make a fair and honest request:

Ask an artist.
A REAL studio artist, who slaves and bleeds into their work,
whose main focus in life is to make beautiful things for this world,
who devours articles in their field like good homemade mac and cheese,
who can't get enough creative stimulation, from film, and books, and people, and the mountains,
who can't get enough ART in their daily habit,
whose research and love of the medium is found in their recent google history,
who can't get enough time to talk about whatever it is they are passionate about to joe-blo at the supermarket, after him remarking "how awesome that piece is/was/will be"...
whose blinding and intense work ethic is something to be reckoned with.
who NEVER GIVES UP, regardless of what the world continues to push,
even when their bank accounts are in a completely unavoidable move between work that sells
and work that does not.

Ask an artist what they are worth.
I guarantee you,
they couldn't tell you.
Billable hours?  an actual HOURLY WAGE? A projected SALARY?
I only say this because carpenters who build homes know.
Because electricians know.
Because teachers and doctors and construction workers and policemen know.
This is NEVER up for debate, what a professional is worth. It just IS.

Then there are the studio artists....
The ones who couldn't tell you what they are worth per hour.  per project.  per year.
This I've come to know as a breed, a people, a force of continual energy of the universe.
They are tough-skinned folk. Because criticism abounds, they have to be.
Mama always says "opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one."
It takes balls bigger than you think you have to DO THIS.
And it's SCARY AS SHIT to actually think of yourself as an hourly-wage earner.
And it's even scarier to look at the account balance of $0.16 and NOT want to quit.

It takes patience to look the "Why is this almost $500?" customer in the eyes without baring fangs, and calmly educate them as to WHAT IT IS THEY ARE LOOKING AT.

Don't expect these artist-types to be iron-clad,  though, or even super-human.
Artists are not magicians.  They cannot make everything.
They don't WANT to make everything.

Make no mistake of the passion and love and intensity (and sensitivity) capable of these fierce souls.
These are the workers of our time, 
consumed by a passion with such blinding intensity
that not even the jack-hammer at the construction site down the street is a distraction.
It's all undivided attention to a craft/skill/medium/art that borderlines obsession.
It's THAT intensity from the artist somewhere, you know,


This is so expensive!
I could never justify that price.
Could you give me a deal?

I could have made that.
It looks like something easy to make.

How did you do that?
Can you tell me where to buy those supplies? (so I can copy you...)
and could you tell me where to get a deal?

Is that super-glued?
Can you super-glue this for me?
won't you give me a deal, because it's JUST glue, right?

Remember these fierce souls.
Remember the fight they fight on a daily basis.
Remember that intensity that makes them bleed art and integrity.
Remember their google history, and their student loans/training/investment in their craft.
Remember that YOU know how much you are worth per hour,
and are not required to give an explanation as to why you cost what you do.
Remember the countless hours of makings, re-makings, and tearing-aparts because it just *wasn't*
Remember the way you felt when you first saw that thing on Pinterest that made your heart skip,
and then...
please then.....
remember the Artist.

Because something honest comes from intensity and dedication and education.
There's YEARS of practice, schooling, and professional training.
There's STUDYING.  (YES! LOTS!) And probably debt too.
There's CONSTANT process that is practiced, it's called WORK.
That dedicated practice will one day create something awesome you MIGHT just be lucky enough
to take home/wear/look at FOREVER.

And that's something you should be able to put a price on. Right?

That fierceness that makes creatives tick, it's like a fire.
And if you know anything about fire,
you know fires burn hot and sometimes burn quick.
And for sure, make no mistake about it......
that passion bubbles from the cages of my ribs, from the depths of everything I am...
sometimes erupts like fire as a quick and short-worded contest
to an almost constant disrespect of the word ART.  Maybe not from YOU.  But constant.

Fierceness translates in a glance under sunglasses after you've just asked any or all these things.

It sure as hell isn't super glue.