For years I dreamed about quitting my day job and working as a full time artist. Some said that was a stereotypical pipedream. Why would you leave your nicely padded cubicle and all those opportunities for advancements and holiday bonuses? Above all, you would be chasing an unattainable and cliché dream? I asked myself these crippling questions too, and became convinced that it wasn’t worth it. Instead, I would continue to stare mindlessly at a computer all day, chew on my pens, and count down the minutes until quittin’ time.
Quitting the Day Job
It must have been those minutes, hours, and years dripping like slow molasses that finally set me over the edge. Something snapped and I decided to break free from the system. This meant that I would follow the dream. Yes, I would just need to make some art, sell it, and then I would officially be a professional artist. Now that I look back, I should have probably spent more time researching the bleak professional potential of most visual artists. During the first couple of years on my own, I put in more work hours than I had ever done at my day job. The only difference was that I was doing something I enjoyed.
Art Is Really Hard Work
I found out very quickly after quitting my day job that I wouldn’t be buying new shoes anytime soon. I also found out something else unexpected… that making art was really freaking hard! As a part time art hobbyist (back during my corporate cubicle days) I painted here and there and I loved it! It was so much fun and I couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Whenever I had time after work I would sit down and paint my heart out. Then I would dream about the day when I could quit my job and do art full time. When I finally realized my dream, I found out that I needed tons of time to meticulously paint, and I needed time for marketing and website development.
Making Art Is a Job
The first month was great! I painted like there was no tomorrow. My brushes were on fire and I could feel the hand cramps coming on. Then, month two came along and I started to feel somewhat tired of sitting around all day making art. I wanted to go out and meet up with my friends. And there were plenty of friends to meet up with since I didn’t have a structured schedule. With all that free time, I also started researching marketing opportunities for artists online. I didn’t know it at the time, but a tiny black cloud was starting to form over my painting easel. By month three I was so over painting. I had painted more in those three months than all of my previous years combined and I was starting to think that my old job didn’t seem so bad anymore. Through this process I realized that art is hard and it’s like any other job. Unless you set up a schedule for yourself and find forms of motivation; you could potentially become your worst enemy.
One of the first lessons I learned and something I would like to pass on for anyone just starting out is to develop a schedule. Figure out what other priorities you have in your life and then fit your art into the picture. Stick to the plan and it should keep you somewhat safe. Even if you don’t feel completely motivated, just do it. Eventually you’ll train yourself to push through.
We’ve all got something that we’re passionate about and if it’s art for you, then you’ve got to keep pushing to reach your dreams. For me it’s still a battle to stay focused on my goals, but I try and remind myself that art gives me meaning and direction. And I believe that the art I’m making is something beautiful that can be shared with the world. There are always unexpected stumbling blocks along the road of any journey, but it is all part of the experience.
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