Earlier, one of my relatives called. I heard my name mentioned and got out of bed to start wandering around the house. It seems that myself, my mother, and my sibling are not the only people to have gotten the art bug, in my family! Because of everything that’s happened recently, and even before, I haven’t been the most talkative person where it comes to my relatives.
When I approached with some advice for a young artist, expecting to relay it through my mother, she handed the phone to me and told me to talk. (!) The thing I was going to say was to have a second objective in mind where it comes to Art, as it gives a person more creative freedom when they don’t have to make things to others’ specifications. That is, be sure to have a way to make a living, so you don’t have to depend totally on sales of your art to survive. The market is not necessarily the greatest arbiter of value, and I was even told (by an Art instructor, when I asked about career options) that it’s hard to make a living off of Art alone, without another angle on it.
I feel a bit wobbly about having said that, however: what if my cousin does give it everything, take the chance, and make it? She could also find a path that none of us have taken. I don’t want to say that there’s no money in Art; unfortunately, the problem in a capitalist society is how to monetize it. I would believe that most of the Art jobs would be directly or indirectly related to Marketing — or going out on one’s own, and getting into shows and galleries as a self-employed person. Of course, there’s also the steady stream of work one has to be willing and able to produce — though I don’t think that will be a problem for her.
I’ve considered the possibility of throwing myself fully into the Commercial Art world, and working as a Graphic Designer, or Jewelry Designer, or Illustrator, etc.: something I actually can sell. I am thinking it actually is possible to make a living this way — but I am not steady enough in my own confidence around my creative ability, to do so. Perhaps more to the point, I’m not sure I love Art enough, to do so. (I have for a long time considered what I would do if I were a Visual Artist, and lost my vision.) This is as versus Writing, and leaving enough open space in my mind to potentially accept work with, and love of, the possibilities people are building with technology.
Right now, I’m looking at possibly acquiring two more languages, plus coding and Professional Development. That’s a far cry from Jewelry or Fashion Design (!) — even though at one time it could have been a more realistic possibility. But would an Arts degree stimulate my analytical side, enough? Am I willing to put in the work to make visually interesting or meaningful images all day, every day? Do I love it that much, or will I — for instance — paint, when I have time, as a mental and emotional release? Is it more important to sell, or to make? Is the reward external, or internal?
I’m sorry, I’ve just come off of some reading which reminded me of the open-source movement…alternative forms of being in the world have come to my mind, and I seem to be rediscovering the reason I got into Libraries, in the first place.
For myself, it’s often stressful when other peoples’ desires get worked into the process of artmaking, although I only know this through small-scale beadwork affairs. If you’re an artist, it can be tough when someone wants work done to their specifications…which can then be difficult to fulfill. I’ve found myself guessing at what someone wants, from what little they’ve told me, as versus following my own aesthetic senses.
Autonomy is important to me, that is, and that’s likely related in some way to my own need for intellectual integrity…which in turn, means that I will likely be happiest with a job that brings in survival money and benefits, plus enough time and resources to do my own art on the side, whether or not it sells.
That may mean I have less time to refine my skills, and not live up to my full potential as an artist. But, so long as I’m still creating, why should that matter to me? Valuation matters to auctioneers, not necessarily to the creator.
And what is money, anyway, when it comes to art? What does the exchange of money for art mean, unless it goes to the artist, and helps them live and keep doing what they love to do? Supplying materials to collectors and speculators just doesn’t strike me as, well…let’s say they aren’t my target market. But I’ve never sold a painting, and to be honest…well, it would be kind of weird if someone bought my Community College self-portraits.