Being an artist can be the most rewarding, fun and exhilarating job in the world, but contrary to popular belief, it can also be just as stressful as any other corporate job out there.
This is how we generally picture the life of a stereo typical artist …. Sitting in their sun-lit studio, cup of tea in hand, feeling free-spirited in their straggly comfie clothing, gracefully swishing the paintbrush back and forth, ambient music playing, producing these wonderful large pieces of art work in their own time and pace. Well yes, some days can be that way, but let’s use the new term, “Instagram Vs. Realty” and let me guide you through the realistic side of being an artist.
As per most things in life that we order, whether it be online shopping or ordering a piece of furniture, we expect a delivery date or a lead time and rightfully so, as it’s something you are paying for and expect good service and for deadlines to be met.
As an artist, of any type, whether it be a painter, a sketch artist, a photographer, a graphic designer or even a musician that is composing something for someone else and the list goes on … one thing we all have in common is that our creative juices do NOT flow every single day and I am sure I speak for any type of artist out there by saying that this is often the case and to put it lightly – deadlines suck! Writers call it “Writers Block” …. Same thing!
You can have all the talent, experience and resources at your fingertips, but sometimes, somehow your good “old fashioned” hands and brain just won’t perform like you want them to.
Unfortunately, if you cannot meet a deadline, your client will not accept the excuse, “My hands are not working with me”. That is not an acceptable excuse to a paying client. So, this results in sleepless nights, tons of work being thrown into the dustbin, often tears and a lot of frustration! You end up questioning yourself and telling yourself that you are not good enough. By the time you’ve finished your piece of work that you probably did not charge very much for, you’re down 5 sheets of quality paper, a box of pencils,R500 worth of paint,2 expensive canvases and you’re still not happy and want to start again. This is reality. It doesn’t always just come naturally. Emotions also play a big part in art and creativity. Your mood can determine the piece of art that will be produced.
Hell, sure, if I am having a creative spurt, I can probably churn out 5 portraits and 2 paintings in 1 week, but when I am having a bad/emotional week – I could work on the same portrait for 5 days straight, STILL be unhappy and tell myself that a Grade 1 child can do better. So many irrational thoughts go through your head.
Unfortunately, with art, you can’t FORCE creativity. Say for instance, your job is to be a data capturer or something similar, your job is your job, there is only one way to do it, it is what it is, you do what you need to do whether you feel like it or not …. Art, in any way, shape or form is not the same. Mark my words – when you are not in the mood and your head is in the wrong place, your work will be a mess! Tried and tested for longer than a decade! Unless you are one of those famous artists where splash of green paint on a big canvas makes you millions – it won’t work for you!
There is not a certain way to do art … it just happens! Yes, minus your techniques and style, If I ever do the same piece twice, for a workshop or whatever the case is, the process will never be the same! Yes, I have my standard “go to” routine and principles, but it’s never done in the same process.
I often get a request to draw or design something and I’ll get an instant block and sit on it for weeks and weeks and just can’t get myself to do it or get it right. It will be a great project, but something is just blocking my creative mind. Yet if I was in a different mind frame, on a different day, I could get it right in one sitting! This is something that a non-creative person will never fathom.
Another thing with art is that it is considered ‘subjective’ so your art will be viewed by each individual with their personal opinions and taste, so let’s put it this way – it will not be everybody’s cup of tea. It takes many years to realize that you should NOT take offence to this. Often easier said than done. I don’t like every single artists’ work in the world, so I can’t expect others to not feel the same towards my work.
As an artist, I can paint a piece that I’ve put my entire heart and soul into, I’ve given it my all, it can be my favourite piece that I’ve ever created, I feel so proud and everyone that sees it is in awe, it takes you weeks upon weeks, yet you present it to a client and their reply is, “Looking good” (implying it’s not finished) or something very ‘vanilla’ like, “Cool, thanks”. It can honestly be gut-wrenching to say the least, but as I said, art is subjective and if a client is paying for a piece, they are always right.
I personally feel, as a portrait artist, that I can get the portrait as realistic as possible, but I also feel like for it to be a piece of art, it needs a bit of character/style and some authenticity. That’s my own personal opinion and sometimes I feel like saying to clients, “If you wanted it to look like a photograph – rather print a photograph”😉 Having said that I love the challenge of trying to make it as Life-like as possible.
Another thing that I find hard is pricing. Sometimes people don’t understand that materials are expensive and most of the time they can cost more than your actual work when you use quality products. So yes, you can get an A1 wall picture/print at a chain retail store for R500, but before an artist even starts an A1 painting, the materials are already way more than that, probably double! Not to mention delivery price. So, you may think you are paying good money for a piece, but quite honestly the artist is often not getting even half of that as a profit. I am speaking from a personal perspective, not generalizing.
You are also not ONLY paying for an artist’s time and material, you are paying for their expertise and years of experience and endless hours of experimentation and practice.
A lot of people are born with artistic talent, but very few nurture that talent. The ones that nurture their talent, are the ones you’re looking for.
Luckily for me, I have a very loyal support base but there have been times that people have asked me to do things for free or design something “quickly”, but at the end of the day, asking an artist to do something for free or for a discounted price is like asking a doctor for a consultation for free! It’s the same thing. Same as when people ask a musician to play at a venue for “exposure”. Unfortunately, exposure isn’t going to pay your bills.
Bottom line – don’t do anything for free that you are good at!
For some reason, a lot of people see art as a hobby, not a profession. I’ve often been asked, “But what is your real job?” or “What else do you do?” … bizarre to say the least!
With challenges, there will always be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and make all the hiccups worth it!
For me, drawing a portrait of a beloved pet which brings your client to tears, drawing a portrait of something special for a client and their response is, “Angi you brighten up peoples lives with your talent”.
You do a painting for a client that a year down the line, the client sends you a message to say that every time she looks at that painting in her lounge, it brings her instant joy happiness! Another one that always stood out for me is, “I have no words, your work speaks volumes to me”.
The fact that I’ve had clients that keep coming back to me after 15 years of doing this!
The fact that you can throw your heart and soul into something with such passion is the most amazing feeling and I count my blessings daily that this is my job!
The fact that I can teach art to adults and actually hear them say, “Wow, I can’t believe I did this” and walk out of my workshops proud of themselves …………… this is probably the most rewarding of all!
THIS is what makes it all worth it! I will never change my professions by choice. There will always be obstacles a long the way with any profession, as you have discovered after reading this piece, but at the end of the day, for me, being an artist is the best job in the world!