The Artists Way

Making a living from an artistic endeavor these days is a tough road, and it takes – among other things – a good deal of fortitude to make it a sustainable endeavor.  I’ve had the opportunity to attend a number of art fairs and shows in several different cities over the past few months.  Speaking with artists from a wide variety of disciplines, it was obvious that a good many of them do their art on a part-time basis, finding it difficult to fully support themselves on their art alone.
As it turns out, many of these creative individuals have day jobs that to one degree or another contribute to their creativity.  Some are lucky enough to use many of the same skills from their art in their day jobs, and vice versa.  Certainly there are artists whose crafts, paintings and graphic efforts have no obvious connection to their paying gigs, but many have found ways to incorporate some of the same skills from one discipline into the other.
For example, I spoke with one painter who preferred to create still life images employing extreme perspectives of depth as if the viewer were looking through a window at something distant, or looking down from a balcony.  When I asked the artist if he was able to sustain himself from his art alone, he told me he wished he could pay his way via his art, but by day he is an architect who specializes in generating plans for home remodeling and residential interiors.  He said he frequently considers “all the angles” in his architectural drawings for the remodels, so that the property owners and building crews fully understand his visions of what that space can be.  He uses that same sense of creating spaces in his paintings.  And from the pieces he had on display, he appeared to be successful at doing so.
Another artist I came across was displaying hand crafted silver and glass jewelry.  She told me she was inspired in part by her day job working in a stained glass factory, but was working from others’ designs and needed an outlet for her own creativity.  She started by taking a single class in jewelry making from another local artist, and thought she’d give it a try.  Having access to wide variety of leftover glass from which to work, and her experience shaping metals, using extreme heat and working around sharp edges, she started fusing her own pieces in a kiln and through a process of trial and error came up with some earrings and pendants.  Wearing her creations in public, she got positive feedback from total strangers for her designs and craftsmanship.  She now exhibits and sells her work at crafts and street fairs, and has gotten a couple of retailers to take her designs on consignment.  And while she’s not making a lot of money from her art, yet, she does make a small profit, and hopes to continue to expand, and eventually leave the stained glass job behind.
At one art show, I met a disk jockey whose main job is to assemble constant streams of music that keep people dancing in nightclubs and at events.  But his other gig is creating soundscapes for a troupe of performance artists.  Working within the particular parameters of the performers was much more restrictive than just spinning dance music, he told me, and he really enjoyed the challenges of using his sound mixing skills to complement something very specific. That he already owns the tools of his trade, his cash outlay for jobs is negligible, and he is literally able to profit from these side gigs.
The idea that you can create additional revenue streams for yourself by reapplying your pre-existing stills can be translated to office and other work areas as well as the arts.  There are countless office workers who do freelance writing, copy editing, typing and data entry as a sideline to their regular gigs.  And while it may not seem obvious, for some there is an art to working with documents and data, creating letters and spreadsheets that become attractive presentations. There are those who take their passion for writing and create short stories for themselves or do ghost writing for others.  What are your strongest skills, or the ones you are most fond of using?  Can those same skills be applied outside the 9-5 workplace?  Maybe the artists way can be your way too!
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Note One:  For the last time this season, let me extend one more reminder that Election Day is just over a week away.  Please don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, November 6th!
Note Two:  Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants on their incredible four game sweep over the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series.  Both teams displayed tremendous team work and played hard, worthy of baseball’s season finale.