My dreams of what being an artist was like are far from what my life actually looks like. No one ever said this was an artist’s reality. No one talks about the real struggle, the student loan debt, being on the brink of total exhaustion, or how much extra work is involved.
Those movies, the biographies, the artist interviews, and the sugar-coated art books I’ve read… they only tell a small part of what it’s like to be a contemporary creative. The successful artists of the past either lucked out completely or put the story of their struggle out of their minds in order to keep the illusion of the perfect artist’s life alive. Either way, that’s not me and that’s not my current situation.
I’m not covered in paint 24 hours a day, waxing poetically over canvas and paper. I’m not constantly switching from pots of coffee to bottles of whiskey. I don’t spend my evenings in bars or in fellow artists’ studios getting drunk and talking art world politics. I don’t see any movements forming to jump into or out of. I don’t live in NY. I don’t live in L.A. I have not been “discovered”; nor am I about to be.
The things I say aren’t always the smartest. I’m not romantic in my speech nor am I perfectly quotable. Half the time I’m too tired to carry on an intellectual conversation. I see my very talented and beloved art buddies at openings. We’re all too busy working feverously for the next exhibition to be real sociable human beings. Our schedules are all mix-matched anyway. Some work 9-5 while others maintain nightshifts in bars and restaurants. We’re all exhausted and usually thankful to see one another the few times we can; typically on First Fridays.
My story is not flashy, fancy, or worthy of a movie plot. All of the artists I am close with are the same, even if they fail to admit it.
I (try to) get up at 7:30 am every morning. I put on “respectable” clothing, make myself a cup of coffee for the road and am in an office by 9. I put 8 hours into a job that others see as a career. I work hard and am good at what I do but I’m not passionate about it. I can’t see past that, so the hours waste away while I think of all the making and creating I could be doing instead. It’s depressing. I get home around 6:00 pm, eat dinner and spend about an hour with my husband. If I’m lucky: from there I get into the studio for 1-4 hours. It’s never enough. I’m always left unsatisfied.
I’m responsible. I pay my bills and student loans (mostly) on time. I try to save for my retirement because my only hope right now to be a full time artist is when I turn 60ish. No matter how “in the clear” I think I am, my bank account still occasionally goes in the negative -especially when it comes time to ship paintings for new shows.
I work a full-time job to be able to sustain my tumultuous career and passion. The best and worst part about that is I know I will never give up.
I haven’t slacked off in years. I already have 6 shows under my belt for 2014 and 4 (possibly 5) coming up. I use my breaks from work to draw in my sketchbook or write in this blog. Not a moment of my life is wasted.
This is not glamorous. This is exhausting.
Why we, as artists, keep this all out of the public is beyond me. I don’t want to lie about how hard I work. I don’t want to lie about how much student loan debt I have. I don’t want to project that this life is a perfect one. Choosing to be an artist is not a dream nor is it a joke.
So I’m taking a vow (to myself). In a world where social media sculpts our lives into looking perfect to those we are too distant from to know the difference… I’m going to be honest. I am preparing myself to be painfully honest.
Keeping up with illusions of “supposed to be” is tiresome, and I’m already exhausted.