A few weeks ago I found myself poking about Fanfare Books in a desperate attempt to avoid going home to my studio. I’ve been out of sorts since we came back from our trip and somewhere deep inside my psyche I feel that I should always be on vacation. Unfortunately, my bank account does not agree. As a result of my poking about, I stumbled upon a small black book called ‘Steal Like An Artist’ by Austin Kleon. After flipping through it and seeing the words ‘practice productive procrastination‘ I knew it was the book for me. I ran home and read it in an hour or two (it’s a smallish book) and was thrilled to find all the things that I’ve encountered in my short career as an artist.
I am only disappointed by the fact that it didn’t come out years ago when I was just graduating from university. You see when I graduated….back in 1997, I believe that I had only an hour of somewhat practical advice from a couple of professors about how to actually go about having a career as an artist. It basically consisted of how to have half decent slides made of your work and how to write a cover letter to a gallery. That’s it. Oh, and lots of discouraging remarks about how difficult it is to actually make any money from your art, so don’t really bother. Words that I still hear from plenty of people today. And that touches on another sore point that I’ve been experiencing lately which I’ll discuss in a second. In fairness, the internet was still a fairly new thing back in 1997, and putting your art out there was something that very few people did. Thankfully times have changed, but it still feels like the digital age is a mysterious thing for some artists. I’m always surprised when I bump into people (artist people) who have never heard of etsy, or don’t really know what a blog is. Have they still been working on slides and cover letters all this time?
From time to time I get emails from people wanting to know how I was able to make a career out of what I do and I’ve always found it difficult to explain partly because I took a complicated path and partly because when I finally decided to just do it, it happened so quickly that I still don’t know what the magic ingredients were that made it all happen. However, I now know what I will be telling people from now on: Read This Book! And if you are reading this and are in the artistic teaching profession, please, please share this with your students. They’ll never get any better advice.
And here is my second sore point: I hate telling people that I’m an artist. I hate it! I dread it. And I hate admitting that I hate it. What I’m referring to is when I meet someone new and they ask what it is that I do for a living. When I tell them that I paint, they usually think I’m a house painter, and when I correct them and say that no I paint paintings, it is usually followed by a furrowed brow and a comment about what is it that I really do to make money? Or the worst is when they assume that my husband supports me and my ‘artsy hobby’. This little song and dance continues for some time, it’s awkward and I always end up sounding like either an egomaniac or a flighty fraud. I know that I shouldn’t care what others think, but it always rattles me. I have started carrying cards with me, with the hope that my website will explain itself, but it still doesn’t quite deal with those initial awkward moments and the immediate stereotype once the word ‘artist’ leaves my lips.