What is it Like to be an Artist?
This was a question that came up earlier in the week when Justin and I went to the gym to check out a membership and ran into someone he knows. As It turned out, this simple question lead to a rather broad discussion about what it means to us, why we do it, what our goals are, and the reality of those goals– annnd it seemed like a great conversation to bring here.
I can’t speak for every artist- so most of what I say comes from my own experience and the experiences of others I know personally, but I’m fairly certain that artists may find some commonality here as I address each question. So, lets get started!
1. So when did you start drawing?
Every artist has an origin story, but….I’ve always been kinda weirded out by this question. Sure I can say, since forever, but it doesn’t probe any deeper than that. The better question is– What was the spark that started you off because it brings you back to a point and time in your life when everything kinda…changed. The answer that follows is much richer and truer to how an artist got started. It could have been their love and admiration for something that inspired them, be it games, anime, comics, movies, fashion, books, or even a particular franchise. Maybe it runs in the family and the artist was next in line to pick it up. For others it may be a form of self expression, their voice in the world…or even a quiet escape from hurt and pain… Whatever their spark, much like a signature, you can almost always see a hint of it, in their work.
2. So why do you do it?
If the answer is– because I love to, it’s what I’m passionate about– a common question/statement that follows in my experience and in some of my friends experience is– “The Starving artist– all about the passion and not about the money”
Lets be real– Money is important– it puts a roof over our heads and food on the table. As much as we love to draw, we also have to make a living, and what better way to do it, than by doing something you love. Justin said it better though- “The term starving artist is kind of outdated. Although it’s a different and pretty difficult road to take, it’s very possible to make a good living as an artist. There are a lot of artists who made a lot of money throughout history. But the mainstream culture likes to romanticize the idea of artists sacrificing everything for the passion. The reality is much different than that. It’s similar to musicians and athletes except it’s a career that can last. I mean your not going to make millions off a single deal , in most cases, but you can make a good living off what you dreamed of when you were a kid, and when drawing was just a fun hobby.”
3. This isn’t a question I’ve run into, but I think it deserved a spot on this list- “Were your family/friends supportive of your dreams?”
The answers for this one can go annnny which way, to be honest, but it brings us back to the concept of the starving artist. Because being an artist has this stigma, and because it’s not a profession you go into to become rich, a lot of times, an artist finds themselves without support, or being steered in the direction of careers that are more “promising”. Friends’ I’ve found to be the most supportive, because they’re with you no matter what you choose to do with your life. Parents, on the other hand, have more concern for your well-being in the long term because they want you to succeed and be prosperous– while their hearts are in the right place, an unsupportive parent or authoritative figure can easily crush a dream by shooting it down, because of the stigma. I personally have had a lot of support, but in a weird way, some of my friends have been a problem in the past because they see what I do as more of a hobby, aka, something I do for fun that doesn’t require a lot of effort. The problem with this is, they end up holding me back, because they don’t see what I do as being important. What it comes down to is, the people in your life need to understand your passion. They need to understand what it means to you, especially if it’s more than just a hobby, but also a means by which you earn a living, and in doing so they can choose to either respect it, support it, or get out the way. Sounds a bit aggressive, lol, but that’s how much it means to some of us.
4. So what are your goals?
Hey, I wanna be the next Norman Rockwell! Go big or go home right! Right? Ever heard the term “You see the glory but don’t know the story?” I’m guilty of fantasizing, and I’m confident enough to say that most of us are, lol! But the reality is, we can’t all be superstars. Does that make this a hopeless cause? Not in the least.
We had this thing at the college I attended, where at the end of the year we’d have portfolio reviews. You’d bring in all your best work for the year and be privately critiqued and graded on your progress by the lead instructors of your major. The last time I was critiqued, which was years ago, I was given a high score and told that I have a lot of potential. But then the instructor took me aside and quietly said “There are a lot of artists out there, who have just as much potential– and who can do what you do, and better. But that’s not what you want to think about. Instead, focus on what makes YOUR art special. What can you bring to the market, that makes you stand out?
I had an idea– but finding out what it was truly was, and honing it, that was the goal, because it doesn’t matter as much what type of style you choose to work in, or how refined your skill, what matters most is what makes you stand out.
5. lastly, what sort of art do you do, what goes into making it, and what do you hope to receive from it?
Okay, lol I’m going to get all artsy fartsy and say something cool, because I want to, and be all poetic about it n stuff! Ready? Here goes!
When you look at a person’s work, like a coin, there’s two sides. There’s one you see, and one not so much. Most people see the head– aka, the end result, the pretty picture on the wall in all it’s glamor! Unless that’s just not the artists style, but you get the idea. The other side of the coin, the tail, is the labor…the long hours, and often sleepless nights, money spent, and mounting frustrations of problems that had to be overcome… in addition to a combination of thought, and emotion, aka, blood, sweat and tears. So to answer the question, an artists work can take many forms, be it illustration, animation, ect, but at it’s core, an artists work is the fruit of their passions, and inspirations, whatever they may be, and the fruit of their labor.
A lot goes into an artist’s work, before they bring it center stage, and it doesn’t always come easy, even if it looks like it does. Likewise, for all the effort we put forth, to express our ideas, having our work be seen, acknowledged, appreciated and/or supported means a lot, and that’s what we hope to receive.
Again, with all that I’ve said, I don’t speak for everyone; this is simply a reflection of my own experiences and observations and talks I’ve had with fellow artists. In a addition though, reflecting on questions like these have given me a lot to think about, like my desire to support other artists, either through Patreon or Feature posts, and about finding ways that I can personally give back to the art community.
One step at a time though 🙂 I haven’t decided on a solid schedule yet, but after giving this much thought, Thursday I will be my first attempt at a feature post, Where I’ve chosen five artists I wish to showcase on my blog. Not only do I intend to feature there work, but I hope to share in what way their art has influenced me, or inspired me, with the hopes that you too may be inspired by their works. In the meantime, if you have some advice, suggestions, send me a word!
Took me longer to write this post than I thought, but, I hope you got something from it– Till next time, Enjoy!