Sunday, November 20, 2011

Time for my monthly blather!

It's gonna be a little bit of a rant, here, so be prepared or go do something else, if you're not feeling up to my yammering.

About my so-called art career...I feel like I'm between a rock and a hard place, or more accurately, swimming up-stream. Art is all I know how to do with any sort of expertise, and even that's a bit dubious. My dilemma is the whole freelance set-up. I'm not a commercial arts person; I draw and paint. I can't figure out how to make that pay off, w/o committing massive amounts of time to creating the quality of work that will make me proud and lead to bigger projects, and still earn a fair wage. Why won't anyone pay more than $100 for quality book covers or ccg cards? I don't get it. I mean, I DO get it: if you can wrangle a great image for peanuts, why not? But it bites me in the ass and kills my spirit.

I think maybe I'm just getting old and jaded and running out of steam. I'm becoming far less patient. This is my one life, yanno? Why can't I make myself happy? Part of it is certainly my husband's attitude. He asserts that art is decorative and subjective, therefore it's not serious. It's not important. It's not worth paying for. He doesn't see why I can't just get some office job for $15/hour tomorrow and earn my keep. (I know he wouldn't put it that way TO MY FACE, but I feel it.) He's not creative in the least, but he IS a very hard worker; he's a mechanical designer--heating, cooling, plumbing, that sort of thing. In fact, here it is, Sunday, and he's at work because we need the money. And I'm practicing my art and writing. Making not a dime.

Guilty conscience, thy name is Cris.

How do you guys make it work? How do you keep creative, whilst cranking out low-paying work subject to someone else's approval and still keep your spirits up? I need some virtual pick-me-upping, gang.


Erik Jones said...

this post is really touching to me, I appreciate your thoughts because In feel they are relative to every illustrator.
This industry is going through a slump, and has been for a while.
The golden age of illustration was the 50's-80'sish (mostly the 50's and 60's)
One major issue is that this industry is extremely over flooded. SO MANY PEOPLE graduate "art collage" every year. The market is so saturated with shit, and because of this people have to be competitive with pricing their work. This means that if you're not the cheapest, you don't get the work, even though you're a great artist, there are 5000 other artist out there willing to do the work for $100 less (this includes me, unfortunately) I want you to know that you are not alone with your frustrations.
EVERY SINGLE ART FRIEND I HAVE is in the same rut. The thing to do right now is to have a supplementary source of income, a side job. This will make it so you can be picky about the jobs you take.
When someone comes up to you with a shit job for $150, you can turn them down (as you should). The more we take shity jobs, the more it becomes "ok".
It actually devalues the whole industry. Art is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. If I price a piece for $100 and a bidding war pops up on it and I make a million off it, then that piece is now worth a million dollars.
So by taking crap jobs for crap pay, it makes the work worth crap.

Most people just don't respect us. Your husband sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders but clearly does not sound like an artist. You need to hang in there and keep doing what you love and what you're good at. AND don't be afraid or ashamed to take a crappy part time job, it will give you more time to do the art you want, rather then spending your time looking for money in crap jobs. Does this all make sense??? I hope so, and try to stay positive


Natalie said...

Hi, I got here by accident (I'm rince1wind over on LJ), but having read this post and the nice guy above's response, I just had to say hey. It's very hard right now – I make virtually nothing for my writing even at my actual job, but I don't think anyone makes very much. There just isn't much money in working at a newspaper any more. At least I get to write and I continue to get better at it.
Does your husband actually believe that art is "decorative and subject... and not serious"? Art is serious stuff; that's why writers, painters, etc. get thrown into prisons in places where censorship rules. And now, here, it's not art's lack of seriousness that is the problem, but (1) that people are cutting back a lot as everything costs more and more and they earn relatively less. Something has to give. Art or food? Sad but there we are. (2) With crap like the constraints on imaginative education like "no child left behind," children are basically being taught that the imagination has little value. That beauty and the re-visioning of the world around us that art can catalyze and that can help people understand the world we've got, beautiful or hideous, is worthless.
Maybe your husband is speaking ironically but sympathetically? Perhaps you can do more of your art for yourself (and those of us who do appreciate it)? I know those guilty feelings too; my husband also works 7 days a week, even when some of it's at home (though he's working the next three weekends). But we're all better at different things, and doing some things we enjoy and are good at and brings in some money is a contribution. And it makes us happy too. Or it should. Above commenting guy is right about the day gig, though. If you're feeling too guilty and unappreciated to enjoy your artwork, it might be worth it to take a part-time job (my actual job pays 10.25 for copyediting and other set amounts for freelance writing and cartoons). Then you can perhaps feel better about the rest of it. I know a bunch of comics writers and artists (slightly) who get paid incredibly little for the almost vast amount of artwork they do. But the other thing about art and writing and music is that for some of us it's something we cannot not do. If we don't do it, we break. And that's not going to work either. I hope your husband can learn to get that. And recognize the value in art in and of itself. It's really important stuff. It's certainly as intrinsically as important as mathematics is. Most of math is useless for most people; no one can seriously believe that most of us will be using calculus in our daily lives. Whereas art and music and writing and history ... different story.
I hope you don't feel I've intruded! Buck up, though. I enjoy your work very much, and so do lots of people.