Sunday, 26 October 2008

When the grass is always more veridian

I thought i'd have a bit of a natter today about non-process related matters of art. Anyone who knows me in the real world knows I talk a lot about trying to work as an artist full-time.

Realistically, the way I spend money means that it's unlikely to happen any time soon. I'm a fritterer, I don't buy big things but I have more books in my house than I have room for, they are stacked in corners and crushed into cupboards. And because I am in a relatively well paid job and because I like it and the people I just haven't ever gotten to breaking point with working full time.

Generally speaking my thinking is always split into two on anything anyway, so I never really make any big decisions...I'm not a planner by nature, I just drift along, occassionally ranting about how i'd like to be going down the other trouser leg of time.

Every now and then though I get into a really shitty mood. I fume to myself about all kinds of things - one after the other, sometimes all mixed together.

I fume about the world at large. The odds are stacked against artists I rant. Our social and economic institutions are set up to keep us in traditional work patterns for almost our entire lives. Art institutions and grant systems have little interest in work outside of the conceptual mainstream!

Then I move onto my work, it's too nice or not nice enough, it has nothing to say about the world in which we live, it's too derivitive.

Then I move onto myself, I don't take art seriously enough, i'm a terrible planner, I don't organise myself properly, i'm not taking responsibility for my life.

My emotionally mature response to all these feelings is to try to ignore them as much as possible by going out a lot, or getting involved in a really good series of books until it goes away and stops annoying me. I never ever confront them, I never sit down and try to unravel all the tiny whingeing threads. I certainly never get out an excel spread sheet and try to figure out how I might afford to live off art.

I know that making a living from art has all it's own problems. I know that you have to seek out commissions more often, fulfill wholesale orders if you can, attend art fairs and even (gulp) answer emails in a timely fashion, you end up not really doing art for a lot of it.

But the other side is that starting on a Saturday I rush into my bedroom studio and start cutting up pieces of wood as fast as I can, gessoing, preparing, planning, drawing. I also have orders to fill out for prints and packaging and visits to the post office before mid-day. By sunday I may have gotten somewhere with a piece and then on monday I have to put it aside and wait, wait, wait until the next weekend. It's a fevered high pitched way of working which then spirals into this yearly fug of exhaustion and self recrimination.

Which is why, for the first time, i'm trying to consider what it would take to change my life. I don't think at this time I can afford to do it, perhaps not for a long time, but i'm interested in exploring the avenues and seeing in real terms how much i'd have to make and how I might do that. Even if I come out of it with a feeling of acceptance it'll be something - at least I can refer to my spreadsheets when I get into my fug.


marceline said...

Oh, I'm glad you're thinking about that! It really is liberating being able to work on stuff you love every day. If you want any tips on living on zero money, I have lots now :)

paolability said...

Very interesting!

I think that art, like writing, is a hard business to live off but I strongly believe that your work is so fabulous that it is definitely something you could do.

Since I discovered your work, I've mailed you a couple of times about submitting to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition; making gorgeous art is one thing but becoming a known name significantly affects what you can charge (and means that you can concentrate on creating new things, not mass production).

While reading your post, it made me think of how the documenting of my intentions and progress online has helped me lose weight this year; after years of failed attempts trying, I've so far lost over 60 lbs just by keeping an online food diary.

I wonder if you can use the same mechanism by posting more as you have just done so that you put your ideas out there and find it harder to retreat!

You will undoubtedly get support from friends and fans who, I'm sure, will cheer you on but who will also give you a firm but friendly prod if you look like you might give up.

Other than that, I don't have any practical advice except to contact people like Audrey Kawasaki for advice. Oh, any get a copy of Artists & Galleries by the Fine Art Trade Guild.

ArtSnark said...

Wish I had some magic words for you. I'm just a lowly groupie who thinks your work is wonderful! So sending lots of good thoughts your way.

You've successfully voiced the inner workings of many many artists here. It can be a challenging juggling work, art, family & and all the ideas rattling around, waiting to be born.

Keep on keeping on...Your pieces are unique & fabulous! The new title banner looks great too

. c h o k l i t . said...

Hooray for you for opening up the thought process, at least! I am also one who is torn about being a weekend creator. Part of me is envious of those artists I see who are free to spend all their time being creative, and part of me thinks I might drive myself mad, and stop enjoying the creating, if I had to try to make a living from it. But your work is amazing, and I'm sure whatever path you choose, you'll be successful...

Good luck!

Art By MAR said...

It is a good idea to plan it all out before taking the plunge. Your work is fantastic by the way!

Anna Lloyd said...

I hope you can do what you love full time soon!I love your otherworldly style. I've gone through many similar thoughts, but I've decided I'm terrible at the business side of things and I don't like working to other peoples direction. I might find my niche someday.

Rima said...

Very interesting and encouraging to hear your thoughts on this matter Lindsey :)
You know you come across so much more organised and "proper" than you describe. I am chuffed to learn there are others like me who do not plan AT ALL.. and drift.. yes DRIFT!
I have always drifted, it gets on everyone's nerves. I do my work in my own time and it gets done eventually! I have always been stubborn about doing jobs that I like, so even when I was working I wasn't hating it. I did find it impossible tho to be as disciplined on a weekend as you are.. I would just be exhausted!
I am very happy to be making a living from my art now .. but it is only a bare living.. I mean, by the end of the week we are literally gathering 20p pieces to buy some milk, and then if the rain comes on the saturday, which as you know it usually does here, we're scuppered for selling pictures in town.. and I have to pay by cheque for the coal and hope I might have sold a print or two by the time they cash it!!
Savings?! Ha!
We hope that on wheels we'll need less and so be a little less skint.. no letterboxes for bills to come thru you see!
Anyway, stop babbling Rima..
Hope you come out of your fug happily.. You make brilliant work :)

Marcyanna said...

Thank you for sharing! I think more artists than not go through exactly what you are going through.

I started my blog and etsy store just to hold myself a little more accountable to being more organized, pro-active and productive. Although not perfect, it has definitely helped me. Right now I have a part time job but did try "to make a go" of it several years back in the local gallery scene. I was showing quite a bit but not selling. I have since realized that the organization and discipline is even more important if you don't have a "just for money" job. Without the structure the days just seem to "drift" away that much more easily.

Best wishes to you in finding what will work for you! Keep it up... I just love your work!

Showpony said...

perhaps you could try a half-way-house sort of solution and find out if you could do your job part time?
This might help you decide, or it'll piss of your boss so much you'll be left with no other option but to do your art full time - which by the way I think you should, defo!


You can do it! I am always amazed and inspired by how productive you are since you have a full time job!

SELF MASTERY is the key too SUCCESS! I need to organize my life, eat better, change my erratic sleeping habits, ect... I can't seem to get anything done and make far too many excuses for myself! Self-discipline is really challenging! When you don't have a boss to answer to it's easy to get sidetracked!

I think keeping a journal is important. And posting little notes around the house with postive affirmations is always motivating!

You can do it!!! This was a very inspiring post! You know once you start talking about something the ball is rolling. It will be empowering to archive your lifestyle changes here on your blog. You can track your growth and progress!

pen and paper said...

I've read this post a few times now, and I feel like I have things I want to say in response but I want to mull it over for a few days to articulate myself properly. In any event, being more or less in the same boat, this post made me think a lot.

giadrosich said...

There is a time and place for everything, as the saying goes. The problem, of course, is complacency, interwoven with wild bouts of mania.

I would like to write something extremely wise, like "Who we are dictates what we are, and what we are precludes what we will become," but I if I did, it would sound not only pompous but would be extremely self-evident after reading it.

So in the end, I'll just write "Keep creating. You do some wonderful things!"

littlerobot said...

Marceline - do you have thoughts on how to make it with negative money? x

Paola, I have to thank you for your persistence with me even when i'm wilfully shooting myself in my own foot :) I agree with you that putting these thoughts out into the real world is making strange subtle differences in my life. 60lb's! Are you kidding? That's great! I am indeed going to get the book you've suggested

artsnark, thanks for the encouragement, it's good to know a body is not alone with these thoughts!

chocklit, I just got lost on your blog for about 3 hours! How cool do you guys look!? I liek the music too! You're right too, there's a possible pin in the concept of having all the time in the world to create...You just never know whether you might regret what you wish for.

atbymar, thanks!

Anna, This is the about art becoming a business...You know I actually read the bussiness section of the paper the other day for the first time ever....i'm not sure if that's good? :)

Rima, I know! Honestly I do, it's not easy peasy at all. But I have to tell you that chatting to you and seeing the way you work and the way you've worked your life around it has really inspired me to think about an alternative to the way I live and work. Heh so you're partly to blame for all this :)

Marcyanna, you're right... having a lot of free time doesn't neccesarily increase productivity or organisational skills....Working part-time is something i'd prefer to be honest. I do need some kind of regularity I think

Emma, well, I have thought about this but 2 things really - realistically I haven't been with them that long, so I don't want to cause problems for them so early on unil i'm sure of what i'm doing, and secondly I don't know many people or any in fact who work part-time at it (graphic design)....After a bit of time though I might see because that would atcually be the perfect solution at this point.

Lavona, thanks so much! I am going to try to keep this idea alive, in a funny way as I said earlier just posting about it has started some transformation. We'll see!

Pen 'n Paper....Well, i'd love to hear what you're thinking - I didn't realise you were having similar thoughts actually - if you think of anything genius, you'll let me know right? :)

Giadrosich, thanks! Wow, it's been an age - Hehe, well the quote is very good - and not pompous at all.

Lucy said...

This is a topic I struggle with as well. I make a very decent living doing a job I don't really love but I love what it affords me, however I dream of creating full time and actually being comfortable doing it...which I know is not something I can just jump off the bridge without a lot of planning and organizing.

One thing that has helped me formulate my game plan (or helping me) is that I've joined forces with several local artist and we are moving through Alyson Stanfield's Artbiz Salon series-basically it's a 9 wk session where you learn to define yourself, your art, your marketing plan, pricing--and other various strategies necessary to balance the creative side of art and the business side. She also has a good book called, "I'd Rather Be in the Studio" which addresses these same areas more in depth.

Definitely check it out--it may help you in your focus!

paolability said...

The last comment reminded me of how textile designer, Lara Cameron, has recently made the transition of web site designer with part-time Etsy shop to a part-owner of a textile-printing studio with other artists.

I've been following her personal blog and, since July, also her Ink & Spindle blog which has been describing the creation of the studio.

Here's the first announcement.

I met her in London last year when she was over from Australia. Let me know if you'd like an introduction because she might be able to give you some pointers on striking out as a full-time artist.

Erin said...

i have now reread this for about the fortieth time. I was wondering if you had come to any grand conclusion? Having the workday revolve around one's art sounds so pleasurable to me.

btw, I'm not sure if you ever got my email, but I have something for you that I thought you might like. It is a little thank you for the GORGEOUS headband & prints that I won in your giveaway. I couldn't read your return address on the package you sent them in, so could you please email it to me?
emkobie (at)

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