A few years back, going through the airport checkpoint to re-enter Australia after overseas travel, the lady who checked my passport and travel info slip (or whatever they are called) noticed I had written “Artist” as my occupation. She looked at me and said “oh, you are so lucky to be an artist”. It took my by surprise, usually these airport officials are pretty stoic and serious, but this lady commented on my life and state of fortune.
It made me contemplate – Am I lucky to be an artist?
I remember thinking – oh lady, you should know what it’s really like, it’s not as glamours as you think! She is not the first one on my path to make similar comments about my so called ‘luckiness’ to be an artist, and it’s always thrown me a bit when people have this idea that being an artist is all bliss and joy. Lucky to be an artist – I’m not sure I see it that way.
Photos from my travels to Denmark 2018
Don’t get me wrong – I love being an artist (most of the time) and I am indeed fortunate to be able to pursue my calling. But I don’t know if I think I’m lucky as such. There has been many times throughout the years where I have thought to myself – I wish I was a banker, happy to work 9-5 in a stable predictable life. Sorry, bankers, I don’t mean to make your profession or life sound boring or the like, this is based on my occasional desire for stability and predictability projected onto you, so take this comment likely ok!
I have questioned the ‘choice’ to be an artist thousands of times throughout my life!
It wasn’t until I realised it wasn’t actually a choice being an artist, that I stopped questioning it. Yes I choose to pursue it, work hard at it and take responsibility for the desire to create, but I didn’t choose to BE an artist. I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s just how I was born, with an artist’s software already installed.
That said, that software is obviously never fully developed or complete – so there is a LOT of work involved owning this particular software. And yes, I could choose to ignore it, sure (oh yes, I’ve tried that many times) but all that it leads to is misery. And that doesn’t serve the world, does it now. If I’m miserable (because I am born to create, but ignoring my assigned job), then the world around me will be impacted by my misery as well. And no, not interested in spreading more misery in the world, I’m interested in listening to my inner guidance, take responsibility for the path and ‘software’ I have been given and do the best I can with it. That’s it.
Photos from my travels to Denmark 2018
I don’t know what the long term outcome will be, if I’m ever going to finish another painting or create a new body of print-making works. But what I do know, is that I am committed to showing up and doing the work that it takes.
And as for being ‘lucky’ – Yes I feel lucky that I have the ability to create and spread joy and connect through art, absolutely. I’m not sure I feel so lucky about the enormous amount of practical and admin jobs that are involved in being an artist and run a business. But is is a necessary part of building a career in the arts. And let me tell you – it is a lot of work.
What many people perceive when they say ‘oh you are so lucky to be an artist’ is the blissful image of the artist creating beautiful artworks in their studio. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and in your break you enjoy a fresh pot of herbal tea and home-made cake. Because your life is easy, you have all the time in the world and you can simply immerse yourself in your art practice with nothing else to worry about, that’s the life of an artist.
The reality however, includes much more that blissful hours in the studio. Those hours are not always blissful by the way – but I will tell you more about that another time to give you a realistic insight.
In addition to the creative practice of creating artworks, being an artist also involves writing exhibition applications (and planning them), photographing your work and retouching it for both online and print use, building your website and keeping it up to date, building an online shop (this took me about 3-4 years to get around to) and keeping it updated, manage enquiries, sales, deliveries and upload new work. Then there is taking your work to the framer (often a half day exercise), research delivery options, package up artworks, planning your next exhibition and entering art prizes (that is such a huge job! And if you can’t handle rejection, either get good at it fast or avoid this path as an artist, just saying).
Look, the list goes on an on and on. This is just part of the job being an artist.
I am totally ok with that, I just wanted to point out that ‘lucky’ is a bit superficial in my eyes. I am much more interested in people seeing the realistic picture of what it actually takes to be an artist.
So if you think I’m lucky to be an artist – yes I think so too and I am super grateful and excited about it. But what is a more realistic statement I reckon is that I am committed to being an artist, with all it takes – and that’s a lot of persistence, hard word and dedication. So maybe a better way to word it could be something like…
“You are an artist – I am in awe of your dedication, you are no doubt a hard worker taking your calling to create seriously. Thank you for bringing joy and connection into the world by honouring your creative soul”
You are welcome :o)