I’m a writer of sorts. I find that I need to write my thoughts out when something is troubling me, or when I need to figure something out. This process allows my mind to come up with all kinds of possibilities, and I’ve found that “inner voice” to be quite wise. I never really considered myself a “thinker”, but I suppose that is what I do. It’s a form of meditation, for me.
I’d been thinking about how to increase my income as an artist whilst advancing my art career. (Too many of us artists must rely on a secondary source of income to survive.) When I made the choice to become a career artist, I knew it would be risky, but I also knew I’d regret it if I didn’t give it a go. I was at a point in my life that I could take the risk; I was single, and my kids were grown. I knew I could always go back to the corporate world, if need be. So, I sat down to figure out the process to become a successful artist. It wasn’t rocket science. I wrote out a business plan, and committed to a schedule I could work with. (I needed to find a balance between making art and making money.) I’m fortunate to have a business background, so to build and maintain a website and create promotional material was easy for me.
I thought other artists would benefit from the information I’d gathered, and so a book was born: So You Want to be an Artist!?
It was so satisfying to hold the physical format in my hands, once the first batch of books arrived! I shared the news on an artist forum, thinking they might appreciate it, and hopefully purchase it. Was I surprised when I read the first (and only) string of comments from two guys whom blasted my post as “spam” and then proceeded to knock it down, criticizing the cover, claiming it wasn’t very good art. (I purposely didn’t put art on the cover, because it’s about the business of art – not my art.) They claimed the book was “amateurish”, even though neither of them had read it. Other people then jumped in and said they wouldn’t buy it, thanks to the previous commenters. One noticed it hadn’t been reviewed on Amazon yet and therefore “it must suck”. And on and on it went.
I was mortified and questioned myself as to why I thought it would be such a good idea to write a book. One comment stuck in my mind. Someone had claimed “the last thing he’d do is take advice from a struggling artist” (as I’d described myself). It was then that I had to dig deep to defend myself. I replied that while I was still struggling to be recognized within the “art world” (a very elite circle), I’d found success within my community. My sole income comes from my art, or knowledge of art. (This means I am one of the 10% of Artists who isn’t relying on a secondary job or financial support from a spouse to survive.) I have over twenty years experience in the corporate world – which helped me gain knowledge with marketing strategies, how to manage finances, write grant applications, etc. etc. – all pertinent for an artist wanting to build a successful art career. I rent a commercial studio, where I work and teach (most artists work in their kitchens or a spare bedroom), I’ve been featured on TV, and in the local newspapers – and my business was nominated the past two years as one of the best art studios in the area! I have a steady clientele, my income has increased each year, and I wrote a book! (How many people can say that?!)
I realized that I’d only focused on the struggle. I’ve sacrificed a steady paycheck and a rich social life while building my business the past three years. I’m not even close to where I want to go as an artist. But the experience of having to defend myself taught me a lot: I was courageous to pursue my dream, I’ve made smart choices, I’m disciplined, I work hard, I’m respected and recognized as an artist within my community, my circle is ever-widening, my artwork is selling, and, in all, I have a successful art career!