Let’s clear up a few details so there is no confusion: I have a job.
More specifically I have a business. Technically, I’ve had a business for nearly a decade. Of course, because my business involves creating art people assume it is simply a hobby.
Which brings me here.
I’m angry about being judged and am tired of defending my life to well-meaning loving people, well-meaning ignorant people and a few not so well-meaning haters.
In talking to people about this I’ve discovered something interesting – people have no idea what I – or most successful artists – actually do. So in as few words as possible, let me tell you about my business.
I am an award-winning, fine artist creating original oil paintings, custom murals, private commissions and fine art prints with Americana and vintage themes. I travel across the country profitably selling my art at juried art shows where it has been recognized and rewarded by knowledgable experts.
I hang my artwork at well established professional galleries. I teach painting classes, art camps and mentor other painters.
I have an audience that will buy my art because it is original, authentic and well-done. I am talented.
And for the first time in my life I am fully committed to my Vision.
I’ve decided to write about this because my partner and friend pointed out that I sound like I’m apologizing when I talk about my business. That when confronted with the “When are you going to get a job?” comment there is a hint of embarrassment and shame in my response.
And he is right. I’ve been trained.
In talking to other friends that have a business that revolves around creating something called “art” and reading blogs and essays I’ve discovered I’m not alone.
Here is the irony.
If I spend my day selling cars at a dealership most people would say, “Chrissy? She has a job selling cars.” If I spend my day cleaning houses they might say, “She is a housecleaner.” If I left my studio, drove to a customer’s house and painted the siding I would have a job as a housepainter. If I spent my day at home coding medical records people would consider that a job.
Apparently, if I was employed at Menard’s making minimum wage that is a job too.
But because I work fifty to sixty hours per week on my business creating something at home called “art” it isn’t considered a job.
The truth is there is an established, recognized market for my paintings. It is simply a question of finding the right mix and taking the actions to support my business. I manage my accounting, pay taxes, market and promote my artwork, network with other art professionals, enter into juried art shows, enter into competitions, work with professional well established art galleries and give art lessons.
I find the double standard confusing at times.
How this plays out for people is different for different people.
Let me give you a couple examples of how this actually plays out in my life.
Among other failings, my ex-dear husband is a failure as a business owner. For nearly, three years he has forced me and my children into difficult financial situations, ran up my credit cards, ruined my excellent credit rating and avoided any real work.
Oh, and he is also a painter except his “canvas” is the inside and outside of houses. He is a housepainter.
Last week, during court, the judge suggested I get a “real job.” Apparently, the judge did not consider being a mother and raising our children a real job. I painted when time allowed, ran art camps and traveled 8 to 9 weekends per year for my business.
However, the judge never confronted my ex about his unwillingness and inability to support his family with his job. He never suggested, “Sir, perhaps you need to get a real job because it is obvious what you are doing is not working.” The judge never called him out even though as the family’s breadwinner he wasn’t winning or bringing home the bread.
My ex’s lawyer mocked my profession.
As I sat in the witness stand she said, “being an artist was nothing but a pipe dream,” and that I “would never be successful”. She then compared what I do to selling “pink fuzzy bunnies“.
Of course, it was pointed out to me by my partner that there are some incredibly successful companies that made a business out of selling fuzzy animals including Amazon, Webkinz and Vermont Bear Company.
However, more to the point, this isn’t the first slap in the face I received as business owner and painter.
Really the insults began while my boys were just starting school. I can’t count how many times I have been asked to come and volunteer my time or my donate my art to a fundraiser.
Just because I work from home in my studio. Would they ask another parent to come in as often if they worked under someone else’s roof? Would they ask a dealership to simply donate a car?
My business is no different than pedaling cars, insurance, bicycles or dish washers. The only real difference is that I am making it myself instead of in some plant in China or bank on Wall St.
Some people collect cars, tools, electronics, music, stuffed pink bunnies or Star Wars action figures.
Other people collect art.
What I’ve discovered is that people want and do collect my art.
To all the well-meaning people that love me, if you really want to be helpful, think about how you can make my business more successful through referrals to art collectors, interior decorators and gallery owners. When a friend is talking about painting a room, doing a mural or having a portrait completed give them my name and email me an introduction.
For the well-meaning but ignorant people stop by my studio or visit me at an art show and learn more about what I do. I love talking about my business and my Vision.
For the haters? Well, haters are gonna hate. I’ll ignore them and just focus on living well.