Thank you but I have a job

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.

Watch me.

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.

2012 Stevens Point Festival of Arts where I was given an "Award of Excellence" for my body of work.

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.

I have nearly 320 hours in this painting and worked on it over a year.

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.

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35 thoughts on “Thank you but I have a job

  1. Oh, my dear new friend! I’ve walked in your shoes, and eventually your skin will get so tough that negative criticism won’t matter. Just smile and hold your tongue when someone openly judges you. Unfortunately, words spoken can never be taken back, and we’re haunted by the memories of those who tried to beat us down.

    Artists are wired differently, and a large percentage of people will never understand us! Thankfully we’re unique and follow a strong drive that separates us from the masses. Most are ultra sensitive, and that sensitivity is a gift and sometimes a curse. I rejoice that I am ‘different.’

    The judge sounds like a cruel and insensitive person. Hang in there.
    Z

    • Hi Lisa!
      Thank you for your note. It’s really good to connect with others that can relate to our experiences. While I think this may be something all artists may go through I think it is particularly challenging for women with children. You do give me strength to keep on going. You are right about the sensitivities and I too celebrate the fact that I am different.

      Chrissy

  2. I also have been there and at times still there, my family sibling, parents never thought getting and MFA had any merit or has any meaning. I am glad you wrote this and being angry is much better than crying. Like Z you have to have a tought skin, we all get one. We all just keep doing what we love and too bad the judge is ignorant. She should talk to your clients, professors, and others who you have encountered in your art career so far she would see you are a professional practicing your craft.
    So sorry for this event. Keep going and Prove them all ignorant!

    • Thank you Cathy for bringing me hope and power. I hope I have done the same for you, we have power in numbers and giving each other strength. Yes, my business was totally ignored and dismissed by the judge and others in the room that day. I am proud to say that while I was on the stand I announced “I believe in me” Nobody in that room was going to put me in the box. I am lucky to have found a partner and those in my life that do love and support what I do.

  3. Chrissy…as a family member and friend, what you do is a job as well as a GIFT!! As an owner of an original painting, I treasure it!!! I took great care in getting it properly framed to preserve it for years to come. I have viewed your other many paintings and wish i could purchase them all!!! People who critisize and judge you and what you do is truely jelous and ignorant!!!! Truth is you have succeeded in your dreams and am very successful at it, and those that judge and hate are truely jelous, most likely because they have yet to fulfill thier dreams. I will most certainly keep my eyes and ears open for anything to turn your way. As for that judge and attorney, I would check and see if you might have a slader or defimation of character suit. Remember all that was said is on record…they have no chance to deny it….it is just horrible that members of the law think they have a right…to JUDGE one person personnally. Love You and stand tall and PROUD!!!

  4. Anyone who knows and loves you and your work knows how wonderfully talented and driven you are. If I have added to any of your hurt feelings, I am sorry. Concern for you isn’t doubting your ability. For my part I just want you and the boys to be happy, safe, and secure. Your art is you and you are your art. They can’t be separated, it is a gift.

  5. Yea I noticed that whenever someone is in the creative field, paying them for their efforts or for some reason not required. Be it graphic design, or illustration. I don’t comprehend why. Maybe I failed to notice that artists don’t need food to survive?
    For example I was asked to make an insignia painting for the office where I work, so I digitally painted it (There is a whole other layer of bias when it comes to digital painting. I didn’t use any photos, I paint by hand by using an eletronic brush on top of my Wacom Cintiq monitor. All that happens is that I avoid getting dirty with oil paints) , and also carried out all the printing and framing (with their cash). The money fof the printing was infinite and was coming out of the company account. But when it came time to reward me, I got a “it looks great” and apparently I am going to be taken to a lunch at a not-really so fancy place called Baton Rouge. Which will also never happen anyway. Had I been doing accounting or whatever, I would have been paid.

    I know this because I graduated with a business degree, which was a breeze. Painting on the other hand, is far from. Any idiot can learn accounting, trust me.
    http://www.pavelsokov.com

    • Pavel your work is amazing. They do not deserve to hang it. How about you say someone wishes to buy it so they can have a copy but the original must go?! lol just kidding but it is galling eh?

    • Yes Pavel,
      I see you have experienced some of this as well. I think i am going with the advise of Steven as quoted above
      “Friend, Once you are convinced of your value, the opinion of others will follow.”

  6. Very well said I am am artist as well . I was told in fourth grad that if I spent half as much time doing my work as I did drawing on it I mite get some ware in life. my fifth grad teacher said I cheated on my report because the image I made for it was too good and I was not going to pass because of it and was told by the middil school art teacher that there was no way I did some of the work I turned in because it was to good. So I new at that time I was an artist and all wise would be.I was blessed to be able to study under mary petis and was able to learn what I wanted rather then what the education system wanted..I know what it’s like. I find it amazing when the same people that judge you and say bad things about you ,see you’r work or see you working and are speechless how perfect the work is or how as a artist can create art that has life spirt and soul. I am very blessed to be an artist ..Why should I fit in when I was born to be different .It’s the people like us that make life a better place and create what is not here and in view..Thanks for sharing … Derek Lusche

    • Hi Derek,
      Thank you for taking the time to respond to my blog post. I am very familiar with Mary Pettis and her work. I am so happy you were able to paint with such a talented and gifted artist. Keep on creating my friend!

      Chrissy

  7. “Bravo, Christine!”
    As an art educator in the public school system for 31 years, I was always fighting for the rights of young artist talents and individual expressions (not the learn a media technique so well “to fit in a category”).
    Also so many parents would recognize their childs talent and passion for “art” ; however, they made reference to the child getting a real job or profession.
    An artist may wear lots of hats, but they need to be true to themselves (believe in themselves and their passion), and grow within our society.
    “Meaningful Art Work” is my passion, whatever the media, medium, and technique.
    You are inspiring me, Christine! Keep posting.

  8. Chrissy, you’re a good painter, why trivialise yourself w/ those who don’t understand art? no use! you don’t need their opinions, do you? don’t waste your time on those who don’t count bec’ they don’t matter and use your time instead to produce more arts!!

  9. From a painter myself…
    It sounds like you have been through a lot based on your blog. However, i can understand the financial struggles many of us face in this {not so friendly economy| I have been a struggling painter for the last 2 years, have gone through forclosure, bankrupcy, marital separation, and depression. Sorry for the rant…here is my question for you. Are you in a position where you are supporting yourself with your career so that the haters will get off your ass?

  10. I would say: “I am a ‘-Professional- Artist’. I make between [$x and $y] a year. I am on the road z number of days/weeks selling my work. Is there something about this information you do not understand?” They will reply: ‘Oh, sorry.” or “[some kind of bullshit].” Spend some time with the first and ease yourself away from the latter.

    Would that I had the intellectual/emotional fortitude to do what you do. I do my painting and photos and send some jpegs here or there and daydream a lot. Carry on!!

  11. I have a degree in Mathematics and Physical Oceanography, it was really hard and even harder because I have a number blindness due to dyspraxia. I am a gifted sculptor, I am so lucky!! I work earning very little as a sculptor and a little more as a private tutor of Math etc. They are equally hard. Even though I am naturally talented at sculpture and art it requires total dedication a very thick skin and loads of extra marketing, bookeeping etc.I just don’t stop working. I am ill in bed today but using it to network and do research!

    Your attorney is crap if they didn’t pull the judge up, you could provide books after all, I bet his would be a mess if there at all!? All sounds a littler sexist to me too.

    Fantastic post which I have shared. I will be posting a link to this blog on mine and willeven go as far as to post about this. Thank you for sharing your experience and writing about it so well. Good luck, you don’t need it :)x

  12. Great post, Chrissy. This American “real job” paradigm has a thick candy shell needing constant shattering. The public can’t stand to see someone enjoy their work, it makes them jealous. Rejecting the industries people enjoy working makes getting up and going to their own dreaded day job easier. Personally, I feel like a traitor for being bi-vocational, but perhaps someone will want to collect my work someday!

  13. Christine- Kudos to you for staying the course, holding that place for yourself where you ARE successful and are doing exactly what your heart and soul deeply desire. I’ve been an artist all my adult life- over 35 years owning an illustration / design studio and now am “gainfully employed as a fine artist / muralist. Wayne Dyer had a wonderful story reinforcing the FACT we cannot worry for a second what others think of us- holding to that axiom- “What other people think of me is none of my business.” Just days after the release of one of his best selling books he received two letters in the mail- the first gushing with praise and expounding on the book had changed their entire life’s outlook and the joy the writer had for moving forward. The next a sour dour excoriating screed on how dare Mr Dyer pretend to be a writer much less anyone who had anything worthy to relate to others. He chuckled a bit made a copy of each of the letters and sent them to the OTHER person. On each he wrote “You’re probably right.” How could he, for a SECOND, base any thought of who he was in the opinion of EITHER of these people. Two such extraordinarily opposing opinions would of course make you schizophrenic if you were to even remotely believe there was anything to be seriously taken from them. His thought is you arrive at that place inside of yourself where you KNOW who you are and the worthiness of what you Do and BE and then pay no heed to either the terrible things others say about you or- and this is the harder piece! – the GOOD things people say. Those opinions rest TOTALLY in the mind of someone else. They don’t truly concern you. ( Me, I just totally ignore the BAD, because I feel very confident in where I am and WHO I am- but I DO often bend a bit of an attentive ear when someone says something REALLY good! ) I belong to a wonderful critique group and those people I listen to. All I’d want to say is keep the faith in yourself and what you are creating – which in my humble opinion is WONDERFUL work- and totally tune out ( as best you can and practice makes perfect ) anything anyone says that differs from that.

    Paint on!
    Shawn

  14. Loved your post!

    I have noticed that there is something about the word “artist” that seems to make people a little nutty. I hear the term applied to small children who fling food around and to youngsters who enjoy drawing, and yet there are those who seem to think it somehow grandiose for an adult (with an advanced degree in art, and who regularly spends her days making art) to refer to herself as an artist. If I trained as a plumber, then spent my days installing and repairing plumbing systems, no one would think it a mark of conceit to refer to myself as a plumber. But the notion that what we do is actually work rather than self-indulgent play doesn’t register with a lot of people.

    I don’t have any answers, other than to remember not to unwittingly contribute to the misconception by undervaluing my own work or dismissing my efforts. Yes, it is fun at times, just as it is for an athlete, salesman, musician or engineer when the work is going well and the time and effort they put into developing their skills is being rewarded.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. It’s hard enough to dismiss this way of thinking from society at large, but what you had to go through in that courtroom really, really STINKS!

    • Thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. It sounds like you have already been through this. Perhaps they should prepare us in college for the way society views us, LOL. Yes, my court room experience was humiliating but my whole divorce was based around it so I guess I was a little prepared. It’s really too bad because as an artist, I was able to stay at home with my twins and bring them up myself. I think that is a beautiful gift. The judge decided being a stay at home mom and artist were both unworthy. It’s a good thing I KNOW better.

      Chrissy

  15. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  16. Pingback: “Very Inspiring Blogger” « Zeebra Designs & Destinations

  17. I hear you my friend! I really do hear you and totally agree! You are not alone and we just have to carry on educating the ignorant that what we do is NOT a hobby!

    All the best in your chosen profession my dear!
    Shalini

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