Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So...What Do You Do For A Living?

It should surprise no one that I love art.  I enjoy talking about art.  I will chat with anyone about painting, the art scene-- even the onerous stuff like art marketing.  What I don't like to talk about is my art.  As a reader of this blog, you might notice that on occasion, along with my usual blather, I will post a painting of mine.  I might talk about how I did it, or what inspired me to do it, but I don't often tell you what I think of it.  The reason is simple:  I feel a painting has to speak for itself.  It is what it is.  As soon as you view my painting, you will form an opinion of it that no words of mine will change.  You would either agree, or not.  

When I'm out in public, I don't talk much about my painting or my vocation, only to answer the question, "What do you do for a living?" with the reply, "I'm an oil painter".  That is usually followed by murmurs of appreciation.  "Oh, my-- you paint all day.  How nice!"  Quite often, the follow up question is, "Does your wife work?"  I'm an honest guy.  I tell the truth.  So I say, "Yes she does".  That does it right there.

"Oh.... well then... You don't really make a living at art then..."

In the minds of the questioner, I have gone from Professional Artist to Un-Employed Wannabee.

Wanna know a little secret?  I punched a clock for many years before I painted full time.  My wife worked too back then.  We needed two incomes to help pay the mortgage and feed the kids.  Did that mean I wasn't really working?  That I didn't make a living at my job?

These days, I leave my house every morning to go to my studio and work on my art.  When I have a painting done, it goes to one of the galleries that represent me.  Then I hope for the best, and work on more paintings.  So does that make me an amateur if weeks go by without a sale, and a pro only when one sells?

Like I said, I'm an honest guy;  I have had times as a painter when paintings flew off the walls, and money was coming in at a steady pace.   I will also freely admit that there have been occasions when times where tight enough for me to go pick up a job.  Back in the day, I would often work two jobs when I needed to. But if I do that now, is it now my vocation, or am I moonlighting?  Does it push me back to wannabee status? 

We all know that there are only a damn few artists (And I will wager that like me, you're not one either) who know that they will quickly sell whatever they produce.  The rest of us?  We soldier on.  Look, painting is hard enough without worrying about your status as an artist.  It shouldn't make a damn bit of difference whether you are rich or starving.  The only thing I personally care about is making the best painting I can produce.  It isn't what I do for a living--

It's what I do for life.




Kay said...

wow..well said.

Susan Roux said...

Do for life? Yes, I suppose it's much like a prison sentence. You know you're an artist when every grain of your fabric pushes you to spend a foolish amount of hours pushing a brush around and no amount of money received or not makes any bit of difference about that passion that bubbles insanely inside, so much so, that it keeps you awake, still painting in your head.

Went to bed at 11 last night, didn't fall asleep till 4 this morning... I must require more hours of painting.

Don't let the suits intimidate you. What do they know about art anyway?

Blockhorse said...

I am laughing a little because I am reminded of a Tee Shirt I once saw... it said JOE GREEN FOR MAYOR, Joe's campaign slogan, "I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT".

I guess this is your approach to selling art too. I believe in educating my clients. I guess we all have dirrernt styles...but how do you sell your art if you DO NOT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. and by the way, JOE GREEN never did become a mayor.

Kevin Mizner said...

Hi Blockhorse--if that's your real name...

Thanks for writing. Actually, the circumstances dictate what I say about my art. In the check-out line at the store, not so much. In a gallery-- I'll talk your head off. I'll go on about why, where and how I painted a piece to an interested patron. What I WON'T say is something like, "See how well I painted that sky? And I think my greens are lovely, too!" if you get my drift...

Sheila Vaughan said...

Kevin - just surfing (when i should be painting). Yep, you said it. It's the why of it, what spurs us on to the next one and the one after that. It's definitely little to do with money or prestige. I always say if you were marooned on a desert island with little hope of ever getting off it, would you still make art (given by some miracle you had the materials). Totally agree also with your attitude to self praise. It's one thing that really irks me and i arrogantly thought it was cause I was a Brit, lol !