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  • Writer's pictureEmily Brantley

So I Took A Day Job

So I took a day job.

The very sound of it rankles a little and could be interpreted as the artist’s ever-dreaded “failure.” I had to find outside work. I didn’t want to find supplementary income—I wanted to be appreciated and rewarded for the hard work and the hours I put in to my craft. The truth of the situation, however, is that most artists will need outside income, at least initially, as they build their career. It can be a blow to pride, especially to someone as optimistic as myself (How can I help but succeed and flourish as an artist? Surely EVERYONE will want to buy my paintings for lots of money!). Reality can be a bit sobering.

Don’t get me wrong—I made some money! But the learning curve of the first year of working as an artist is HUGE and left less time for producing art than I had anticipated and ended up leaving me in the red. Learning how to enter shows, that I need to ALWAYS install D-rings and a wire on the back of my piece or be laughed at, improving my technique, learning the business side, marketing, making sure I was running a legal small business… it all felt like an avalanche of “stuff” that suffocated me from the actual spirit of what I was trying to do: Paint!

The flexibility of my schedule and pursuit of a career I loved filled my happiness reserve to brim full, but it took a while to arrive at a place where I could focus more on creating and less on the set-up/business end. I got into great shows with other amazing artists and was starting to really feel that I had my finger on the pulse of South Bay art. However, finding what I considered relative success for a first year as a professional artist was not translating well, financially. In other words, I was running out of money.

THE PROBLEM: I have no money.

SOLUTION: Get a job.

At the beginning of the year, I started looking for potential part-time work. Today, I am in my fifth week working as a full-time Art Buyer for a home shopping network TV show that sells fine art. The job came unexpectedly, and I was working within a week of my interview. I’m so grateful to my employers who understood that creating art is still important to me, and who allowed me to work four 10-hour days so that I might still have at least one day during the week to work on my art. While I was looking initially for part-time work, finding a job in my field, close to home, and that allowed me time for art was too good to pass up!

Adjusting is rough. I can no longer work in my pajamas, sing at the top of my lungs, and I now have coworkers to potentially judge me if they were to see me down an entire bag of cheddar popcorn in one sitting. But a steady paycheck is a huge blessing and I find myself enjoying the work despite missing the opportunity to paint more.

For my fellow artists out there working part-time, full-time, pursuing your craft late at night, on weekends, sacrificing a night out with friends to complete a project, I salute you! It’s a labor of love, and if you really love it, you make the time. Working full time while trying to maintain an art life is hard, but I remind myself that:

1) Working full-time NOW doesn’t have to mean FOREVER.

2) ART can be made ANYTIME and ANYWHERE.

We will stick out the tough times and do what we need to do to get by, and we will keep working hard pursuing the cultivation of our craft! For a few lucky ones, it will translate into full-time work. Maybe I will get there, maybe I won’t, but I sure am enjoying this journey.

Artfully, Emily

I’ll leave you with a quotation from Frieda Kahlo which strikes a chord with the soul of any artist:

“I paint because I have to.” ~Frieda Kahlo

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