I’m supposed to be doing an art project. Right now, instead of sitting here typing this to you, I’m supposed to be actually using these pencils, brushes, and maybe some actual gobs of paint, to make something.
Hobbies are an evil thing. When you first start, you wish that someday you’ll get “good” at it, whatever that means. In your own little way, in your own time, maybe somehow, someday, you’ll master it and then, *Shazam* you’ll be able to do it for a living. Everybody will love you, flowers will start to bloom, and the world will suddenly become a beautiful place because you, yes you, mastered something and made “something” out of your hobby. You’ve made it. Go you!
Then reality sets in.
You start to get good at it, yes, but you start to learn all that’s involved. Did you know, for example, that photographers spend a disproportionate amount of time filling in paperwork and doing things like press kits? (Do you really want to spend your time coming up with press kits or wouldn’t you rather be out taking pictures?) Do you know what a hassle customs officials can be at 2 am when you’ve got a mountain of camera gear and can’t find your boarding pass because you’ve been trying to sleep for the last eight hours but some twelve year old punk has been kicking the back of your chair? (Oh, yes, of course, Mr. Rude Customs Official, I can see that now, yes, indeed, it’s in *that* pocket.) Do you know what it’s like to be stuck inside when the light’s good but you’ve got to prepare twenty exhibition quality prints and have them done tomorrow all the while not running out of ink, paper, or supplies?
Everybody wants a piece of you.
You have to do press kits, interviews, send things out, get things back, write all kind of statements and crap about your work, print stuff, frame stuff, mess up people’s hair so they look good, find the right models, hope you have the right batteries, mingle with all of the right people and then, even after all of that, somebody will come up to you and says, “All you do is push a button. I could do that. In fact, my uncles cousins best friends third ex-wife’s cat is a photographer. He has a nice camera too. I think his name is…Ben, what’s his name again?”
Painting, drawing, photography, and art in general are wonderful things when you get to do them as a hobby. When you can pick up that camera, at your leisure, and take the pictures you want to take, photography is the best thing in the world. But then, as you enjoy it, you find something happens. You get good at it. And, when you get good at it, everybody wants you. People nag you for portraits. Bridezillas-to-be swarm around your head. Women with small dogs and lots of Botox chase you. You get hunted to extinction and you don’t even have any photos you like to show for it.
I really hate when it gets to the point where I’ve committed work that I haven’t even made yet. When there are galleries and places and people looking for things I have yet to prepare-pictures not yet taken, paintings not yet painted. Sure, this might sound like a good problem to have and, don’t get me wrong, I’m not really complaining, but it’s a lot of pressure, and it’s not what makes up the fun part of that “hobby” you once took up so many years ago.
Sometimes, I really hate it when everybody wants a piece of me. When everybody wants this or that or needs this work or wants me to send them that. It’s hard. It starts to feel like they’re robbing a bit of my soul.
Then I remember what it feels like when that phone doesn’t ring, when nobody wants anything from you, and you’re all alone, just you, your crayons, and your big dreams. It’s a very quiet place, that is, though I’m not sure the view is all that much better than where I sit today.
Life’s a balance and it seems like it takes a balancing act sometimes, just to keep it in check.
Until next time…
An interesting post. I made a decision long ago to be my own agent…and it is( was) a lot of work. Aside from making the work, I was now in charge of marketing/promotion, sales, installation, press release, and so on. I made work, rented an empty space and created my own gallery for it. I designed, printed, and mailed my own announcements. I turned my own studio into an alternative art gallery (New Work Forum) and mounted exhibits by other independent artists; taking only 20 % AFTER the artist had recouped their own costs in putting the show together. ETC.
Funny story about customs… some years ago, I bought a one-way ticket to El Paso…and this was well before the heightened security of today. I had my ‘gear’ in an army duffel bag. In my case, this was blades and carving knives, saws, hatchet, etc. On my way to the departure gate, I was stopped, taken into a room and interrogated for about 30 minutes. I was suspected of being a drug runner…perhaps on my way into Mexico to harvest pot or peyote with the intention of driving it back into the states. When I told them of the project of building a giant roadrunner out of trash, they thought it was the most crazy story they had ever heard! Sorry for the long comment, but all these things came to mind as I read your post. If you were to make a list of who makes money off of art it would be a long list, and the artist him/her self would be way down on it!
@mythos, thanks for the comment. It was a long post too. I know I kind of just rambled on, but that’s how I was feeling at the time. Sometimes this blog thing is good for getting things off of your chest. Lately, especially, for some reason, I’ve felt very under pressure from it all-like everybody wants a piece of me and, if I’m not careful, nobody will wind up with anything at all.
I’m probably just tired, but it comes out sometimes like that.