I do what I love for a living. I get to travel to places I never thought I would go, meet people I never thought I would get to meet, and do things I only ever thought were some distant chance for me to do. It's awesome - I really do understand the phrase "living the dream", and feel extremely fortunate, because I truly am.
I realized the other day that, for people who do not work for themselves, the basic day to day of what self-employed artists do is probably a mystery. I've talked to enough people to know that it's a widespread belief that my life is spent in a fantastical, booze-fueled creative trance, broken up by long bouts of daydreaming, navel-gazing, and schmoozing with other artists.
So the next time you wonder of your favorite artist, "why don't they make more work?", or "why do they only have occasional sales?", or "why is artwork so expensive?", or "why don't they answer my email/facebook comment/tweet?", this may shed some light.
In an average week, these are the things that need to be done - they have little to nothing to do with actually sitting down and making work, yet they are absolutely part of my job.
• answering/drafting business emails (projects, clients, galleries)
• sourcing new supplies
• ordering supplies
• driving around to purchase local supplies
• tracking finances (receipts, subscriptions, materials costs)
• daily promotion (facebook, blog, instagram, twitter, forum, website)
• graphic design for hang tags, web images, packaging, etc
• preparing materials (dyeing fabric, conditioning clay, painting eyes)
• product photography
• digital photo editing
• studio maintenance and cleaning
• travel planning
After I do all of those things (and after actually sculpting, painting, sewing, and finishing work), I can attend to "everyday maintenance", like doing the dishes, cleaning my apartment/studio, running errands, paying bills, and clipping my toenails.
Now, my goal in this is not to say "waaa, poor me, I work so hard!". Because I love my job. I am a happier person now than I ever was when I was making $30k+ more, working for someone else. My goal is simply to point out that, despite the carefully curated glimpses that artists give us into their daily lives, their lives are vastly more mundane, more complicated, and more stressful than you may assume, because they have to do everything themselves. My job = my life. My business name is MY name. I live, cook, sleep, and bathe in my studio. I work around the clock. I have a hard time letting go to socialize, because when I am not working here, I feel extremely guilty that I am taking time away from my art.
I feel so very fortunate that I am able to make my life work this way, and that I am able to bring a sense of joy and wonder into the lives of others - which is something I truly love to do. But it does come with certain kinds of sacrifice. But if you ask any artist who is carving their own path in the rock - it's really difficult, but worth it entirely, to be the author of your own employment.
It's not for everyone, and sometimes, I'm frankly surprised that it's something I can handle. But I don't want to do it any other way. I am always humbled that folks will spend the energy to find me and follow my art, and wait so patiently for the few works that take so long for me to create. I'll never take it for granted, and it's something that pushes me onward, when little else will.