All in a Day’s Work- the Artist’s Life
For an artist, some might think, life is but a dream.
We have unlimited time playing in the studio, while everyone else does real work, and spend the rest of the time lollygagging on the sofa contemplating the meaning of life. And it gets even better- all those fabulous events hobnobbing with celebrities and the beautiful people, sipping chic wines.
I won’t lie- it does have its moments!
But here’s what our real work life looks like.
Some of these tasks are fun, rewarding, profound and life enriching. Some are tedious, maddening, thankless, difficult, and frustrating.
- Pick up and delivery.
It’s fantastic to have many paintings in all kinds of venues, shows, and events, and constant exhibition is what we aim for. This usually means making numerous trips per week to drop off or pick up unsold artwork. Many of us use public transit, so if there are numerous pieces it might mean multiple trips for one pick up.
- Shipping and handling.
It’s a thrill when you have an order and it needs to be shipped, not delivered. Not only is it a sale, but it usually means someone out of town has bought the item and broadening our reach is key to growth. So we’re happy to do this task- but it is time consuming to package artwork up according to insurance requirements, to make sure it gets there safe. A medium sized piece can take a good hour, and building a wooden crate can take several.
- Spreadsheet maintenance/ inventory management.
Listing titles, measurements, media, dates, and tracking whereabouts takes a surprising amount of time. This info is also needed for labels and for curators and for proposals and submissions, so it’s a task we have to do a lot. For many artists like myself who struggle with ADD, the nitty-gritty nature of this is torture. There’s a reason I couldn’t be a bookkeeper like my sister! But after about eight years, it finally started to become second nature and the sizes and how to state them began to make sense.
- Proposals, submissions, entries, grant applications, etc.
Preparing a submission for a show or a proposal or grant application can take anywhere between 15 minutes and several months. All require thought, planning, organization, and some sales pitching. It’s competitive, so just “getting it done” is a waste of time- for each one we do, it has to really shine.
Writing letters, thank yous, invitations, and ads; handing out postcards; letting clients and friends know about events or news or blog updates; developing marketing materials and a web presence.
- Social media.
This ties in with marketing, but it’s also networking. Just like you, we love connecting through Facebook and it’s a lot of fun. But it does take time. Between Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter, Linkd In, and Youtube- plus making the content to be shared- it’s my favourite part after the actual making of art. But it takes just as much time as that does, or more.
Networking is part of social media, but the old-fashioned in person variety is necessary, too. This can be a great joy, or very painful, but meeting people, attending invites, and making an effort to get out there is an important part of the game.
- Website maintenance.
We need to keep our websites up to date and functional. This includes our main website, as well as our various shops online, like Etsy, Red Bubble, Zazzle, etc. We need to add our events, remove pieces that sold, update news, etc.
- Painting edges, hanging wire, surfacing.
This is my least favourite task! Once I’m finished an artwork, I’m ready to move on. So that means when show time comes, since I do a lot of small works, I will have 20 pieces I need to eye-hook and wire up, and a lot of surfaces to seal or fix or gloss.
It’s usually a lot of fun to go to a client’s home to see what their space is like, and talk to them about what styles and pieces they like most.
- Studio visits.
Also something I love. Having someone come by to look through our artwork is rewarding. It does mean I have to clean my house and do the dishes.
- Professional development.
Classes, seminars, panels, reading, workshops, journals, magazines, galleries, fairs. In order to grow, we must study, theory, technique, marketing, and art history.
Yes, wine and cheese and art are integral. We need to see what’s going on in various galleries and with other artists, as well as showing up for our own.
- Event planning and preparation.
For even the simplest show, an extraordinary amount of preparation is necessary.
- Making art.
The best part!
Lorette C. Luzajic is an Art Bomb artist, working in collage and mixed media, and photography, as well as a poet and writer. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review: writing and art on art and writing. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.