Pursuing a Career as an Artist: The Good and the Bad
What is an artist? There are many different trades and specializations that fall under the term "artist". Photographers, fine artists, videographers, wood workers and musicians are all completely different categories, but they all share the common bond of creating something. Since there are so many different options, it would be hard to generalize a career path for all of these subjects, so instead, I'll list out some of the awesome parts of being an artist and the not so glamorous bits.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few out of the many things I've dealt with growing up pursuing an art career (I still actively am pursuing one for that matter).
The Good Parts of Being an Artist
I'll start off this look into an artist's life with all the amazing and great things I love about being an artist. Again this is by no means comprehensive, just what popped into my head first.
Freedom and Ability to Express Yourself
Being able to come home and just edit a video or draw and create a new world where I can control how everything reacts is a very freeing experience. The ability to create something that expresses who you are and how you're feeling at the time is unlike any feeling in the world.
The power to create a story and bring to life an experience that can help people through the same experiences you've been through or the ability to make someone smile and laugh and a situation that would normally be very awkward - that is what an artist is able to do. It's a powerful gift and talent that not everyone can imagine.
Having an Imagination
I've recently become aware that some people just have no imagination at all, and it's really a crushing realization. Being an artist, you have the ability to see different shapes in clouds, eyeballs in inanimate objects and you have the wonder and joy of being a child. You can create and think up crazy creatures or put together intricate plot lines that will pull at people's heartstrings and make them cry and laugh. it's a different way to view the world that helps bring light to even the saddest stories.
Always Something to Learn
This one is a little of a double edged sword, but knowing that there will always be something for you to learn and improve on gives your life more meaning. You never have to worry about reaching the point where you'll never be able to improve a painting anymore. There's no end to being an artist, it only stops when you choose to stop creating,
What's your favorite part about being an artist?
Accomplishments and Competitions
Having a goal or festival that you want to enter your work into is an amazing experience. Sure there are a lot of times where your work will be rejected and you'll feel crappy about it, but the times when you do get into the gallery or festival of your choosing is such a heart warming experience. Having that feeling after working so hard on one project and watching how other people enjoy your work is such a satisfying experience. Just meeting someone who enjoys your work is fulfilling.
Networking and Enjoying the Trade
Essentially it's like being in a universal club where you can talk to anyone about art and find out what it means to them to create. It's fun to just celebrate and enjoy the process of creating with collaborations and throwing parties and screenings when your work is finally finished.
The Bad Parts of Being an Artist
Strapped for Cash
We've all heard the phrase and joked about the "starving artist", but it's well known and true for a reason. Art supplies are expensive and many artists are strapped for cash to pay rent because they're pursuing a career in art that is not always stable. Waiting around for a photograph to sell or looking for that next commission is a hard lifestyle to adapt to.
What's the worst part of being an artist?
Long Hours and Dedication
I'm not actually sure if there is a time of rest for an artist. Even when they're not working on projects, more often than not their brain will be planning the next project or will be subconsciously gathering information that will end up in some painting or movie down the road.
I actually can't imagine what it would be like without having something on the back burner to work on. Whenever I'm bored or have nothing to do, or simply need a project to escape into, there is no end to the possibilities that I've already thought "I want to create that."
On the other hand, this notion of always having projects and things to work on can be a bit daunting because there never will be enough time to complete them all.
Dissatisfaction with Your Work
As an artist, you're going to have to deal with the little voice in your head that tells you that you can do better. You're never going to be able to look at a project and feel completely satisfied with it. To your non-artist friends and family this will undoubtedly drive them crazy, but to your artist friends, they will understand the feeling.
Embrace it, at least to a certain degree. You still want to feel content and accomplished when you finished your project, but don't make the mistake of spending too much time on something and never starting another project. Know when to call it quits and move on. Instead of obsessing over making your work perfect, just make the next one better.
Unstable Job and Uncertainty
Having a career in the art industry is a rather uncertain field. If you're working as freelancer, you're never quite going to know where your next job will come from. It's better in this case to be wise with your money as you will have to make your money last from job to job.
There are of course jobs that are more stable, where you work as an employee at a company and have a regular paycheck. However, you'll have to decide whether you want to work as a team or under someone and decide whether or not you want to be in charge of what you create.
Getting a job, even a freelance job, will take a lot of time and persistence. Not everyone is going to like your style and not everyone will want to chance on new blood at their company (although some will specifically look for non experienced artists.) Getting an internship and working for free is usually one of the only roads for breaking into the industry. Be careful to not get taken advantage of and be willing to work a part-time job to support yourself.
The Journey to Becoming an Artist
Becoming an artist and establishing yourself takes many years of hard work and dedication. The years leading up to successfully landing a creative job or selling your first painting or photograph will be hard, but there are certain side jobs and steps you can take to help your journey.
Find Freelance Work or Help with Small Budget Projects
If you're just starting out as an artist, whether your fresh out of college or looking for some experience to put on your resume, you may be able to find some work doing freelance work. The best place is to start with friends and family. If you're a photographer, see if maybe someone in your family would like some photographs done. You may even be able to get them to pay a very low sum. You'll get experience and portfolio work and they'll get cheap photos.
You may also be able to assist someone (if you know a painter ask to help out with their mural or if you are a film student help out with low budget films). If you find other people who are just starting out or people who are looking to hire cheap artists and take a risk, usually you can find a break aiming for start up companies and family.
Be weary of working for too cheap and doing this for too long though. There's a certain degree of people who will try to take advantage of you, so once you have the experience start going for higher paying and stable jobs.
Start Your Own Business or Find Space in Restaurants
If you feel confident about one of your hobbies or selling some of your work yourself, setting a website could be a way to help making a name for yourself. Joining craft fairs or setting up a little display in your local art gallery may be a way to help get your name out there and help with your career. Sometimes even local restaurants will display your artwork on their walls and if anyone wants to buy it from you, they can. (The restaurant gets free art and you get free exposure.)
You may be able to find schools are looking for someone to teach after school art classes or a town or city looking to get kids interested in the arts. You may have some luck teaching some classes during the summer. You'll be able to still be creative and you'll be getting some cash to help with your expenses.
This amazing Ted Talks tell you all you need to know to succeed at your career: You just need grit.
Being an Artist takes Perseverance
By far the one attribute that sets apart the people who will pursue and succeed at their careers and those who won't is perseverance. You have to want it, breathe it and fight for it, even if this means going against what all of you friends and family have to say.
The only person that needs to believe is you, and a lot of the times there will be no one who believe that you can make a career out of your work. If you don't want it more than anything, it's going to be a very, very long road that will you'll never achieve.
The best advice I can give is to not give up. Keep working on your art and believe that one day, you're going to make it.