I still get this question. The paintings that I paint are the paintings that I want to paint. I can’t even imagine having it any other way and calling myself an artist. Otherwise I would call myself an illustrator. Who I have a great deal of respect for, by the way.
Now I am very mindful that if I want to exchange my creations for payment then I have to add value beyond selfish self-expression. I’m not criticizing self-expression as selfish. I’m just saying that as an artist, interested in building a strong business and brand, clearly I have to think beyond me.
This Friday I was at a reception at an incredible contemporary estate in Napa Valley. And ironically it was two “artists” who asked this question. “What other work do you do? You know, for yourself?”
One a photographer and her husband, a sculptor, a retired physician. So I’m assuming that their monetary concerns have been different from my own and that has shaped their perspective.
A former art director, along with another guest, then asked if this was what I did “full time?” Another asked “Ann, are you here to show your work?” “Actually, I’m here to develop a strategic partnership with the host.” I responded.
I can’t pretend that I’m not irked by these questions. I’m a serious full time artist and entrepreneur. Imagine that! Is that not obvious? Or are the stereotypes about artists just too strong for this to be as plain as the nose on your face?
But I accept the perspective of these relatively affluent people who, like many, see art making as an indulgence, maybe a career, and a business, “oh really?”
In my experience I’ve observed two distinct camps. Those interested in art and music making in exchange for money and those that don’t believe this should happen or have enough confidence and skill to make that exchange. Guess which camp I belong to?
I know that my brother, the former Dean of a business school, did not take my venture very seriously until my business was profiled by Fortune magazine. Then suddenly I was a teaching moment, an example of how to live your passion and earn a living.
It’s not only possible, but given the opportunity, I believe that it’s our obligation to live our lives to the fullest, to be fully self expressed, and to provide value so that we can earn as much money as possible doing it. Then we are in a better position to live a prosperous, healthy, and responsible life. And then to give back.