Friday, April 24, 2009

The artist as a directionless slacker... pt. 1

Don't ask me why, but I watched a holiday movie a year or two back where the main character was an artist-type. I think I secretly like bad, cheesy television because it makes me feel like I have taste. I don't like it for the quality, but for the fact that it makes me feel like I can identify bad quality. Backwards, I know.

But the way the artist-type character was depicted made me realize that the screenwriter's perception of the artist (and more so the person who wants to make a living from their art, and not more traditionally stable occupations) was that of a directionless slacker. All the other characters, except for the reluctant love interest, thought of the artist as one who could not figure out what they wanted to do with their life. Is that how the world sees us? Perhaps the writer(s) lived the situation before writing it into a movie. I don't really think that was the intended message of the movie: If everyone around the artist-type can just suffer watching all that wasted potential long enough, a straight-laced business type will eventually come along and take the artist off our hands.

As I look around these days, I think that business type has arrived. Not in the form of a significant other who takes the edge off the drifting artist, but in the form of the Artisan Entrepreneur. So, it's not in the form of some outside force or influence, but part of the artist-types themselves.

Artists are creative thinkers, and creative thinking is not always valued in the traditional workplace. So the artist-type doesn't always fit well in some traditional workplaces. They are square pegs trying to fit in round holes. If they want to be happy in their job, they often have to either find a (usually) lower paying job that requires little more than showing up and doing what you are told, or they have to find work in one of the accepted artist-type positions (see Graphic Artist, Copy Writer, Illustrator, etc.). The former type of job is more easily found, but worries the artist-type's circle of friends that the artist-type will never reach their full potential. The latter type of job exists occasionally in the traditional corporate world, but are more readily available in the creative corporate world of design firms and the like.

Seems there were always freelancers (Copy Writers, Illustrators, Designers) who liked the freedom of setting your own hours, having some input in what you create, etc. An early version of today's artisan entrepreneur. If you go that route, you're bound to learn more than a little bit about running a business.

Seems there have long been quite a few artists who could make their living by creating great art, and commanding high prices for it. But it also seems that route has often required someone else with business sense to manage and guide that career. Another route where the artist is bound to develop a business sense over the years.

But the Artisan Entrepreneur differs a little. They may have been the freelancer, and they may still be one. They may also have done the work-a-day job, and may still be doing that, too. For one reason or another, they are trying to move on from that. They may want more control over what they produce. It's a direction which does not guarantee success (not that the others mentioned do either), and in many cases that I have seen, you start out without really knowing the ropes.

I've done the freelance thing, and I have done the design firm thing, and I have done the in-house corporate design department thing. I've also done the day job that pays the bills. All of those jobs taught me something about business, which positioned me to make decisions in my latest iteration as working artist. I think all Artisan Entrepreneurs draw on their past work experience to some extent. But they also have to use their creative way of thinking to further their business, and they often do so in unexpected ways (that's the entrepreneur part). They also use their imagination and a pretty strong belief in their own ability to make a go of it.

To be continued...


CrypticFragments said...

I'm not a directionless artist type, I'm a "scanner"!
I'm great at controlling what I create but slow at learning the marketing aspect.
It's difficult when you begin, as you said, surrounded by family who do not support art as a viable career.
I was 38 years old when I declared I'd make it happen. Three yrs later I am still struggling but making progress.

Thanks for the post

John W. Golden said...

That's awesome that you are giving it a go! I struggle with the marketing too. I was 40 when I went "off the grid" so to speak. Maybe that's another common characteristic of this new iteration of artist? I do see a lot of younger artists coming at it from the other end of their "job life". Taking this route before spending 20 years in the workplace.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck!

Amanda said...

Applause, Applause! Yes, it drives me INSANE how an artist is typically depicted and thought of. Seriously, how could so many tortured souls be walking the earth? haha!
I agree, there is a change now - the entrepreneurial spirit has taken over many artists and by doing so the end result is providing the world with so many great and unique items. Love this conversation!

igotmoxie said...

I'm really excited to see what pt. 2 has to say. I agree with you- in this day and age with so much out there, the artist really needs to accept (and expect) more responsibility for their success. What's the saying? It's a faulty artist that blames his brushes?
Maybe it's because I see so much of the whiney artist because I work in grants for artists, but it blows me away, how many people think they can create stuff in their bedrooms) and just expect us to know about it.
It takes tenacity, persistence, talent and patience.
Incidentally, I have your wise owl print greeting me every time i walk into my house.
keep up the great work!


I found myself cheering out loud as I was reading along. Very eloquent and relevant. Bravo! Can't wait for the "to be continued" part!

zia Sam said...

Hi! Great blog, expecially the resin tutorial! Now I have my own blog, with my first resin project...please, come to see it!

Shiningwoman, freelance artist said...

Have you been abducted by aliens?
Miss your blog posts. Hope all is well or that you are at least having a great time witht the aliens! Casey

John W. Golden said...

Not abducted, but that would be a better excuse :)

Just been wrapped up in run of the mill life and business stuff.

I have been meaning to post. Just saw your comment as I was getting around to posting again.

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I just read your post about the artist type. Thank you for your honest words. You make a great role model for all artists living and surviving the creative life. Your message is clear as a teacher, parent, and functioning member of society. Thank you.