Creative economy

Checkin’ the List

Sun breaking through the clouds after a gray morning; shimmering on the lake, shining on dry fallen leaves. I’m on my second pot of coffee, catching up on blog and Facebook posting, and sorting work for a group show at Zip37 gallery.
Last year at this time, I didn’t have a lot to do, so I mostly read. It was very relaxing, but I was dead broke, to be honest, which isn’t that much fun. I realized that I needed new revenue streams, however small, to tide me through the slow months, when there were no major shows.
So I got to work, dropping off flyers at art supply stores to fill workshops, going on eBay to sell books for extra, well, book money, and doing odd jobs for friends and family. I even got a temporary job, filling in at a college bookstore. Now things are better, but I don’t really have a lot of time to read. I decided to fix that, and walked up to the branch library to pick up some books. First one I saw was a Facebook Marketing for Dummies type of thing, and since my marketing has been sort of… dumb, I picked it up. A real busman’s holiday, there! Now I’ve joined a co-op gallery in North Denver where I can have work available all the time, but of course, I need to frame work to fill the wall. And on and on.
But as I learned from the temporary bookstore job, it’s a lot more fun to plan your own tasks than have them assigned to you ( though the bookstore is a very pleasant place to work). I’m not really killing myself, but there is usually something on my to-do list. None of which provides a regular paycheck, but all of which seems related to the overall cause. Even the studio time is pretty un-romantic right now. I haven’t really created any new images in a month. I’ve mostly been inking etching plates to complete my many unfinished editions, some of which will become holiday gifts, others which will be offered for sale in the gallery and next summer’s shows.
People don’t have a lot of understanding of what artists do. Some romanticize it, making reference to some sort of vaguely divine gift while protesting that they can’t even “draw a stick figure”. I tell them that it’s mostly about working at it, putting in time, practicing, but they don’t really want to hear that, I guess. Some are a bit patronizing; “you are so lucky to be able to do what you want”, and some frankly, are plain clueless- “I want you to paint my child’s wall with a unicorn.”
If the long litany of little tasks that fill my days sounds like complaining, let me reassure you- I’m having a great time. But the arts are this state’s 5th largest employer, and contribute greatly to the slowly improving economy. Let’s stop pretending it’s magic, or child’s play, or some sort of overgrown hobby, though all those are certainly part of it. Mostly it’s just hard work.
One more factoid- your holiday dollars, when spent on the arts, tend to return very quickly into your local economy (try me!). Unlike Walmart, the arts work very hard for your money.

Leave a Reply