|"Privacy." Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches. ©Karine Swenson 2011|
An artist usually doesn't get paid sick leave. Paid vacations. Health benefits. Workman's comp. No. If I take a day off, that day is one more day I am not producing art, or marketing my art, or looking for a gallery, or updating my website. There isn't another person there, in the "office," finishing that one painting for me. Or framing that last pastel. I find it really hard to take days off. I think anyone who is self-employed will tell you the same thing. Especially the first years, when the business is just getting going - those are the crucial years of any new business. I consider the time in my studio to be the most important part of my business, but if I just paint, and ignore all of the other responsibilities, I will never sell art, and consequently, never make money. So I must get out of the studio, as much as it pains me, and take care of the business end of my work. Being an artist is no different from any other job, since it embodies both the things I love to do and some of the things I detest. (Bookkeeping, for one!)
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, because I hope to dispel some of the misconceptions about what artists do. I once overheard someone at an art festival say, "I think I would like to be an artist, because they only have to work on the weekends." Oh, really? Really? She thinks that the day before an art festival, I simply pull about 20 paintings out of my left ear, wave my magic wand to load them into the van, and then work the weekend and go home. Sleep all week long. Repeat. Well, if it were that easy, that would be pretty cool. Anyone would want a job like that! But I don't think anything in life is as easy or effortless as we would like it to be. I often wonder where these ideas about being an artist come from. Why does the word artist conjure up mythological ideas about a lifestyle that could only exist in a fairy tale? I will never understand. If any of you can shed light on this for me, I will be grateful.
I am not writing about this to complain, or to make anyone feel sorry for me. I love being an artist. I love those days when I know I need to go in the studio and spread paint on a surface. It is a remarkable way to spend my time. I wouldn't trade my life for another life, even if it meant paid sick leave. Even if I have to get another job, to help me pay for my life as an artist, I will always consider myself an artist first and foremost. But it is not a fairy tale, and, try as I might, I still haven't figured out how to pull paintings out of my left ear. Now, I have to go and take care of some of that "business" stuff.
Have a fantastic week, you dear things!