After a conversation with one of my studio neighbors (Michael) yesterday, I thought I would write something about the process of becoming:
Being/becoming a professional artist is difficult, a process that no one can teach you. I just recently finished graduate school and I have come out feeling extremely unprepared for what I am trying to accomplish: professional survival. I feel the same way I did when I finished my Masters in Education and was teaching my first high school classes: totally unprepared to deal with the day to day of working with real live students and wondering what I paid financially/emotionally/mentally beyond a degree and certification.
My conversation with Michael started when he asked me how I was doing. I hadn’t seen him in six weeks after dealing with my post-graduation slump and being in Columbus, Ohio for the holidays and my first solo-show. After returning to New York at the beginning of January, it took me three weeks to return to my Bushwick studio because I was looking/interviewing for my restaurant jobs that are helping me to maintain my rent and pull myself out of financial destitution. But I digress.
Here are the main points of our conversation: we talked about why most artists don’t “make it.” It’s so very hard to be an artist. Applying for grants and residencies takes time, dedication and money. On top of that, you have to have a job, maybe two or three, to supplement the income of your real job as an artist. Finally you have to make artwork and capture decent images of that work otherwise you have nothing to use for the grant and residency applications. There is also website and social media maintenance while attending functions that foster networking opportunities with other artists and/or art world professionals.
My advice? Never give up. Remind yourself what you’re working towards everyday. Every time you receive a rejection think about how those “no’s” are just clearing way for all the “yes’s” you will receive. Keep a calendar in a place that you will see everyday with your deadlines clearly listed. As you cross off each calendar day, think of all you accomplished. Remind yourself to take mental health days and make sure you rest, eat well and get some kind of exercise (if you do not take care of your body, your body will not take care of you). Don’t ever give up. Remind yourself that you can do it just like all the artists before you and all the artists in front of you.
Keep calm and carry on.