Add "cleaning staff", "PR", "The person in charge of shipping", "Online retailer", and maaaybe the meme comes close to covering what all I, and many others like me, do.
When I decided to be an artist full-time, it was in a time of existential dread. My college experience was... Rough. Really rough. Imagine the best, most talented student in the class who did so much extra work on an assignment being told because he had the canvas vertical and not horizontal, it would have cost him a job at Disney. Yeah. That rough. No matter what we did, we weren't enough, we were told how hard the industry was. How we weren't good enough to have a booth at the Creative Talent Network Expo, while not even being given anything constructive to work on to "GET" good enough.
My college experience got so rough that I would wake up every morning, stare at myself in the mirror, and have the lyrics of Emilie Autumn's "The Art of Suicide" play in my head over and over again. "The world is full of poets
We don't need any more
The world is full of singers
We don't need any more
The world is full of lovers
We don't need any more" "There are hundreds of artists out there, most WAY better than me, I have nothing special to offer the world." I told myself. And I honestly believed that.
But I finally decided to take a chance. I got a booth at the artist alley of the "Life, the Universe, and Everything Science fiction and Fantasy Symposium" in Provo. I only had it for maybe... Four hours. I hung some art up in the art show. I didn't expect much, and I didn't know what I was doing. I had crappy photocopies of my art that I printed at Walmart because I didn't know better, but knew I didn't feel comfortable selling-- I had no booth decor, nothing, and then just a binder of original art. I didn't expect much. I didn't expect to be well recieved. But then... Everything changed.
I got so many compliments on my art. People praising me, even from looking over my shoulder as I drew.
(Here is one of the pieces I drew while I was attending panels. I was. Yeah. Going through feelings)
I got my first major commission, and made over 400 dollars in those short 4 hours. And I was... Baffled. My attitude changed entirely, because I felt like "maybe I CAN do this!!" And went all in.
I decided school wasn't worth the existential dread, and to pursue being an artist. I even brought this decision up with a school therapist. He told me "Even though I am paid by the school... I think you are making the right decision to leave and pursue your career" Part of me still felt like a horrible failure because I was one of the many who never finished college, but I feel I definitely made the right choice.
I wanted to be successful, like anyone else. And I was learning, ultimately, on my own what that meant. How to run a business. How to pay taxes. How to do events and sell online. These aren't things that are *taught* in the illustration courses, even though it seems like a no-fucking brainer. Unfortunately, that meant I was being told by "everyone else" how to do it. I was trying to incorporate it all. And... It's a lot. It's WAY too much for one person to do, and yet people are doing it, running this social media treadmill, and somehow not falling off and dying along the way.
(Actual picture of me trying to do EVERYTHING, and eventually, how it felt)
I may also add, I'm very good at ignoring my own needs for a while. But it got harder and harder. Finally, it got to the point that I was dreading social media. I couldn't post, I didn't want to. It was all work. I stopped updating my etsy. I kept trying to push on in certain ways and was just dragging along because I just... Couldn't.
And then 2020 happened and I just... Didn't. Draw. For a while. While it became more and more imperative that I needed to, because events weren't happening and everyone else was trying to scramble to figure out the online aspect of their work. The new wave of "hustle" culture took off-- selling EVERYTHING and turning EVERYTHING for profit. And now, it's sometimes hard to draw at all. I get so frustrated and wonder WHY, and finally wrote down what the first things I thought of when I started drawing. 1. I was thinking of the "hustle". How can I sell this piece? I must make this piece perfect enough to feel like I can sell it. Here are the ways I'll need to market it, frame it, or make prints of it. Also, as my husband doesn't currently have a job, there's way more pressure to "make money" else I'm failing my family. 2. I was thinking of "Everything else" I needed to do. I have a huge wall of commissions that I'm sitting on that I just have been unable to do due to depression or this WALL that is standing in my way of doing any art. Also, the fact there was other important chores and errands that I could be doing instead that felt way more pressing that I had been putting off. I was thinking of all those, too. 3. I thought of recent traumas that has directly affected my 'imagination'. My imagination had, in my head, been rejected. And now my imagination and creativity has a huge wound that makes it painful and slow to think of *anything*.
Yeah, that's not how I used to think. And it's thinking that is getting in the way of the creative process. Way back when, I was always going around with a story or a character in mind. I drew all the time in every class or function. It helped me listen. Every piece had a story, I always had a world they came from. I drew what I loved.
And I... Don't know what I love right now, because everything is hard. Moreso, I think I've just been partaking of a culture and an idea of "success" that just isn't healthy for me. Maybe some people can make it work. But I don't know if I can.
What do I do now??
It's the big question. How do I train myself out of this mindset? I still want to create. I still want to paint. I still feel it's my life calling and it's what I have always loved, though I've always explored different aspects of it. But currently, even drawing for myself is hard. So I guess I need to start from ground zero and figure that part out first.
Drawing for myself is easier said than done, I still have a mountain of commissions I'm sitting on and I'm not gonna just NOT do them. And I think a slow trickle of commissions is fine. It's just, when it gets to the point that I've pent up so many that it overwhelms me, it makes it more difficult to even DO anything thanks to that lovely "wall of awful" I mentioned before.
And then there's also the question of "Well, then, if you are drawing for yourself, you aren't making money. Turn it back into a hobby." And I don't think I can turn it back into a hobby. I want to make money. I want to have enough to support my projects and exploration of the mediums.
I have a few solutions that I have thought of. The first is to focus mainly on just events. People like my art (at least I think so). People buy my originals and my prints and my creations. For a long time, I didn't get many commissions at all. So what if I cut back on the online presence, stop worrying about it until I can get a handle on it, cut back on commissions/actually ask what my time should be worth as opposed to short-selling myself the way I do, and just focus on events? That's what I enjoy the most. Weeeeell Covid has other ideas. Already there is a murmur about everything closing, again. It led me to a huge breakdown because I had set a plan up, and the world was now preventing me from putting it in motion. The other thing is, I'm not JUST an artist. I'm an art teacher. I TEACH. I studied art education. I taught workshops. I had private classes from my home. I do panels. It's the part I love the most, because I get to share and help others learn how to express themselves. But Covid got in the way of that too, and I lost my clients. I could try to start that up again... But Covid is still a thing, and I wouldn't know where to start again. The last thought I had was... What about art therapy? I am a mental health advocate, I talk about this stuff so people know they aren't alone. I am figuring my own mental health out, but it doesn't mean I can't help others. It's also very freeform. I've seen ads for workshops and getting the proper licensing to become an art therapist-- but I don't have money right now to make that work due to the whole... job situation.
All that being said, I have routes to go. I just... Don't know. I have to feel it out. And get in a more stable place before I decide. I hate the unknown, I'm scared of it. But I know that I can't keep going the way I was before. And I can't just throw myself at the same wall expecting different results once I am "better", either. This is really ground zero for me. I really do feel like I'm starting over.
Has anyone else had frustrations like this? Problems like this? What have you done to figure it all out? Honestly, I'm here to get as much help as I can.
As a final note-- Work is hard for an artist. I'm still working myself up to getting a part time job again- it's very hard to tackle that when I'm in such a rough mental state. I'm going to therapy, but I really can't afford it. I'm just doing what I can right now, and am begging for help even though I don't want to. Please, if you want to help me succeed, donate to my ko-fi. I'm just asking for enough to get me through another month of therapy. I'm getting better. There's been huge steps and improvements. But there's still a lot I'm going through and need to get through to be healthy again. I hope to pay it forward somehow, later. Donate here!! And... Thank you. For believing in me, for reading this, for reaching out. I wouldn't be here without you. I may not believe in myself, but I'm getting there.