I’ve been thinking a lot lately about following one’s dreams and living an unconventional life. It’s partly because the economic climate of the U.S. (and indeed, much of the western world) has been in such a kerfuffle for the last 4 years. For 10 or 12 of the 24 (almost 25!) years I have been supporting myself through my work as an artist, I have done reasonably well. By that I mean, I could pay my rent, keep a car running, feed myself and my cat at a level greater than if I still worked in a coffee shop. For the rest of those years, with the exception of the last 4, I could rely on my skills to live frugally and still live very well by much of the world’s standards, although not necessarily by the standards of upper middle class America. No complaints here. I live a wonderful life, rich with friends, beautiful surroundings, in a kick ass community where people celebrate each others triumphs and pitch in through the hard times.
So, I’m not trying to figure out how to quit my corporate, soul-sucking job so that I can go off and live on an island and paint full time, because I’ve already done that. Huzzah! The question for me now is how do I continue to do the work I love, and still keep food on the table and a roof over that table.
There are several avenues that I have been exploring, taking the slowdown in sales (and therefore the need to produce quite so much work)as an opportunity to push the boundaries of my creativity into new directions. I like to say that I am artistically promiscuous (I said, artistically, smarty-pants!) in that I refuse to be limited to one subject matter or even one medium. In my over 35 years as an artist, I have worked in watercolor, oils, printmaking (etching, lithography, and monoprint), egg tempera, and drawing. I recently went to Italy, which was partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign (and partially by an anonymous donor) in order to gain greater understanding and skills in the ancient medium of egg tempera. (Not to be confused with shrimp tempura.) I’ve also been working on a wordless children’s picture book, Pandamorphosis, which was fueled by my obsession with pandas, which has manifested itself in my cartoon series, Your Brain On Pandas.
I’ve also been reading a lot: books about children’s writing and illustrating, cartooning, publishing, business philosophy, blogs about creating your own self employed life, etc. Somehow (maybe Alyson B. Stanfield’s Art Biz Blog) I stumbled onto The Traveling Writer, blog and newsletter of Alexis Grant. That in turn led me to Chris Guillebeau’s blog and book of the same name, The Art of Non-Conformity and his now annual Portland event, the World Domination Summit. Is that cool or what? OK, it’s cool because he’s using the term “world domination” at least a little ironically and he is definitely on the side of the angels, putting his money and time where his mouth is. You really must read his blog and book for yourself, but his book boiled down to this for me: Find what you love; find a way to do what you love; the connections you make along the way are important – no, make that vital; and give back what you can, when you can, to make the world a better place.
Pretty simple, huh? Definitely on the side of the angels.
More on this tomorrow (or the next day!)