Art, in all its forms, demands the intrinsic creativity of the human person: an artist. Art is an application of skill, an exercise of the mind, and above all, a demonstration of the patience, drive, and perseverance involved with the manifestation of a wisping, ethereal goal. They say, "Don’t go to art school. You will never be successful or make any money doing art for a living!" Yet the very practice of being a successful artist is an art of its own.
"If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."
Vincent Van Gogh
Like any other major life or financial goal, pursuing a career in the arts requires planning, dedication, and sacrifice. Of course, as artists, we are all intimately familiar with these aspects of the practice. How does one then balance the demands of everyday life with the goal of pursuing art as a full time, self-supporting venture?
The Day Job Is Empowering, Not Soul-Crushing
First, one must recognize that supporting oneself with one’s art alone is not a measure of success as an artist. In order to make it as an artist, one must let go of the classic image of the starving artist: living solely off of commissions for works, selling wares on sidewalks, in poverty, struggling until they land that one big sale or recognition. In order to honestly and truly practice one’s art, basic needs must first be met. Art produced under duress will never be indicative of its full potential nor the great potential of the artist herself. Great art is created by great artists. Working a second job to secure income, housing, nutrition, and essential wellness is perfectly acceptable and often necessary to produce the quality work that will lead to lifelong success, and yes, the ability to live on art alone.
"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do." Bob Dylan
Art School is Still an Option
A common epigram among those in film is: "Don’t go to film school; go make a film!"
Contrary to popular rumor, a degree in the arts is not a guarantee of years of unemployment or waiting tables. Most art school graduates go on to work in the arts that they have studied, including arts education, nonprofit organizations, graphic or film design, and other work, enjoying a moderate salary not unlike other liberal arts graduates. In addition, the university environment allows for social networking opportunities and lifelong connections one simply cannot gain elsewhere. Taking the time to study traditional techniques allows for self-expansion as an artist who knows himself.
Art school graduates also carry the advantage of internship opportunities not normally extended to the general public, marrying structured education with real-world study that makes for a truly dynamic field artist. This practice is not unlike graduates in other disciplines, such as medical personnel, accountants, business analysts, and educators.
"A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind."
Success as an artist is at least a little bit of a measure of one’s own perspective, and the "day job" further reveals itself as a manifestation of the true dream of the successful artist.