Nothing up My Sleeve

There are things that I have been told, as an artist, though well intentioned, these things can cause me to go into a slow burn.

“Oh! You have been given such a wonderful gift!”

I don’t remember being given these abilities, I remember hours and hours spent alone on weekend nights, sketching on the bus or on break at work, reading, going to museums constantly honing my craft… oh, wait, I still do that.

“You’re so lucky! I wish I had talent!”
Really? I wish all I had had to do was wish for it too!
” I can’t even draw a straight line!”
Next time you need to, let me suggest you use a straightedge: that’s what I do.
“We’re having a fundraiser and thought you would like to donate some of your work: it’ll be great exposure for you!”
I have contributed to your fundraiser for the last ten years and haven’t sold one piece as a result, though I have been asked to participate in a lot more fundraisers.
“Oh! It must be so wonderful being an artist. To just be creative all the time and just do whatever you want!”
Yeah, sitting around thinking of a new way to get someone, (anyone!) to buy or commission a piece because the rent is due; I need to see a dentist (cash up front you know the artist’s collective doesn’t offer insurance); or I cannot go through another winter wearing those thrift store boots: yeah, that’s what I had in mind when I decided to join the ranks of the creative industries.
I love what I do, but I worked hard at learning how to do it, so if God gave me anything it’s tenacity. When I donate my work to a charitable cause it has value based on several days if not weeks worth of work, it’s not something I stumbled upon while playing in my studio. Please understand that when I’m in the studio I am working and a big part of the reason I work is so I can keep a roof over my head and food in my pantry.
Now I’m not writing this to try to make anyone feel guilt and the sardonic tone is more of a literary device than a true reflection of my attitude, but the next time you find yourself in some BIG box store ready to drop some money on a mass produced piece of production art go to that artist you know, let them know how much you have to spend and let that artist work their magic!

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2 thoughts on “Nothing up My Sleeve

  1. I feel ya. Sometimes I think I’ve been cursed with “the gift.” At one point I had to be artistic in my garage and the neighborhood kids would come and ask “Would you draw me so-an-so?” I was like…”Uh….$$” People don’t generally believe that artists have to eat in order to survive

  2. I totally understand about “the gift”. As I often mention, growing up poor in the slums of Chicago wasn’t apparently quite enough of a challenge along with my four-eyed spectacle wearing that cost a fortune in groveling to our Alderman way back when – I had been given the gift of poetic banter or as I love to coin it A.R.T.E.(Another Reason To Escape) and I learned very early on to run quickly or have those lovely spectacles handed crunched back to me along with my crunched-in face.
    I have since turned A.R.T.E. into an edible art class for inner-city kids because our kids are still hungry – for both food and for art.

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