Artists' Day Jobs – What's Yours?

Before going to bed, I read a chapter or two of Julia Cameron's Letters to a Young Artist.
I underlined this passage:

I don't know where we got the idea that being a full-time artist meant no day job. Being an artist is a matter of consciousness. Having a day job doesn't alter that. I have seen more artists damaged by unlimited time than limited time.

So, I started wondering what you are doing to supplement your art income. I asked the question on Facebook.
Here are the responses I received (with apologies to anyone I missed):
Julie Robertson Receptionist – boss lets her make art at her desk and gives her studio space.
Cathy Pierce Payne custom frame designer
Frances Vettergreen Visual Artist self-employed medical professional
Mark Scantling Heavy diesel mechanic
Ann Marie Scott Part-time at corporate law firm – great benefits
Caroline C. Blaker Web development – developing the designs of others
Suzanne Utaski Gibbs Full-time wife and mother as well as a part time art teacher
Alyson Champ Farmer
Ann Cook Interaction Designer
Joanne Vallee Brunelle Full-time owner/framer of gallery and frame shop
Creative Stash Graphic Designer
Sikiu Clay Designs Office manager, marketer, and more for husband's house framing business
Heather Dakota Writer/Editor/Graphic Designer
Don Scott Store manager for a family-owned chain of camera stores.
Kelly Darke – Fine Art art therapist
Patt Scrivener Aifd Home stylist and floral designer
Fine Art By Vanessa Turner structural engineer
Christen Caudle Benat Stylist with Stella & Dot
Mantel Amey Case manager for kids with behavioral issues
Wendi McGowan Marketing Director at a mobile apps development company
Cindy Eley Cradler audiologist
Elizabeth Wocasek Library media technical assistant
Alexandra Gerull Mom
Sarah Snavely Part-time library director
Hollie Taylor Full time Mixed Media Ceramics teacher at local high school.
Lori Anne Boocks Director of Marketing & Communications full-time at a non-profit
Ashley Kiefer Coffee Bar Manager
Elissa Campbell Owns 2 part-time businesses: One as a bookbinder and the other as an online marketing/social media consultant
Theresa Rojas Graduate/Phd student in English. Teaches writing and Women's Studies
Angeline Marie Martinez Nuclear analyst-program coordinator
Kelly Dombrowski Full time mom, caregiver, minister, graphic/webmaster
Judy Jacobs VP of a commercial real estate development company (part time)
Rachel Thadal Senior advisor (Performance management) at an health and social services center, Mom
Michelle Zacharias Language consultant: technical writer, translator, and teacher
David Bender Personal Trainer

What's your day job?

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120 thoughts on “Artists' Day Jobs – What's Yours?”

    1. Gallery owner and part time PR writer/photographer for an alternative energy company, the latter only since the financial meltdown in 2008.

  1. Mother of two children (5 & 2).
    This is an excellent question, Alyson. I often think I am the only one creating under a schedule of madness. I wonder how people manage their two lives. Now seeing all these repsonses I wonder if colleagues on one side know about the other artistic life? How is that received? Curious.

    1. It is generally received with wonder. Both “Wow, you can do this as well as what I knew you can do” and “Where do you find the time for this?”

    2. Now that I am “out” at work as an artist, I end up the party planner, bulletin board maker, and I decorate crazy trees every month or more for holidays such as “Woodstock Anniversary Tree”, and “I Love New York Tree.” We will have a purple tree for someone’s 60th birthday entitled, “Bring a Dinosaur to Work Birthday Tree.” (staff to bring a dinosaur toy from kids/grandkids toy chest and stuff it in the tree). Everyone is getting into it. Believe it or not, it increased my scores on my “teamwork” section on my evaluation. They actually mentioned the trees. It’s been very interesting, and although silly, it helps integrating the basic “who I am” into my work life in the medical field. We need a little creativity in the hospital.

  2. Medical Social Worker, soon to be part-time, pursuing art degree since 2002. Decided I would have that art degree by the time I was 50 – I’m 49 as of yesterday!

  3. Great question. To support my art habit I’m a higher education administrator (I direct the University of Wisconsin System Women’s Studies Consortium 75% time). This is a great job for someone whose art is often focused on issues related to women’s lives, and its as much an avocation as a vocation.

  4. I have found that I must keep my day job secret from those who I wnat to recognize me as an artist. Whenever I have told people what I do to support myself as an artist, I stop being an artist in their eyes and I become the waiterclerkcorperatebusinessman, etc. and that is what they want to talk about.
    I have also found that if I tell people at a party I have just met that I am an artist, they start looking for someone else to talk to.

    1. AB:
      There is that double-edge sword…but I prefer to say “I am an artist,” and perhaps if they ask “the habit is supported by a day job.” Usually, most drop the negativity. 😉

    2. To AB, i have found the absolute opposite. When i tell people i am an artist that are intrigued, and a little envious. They often start telling me about their secret desires to be more creative and ask to come to my studio and join in for a day. Sometimes in life our responses have more to do with our own view of ourselves and the reflections that others show for us in regard to that?

  5. Great subject! I’m building a volunteer & public policy engagement programs for a local non-profit. I wouldn’t mind downsizing my day job to 1/2FTE to be able to dedicate more time to creating, but I’m pretty certain it would not be productive for me to be a FT artist.

  6. Thank you for posting this Alyson. I have struggled with this whole term “full time artist” for a long time as I also have a “day job”. Being an artist is who I am and my work is something that I do. But, my work has afforded me funds to pay my bills, buy my supplies and travel. My work as a counselor and an art educator also has helped me “pay it forward” and give of myself. I find if I have too much time I get less done and I am too focused on myself. I need both to be balanced. But it is a struggle to juggle it all as I am also getting busier with my art and that makes me really happy. I’ve decided that I will tell people I’m in a trasition stage of my life.

  7. Well, my “day job” (and sometimes my evenings, nights, and weekends job) is writing software, in my case artist’s business management software called WorkingArtist. I’m hoping that at some point, I’ll be able to get back to my “other” work (photography). As I think I’ve written here in the past, I doubt that I’ll ever be as good a photographer as some of the truly great nature photographers, but I can help the art’s community with my software (because one thing I am is a good software guy), and that’s my way of being a part of it.

  8. Alyson,
    Thank you for the shout-out.
    We are a talented, we artists!!!
    To Ron Gafron:
    Your software is mentioned often, with good comments. Balancing photography and software development is something I admire. Thanks for your work!

  9. Until last June I worked as the Director of Creative Media at a small University for nearly 30 years. Now my only job besides painting is being an adjunct professor in art at the same school teaching just a few hours a week.

  10. My day job is also a night job and doesn’t pay anything. I am the primary family caregiver to my mother who has Alzheimers as well as some other ailments. I do have occasional supplemental income as an adjunct assistant professor in astronomy and physics for University of Maryland University College (online) and occasionally get a physics or natural science lab from Quinnipiac University (f2f).

    1. I just got 3 labs for Quinnipiac! Given that I need to remove some glued on wall mirrors because one already crashed, this could be a lifesaver!
      Now I REALLY need to organize my studio and office areas!

  11. I really appreciate this perspective on this whole “full-time artist” thing. Thank you !!
    I am a self-employed Interior Design Seamstress which at least lets me play with my medium (fabric) in a different way than the Fabric Collages I do as an artist. It also puts me in touch with Interior Designers who can be ( and have been recently) a source of potential clients. (see http://www. Thanks for letting me chime in with this community of multi-talented artists

  12. Just retired (maybe) after a successful career as an Occupational Therapist where I had the joy of incorporating art as a modality to improve fine motor, sensory motor and visual-perceptual skills. It’s only been two months and I’m enjoying the freedom and time to expand on my art….but I’m not sure I want to totally put OT on the back burner yet!

  13. I create architectural ornament for historic restoration of terra cotta building facades. And new historical pastisches for Las Vegas.
    This work has paid the bills (until the economy crashed) but it has also greatly increased my skills and knowledge and technique for use on my own sculpture.

  14. ABOUT TIME! One of the things I’m often having conversation on. I’m working on another career move right now while I am continuing my art business. I don’t want to only do art, and I’d feel terribly lazy if I didn’t do all the things I wanted to. I need social interaction and environments that take me away from the art just as much as environments that bring me to it. People forget how important that can be. VARIETY!
    One of the things I was lectured on in my college writing classes on how many successful authors had other careers. One was a Dentist. I love the idea of doing other things and not remaining completely dependent on my artwork for a financial source.

  15. I am a full-time wife and mother of two (4yrs,18mon) and also take art classes for children.
    I totally agree with “artists damaged by unlimited time than limited time”…..and considering my roles other than as an artist my mantra is “do not waste time and stay productive”…

  16. 1st Asst. Director- TV…just enough each year to keep me vested and take care of my medical insurance (3 to 5 mo a year)….i live on Kauai and my art studio is here… so i fly to the mainland once a year to work…..

  17. I am actually a full time artist and support myself primarily through making and teaching art. But if I had a penny for every time someone told me I ‘don’t have a job’, I could support myself on that instead quite easily.

  18. I’ve loved reading about everyone’s “other” lives. I’m a homeschooling mom of 8, 6 of whom are still at home. My children think I’m obsessed with painting. They could be right 🙂

  19. Long ago while in art school in Holland, I played pro tennis, part-time in the summer months.
    Now I make art and live off sales of it supplemented by a very light teaching program.

  20. I am a bookkeeper for a wild and zany pizza &entertainment microbrew bar/restaurant (30+ hrs/wkly) AND a yarn spinner in a local spinnery (12-18 hrs wkly).

  21. Me too, I loved reading about all these artistfriends’ other job:) My dayjob : part-time administrative assistant and translator in an international association for photographic art.
    Thank you Alison, for this post. I so agree with J. Cameron, unlimitied time is not a guarantee for artistic production. 2 hours of painting/creating each day can make a great body of work at the end of the year:)

  22. Part time office manager for son’s transportation business. In the process of making a space for my Fresh Thyme Design Studio. Paintings, art workshops, pillows, painted furniture.

  23. I have always worked 2 full time jobs: art, and whatever job supported my art habit. Fortunately I love sharing the creative process and I have had an incredible amount of fun teaching art to kids and adults. I still adjunct a few classes in a local college and teach in my studio.

  24. I work as an administrative assistant in the Development and Alumni Affairs at an international school which allow me to use a little creativity (creating invitations, flyers for events) and meet people from all over the world. Another perk of this job is the 8 weeks vacation. Evenings and weekends are for my art and I manage to be quite productive. I also teamed with another artist: we work together on the same theme, sometimes same support. It takes great communication and sharing but the end result is worth it.

  25. I worked as an executive assistant for a hospice program and have worked
    For the same company for 23 years. I need the distraction of a day job to
    Keep my art fresh and productive. I paint more than some full-time artist I know.

  26. Wow this is cool – love reading all the jobs the comments! Having “another” job sure takes a lot of financial pressure off. When I was a very young artist I was deeply influenced by hearing about artists & writers who had other jobs and got to make their work too.

  27. My day job is as an IT Business Analyst at the Houses of Parliament. What’s that? Well, I act as the interface between the business and IT, turning business requirements into IT systems. I often liken my job to that of a translator, as I have to speak two languages; business speak and IT jargon.

    1. I do the same thing, only for an oil company and I have always thought of it in the same way as you described – language translator.

  28. I work as an administrative assistant to a wonderful female bishop of the United Methodist Church during the day and love it, but in my heart I know that I am truly an artist.

  29. As a garden designer I get to create in three dimensions using the same design elements of strong shapes, color, interesting textures while building a peaceful environment which my customers can immerse themselves. Given a choice I will load up my backpack with painting gear and head for the hills to paint in the greater outdoors so it’s often a struggle between the everyday demands of landscaping and my real love. Still, I feel very lucky to have two creative outlets.

  30. Full time high school art teacher. As much as it demands a great deal of my time, the enthusiasm of young artists can be inspiring. Their fresh look at an idea forces me to look at things differently as welll.

  31. I’m a part-time therapist and addiction counselor. It uses the other side of my brain and gets me out of the studio, interacting with people other than artists. I miss having more time in the studio, but it does make the time there even more delicious!

  32. I’m an artist! Each day I wake up and thank my lucky stars for everything, grab a coffee, love up my family and create new things.
    I do some speaking (that’s my BIG challenge, because I get quite nervous before an engagement), and sometimes I even get out of the studio and into other parts of the world to facilitate some cool sessions on leadership and arts process.

  33. Front desk/office manager/bookkeeper for a community trail system. It has sharpened my business and marketing skills while connecting me to the public daily.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Paula: Good to see you here. You live in a beautiful place and I’m glad to hear your day job has helped your art career.

  34. I am a full time administrative assistant at an elementary school, a family ranch hand, and a mom. I’m blessed with my life but wish there were more hours to the day. Maybe I should just get a little better at prioritizing. My horses and art are my down time. I can get lost in either.

  35. i am a psychotherapist, working 4 days a week.
    while i look forward to working less in coming years,
    i know that my work feeds my art.

  36. Freelance website designer (esp. for other artists), graphic designer and technical illustrator. Just finished a new website for awesome painter Jennifer Balkan, which I’ve posted about and linked to from here: Worth checking out her excellent paintings.
    The freelance jobs support my art career so far, though I hope that won’t always be necessary. 🙂

  37. My husband and I (along with a partner) own our own business, and work with detention centers across the state. Working from home can be as big a blessing as a curse, at times; but it has helped me make great strides in developing discipline. Like the fabled tortoise, I am slow and steady — I know that I will ‘get there’, it will just take me a little longer. I am so thankful for the vast stores of information available from those who have gone before — as well as from those who, despite our slower pace, travel the road I am on now. Don’t turn out the lights, we’ll be there in a bit 😉

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      That sounds like great time to think (before the kiddos get on the bus or after they leave).

  38. My day job-night job-24/7 job is as pastor; I fill in with art whenever I can. Thank God the parsonage has room for a real studio.

  39. I used to teach art, but now I work full time for my father’s company and will eventually take over for him. We sell industrial pumps and compressors; at the moment, I am selling pumps parts. It’s the furthest thing from art, but it pays well and will eventually provide a freedom to spend more time with my family and invest in my art career.

  40. Work full time at he local hospital as a pharmacy tech., artist/owner of small art studio teaching oil painting workshops , volunteer art teacher at the local senior center once a week. My schedule keeps me pretty busy, but love what I do and hopefully will be able to do the art studio on a full time basis in the future!

  41. Educational consultant, teacher (art and art ed), author. Whew. Best mind feed for the artist me is my work teaching Central American rural teachers skills for using art, design and making in/ for their schools.

  42. Meaning of creation: The act of creating. The fact or state of having been created. The act of investing with a new office or title.
    I can read these definitions in every dictionary, but I still can’t understand how to do this…
    See this blog, I think you’ll like it: Drawings Paintings Prints, this person shows the stages of the painting but I still don’t know how to use it so I ca use it at mine…
    Will come back for sure.

  43. I was a sales administrator at a real estate office until I moved to a new position within the company. Now my title is Business Development Administrator. Our department gets new vacation homes for weekly rentals. (I live in a resort area.) The new position is busier, so I’m more tired at night and don’t spend as much time on my art. But I like it better, and I will get back to my art.

  44. My day job is a secretary in the Special Ed department of our local high school. I enjoy being around kids with disabilities. They inspire me to face challenges and keep moving forward.

  45. Throughout my adult life my primary occupation has been mother to my four children. In addition I have done a fair bit of technical writing, teaching, tutoring and business management. I also owned, contributed to and operated a cooperative art shop for several years. Nursing my eldest daughter back to health has consumed much of the last eight years. Now it is time to focus on my art business again, and make it what I really want it to be.

  46. bonnie jean woolger

    thank you all for doing this. It is so helpful to know that we all have found ways to be artist/something. I have been lucky most of my working life to have a job of some kind that did not conflict with my inner creative life that is who I am and what I make. The times I struggle are the times when the day job vs. art making gets out of balance.

  47. Marcia Scurfield

    I am an elementary art teacher and mostly make my own art at two studios at the Wichita Center for the Arts: printmaking (lithography) and pottery.

  48. I’m a flight attendant for a major airline. Flying internationally I use the job to gather lots of reference photos from my travels, enter international art shows (where I can sometimes deliver my work in person saving on shipping costs), visit tons of museums in Europe, and have quite a bit off time off and flexibility in my job to devote to my art businesses. A lot of my portrait commission clients have been colleagues and I have been able to use my travel benefits to attend shows in other cities which I never would have been able to attend otherwise. Also, using my benefits I have been able to start a nonprofit painting children in developing countries. As much as I complain about the physical toll of the jetlag and sleep deprivation, plus hazards of the job, I have tried to make it work for my art goals as much as possible. That takes away some of the resentment of having to have a full time day job besides painting!

  49. I am a part-time pediatric endocrinologist, retired from US Army (where I was a full time one of those). I take care of kids of all ages with diabetes, obesity, thyroid, bone, growth problems. I get a lot of ideas from my work, and am glad the part-time schedule affords me time to make art now. A blessed balance to my vocation.

  50. I work part time as a office manager for a church. I do all the secretary duties as well as finances and payroll. However, the hours are flexible and this makes the studio time possible.

  51. Lead MT (account manager), quality assurance and medical language specialist for a company back east, working at home. I also write part time for pay because I love to write essays and copy. Beginning a small home-based business with custom sewing, which is picking back up where I left off about 15 years ago as a costumer, dressmaker and tailor.

  52. i’m an artist — a voice artist … voice talent … voiceoverist. i do voiceover. i am the disembodied voice for projects such as radio and tv commercials, web interactives, eLearning, telephone systems, documentary narration (my dream gigs), etc.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Diane: I had to go listen. I’m impressed! I took voice lessons to make better podcasts, but you knocked me off my chair. Very cool!

  53. Illyrian Print Studio, Established in 2005 by tow albanian artist Luran Osmani and Shukrije Neziri Osmani. The artists produce work across almost every discipline including painting,printmaking (originaly), photography, sculpture and graphique desing with a high percentage of them working professionally.

  54. I am a Certified Medical Illustrator. I work as a medical artist four days a week and have Fridays off to be in my studio. I can travel when I need to if I want to take a painting trip. With 52 Fridays off a year, plus national holidays and my three weeks vacation time I have almost three months a year I devote to painting.

  55. I am an animal communicator and am just launching a career as a life coach. I taught horsemanship for years, which is where I got my first portrait commissions. Please see my website,, to read more about my wonderful craziness. The only dream I have yet to fulfill is to write and publish books. BTW, there are so many interesting people who have responded to this question. Thanks to all for sharing.

  56. Nothing gets the creative juices going like knowing one either lives or “dies” by creating and selling their art.
    My theory is this: If one is not creating art full time and is living solely from their art income (and does not have a spouse or significant other providing a back-up secondary income), then a person will never create their best art and will remain a hobby artist.
    (Nothing wrong with having a hobby as creating art.)
    However, the pressure of succeeding by working full time as an artist brings out the best work in the artist.

  57. Three years ago to save money I built my own carpeted display panels for art fairs, then things got worse, so last summer I wrote an e-manual for making your own panels to save over 60% and started marketing them on eBay, search for ernie$$$. I’m still doing it and artists all over the country are now my customer/friends. It’s been a big help while I build my inventory for when things get better.

  58. Every Friday and Saturday, I sell my husband’s American-style bakery items in two different farmer’s markets in Costa Rica. Sometimes, while at market, he allows me to create a small painting of a neighbor’s fruit or vegetable stand. When I’m finished I give them the painting.

  59. I’m a coach and training consultant specialized in public speaking, stress management, assertiveness and creativity (although bizarrely creativity training in companies is the subject I find most difficult !). The day before yesterday, I met a woman who told me about a really interesting club she’s a member of. She told me her club regularly brings in speakers, and suggested I contact them to do a conference about painting in general or my painting, or whatever I wanted on the subject. I dismissed this immediately, thinking I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what to talk about, and then stopped and thought about it. What a golden opportunity to use skills from the “day job” to feed the art career… So now I’m seriously contemplating it.

  60. Land use consultant for wireless industry: I interpret zoning, building, environmental, planning and other regulations to see if a site is suitable for a wireless facility. I guess paralegal would be a fitting title. It is mentally intense stuff, since these codes and laws can be overlapping and mindbogglingly complex, but it does not intrude on my imagination since it is mentally demanding, but not creatively demanding. Thus, I am often ready to depict primitive skies and consciousness, wildly posed figures, fluorescent coloration and corrupted landscapes the second I log off work for the day. Cheers and happy holidays all.

  61. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday

  62. I’m a machinist. Not mechanic, lol. I love production work because 1, I’m making something and 2 because of the repetition I am able to think about my art all day.

  63. I work for the Athletics Department at Dartmouth College. It’s flexible, low-stress, and I’m able to knit on the job, which allows lots of new people to see and ask about my work. I love my day job! It’s nice to have some steady income, especially since my felt hats have a seasonal appeal.

  64. Pingback: The Value of a Day Job | Unnatural Light

  65. Pingback: Freedom To Be an Artist — Art Biz Blog

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