In 2000 I had been working in art museums for 10 years and had a great job as a director of education.
And I was miserable.
It wasn't just my job and I won't bore you with all of the reasons why I was so unhappy. Just believe me that I had reached the low point of my life.
I had a choice.
I could keep being miserable, or I could do something about it. I chose the latter. The next year I sold my house and donated many of my belongings. Then I packed up a U-Haul and moved to a small garage apartment in Denver.
I started an art-consulting business and was instantly happier.
I had no steady paycheck, no health insurance, and no idea how to run a business. But I was blissfully happy.
I chose happiness over the security of a museum job.
It was rocky in the beginning, but I started getting requests for help from artists I had known in my museum career and others who found my art-consulting business online. I chose to listen to them.
I could have easily held firm to my original plan, but I made a different choice that has worked out pretty well.
You have a choice.
We often think that building an art career, especially making a living from your art, requires sacrifice. You might sacrifice:
- A steady paycheck
- More time with family
- Vacation time
- Free time
- A big, fat retirement account
- A house in the country, a yacht, …
But are you really sacrificing these things when you’d rather be making art and sharing your gift with the world? It’s a choice, not a sacrifice.
That still doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Being a successful artist and entrepreneur requires that you make hard choices about how you spend your time.
This discipline piece is opposed to how many artists think of their work: joy, pleasure, and play. Yet, it’s absolutely necessary when you want to earn a living from your art.
Life is a series of choices. The choices you make reflect your priorities.
It’s worth reminding yourself that you have choices, and that you have power over your destiny. Are your choices supporting how you want your life to be?
Consider Your Choices
Choose to commit to an art career and business. Or not.
This commitment is something that neither I nor anyone else can provide. It must come from you, and it’s a choice.
Choose to make art. Or not.
Sure, you can spend a couple hours on Instagram in the morning or decide that the laundry has to be done right now. Or … you could make art.
Choose to share your art. Or not.
You might be perfectly fine keeping your art to yourself and enjoying this pleasure. Or, you can decide that you have something that’s worth sharing with others. You are willing to risk the chance that someone might be delighted by what you have made.
Choose to make more professional connections. Or not.
The more people who know who you are and what you offer, the more people there will be to buy your art, show your art, and suggest opportunities. Professional relationships are key to your success.
Choose to invest in your art business. Or not.
Turning your art into a business is more than spending money on materials. It’s investing in expert help, coaching, software, a website, and more.
Choose to implement what you’ve learned. Or not.
You can read all of the books you want or take all of the classes you can afford, but they won’t do you one bit of good until you implement what you’ve learned.
If you work really hard at any profession, you might end up with that house in the country or the yacht. But wouldn’t you rather paint or photograph them?
What path do you choose?
This article was originally posted on December 10, 2015. It has been updated with original comments intact.