I usually sit outside in the summer to work on artwork and that’s where I was yesterday. The project at hand was a children’s book about a perfect christmas tree and I was getting frustrated; I had too much to do and not enough time to do it. The colors were all mixing together with the acrylic and the linework I was drawing over them was too bold and making the pictures flat. I couldn’t get it right.
Next door is a well-to-do family where the dad is always going off to work; I have never seen this man outside unless he is walking to his car from the house or to the house from his car. He is well dressed everyday in a suit and tie. I would guess he has an office job in accounting, business, or something relating to the economy. This man, by all the evidence I have seen is a creature of habit.
So as I am sitting there trying to finish this project I see him look over.
“Hello!” he says. What?
“Hi,” I reply.
“Are you an art student at the University of Michigan?” I think for a second on how to approach this.
“No, I graduated a year and a half ago from Eastern Michigan.”
“Oh, well my daughter has been accepted to the art school of Chicago.” The mother in this family is extremely nosey by her own admission and extremely chatty, and everyday I am reminded one way or another about how their daughter has been accepted to the prestigious art collage in Chicago.
“Yes, your wife has told me all about it.” I answer.
The man gets a strange look on his face, as if he just forgot how to breathe.
“Well, I guess you’ve been at this art thing for a while now,.. and how, where do you go with something like that?”
“Like,.. a career in art?”
Oh good lord, what do I tell this man? There is no money in art right now for the art-grad recently out of college? You have to wander around aimlessly after graduating until you find the right market for your style and technique to be both accepted and desired? There is no money in art right now,.. at least not enough to make a living at it,.. unless you want to work as the crappy understudy of a bigger name already in the art world. There is no set path or firms you can join that will help you get an in. Art is really a “you figure it out and bullshit the rest” kind of career path. It really takes a lot of personal growth, self-discovery, and lots of random connections to be successful at art.
“Well, there’s many different paths you can take,” I say,”You mainly have to find people willing to pay for your art. I got lucky because of the whole Survivor thing, so I have a little money to coast on, otherwise I would be a penniless artist trying to make rent every month”
“Well, what about fine art,.. like galleries?”
Again, unless you are “discovered” there is no money to be made in art. Many of my art friends sink tons of money into preparing for galleries (framing, transportation, etc.) and hardly make a profit for it to be worth their time.
“Galleries can be a good route, if you keep up with it and make the right connections. I know a guy who worked as a garbage man for the most part of his life and was an alchoholic, but someone “discovered” his art one day and now he’s going on world tours and has buyers internationally”
“I see.” I don’t think he likes the idea of his daughter possibly becoming an alchoholic or garbage man.
“A lot of friends of mine though, from college, can’t afford to go through the gallery deal and work at coffeeshops, or as bartenders until that day they happen to win the lotto and are found by someone willing to purchase their work. I know of a couple who graduated with art degrees who are destitute and lived on welfare for a while”
“But what about advertising? Isn’t there a lot in advertising?” The man is starting to sweat a little in the summer sun.
He is right, there is a ton of work in advertising for art, but it’s not fine art, which his daughter is going into. I have seen some of her work and it is mainly portrature and figure painting; potentially worthless in the art scene unless it has a groundbreaking twist or involves a personal journey. All the advertising art is known as graphic design which I beleive to be the bastard child of fine art. Graphic design serves a purpose: make money for your product by making it look new, hip, or desirable. Graphic design can be done by anyone and in my opinion does not require a degree; graphic design is essentially picking the right fonts, laying them out, and photoshopping in an edgy image. If you want to have a lot of boring stuff to do, make a lot of money, and stifle your creativity then please become a graphic designer. I went to school for graphic design for three years before I realized I was really wanting to be an Illustrator, a job I find much more rewarding artistically, despite the money.
“Advetising is graphic design, and I don’t think that fits your daughter’s style.”
The man’s forehead has some wrinkles in it.”Oh,okay.” He calmly moves around his car towards the door of his house, without looking back.”Thanks, have a good day.”
“Have a good day.”
I kind of feel bad for this man, worried that his daughter has chosen the “wrong path” in life. Thats the vibe I got from him at least. A worry that his daughter, although talented and driven, may have a tough road to go before she actually gets recognized as an artist or makes a decent paycheck. In this time when money is tight for everyone nobody wants to pay for art. Art is over produced and underappreciated and I have seen this time and again when looking for freelance work in Illustration or fine art.
One of the most common arguments i have seen against the value of art was said to me a while back at an art show: “You can naturally draw, why should i pay you a lot for ten minutes worth of actual work?” A true enough statement; however, what did I have to learn in order to produce art of this quality in under ten minutes? The public doesn’t see the ten years the artist spent training their eye and hand to produce the images in their head. The public doesn’t know the countless failed drawing that lead up to this perfect image. The public doesn’t understand the trials it takes to be good in a field in which hundreds of thousands of others are also competing to be more unique and original. They only see the final product and how quickly and easily it was produced by a masterful hand, and decide from that information that is a “natural gift” and nothing more.
Hey, but who knows? Maybe the girl next door is the next Picasso.