I Am the Very Model of a Muddled Minor Artisan (with apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan)

So i was adding up our receipts yesterday for tax purposes (rather then writing cover letters or hunting for prospective portfolio promotion and work opportunities, which i probably should have been doing – given the nature of this entry, but i so much prefer doing work rather than looking for it) and i was dismayed to discover – upon tabulating my W2 and freelance invoices – that i hadn’t made nearly as much money last year as i thought i had.  And trust me, i didn’t think i’d made all that much to begin with.

My regular, steady-income, wages didn’t particularly surprise me (tho in my dreams i did imagine the total annual salary to have been a tad higher) but on top of that i had also painted three murals, illustrated a new children’s book, worked for a couple local graphic designers,  made a few speaking engagements, had some book signings, and introduced my first, brand new web site last year – so i just assumed all that would have contributed significantly to the coffers.  Sadly, not so much.  Math doesn’t lie and when i eventually factor in all my out-going expenses (an activity too depressing to contemplate because i already have a rough idea of the figure) i’ll probably barely have broken even.  My first reaction was stunned pain, followed by that tightening of the throat and burning of the eyes that suggest tears at any moment, and then i realized – with not a little embarrassment – Oh My God… I Am A Stereotype!  The quintessential Starving Artist (sans the “starving” part).  All i need now is a seedy garret, a paint-splattered smock,  a ratty beret, and a manic, half-crazed, wine-fueled demeanor and the image would be complete (i’d add a mustache, but that obviously takes the analogy too far, tho i suppose i could include a Kahlo brow).  I have been doing this  – art/drawing –  professionally, in some form or another, for 31 years and still i’m barely making a living at it.

I was pretty upset about my financial revelation all night despite my husband’s well-meaning attempts to cheer me up (“You don’t have to work you know, I’ll never let you down” and “Well you know artists never make money ’til after they’re dead”) and i’m obviously still attempting to work through my own little personal “Seldon Crisis” today [NOTE: Seldon Crisis, from Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” books] thus the turn to writing, my own little self-help therapy session, the place i go to vent and exorcise all my emotional demons and creative angst.  Sure, i probably should have hopped up this morning and started making those Cold Calls i’ve been putting off (since last year!!) which might generate some income, or started on the penguin canvas i have to paint,  which will – but my brain wouldn’t stop buzzing with all the conflicting thoughts about what it is i do, coupled with the inevitable self-flagellating anxiety that i’m a dismal failure, and the fact that i so easily seem to typify the Artist cliche.

The computer called and while, ordinarily, i would have banged out a private journal entry articulating all my disappointment, fears, and navel-gazing analysis it dawned on me that the Blog might be just as good a place for some rambling free expression.  It is supposed to be – after all – the place where i describe the psychological gymnastics (the mental masturbation if you will) of my art process so what better venue to describe a typical emotional, self-doubt meltdown.  Rather than a story inside the illustration, we’ll have a story inside the illustrator.

A Portrait of the Artist (w/Tali, Jedi robe, Time Lord seal, and dolphin tattoo)

A Portrait of the Artist (w/Tali, Jedi robe, Time Lord seal, oroborus, and dolphin tattoo)

I guess the immediate issue is the age-old conflict between Art and Commerce.  Art for art’s sake vs art for income.  Pleasing yourself and being true to your Creative Muse while still paying the bills.  Part of me sincerely pictures myself living simply, that garret actually holds some appeal, BUT i’d also like it to be relatively free of vermin, large enough to work and live comfortably in, filled with all my books and my collection of Star Wars and Dr. Who toys, be in a charming little eclectic neighborhood, decorated with tastefully quirky flea market finds, and possessing the prerequisite  satellite TV and wifi Internet access.  And i want to be able to travel.  And see our daughter safely though college and comfortably on her own independent path.  And… and… and….  it’s the “ands” that get me every time.

AND… tho i have only just scratched the surface of my internal musing i realize the morning has slipped away (as so often happens when i start pecking away at the computer.  I’ve been writing, and deleting, for hours) and i’m rambling.  Somewhere in here i lost the initial train of thought and realized there is such a labyrinth of concepts and ideas still to explore it would be better served to turn this into a series of entries so i’ll bring this particular chapter to a close before i complete lose whatever audience has stumbled in (with my profound appreciation by the way, if you’ve slogged all the way to this point).  The writing did it’s trick and i feel tons better – plus my Short Attention Span Theater tendencies have kicked in – as, to be honest, has guilt about not working.  As Stephen DeStaerbler said (or wrote, i found the quote in a book) – “Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.”  Time to make the donuts!

One Response to “I Am the Very Model of a Muddled Minor Artisan (with apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan)”

  1. Hello, like the Toy Story movies, very good animation!

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