Normally I spend the early part of December writing this annual post in my head. I enjoy reflecting on the previous year and shaping all my thoughts and projects into one post with a unified theme. Or a Top Ten list - I like those too. I'm going to confess that this year, I haven't had it in me. Alas, I'm a stickler for traditions, so I will write my year in review, but it is more off the cuff this time.
After all the chaos surrounding our family's move in 2016 I've realized that 2017 has been a big search for stability. Stability in my studio, with my calendar and truth be had, with my income as well.
We've now been in our house long enough for it to feel like home, especially my cozy studio. I look forward to getting in there and picking up from the day before. I like refining how it's organized and working in my own space. My extended studio (aka, my garage) is not quite there yet. Life has been busy and that was one thing that has eluded me this season. Now it's cold so it'll have to wait a little longer.
I spent a lot more time at Heritage Park as well as instructing this year; those became the cornerstones to my calendar with more flexible items scheduled around them. This has lead to some growth for me as well. I've realized that as more time gets committed outside the studio, the more deliberate I need to be with my time creating. My day timer has been extraordinarily helpful in this regard, I might talk more about this in a future post, The idea that artists are entirely free flowing and dictated by their inspiration is false. Structure for an artist can lead to enormous creativity - a lot of that comes from planning and goal making (but I digress)
Part of the reason why I've been out of the studio more has been because one of the goals I've set is for more stability in my artist income. By artist income, I mean anything that moves me forward as an artist. A job at Starbucks is not intended to move my art forward. My job at Heritage Park was sought out specifically to increase my knowledge about Letterpress. Hence I include that and teaching as artist income. I am a full time artist (I do not have a non arts job) and I look at all the various income streams as my full time job, broken up into interesting bite sized pieces. A new flavour every week it seems.
At this point in my career, I am not at a place where I can reliably depend on a certain amount of income generated by the sale of my paintings. To address this, I've sought out more places to help me sell my art as well as diversified what I make by adding items like hand pulled prints, flour sack cloths and letterpress goods. When I make art, I put all my time and resources in up front with the idea that I will recoup my costs and gain a profit.
The unstable part of this is that I have no idea when this income will arrive. Some art sells before it is dry. Some art takes years to sell.. Once those items are completed, they then need to be cataloged, photographed and promoted, driven to a gallery or listed online. Then you pay the associated commissions or fees to the venue that assisted you in selling your work. Great venues that sell work regularly absolutely earn those fees because the risk of it getting lost or damaged increases the longer it travels around to various places looking for its' forever home.
A few years ago I looked at my options for what path I wanted to follow for the next while. I could bite the bullet and put all my time and resources into just creating with the end goal of getting my art to the place where I could rely on it for steady income. Or I could look at ways to further diversify my income streams so that I wasn't solely putting my time and resources up front. Previously,I had taken a year off from selling my work in order to try new things and evolve in my work without the pressure of conforming or marketing myself. That Sabbatical year was a huge blessing, but all I could afford was one year off. The decision pretty much was made at that point. Diversification became my goal, and I'm thankful for it in many ways. Especially in this economy... if one income stream dries up, I usually have something different I can put into the mix to keep things stable.
Instructing has been a big part of this for me this year: I book an event, I work, I get paid. For an artist, this formula can feel almost backwards at times! There is still an amount of speculative work involved in these events, however. Organizations need to be approached, proposals written, sometimes meetings, lots of email communication, photos, write ups, promotions... none of this is paid time. It all works out when event is complete and you get paid since the fee should cover the upfront work that was done. However, if a booked event does not run, all that work is for nothing.
Lately it's been a matter of finding balance in how many bookings I take and being more selective with which organizations I work with. This year I've had the pendulum swing both ways - constant bookings so I've worked too many weekends in a row (which wears my family out) as well as too many untested venues with bookings that have fallen through (which wears me out). However, overall it's been going really well and I'm thankful that I have a few core connections that work very hard on my behalf to see classes fill up, I love being a part of their team.
I guess the last thing that has really contributed to stability for me has been something a lot more abstract than income, calendars or studio space. It's this idea of "Compound Time" - time regularly spent pursuing unrelated learning that impacts the growth in your art practice. The past few years spent helping at the museum, expanding my printmaking plus all this letterpress stuff I've been doing is starting to heavily influence my direction in the studio. I've changed. I believe I am a more well rounded person because of all the new connections I've made and things I've learned how to do. I look forward to more in 2018. Perhaps I'll start thinking about a Top Ten list for the New Year.