I recently attended an event where someone met me and said, “Oh, you’re the artist!” And I said yes, and proceeded to describe my art. We had a very nice conversation about art and creativity. They then asked me about what time I arrived at my studio each day, and I informed them that both Kevin and I have corporate jobs on top of running the gallery. They looked shocked. I then told them I was a Project Manager for ADP and worked with training tax credits in Georgia, and Kevin was a Software Engineer/Architect for OpenText. They were even more shocked. Then the comment came…I winced. “Oh, I had no idea you would have such responsible jobs, I’m surprised.” Now you see why I winced.

What is it about the word artist that evokes thoughts of irresponsibility, or whimsy, or laziness? When did the term artist become synonymous with free and easy lifestyle? And why is it that people assume Kevin and I have lightweight jobs instead of ‘productive’ (the word this person then used) jobs. Both Kevin and I are seen as the top of our fields. He travels the U.S. solving complex software, hardware, document management problems on global systems…and I produce tax credits at an annual rate of $7.5M for my clients…I assume the word ‘productive’ would apply to both of our jobs, at least our clients think so!

What do you think of when you hear that someone is an artist? Do you imagine someone with poor personal hygiene, long straggly hair, and flakey interpersonal skills? Do you envision someone who can’t make it in any other field, so they are an artist? Do you think of a cluttered studio and unfinished work everywhere, with bills piling up and piles of paper everywhere? Do you assume they are unorganized, inefficient, or worse yet ‘strange’? Do you imagine that the artist is so creative that they have challenges functioning in regular society? I have had people describe artists with all these words…how sad. Having worked side by side with full-time artists in shows and events, none of those words describe them.

The full-time artist is probably one of the best examples of entrepreneurship in the business world today. They create their work, market it, sell it, track the inventory, handle the money, collect and pay their multiple levels of taxes, supply orders, manage storage, sustain a studio, control a household…and all that without the security or assurance that their income will improve. It takes courage and dedication and integrity and plain old gumption! They not only create the product, they are the product. While we corporate cube dwellers get to go home and relax after our daily, corporate contributions (with paycheck in the bank); the artist lives, eats, and sleeps their ‘product’ and everywhere they go they are being inspired, or creating, or explaining, or selling themselves or their work. Whew!

So when people meet me and find out I am an artist, I am complimented. To be in the same category with these hard-working, creative dynamos is a TRUE accomplishment. I only hope that when I make the move to full-time artist (which is in the works years down the road) I represent the group in a positive light.