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April 9, 2011 / Danii Oliver

Making the move to Working Artist

Time to view work for self and for a project differently.

Artists are storytellers, emotional creatures with tendencies for perfection. Perfection: (artist definition) 150-200% of what can be done at the highest level of ALL expectations.

Artists want to marry you and die with you on the first day of meeting you without ever first asking your name and number. They are self centered possessing tunnel vision for what they can do. They don’t play nicely with others because they don’t stop to see how what they are doing is effecting others around them. They just respond to what’s happening to them.*

*This is not a negative thing. That is where art comes from. It’s is a reaction to the environment, atmosphere, and events around the artist. Their perspective, one that others may not have or could not see. Art is the enlightenment of the reaction or response.

To make the transition from starving artist to a working one, artists must step back from their work and step outside themselves. Many artists want to work, want to get their name out into the world but, are stuck doing a job they hate or that doesn’t pay. A big reason is because they don’t want to collaborate. It’s their way or the highway. So they end up on the highway with their pride intact.

This is counter productive. The goal is not to be a sales associate but, a working artist. So when an opportunity comes up why do artists walk away? Answer, they don’t step back and step away from their personal work.

Let’s take a look at what stepping back and stepping away means. Don’t step forward and say “I feel I think I want”. Many times when an artists steps forward they step with “their” feelings. An artist’s feelings have nothing to do with the work at hand. Thus, step back and listen.

Artists also don’t step away from their work. Every opportunity is a new one with a new direction and new challenges. Although artist can prepare and study and try to be ready for the biggest challenge they can forsee, their foresight is limited to what they know. The concept is “What you don’t know about you don’t know”.

Locking oneself in their studio to perfect what they know is naive. There is a one in a million chance so to speak that what you know is what will be needed. So step away. Trust that you know the basics and can do them well and quickly.

I interviewed a few artists recently. Asked all of them the same basic questions. What I got was a whole lot of emotional responses. Few answers were about technique and tenacity.

One artist I interviewed I asked him, “What do you do?” he said “A little of this and a little of that”. “Ok, show me.” “Ahh, I have to find it,” was his response. “Can you make some stuff now?” “No, I have to go.” He lost that an opportunity even with me cheering for him. He wanted me to trust him but, he didn’t want to do the work. That man left my office in tears.

Another interviewee I asked what do you do? “I like orchestra, Broadway, compositions. But I’m willing to do anything.” He let me listen to a bunch of dramatic orchestra compositions he made for different genres. The pieces weren’t diverse. Later in the conversation, I mentioned how he could focus his brand or adapt his work. He argued that he couldn’t break away from his heart because he would not be true to himself. So he wasn’t willing to step back and work.

When it comes to working as an artist it is not about being true to yourself it is about the work, the project. Who said self was suppose to be in the mix? Your being hired for your know how and ability to get the job done not for your personal work. In conclusion, think of it this way “your work”, the things you do for yourself are a means of introducing your skill set. Not what you will be hired to do. A job well done is better than a job not complete let alone perfect.

It’s nice that you know how to handle and drive a race car at 200 mph but your only being hired to drive 30mph to insure the safe delivery of the product.


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