Blog / 2020 / How To Love Your Art #14: Don’t Let Jerks Near It
April 26, 2020
We’re coming up on the end of the “how to love your art” blog series, with a total of 17 tips to celebrate my 17th artiversary in May. Today’s installment was always going to be important, because dealing with inconsiderate and superficial people is a vital skill both in art and in life, but it’s only more so in a culture that’s set up to sacrifice independent art when there’s any disruption to the system.
Surround yourself with patrons instead of people who patronize you.
Meanies can take multiple forms. There are the individual naysayers who fill your head with doubts—some of whom have already featured in this series in the post about charging a lot of money for art. And there are the institutional baddies. I’m talking about villains like the arts council that tried to bully me into violating copyright and the pay-to-play promoters who like to shame artists into buying their services. These kinds of jerks think that artists should be so grateful for opportunities that we would never dare to push back against shady behaviors.
Both the individual and the institutional meanies super-suck, and artists need to get 150% better at excising these naysayers from their lives and their creative headspace. But right now, there’s another kind of art enemy who’s much more prevalent.
Some jerks don’t need a smack down: they need an art-loving education.
I first noticed the need for schooling when I asked for a rent reduction, explaining that the COVID-19 interruption would impair my industry for years to come. My landlord rejected my plea with the justification that, since I work from home, my job cannot possibly be impacted. And they are right that I can keep making art and promoting it, but what they don’t understand is that 90% of art labor is not compensated in the best of times. When the economy goes to hell in a pandemic basket, art labor is even less likely to be remunerated.
The next teachable moment came when I applied for unemployment, since freelancers are supposed to be eligible for emergency coverage. Well, as it turns out, the Department of Labor has a lot of extra claims to deal with from non-self-employed people when there’s a pandemic—so much so that they don’t have time for the additional work of accepting freelancers into their system. The DOL doesn’t see my canceled exhibitions as lost earnings, and it’s not a priority for them right now to have good long think about how massive lay-offs in every other sector will gut artists’ income. I may receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance at some TBD magical future moment, but, as you can imagine, I’m not holding my breath.
People default to the “art = luxury” mindset very easily, even when their whole lives haven’t been turned upside down.
And when I say “people” I mean artists too. This is why my “how to love your art” blog series is essential right now. If artists don’t believe that art is a necessity on par with water, food, shelter, and healthcare, then there is no way that we can communicate its value to potential patrons.
Please stop stalling on asking for support from your community. I know you hate the idea that artists should welcome charity, but please set up a Patreon profile or some other way of accepting ongoing microdonations. Open a print-on-demand shop. Make it easy for people champion independent art during this crisis!
I’ve adapted to the pandemic by making more art on paper—first this figurative piece and then this food art—since I can keep that stuff at lower price points. My strategy is working. I’ve sold not only all the new works on paper I have made so far, but also some older pieces that have been available for a while.
If you’re interested in purchasing some work on paper, this is the spot in my shop to check on for up-to-date info on what is available!
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