Finding Work to Support Your Art Habit-Let Me Tell You MY Story

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The above button/magnet can be purchased from my ETSY store:suzanneartist

I recently read an overly enthusiastic (online) article on how an artist can find extra curricular income as they continue to build their creative business into a sustainable enterprise. Some of the suggestions were good, others–like knocking on doors offering to do physical work for hire, mowing lawns etc. was laughable. How many artists especially those of us in the middle years are going to go begging for lawn mowing jobs? As someone who’s done the following (listed below) over the years, I think I can offer an in-depth review of what works and what doesn’t because I’VE BEEN THERE DONE THAT. Tomorrow I will cover my enthusiastic suggestions. With no further ado, I’ve:

• Waited tables at a comedy club that was no joking matter had to quit when I got Epstein Barr-they tried to withhold one of my paychecks. An obnoxious comedian made a pass at me when his girlfriend was in the bathroom-I laughed right in his face like it was the most hilarious joke, they gave me few tables to wait, and I had to tip Bartender from my pithy pay when ordering drinks–WTF?

• Telemarketing-very demeaning to have a job that annoys people.

• Made props for Bar/Bat Mitzvahs for a party planner, including two giant whales that sandwiched the band in between-the kid loved fish. Money was good. Make sure you get paid upon delivery.

• Worked for a dating service–legit-but my mother was upset-I remember the day the ninety-two year old man wandered into our office with his photo album he was rich as heaven and outlived three wives, he didn’t care for the sixty-something we matched him with-“too immature”. All things are relative in the dating scene after all. Not a great job as well, poor pay and it sounds fishy, but seven happy marriages resulted in two years!

• Taught art for an Artist Guild and for a Small Business. Small business taught kids art by using stupid handmade kits to copy images-pretty poor if you ask me. Artist Guild job exhausting but good pay and rewarding, I designed my own lessons, this takes time at night to do.

• Temped including one stint where I tramped through the rain in a high-brow town handing out 15.00 gift certificates for a newly opened Staples store–everyone but one bitchy receptionist-opened their doors to me, this resulted in my crossing the street and giving TWO gift certificate freebies to the competing insurance company receptionist. Another stint was for a corporate conference center where I ate gourmet meals for free and could use their gym for free-I thanked the heavenly bodies for this one over and over.Temp agencies always pay on time.

• Costume modeled for artists-I have a “touch of ADD” as a former Dr. diagnosed, but was able to sit still for twenty minutes at a time. My mother purchased vintage costumes at tag sales for this job. My likeness made it on Danbury Mint stamps and some of Isaac Beshevis Singer’s paperbacks and some national magazines. Good money if you’re young as illustrators who paint book covers generally need young. Art schools take all ages, and like me you can keep your clothes on.

• Freelanced as a production artist at corporations and publishing companies-not bad if you can get the gig as long as they pay on time. Newspapers pay less, but it’s more rewarding-will cover in next post.

• Waited for caterers i.e. weddings, I always cried when the bride and groom took their first dance-exhausting work but pays well, and make sure you work for a NICE caterer, I worked briefly for one who was the devil incarnate, never paid his bills or paid late, he’ll be arrested for tax invasion or something some day. I believe in Karma but know it’s beyond my grasp to understand it fully.

• Worked for decorative painters-make sure you work for an organized one who is a good business person-see above story. Otherwise one’s style aesthetics could be a mismatch especially for an artist who creates murals and is totally disorganized. I also painted children’s furniture briefly but there is NO money in this for those well-heeled housewives looking for a deal, not to stereotype, but if it isn’t jewelry, it’s value is secondary to some. Also, decorative painters are painting on the buyers turf-so business boundaries come first, don’t allow them to leave kids at home unattended, nor make last-minute changes to mural etc. without added charges in place.

There were other jobs but this gives you the idea. Tomorrow I will cover more sane solutions-for those artists not willing to compromise professional integrity, or physical health by knocking on doors(therefore competing against the scores of lawn upkeep businesses)seeking part-time work while waiting for a commission/job to come in or painting to sell.

©2012 Suzanne Urban copy and image all rights reserved.

About suzanneurban

ABOUT MOI: I was born in San Francisco, California to highly intelligent parents, and my sister is pretty darn smart too. It's unclear if I inherited the smart genes. I graduated with a B.A. in Art from Marymount College Over a couple of decades, I illustrated and designed for newspapers, greeting card companies, in corporate graphic departments and publishing empires. I reside with my antique dealer husband and two house rabbits in a the third oldest home in Connecticut–(honest!-no ghosts-bummer). My husband will be joining ETSY with his own shop called: "VintageUrban" soon. ARTIST STATEMENT: I seek to amuse. When I come up with something more profound I'll put it in here. KUDOS: Over the years my work in various forms has been published in: NYTimes, DollWorld, Contemporary Doll Collector, Doll Castle News, SCBWI magazine, Color! magazine, Jane Green's Down to Earth Blog, Doll World, Scholastics, Westport Magazine, Mail Me Art, and more. In 2007 I was invited to do something for the State Capitol's Holiday Tree by Governor Rell. I chose to needle felt a bear ornament rather than hang from the tree myself. I named him "Nutmeg" as Connecticut is the "Nutmeg" state. ASSOCIATIONS: I'm the founder of or Original Doll Artisans of Connecticut-we're on Facebook. I'm also a member of SCBWI-Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Licensing- my designs are finding favor with licensing clients my work will soon be seen on needlepoint canvases and gourmet ice cream labels. That's about it. Amusingly yours, Suzanne Search Engine Submission - AddMe
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3 Responses to Finding Work to Support Your Art Habit-Let Me Tell You MY Story

  1. Whoa! I thought I’d been around,but wow Suzanne, those are some crazy experiences. I look forward to seeing what you have in the way of ideas. I need something to get me through right now. 🙂

  2. Susan F says:

    Oh Suzanne! I could tell ya stories…. there’s a book here — people’s worst jobs, craziest jobs, etc. You and I sure spent some time in the trenches, and the solidarity and most importantly HUMOR of co-workers kept us holding on and getting through it!

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