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6 July 2010

Is there any such thing as a 'part-time' artist?

When asked the question, ‘what do you do for a living?’ I usually reply with a split answer because I’m a part-time bookseller and a part-time artist. That is the reality of the situation; however in financial terms I would not exactly say either (or even the two combined) was much of a ‘living’ but that’s not really why I chose to have this double life. There are benefits and cons to both situations. However after spending every hour of my spare time this week on art projects it begs the question, is there really any such thing as a part-time artist?

It often feels like I am really just a bookseller and lead an ‘alternative’ and almost at times secretive undercover life of being an artist, like really it is just a hobby on the side of what I do in the daytime. Of course I don’t treat it that way and have found it at times a difficult and at times a educational experience to sustain the two and have them both taken seriously. I am not alone in this aspect and can think of many artists who, like me work part-time, in teaching for example as well as continuing their artistic career in their spare time. Do part-time artists gain or loose out when it comes to opportunities and promoting their work?

In deciding to attempt this lifestyle for a year I wanted to develop my understanding and experience of the art networks available in Somerset. Things like finding out who and what exactly were out there in the seemingly big and mysterious unknown art world. I wanted to build my professional portfolio in different art practices. For example, my first experience was a commission for a mural at a local school which was one of my first ‘big’ solo undertakings since graduating. I then had experience on a public art project for Taunton Deane which really helped my understanding of the context of art in Somerset. Currently I am writing on this internship with SAW gaining another perspective into a more public and marketing side to the arts. Whilst all of these were ’part-time’ undertakings they have also felt at times like full time commitments which is why I question if an artist can every really be part-time. Not that I am complaining, mind, because I enjoy and deliberately throw as much time as possible at my art because I enjoy it. I am sure none of you reading this would probably need convincing that the benefits of making and working in the arts brings a sense of satisfaction and value sometimes that money cannot buy.

I personally do not feel as though I have missed out on art experiences due to juggling between two jobs when in fact one has often enhanced the other. Working in the bookshop for example has given me time for reflection and inspired me through the books I’ve discovered and people I have worked with. I was at first surprised to discover how creative people outside the bubble of my art education are and then humbled by their support and responses to my own art endeavours. I have been very fortunate and think if I had to pick some bad points to working part-time it would be that I couldn’t throw myself as much and as ambitiously as I would have wanted to in some projects and some commissions and residencies are only interested in artists who can make a full-time commitment. Surely the main thing is that whether you are full-time or part-time, half-time or all the time as long as you’re still going that’s the main thing. After all,
It’s not exactly a living, but it’s a life!
Please let me know any thoughts or experiences you have on the subject.

1 comment:

  1. Good bit of writing Nat. I don't think 'part-time' comes into it, if you are making art on a regular basis then you are an artist. When you stop, you're not! Elizabeth Earley Artist