An Artist’s Quandary


Okay. So this particular post is all question and no answer. I know what you’re thinking: “He’s claiming to not know something? What the actual fuck?!” Yes, it’s true. Now un-bunch your panties.


There are a great many of us fabulous creatures that refer to ourselves as “ARTISTS.” I’m talking dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers, fashion designers, writers, etc. A lot of those people who say they are artists do it as a hobby in their free time as a way to supplement the rest of their existence. That’s wonderful and all that, but I’m not talking about them.
I’m talking about those of us that refer to ourselves as “ARTISTS” as an answer to the question “What do you do for a living?”

Of THESE people there is a large percentage (at least half, I’d say) that have a day job. I’m talking a straight up, 9 to 5, not-artistic-in-any-way day job. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It can be a strong necessity for most people. Especially those with families.
Then, you have those artists who have found a way to commodify what they do and transform their art into what is referred to as a career. And good for them. No, really. GOOD FOR THEM! For now, we’ll refer to these artists as “the mainstream.” Even if they’re anything but, we’re going to categorize them this way for the sake of this particular discussion.
Then…there’s the rest of us. The “hustlas.” We do what we do full time but have not yet achieved that “mainstream” status. We work the long hours of a day job but without the structure and steady income.
I am definitely one of these. I teach dance classes several days a week. I do technical theater work regularly for one theater and freelance for several others. I am also a freelance choreographer, teacher, director and graphic designer.  I’ve managed to eke out a living with all of my gigs. It may not look like it sometimes but, hey, I’m not dead! (heh)
Now, many of my professional artist friends are in a similar boat. Several of these artists are a bit older than myself and have been living the artist’s life pretty much the same as I have…and for quite a bit longer. What we all understand is the concept of sacrifice.
Sacrifice is a HUGE part of art and being an artist. The pain and various levels of discomfort that are a frequent (not constant, but frequent) part of that sacrifice is fuel for the art itself. And we all seem to understand that.
Now, here comes my dilemma.
A large portion of the day job-havers and mainstreamers tend to have an air of disdain for us “hustlas.” A life of comfort and stability seems to be more important than the whirlwind existence of the “artist’s life.” My particular circle is composed of individuals that are fully capable of having gone into much more stable and lucrative careers, myself included. Instead, we have decided that we just aren’t built for it. We’re hardwired to be bohemians! Now, of course, we “hustlas” understand the desire for financial security and stability and have incorporated it into our lifestyle as much as possible. Of course, we all secretly, or not so secretly, yearn for that one break that will put us over the top. But the difference is, while we are working toward that goal, among others, we are also happy where we are. Not necessarily content…NO artist at any level is EVER content…but we’re happy. Even when we aren’t.
The mainstreamers and day-jobbers seem to have lost that concept of “sacrifice” to a certain extent.
Which FINALLY brings me to my question:
If an artist is no longer directly fueled by the struggle and sacrifice inherent in being able to identify as a full-time artist, does that in some way change the purity of the art?
Can a “comfortable” artist still be a pure artist? By this, I mean, could your unwillingness to sacrifice comfort be affecting your art in ways you may not notice? Does the art become more superficial when not filtered directly through struggle?

Again, I am asking questions, not making judgments. Give me your answers and insights, not your defensive reactions, please. But I DO want to know what you think!


2 thoughts on “An Artist’s Quandary

  1. I think that since art and its reception is subjective individually, the only means of determining ‘pure’ is how it is received and perceived by audiences and their reaction. I believe the purest of art is memorable at least and leaves an impact at best.


    1. So regardless of where the art “comes from” the important thing is how the intended audience receives it? Okay. Makes sense. But still, I wonder if the audience members knew the difference, would their perception change?


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