Can you be a part time professional?

Frances Vettergreen, "Orchard" (detail), oil and wax on panel, 2010

Your job is to be in the studio from at least 9 till 5, if not more.  If you don’t want to do that, then you shouldn’t be an artist in the first place.  But networking is a big part of it.  When you’re not in the studio, you’ve got to get out there. — Cristin Tierney, art advisor.*

So I guess I should just give up now.

Seriously.  What kind of an expectation is this?  Clearly Ms. Tierney only knows famous artists, or the independently wealthy kind.  And the rest of us, who need our day jobs and want to see our kids and maybe, just maybe, want to do something else every now and again, can go hang.   Well, expletive deleted to that.  That’s the attitude I was taught way back in art school and in my early years working in the art world, and it’s a big reason I gave up trying to earn money making art in the first place.  Poverty is no fun, and anyway I personally need life experiences to draw from…and if I’m eating, sleeping, breathing art, well, things can get pretty circular.   Pretty soon I’m making art about making art, and that’s just not what I’m about.

Once I got over being ticked off, though, I started to think about a bigger issue:  can you be serious about a discipline (art, sport, medicine, the law, whatever) if you only devote part of your time to it? I’ve had this discussion with a couple of other artists recently, and I think what it boils down to is the goal.  Not making a living, not being an art star…but maybe, someday, making a work of art that might be remembered.   The old saw about talent being nine tenths perseverance is true, though.  A regular, ongoing commitment to a studio practice is crucial.  But can that leave room for other things?  I think — ok, I hope — so.    The image above is a detail of a painting that developed in my mind while I was watering my community garden plot, and if I hadn’t been spending my evenings there, I couldn’t have made it.  Even if I say it who shouldn’t, that would have been a shame.

But let’s open the discussion:  what do you think makes the difference between a professional  fine artist and a hobby painter?

*The quote is from a sidebar in Jackie Battenfield’s The Artist’s Handbook:  how to make a living doing what you love, Da Capo Press, 2009, which is actually a pretty useful book.  Can’t say if Ms. Battenfield shares Ms. Tierney’s opinion!

3 thoughts on “Can you be a part time professional?

  1. Róisín O'Farrell

    Hi Frances,

    First of all welcome to the daily painters movement. Don’t obsess to much on the daily bit (although some do) but it’s a great thing to aspire to. The small studies are great ways to challenge and explore subject, treatments and technique without committing to bigger projects.
    Have you heard of the portfolio career. I think it’s the way forward for working artists like us who have both financial and familial commitments outside of art. Actual that’s probably everyone. Here’s a link to where I talk a bit about it on my blog. Just delete the link if you’d rather not have that on here.
    http://www.roisinofarrell.com/index.php/2010/06/strawberry-saucer-portfolio-careers/
    to As to 9-5 in the studio well I couldn’t agree more – did I mention my studio is in my kitchen!

    Loving the pears –

    keep up the good work

    Róisín

    Reply
    1. Frances Post author

      Thank you, Roisin. Love the link…the idea of a “portfolio career” makes so much sense for us Renaissance types who do more than one thing.

      Your studio is in the kitchen? I’m impressed at all the paintings you can make there!

      Reply
  2. Diana

    Professionalism is about dedicating to life pathways. It does not have to be 9 to 5 as Cristen Tierney states. That is one path to a professional life but bringing the experiences of a well balanced comprehensive life to a professional life, well thats where the depth of artistic expression can explode. Imagine the accumulated life experiences of someone with that depth on canvas. Wow! And it just grows with time. Keep up your multi-path professional life. I like your art and how all your life is reflected in it.

    Reply

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