Day jobs, or kids say the darndest things

Today, in the car, my four year old daughter told me that she is going to be an artist because she likes to paint and draw and make stuff. She figures if she becomes an artist she can continue to paint and draw and make stuff. Then she tells me that she is going to “go to work” too. She’s four and she knows that artists often need day jobs. This is comforting in that it means I am less likely to have to give her rent money when she is 40.

A few months ago I was working on a piece on arts financing. I never got it off the ground, but her comment today spurred me on. Let’s discuss this. There are generally two types of artists (in the financial sense). One is the artist that is totally art driven in artistic pursuits and usually does sometthing else to pay for living expenses (or has a very supportive spouse). The other is the artist that wants to do only their art (and its associated crafts), and ends up doing a lot of work that is in their field, but not necessarily in their artistic vision. Much of my career I have fallen into the latter category, and have the memorized horn parts to “Brickhouse” to prove it (although the therapy s helping).

Is one better than the other? Does one allow freer art? Do you have different perceptions of one’s work over the other? Please comment.

2 thoughts on “Day jobs, or kids say the darndest things”

  1. You know, Jeff…this is a tough one. It really depends on the person. I know some artists who can’t imagine working a “real” job while others do so when necessary. I think it depends on your responsibilities and whether they amount to paying your rent or taking care of your family. But, I’ll say that I think the media’s romanticization of the artist’s life has made things difficult. Lot’s of college graduates enter the real world with an illusion of success that means doing nothing but your art. The reality is that almost every single successful artist I know has done some other kind of work. The difficulty in doing other kinds of work is to maintain a focus on your art despite fatigue and the endless pursuit of money to finance your dream. In NYC, paying the bills is hard enough to manage without trying to record new music and endow performances. I know many people whose idea of success changes once faced with the obstacle of supporting a family, etc… I guess regardless of your choice, day job or no day job, the Darwinian dictator of success in the arts is perseverance.


  2. My goal early on was to make a living from music. I didn’t care what the music was, but if I could pay my bills from playing and writing, I felt like I was a success. I was a success by those standards.

    What I want from it now is a bit different. 10 years ago I wanted a lifestyle, today I want to be able to make great music with musicians that I respect and enjoy. Sometimes it is easier to do the latter when you aren’t depending on music for your livelihood.

    I wonder how my music and life would be different now, if I had taken the artist path instead of the craftsman path 10 years ago. Who knows? I am happy now and was happy then, so it is all cool. This discussion comes up with students often, and I sometimes wonder what the responsible answer is.

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