Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are we having fun yet?

Winter Wonderland at Union Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
December 8th-January 24th.

I love my job and I rarely complain about it as I feel I am truly privileged to do the work I am on the planet to do, the work I have trained for, and the work that I love to share with the world. However there are various negative stereotypes and ideas about artists that get in my way and clutter the path I walk. I have been thinking about these and thought it warranted a discussion.

1. Being an artist must be fun! It must be just great to lock yourself away from the world and play!

I hear this a lot from folks after I tell them what I do. Most of them mean well and most of them hope that my job is fun, because perhaps theirs is not. I understand. We all would like to be having fun more often than not. However, if I came up to you and said, "Wow! You are an account executive? That must be fun! A surgeon? Fun! A mail carrier? Even more fun!" You might get a little huffy... Not at the suggestion of fun per say but the idea that your job is easy, child like, simple, or less than.

You might think that I am taking people's comments too seriously or that I am being defensive. But imagine if you had studied for years, spending time and money to work up the ranks in your profession year after year and then over and over again you are dealt this patronizing comment. I'm not playing.

I think this comment comes from this dreamy and ignorant idea of the artist, the person who either has a trust fund enabling them to frivolously play at being an artist or the idea of the overly emotional sensitive soul that just can't quite make in the real world so they called themselves an artist and now they are safely ensconced in their attic studio with their only true friends, their paints and brushes.

Being an artist is working a job like anyone else. Being an artist is a legitimate career. As an artist you produce, promote and sell your work. Sure it can be fun at times, but it can be equally hard and unsatisfactory like any job.

2. Artists only use one part of their brain, you know that zany art part!

I hear this again and again in varying and worrisome terms, this idea is so wide spread that artists actually start to believe it themselves and perpetuate the myth. Making art is a huge part of my life, but being a successful artist means I also have to use a whole other set of skills. I am my own secretary, publicist, marketer, sales person, accountant, shipper, and the list goes on and on. I am an independent business owner as an artist and I have to use a business mind to make sure that I succeed. I have to keep an eye on the market, I have to network and stay connected to my patrons, just like any other small business owner.

I have had many intelligent conversations on the subject of the business of marketing ones art. People often act surprised that I can carry my weight on these subjects or that I even make it on time to the meeting (you know how flaky artists can be about time). Again, this is just another stereotype that needs to be put in its place.

I love my job and I hope you love yours too. Just try to remember I am showing up and working just like you and that I am using my whole brain while I do it. Artists are multidimensional people that work insanely hard at what they do, at least the successful ones.

If you want to compliment an artist, offer them your validation, tell them how hard you know it is and tell them not to give up. Tell them that you value their work and you appreciate what they offer to the community. You are likely to have a much richer conversation with that artist and you will have made their night.

To be seen for what we are and to be appreciated for what we make and bring to our communities and world through our art is what we are striving for.


As promised we have a winner! Randomly selected.... Sharon Simmons!!! Congratulations- You will receive this miniature paper painting from my etsy shop!

A change in the atmosphere
© 2011 Megan Chapman


  1. I hear you Megan! As a poet, I hear things like this, too, and it is always a bit hard to explain, if the person I'm talking to is even willing to hear me. Thanks for this!

  2. Brilliantly written. I couldn't agree more.

  3. You did not get my comment.....waaaaa


  4. ,,,,timely, that is!

  5. Wonderful post! I do have to say that you're one of the most talented and hard working people I know. You have numerous talents and skills, each one of which adds up to make you one amazing woman, artist and business person! I agree with everything you said. Here Here!

  6. artists certainly have a great deal of work to do
    to change this perception. thank you for the post.

  7. Eloquently written-as someone who remembers growing up around people who asked..."when are you going to get a proper job?" I'm glad that I wasn't discouraged. May I never have to be proper.