Friday, April 8, 2016

Taxes and Manifestos

detail from a work in progress
This past week I shipped several small paintings to the states, communicated about an upcoming commission for another patron and worked on a new painting. All in all, it was a productive week.

It's tax time in the United States so I had to gather my records of receipts and sales and all the things one keeps track of in this profession. I am grateful to my accountant Diane Hagerty and of course Stewart for being the spreadsheet wizard that he is.

Even with this help, I still kind of lost it. There's nothing like tax time to showcase my vulnerabilities. It did not come as a suprise that 2015 was not a good year for me professionally. I would even say it was close to one of my worst on record, if not the worst.

Suddenly looking at the figures before me I took a one way trip to loserville and have been crying pretty much all week. I even broke out into hives and have felt pretty much incapacitated. I think the hives are related to something else but I am sure they were not helped with my full blown "stop the charade, get a real job" pity party I threw for myself.

While in the midst of freaking out, a patron bought another piece, someone wrote a lovely comment about my art and I took some time to look back at all the work I have created. I thought about the exhibitions I have been a part of and how many of my paintings have lovely homes all over the world. I started to feel little better.

I never thought I was going to make a steady living as an artist. When I was at University I borrowed as little as I could so I would have as little debt as possible to repay because I knew my prospects weren't good. I joined AmeriCorps and worked with them for a year after school to help pay off what little I had borrowed, quickly.

I have planned my life in such a way that I try not to cost myself or anyone else too much money to feed, water, house and clothe. I am the ultimate comparison shopper, bargain hunter, trash to treasure finder and creator, make do and mender, wear it until it is threadbare as well as being a good cook who can cheaply add warmth and life to any home.

This is my life as an artist. I don't often understand it completely and I question myself and my art mercilessly. I don't think the way I have gone about it has always been the smartest or cleanest way. I could have taken more risks. I could have priced my work higher and I could have kept better and more organized records. I could have networked more or perhaps I could have gotten that M.F.A. after all so I could teach for my security as I move into the deep middle of my life.

I could have done a lot of things but this is what I did. I kept my prices as affordable as I could so that the most people could live with my art. I helped other artists polish their art and helped them get ahead in their careers anyway I could. I gave of myself for the greater good of the community of artists and patrons because that is what I believe in. I have sold hundreds of paintings all over the world and that is unbelievable and wonderful and more than I ever imagined when I was graduating with my B.F.A in 1999. Don't lose sight of this, Megan.

So here I am and I just ran my figures for 2016 and we aren't even through month 4 of the year and I am already doing better than the whole year of  2015. This is a wonderful trend and one that I hope continues.

I have to remind myself how I am starting over now and that I always knew it would be hard to maintain my connections, momentum and livelihood while I figured out everything over here in Scotland and tried to forge new connections. I have to allow myself the time and keep moving forward.

For most of us, being an artist isn't exactly a job or a career and to treat it like one or to try to judge my success through the norms of society is foolish. It's time once again for a new manifesto and a new plan. At this point in my life, what do I want from my art? What does success look like for me? How can I do what I love and support myself? What is working and what is not? Is it time to reproduce my work as affordable prints? Is it time to learn a new skill? Take a class? Find a job that helps me live better while giving more love to my art and less worry? How can I find and maintain the joy in my work? How can I take more active steps to creating an art community around me here in Scotland?

I look forward to investigating these questions in the future and I may just use this space to do it. I hope you will stick with me, I have a feeling many artists struggle with these same things.

Thank you to everyone who purchased my work in 2015 and so far in 2016 especially as I start anew over here, your purchases have lifted me up and given me hope. Thanks to everyone who has ever supported my work as an artist whether through purchases, support, mentoring or a kind word. I wouldn't be here without you.

Until next week, you know what to do. Keep fighting, the world needs you and your art!

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