|"Remembering Saint-Siméon", 10x10" mixed media on wood panel.|
I read an interesting article this week, about the trend of monetizing hobbies. It was an interesting read, and got me thinking about why I have been trying for years to get a business going from my painting.
It wasn't at all about money. I've had a full time job since I was 20 years old, doing something I enjoyed and was good at. I got paid well enough to be comfortable, so it's not like I needed extra for things like food (for someone entering the work force today it would be an entirely different story. Even those working in the same field as me don't get paid enough to cover rent in Toronto, let alone eat).
As the years rolled along though, I found that money wasn't the same as job satisfaction, and as I got more experience doing what I was doing, I hit a point where I got bored. The challenge was gone.
Boredom is a tough one for me... I love to learn and have never been good at being content with the status quo. When the company I worked for wouldn't let me move to a different area to learn something new, I thought about going elsewhere, but it is the biggest player in the game with the most complex work there was to be done. Changing jobs didn't seem like the way to go. Instead I threw myself into my "hobby", and decided to put in the hours it took to get good at it.
I've always loved painting. I have a degree in fine art and I've made stuff off and on since I was in high school. I never seriously considered it a career... I didn't have any money during school, so I lived on a shoe string, and though I wouldn't say it was awful, it wasn't exactly how I would choose to live. Poverty isn't fun. And as I didn't know any artist that actually made a living from their art (except those that taught), I didn't think it was a realistic possibility.
These days I paint like someone obsessed. I think about the painting I'm working on when I'm at work, or driving, or in the shower, or out on a walk. I see the world as a painter, looking for the colour in the shadows on the snow, or framing what I'm looking at as a compositional problem to solve. I note colour combinations that speak to me, I look for interesting textures. I've always got 3 or more pieces on the go. And my house is becoming cluttered. I've got paintings stuffed in closets and under beds, but I still keep making more. I can't stop. I've started painting over some of my less successful, older pieces, but I've still got too many.
I enjoy doing the art fairs. I'd probably enjoy it more if I sold more, because the packing stuff up to move is my least favourite part. I like going to galleries and chatting with people about the work. I love getting feedback about my own work. I love seeing photos of my paintings in my collector's homes. I feel joy when one of my friends, who have been following my work for years, call to say they want one particular piece because it speaks to them. It makes me feel like I'm bringing joy into someone else's life, and that makes me happy.
So while I wouldn't recommend everyone turn their hobby into a side gig, but I do see value in pursuing what you love, and becoming the best you can at it. Do what you want and don't worry about if it will sell. Lots of great work is not very marketable, but that doesn't make it any less valuable. Have a day job if you have to, but don't give up the thing that makes your heart sing. There is value in You being You.