Six weeks ago I announced I was going to take a year off teaching and devote myself to making art. I resigned from my job, but stayed on to finish out the term. Now the journey is underway. And what hubris it takes to “quit the day job”, and tempt fate to teach me a lesson for being so audacious.
I’ve budgeted $6,000 to fund the year off. I’m reserving enough money to find a job and relocate if and when I have to strap myself back into the harness of working for peanuts for others. I don’t think I can stretch $6,000 for a whole year – even living in Thailand, where my rent is just $250 a month, and I can get a decent meal for just over $1 – but I’m going to try. A friend pointed out that I earn hardly more than $500 a month teaching, and that’s when a light went on that I might be able to do it.
I’m also assuming I may not make any money off of my art or get any donations – I can’t rely on manna falling from the heavens. The total money I made off of art last year was – zero, nothing, zilch, nada, 零, ไม่มีอะไร. So, I’m being realistic. It’s HARD for a no-name, independent, fine artist who works in digital media to make enough money to buy a used postage stamp. Clearly, what I am doing now is not working, in which case, in addition to making a bunch of new pieces, I’ll have to find clever ways of getting more exposure and recognition. I plan on earning it and deserving it.
However, if I make any money it will go into the pot of the initial $6,000, and allow me to keep on making art. If before a year is up I start bringing in enough money (@ $500 a month) I won’t have to go back to work, but that’s a long shot. Part of the problem is that I work digitally, and there’s no one-of-a-kind object for buyers to invest in. More about that another time.
So why am I doing this? As long as I’m working a job it takes most my time and energy, and art gets relegated to a back burner. This is partly because of my work ethic. The last university I worked at in China forced me to take a personality test, and the result showed one of my strongest characteristics is a sense of duty and responsibility. I put my job first. But now I’m essentially working for myself, in which case I can redirect that attitude to work to my own ends.
If I don’t take the time now to work on art, I may end up waiting too long and never getting around to really throwing myself into it. About eight years ago I spent ten days meditating in a Thai temple, for about 6 hours a day, and when I was done I had one very clear regret, which was that I hadn’t made more art. Sure, while meditating, I managed to keep thinking relatively subdued. But after hours of meditation, when I was back in my monk’s room, the floodgates of thinking and reflecting on my life would burst open. When I looked back at my life it was my art that mattered most.
If I work really hard, and fail, at least it will be a dramatic failure. I don’t want to be the guy who threw his talent away to have an average life spent toiling and making money for others. Thus, even if I don’t make any money, I’m excited to get really involved in my artwork, and make a bunch of new pieces. I don’t know what I’m going to come up with, but I’m confident they’re going to be really good. And maybe if they are as good as I think they’ll be, something will happen, and I might be able to start living as an artist and be free.
If you want to follow the trials and tribulations of my attempt to take a year off to make art, there’s a “Year of Art” button on the menu bar. And it’s not just about me trying to do it, the project is representative of people today trying to earn a living through intelligence and creativity, and independently, rather than working for others in some unfulfilling subordinate capacity.
If you haven’t seen any of my recent creations, see this gallery.
If you don’t know anything about me, check out my snappy about page.
Work already for sale here.
and if you happen to be filling generous, there’s always this.