3 Things I'm Learning About Being an Artist

Free to Exhale Daje Morris3

1. glamour is the exception, not the rule

When I was younger, my mother used to point out busted-up cars as we were driving and tell me that those were the kinds of cars that artists drive. 

And I THANK her for it.

My mother expressed a lot of wisdom in those moments. While her intent was to convince me to become a Medical Doctor (sorry Mommy, hahaha), she taught me a crucial lesson about the realities of a creative's lifestyle. Becoming an artist of notoriety (aka, who earns a more-than-decent paycheck) requires an incredible amount of dedication and hard work

One of my favorite artists, Marina Abramovic, worked as an artist for over twenty years before gaining notoriety in the art world. Though she installed her pieces in museums all over the world, she received little to no pay for her edgy and even dangerous performance art pieces. Abramovic now has a documentary on Netflix that features her remarkable creative journey, and more specifically the process of her three month installation, The Artist Is Present, at the MOMA in 2010.  She is considered the "mother of performance art," and rightfully so.

2. keep working until your creativity can take care of you

We all know what a "day-job" is. Yeah. That.

While I know (believe me, I know haha) that you would rather be spending 8-10 hours in the daytime working on your art, but if you're not getting paid, then it's hard to swing it. Money is crucial to survival. Like, we have to eat and pay rent and what-not. If you've been lucky/blessed enough to strike a consistent paycheck in the art-as-a-career world, that's awesome. These next lines are for the rest of 'em.

While earning money solely from your creative work might seem like a stretch now, be encouraged that its not impossible. In January of 2015, I was officially over making lattes for cranky (and sometimes racist) customers at the large corporate coffee chain I had been working at for quite some time. I committed to myself (while also snatching up different job) that I would increase my income by $500 a month by my birthday in June using only my artistic skills. And. I. Did. but not without a fair dose of hustle and a great lack of sleep. 

3. networking is just as important as creating

This. This is not my favorite topic. It's scary. When other people talk about it, it sounds like fake smiles and schmoozing all over the place. Honestly, that just isn't me. So I figure that it all boils down to this:

  1. Be nice.
  2. Be helpful.
  3. Learn how to converse.

There are plenty of people who say that you should pretend to know and love things in order to get close to important people. But that's a lie. Networking is all about humility. Look, we all know you're busy working on your work, but sometimes it's okay to go to that house show you won't know anyone at or to offer to help someone with a project they're working on. Networking requires putting yourself aside for a second and being genuinely involved in someone else's world. Find out who they are, what they like. You might gain a real friend, an acquaintance, or a client. Who knows?