An artist's career path is not linear. There are a lot of highs and lows...honestly, there is nothing else I would rather do. Everything else is so boring to me.
Author, artist, and Jeopardy! champion, Tiffany Gholar was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule and shed light on these topics. She discusses what's shaped her outlook on life, art, and on the subject matter discussed in her book, "A Bitter Pill to Swallow." She also provides a realistic take on the life of an artist.
If you're thinking of taking on a creative career, you won't want to miss Tiffany's refreshingly honest, yet inspiring, advice.
Despite my lack of motivation, I started an MFA program in fiction writing. I ended up dropping out after a semester and a half because I wasn't inspired to write at the time. By then, the terrible job market had only gotten worse because of 9/11, and I spent the next year and nine months working in a high end department store because I couldn't find anything else. I had hoped that maybe I could get promoted, but the way the store manager played favorites made moving up that ladder fairly impossible. But while I was selling accessories, I discovered that I had a good eye for color. I had also recently realized that I enjoyed picking out the furniture and decor for my apartment. It seemed like interior design might be a good career path for me and so I went back to school for that. But once again I graduated without any good job offers and ended up working in retail as a last resort. That time around, the positions I took were even more disappointing than the ones I had before! At one point, I was commuting 50 miles a day round-trip to make about $12 an hour. I was so disappointed. I thought that interior design would be a way to work in a creative field but still be practical and make a decent salary. And so I came to the conclusion that if I was going to be broke anyway, I might as well do something I love, even if it's not "practical."
So I went back to school again to get my Master's Degree in painting. The recession happened while I was in grad school. I had thought that maybe after I graduated I could work for a museum or arts organization, but those jobs were disappearing. So I decided that I would look for a simple day job that would allow me enough time to pursue my creative interests without the interruption of meetings, travel, or projects that I would have to take home with me. And that's what I've been doing ever since.
It hasn't always been easy. I still haven't reached the level of success I had hoped I would after graduating ten years ago. I don't have a major gallery representing my artwork yet. I wasn't able to find an agent for my novel and decided to publish it myself. I am constantly looking for new ways to make my art studio pay for itself and for ways to sell more copies of my novel. But I am glad that I have the time to pursue the things that interest me. I have been able to take the various things I have learned from my fields of study and the different jobs where I've worked and use them in interesting ways.
I had a particularly disappointing art show last fall that I had borrowed a lot of money to participate in without selling a single painting. I was devastated but at the same time I realized that I would rather take the chance of failing at something I loved than doing something that I hate all day long just because the pay is better.