For most creatives, a day job can sometimes be comparable to ripping a band aid off slowly. Especially when it’s something that utilizes your left brain, which leaves your right brain screaming bloody murder to do something remotely creative. I have experienced this with multiple jobs. Sitting there doing some time consuming, mentally un-stimulating task for hours as you day dream about the art project that’s sitting at home waiting for you to work on it.
What art school failed to teach me was how to lead a creative life in a world of left brainers. Navigating that world is a skill which you can learn, much like time management and organizing is a skill. Failing to find a balance between that 9-5 job and your creative life will leave you frustrated and fed up. Although getting up and walking out of the office of said job may be what you want to do, learning to work with your job rather than against your job is was what art school needs to start teaching their students.
As a working professional artist, this is a skill I have been working on teaching myself and other artists through my Solo Exhibitions Program at Altered Esthetics. Its true, in this day in age, you cannot make it on your own in the art world without a stable financial backbone. For many of the generation X and Y kids, financial stability will be hard to come by with out a day job. While there are artist who live solely on their art income, young emerging artists and those fresh out of school need to know that a day job is a must. Relying on your art for your income purposes takes preparation, knowledge of running your own business, and a solid financial background to support you while your launch your artistic practice.
The structured studio classes we took in college gave us the perspective that we needed to make art in these large chunks of time. Oftentimes, the thought of creating or beginning a project gets pushed aside because we think we need more time to work on it. I love going into my studio for a good solid 8 hour day, but I only get 2 days off during the work week and I still need to find away to run all my errands and get my laundry done too! If I can squeeze in an hour or two in before or after work I am definitely in there and working. Using small chunks for time, lunch breaks or taking admin or sketchbook work with you can help scratch your creative itch while you toggle through the left brain domain.
So here’s some quick tips on how I manage to work the 9-5 grind while maintaining my sanity, I’ve learned how to focus on my art career as my primary occupation. When people ask what I do, I say I am an artist, rather than a customer service representative, retail manager, data entry personal, etc. I also talk about my art career at the day job, to let them know that I have other focuses outside work. I share my passion and the current projects I am working on.
Yes, I have gone through stacks of Post It notes doodling, and glued together broke jewelry to make repurposed accessories. I also bring art related work to do during my lunch break, whether that means working on contracts, reading how-to books, or scheduling in studio time into my day planner. I have also decorated my cubicle crazy to feel expressive and have worn some unique pairs of shoes. If you interested in trying to find this balance as well, I first began with reading a book called Artist in the Office by Summer Price.
It teaches creative individuals how to change their perspective on their role as a 9-5 worker bee and how to add a bit more creativity into your work life. Makes things seem a bit more bearable I would also recommend My So Called Freelance Life and The Anti 9-to-5 Guide by Michelle Goodman. While Goodman’s books are more geared towards creative people transitioning into a full time freelance position, I found them extremely helpful to creatives who are looking to take their creative hobby a bit more serious.
So yes, day jobs can be extremely lame. But here are a few good things about them:
1. They get you out of the studio so you don’t become a studio vampire…or zombie.
2. You get some social interaction
3. They turn off your right brain for a bit. Sometimes you need a break so you don’t burn out, or some room when a piece isn’t going the way your want it too. Taking some time to walk away from projects can help solve creative problems.
4. They pay for your art supplies, materials, equipment, exhibition fees, workshops, and studio rent. Drawing pencils and paint aren’t cheap!
5. They help you keep financially stable when commissions or other freelance work is on the low. If you’re interested in becoming more financially dependent on your art income, begin by clearing your debts, and investing more of your paychecks into savings. When you take the leap into freelancing, have about 6 months of livable income saved up as an emergency fund.
Tips for finding a job that’s conducive to a creative life? Avoid offices and data entry positions. I didn’t last long so I wouldn’t recommend it either. Search non-profit websites or art job listings.
Here are a few locations where I like to search for arts related positions:
MN Council of Non-Profits:
Walker Art Center:
Springboard for the Arts:
Mpls Institute of Art:
Or if leaving your job is not an option, find new ways to be creative at your old job. Take a look at the awesome necklace I created while on the clock, I repaired jewelry at my current day job and used the remaining pieces destined for the trash into new pieces of jewelry.
After this creative spurt on the job, I have since then bought jewelry, broke it and now I am assembling my own line of collaged jewelry.
Here are some other ways to be creative on the job:
1. Read books or materials on art or your favorite artist.
2. Draw during lunch and breaks.
3. Decorate your work area in a creative manner so you will feel inspired and creative as you work in your space.
4. Dress in your favorite outfit or wear your art. Do you make jewelry? Promote yourself by wearing it. And for the 2D artists, why not make graphic t-shirts?
5. Carry your business cards with you. You never know when someone might take interest into your art.
6. Go on a walk and take some photos.
8. Bring a fun mug or a fancy tea cup to drink your coffee with. Head over to Paint Your Plate to paint your own ceramics.
9. Do your art research or write press releases.
10. Bring a fun lunch. Spend some time making themed or festive desserts or lunches. Share them with your coworkers….ok maybe just the coworkers you like!
11. Listen to book tapes. Nothing like getting through a book in a couple of hours. If you are allowed to listen to music or have headphones on, listen to audio tapes with materials that will help you in the studio. Tapes on organizing, time management, or biographies on artists are good places to start.
12. Grant write. This was one of my lunch time projects. During my data entry job, I brought my Artist Initiative Grant to work with me.