Why artists & illustrators should get a job

The romantic notion of a starving artist isn’t something that I’m buying into, and I think it’s a myth that is dangerous to those out there who believe that living in poverty because of your art is a noble (or even necessary) thing to do.

I believe that those who can’t live off their art (for now) should take on something else that can provide a sense of financial security while they invest in their work. There is never harm in being a waitress, or a magazine writer (!), or even a part-time gardener to keep a roof over your head so that you may continue to create.

I’m still writing for magazines and newspapers four years on, and take on copywriting projects to keep food on the table while I run Pikaland. It’s not something I let on about often (and I rarely complain), but I think it’s something that should be talked about more. When I’m running from one interview to the next, and when I’m tearing out my hair from an impending writing deadline – that’s when I am able to synthesize ideas and my thoughts better, crazy as it may seem.

Being busy and mingling around new acquaintances has allowed my own creativity to flourish. And knowing that I have bread on the table means that I can say no to offers from shady parties who want to place junk advertising and targeted links on the blog (I’ve heard they pay well, HA!) I think of it as a means to an end – not the end of my goals.

So throw away that ego, keep your hands busy and get out there while you scale your creative heights. Find a job if you have to – so you won’t have to sacrifice your artistic integrity. You’ll be able to stay true to your voice and your goals.

Share with us: What jobs have you taken on to supplement your income?

Image by Joana Rosa Bragança via Pikaland’s Flickr group


Happy Monday folks, and I hope you had a lovely rest over the weekend! 🙂

75 Replies to “Why artists & illustrators should get a job”

  1. lynda says:

    i tutored 7-16yr olds in Math & English & gave little kids private art lessons for the first 2yrs 🙂

  2. Although it would have been great for me to have read this a month ago simply for some self-validation, I found this out for myself while being unemployed this year. I knew from having an office job that I would struggle with picking up a tablet pen after already nine hours of looking at a screen, so i suspected that I should perhaps refrain from getting another job if I really wanted to realise my dreams.

    At one point I had it in my head that I would FAIL FOR LIFE if I got another job and this period would be my one shot to make a career from my art.

    I couldn’t have been more wrong. Luckily I ended up in a creative job as a graphic designer, but I believe I feel far more inspired while working than when I did just sitting around the house. True, there isn’t so much pressure for me to create art in my spare time, but whenever i do, it’s not just anything I can get my teeth into to earn money or self-promote. I’m creating more quality artwork for myself and I’m now able to turn down commissions that don’t suit my style.

  3. Jobs I had to make a living besides my illustration work: host at an art gallery, graphic designer and art director at two different advertising agencies and freelance graphic designer.
    Nowadays I run a photography business and work as a freelance art teacher to get food on the table.

    I would do anything as long as I can continue drawing and making art. 🙂

  4. Britt says:

    I work in a large chain bookstore stocking the shelves an making displays before they open. It’s not the best, and sometimes it makes me want to pull my hair out. But it doesn’t come home with me. Plus I’m home before 11 am and have the whole day to work on what’s really important to me.

  5. Jen says:

    I work as a marketing assistant for an arts centre. Being in an office five days a week can be a drain on time/motivation for creating, but I really enjoy working with other people & it’s nice to have something collaborative to work on, plus knowing I can pay the bills is a massive weight off my shoulders. I’ll be going part-time in the next few weeks – I’m hoping it’ll be a worthwhile transition to having more time to work on illustration. Doing so will spare an extra two days to focus on freelance & personal work, but I’ll still be able to work with a group of interesting people in an interesting place, & I’ll still be covering my bills. Hurrah!

  6. agree on all counts, i also work on all kinds of commercial projects as an art director/designer. now freelance, but worked in offices (ad agencies) for years. it makes you value personal work more.

  7. Nicole says:

    I work at a frame shop part time. Not only to I enjoy the work but I also get to frame all the fun project coming in. It is good for me to get out…I tend to be hermit-like otherwise!

  8. Evelin says:

    I conduct craft workshops and freelance as a coaching assistant for corporate training…. Am looking into writing too to supplement my art & crafts 🙂

  9. Laura says:

    I just quit my full time design job for a semi part time dog walking job so I can have more time and flexibility for my art while still raking in some cash (and playing with cute dogs!) It was a great decision and I’m so happy to hear about more artists fessing up to their other jobs! I always wonder if my favorite artists are JUST artists. We all need to talk about that little bit more I think! Great post!

  10. Line Katrin says:

    I work at an art gallery, in kindergarden and on a cafe. I find it great to meet people this way. I love to do different things. It makes my days exiting:) Take care!

  11. María says:

    I’m a graphic designer in the mornings (doing labels and cookware), aspiring illustrator in the afternoon and struggling actress, singer and dancer by night!
    I love being extremely busy and, though I’d gladly give up my morning gig, I’m thankful for it because it allows me to pursue and afford my art.
    Thanks for the article. It’s very inspiring! I do believe the romantical notion of “starving artist” is completely askew and distorted. There’s nothing romantic about starving and struggling. If all you can think about is how to make it to the end of the month you can’t be creative.

  12. char says:

    Well…lets see…
    I have painted white trim (a lot) even though it’s still painting…it’s definitely not creative…
    I have styled hair on the streets of Spain to Germans and English…trying to sell them the “Concord Clip”…
    I watch kids after school…
    I run a Baby and Mom Trade Show…twice a year…
    Yup…and this is all so I can still paint and create in the time I have left.

    HUGS Amy, and thanks for reminding us that we are passionate about our ART…enough to never give up.

  13. theghost says:

    I’m an aspiring artist, but I do plan on having a part time job once I get out of high school and out of college. I would want to start a bakery after I save up enough money, all the while doing two things I love-baking and drawing.

  14. linda says:

    As always, you bring up really important topics for creatives.

    I do design, graphic and web work to make ends meet…even though I would be happy to just doodle all day! Sometimes I do feel like it’s a crutch in terms of not going for it more…because I have a source of living. It’s comfortable and its easy to just keep going this way. On the other hand, taking too much risk can cause strain, so I understand the point of having a job until your passion can be sustained. Somehow we have to find a happy medium. Earn money to survive, but have energy and time to pursue that future goal!

  15. Suzie says:

    I supplement my income by running a french vintage shop on etsy. Creating art is my passion, but I love running this business also, even when it keeps me out of my studio for too long!

  16. Jason Ong says:

    The waiters that I’ve spoken to in Munich are all working to fund their passion – football, rugby, art, etc. And they’re happy doing it. Maybe a less mentally straining job as a baseline?

  17. I agree Amy! I even worked for some time as a make up artist for drag queens in Brazil, when I was starting, about 10 years ago. I didn’t knew anything about make ups, but they seemed to like the drawings I was making on them!

    I never forgot why I was doing that, and I enjoyed every step and worked very hard! 😀

  18. Joy Charde says:

    Thanks for this post, Amy! It’s so great to see everyone’s comment too… I’m not alone!

    Currently, I work full time as a Business Manager for a public library which allows me to stay home a little during the day with my kids and I go to work at night after my husband gets home… Art time normally comes early in the morning and after the babies go to bed. It’s not easy, but I’m enjoying the ride!

  19. Dewi Isn says:

    This is an interesting post, thank you. Currently I’m a freelance illustrator, but don’t handle too many projects right now so I’ve been doing my job as a translator and writer. That’s quite fun thing to do to earn money while waiting someone recognize your portfolio and give you commissions.

  20. ixa says:

    Thanks, thanks for sharing the experience and encourage creative

  21. megan says:

    It gives me a lot of encouragement to hear how many artists aren’t “just artists”. I do administrative work in an office, where I’m fortunate enough to do a lot of in-house design work. When you have a family “starving artist” just isn’t an option. It does get tough though, to create time for art with a full-time job, commute, and family. Its true what they say though…if you really want it you make time, if not you make excuses!

  22. Roz says:

    I’m an intervenor for a student who is deafblind in an elementary school. It’s like a special education assistant, and I’ve worked with different students with different sorts of disabilities. It can be draining, and I wish I could detach more from it at the end of the day, but it keeps me from being my natural hermit self, and it helps me think about things from a different perspective. I’m inspired to think about the different ways we all perceive, which feeds my art making. Also, I can’t be creative if I’m stressed about money. I don’t have as much time to experiment as I wish I did, and wish I could explore process more without my expectation that I should make something awesome looking- but I’m able to reach a rough balance.
    Props on the openness of this discussion. I would be comforted to know that the art I admire comes from someone with a job on the side.

  23. Roni says:

    I worked as a retail assistant part-time

  24. Jo Cheung says:

    I was working part time for about a year and recently I decided to go full time. It was my choice but at the end of the day I can’t be working part time forever in the hope that illustration will kick off soon.

    I am a tutor for children with autism and it was a career I didn’t think I’d go in to be fair. But I am really enjoying it and it means that I am still doing illustration on the side, working full time doesn’t mean giving up.

  25. Amy says:

    I’m also holding my hands up for having a job that doesn’t stress you out mentally as what Jason mentioned. I find that if I’m cranking my brain for too much ideas for my day job, it’s a little harder to churn out ideas for what I love.

    So great to hear from all of you! 🙂

  26. Katie G says:

    Dear Amy,

    This is another fabulous and important post!

    And its particularly pertinent to me this week as I’ve just been turned down yet again for funding that would have helped me take time out from work to write my graphic novel. Instead I’ve been forced to once again remember all the positive things about my day job….

    I work part-time in an independent craft shop. I started there over six years ago, the same time I started art college so when I’m feeling really blue I torment myself with thoughts about having made no progress with my career at all in six years.

    But I’m lucky, really. My job can be extremely creative: I am mostly responsible for the website and advertising, I often get to create window displays and example projects, and of course I get to advise customers about their creative endeavours (and dazzle them with my knowledge of all the different glues, sewing threads, etc etc). Sometimes the work is mindless and repetitive – I price stock, I roll ribbon, I count minute jewellery components, but those are the moments I can drift and think about my own work. But best of all I have a boss who is creative herself, who is used to having employees who do their own work outside: she has always been flexible allowing me time off when I’m snowed under with work, or extra hours when I need the extra cash.

    You’re right that not many artists talk about their day jobs, and I think it would help everyone feel less lonely. Like so many people who’ve commented above, I’ve often felt ashamed or inadequate that I still need help making a regular income. But there’s a lot to be said for knowing you can pay the rent at the end of the month. If I didn’t have that I would surely waste creative energy worrying about money rather than working.

    In trying to cheer myself up this week I also came up with loads of other positives about having a day job:

    – It helps with structuring my week and gives me a routine. – It gets me out the house, to interact with people and to get some exercise. – I spend 3 days a week at work, and each of those days involves 90 minutes walking, which is my most valuable thinking and creative problem-solving time. I work out so much for my book on those walks! – My job has taught me so much about how a small business works, and given me ideas to take home and apply to my own work.

    Thanks Amy! xox

  27. miss cat says:

    I’m not an artist, but am also having to come out with original research and this too requires a lot of thinking outside the box and constant fear of someone having done the same work. I do have a somewhat related part time job and have spent much less time sitting down and just dedicating every inspired or non-inspired moments staring at the screen at my research work. But no regrets there, as doing something different to occupy time and earn some dosh is important, and it also gave me a different perspective and inspired my research from meeting different ppl and attending other work-related engagements.

    Actually there’s also a big bunch of struggling and hungry researchers dedicating their all to science, but me, I still want to have the luxury to have some fun and eat nice food once in a while. Job, that is!! Life is too short to suffer lol!!

  28. Shaun says:

    I work part-time as a researcher in a company that works in the charities sector. The rest of the time I spend working on my art in general and, more often, on my webcomic.

    I actually find that having a part-time job focusses me more on my art when i have free time. I actually get more done on some work evenings, busily scribbling away the day’s stress, than on the days that follow lazy-woken mornings.

  29. Emma Collins says:

    I graduated in July and have only recently got myself a job as a x-mas temp; stockroom assistant. I’m also working on my portfolio in my spare time. It’s hard work keeping myself motivated but I have some great friends who keep me going. I WILL be a children’s book illustrator :p

  30. ella goodwin says:

    I work at an Art School as a tech and juggle really varied freelance with my own work. Much as it’s the dream to be a hundred percent freelance working for the bread and butter money gives me security. I also find that energy breeds energy and without the regular get up and go I might not be as motivated and fizzling with ideas without the balance and contrasts!

  31. I work full time as an art technician in a secondary school – It’s inspiring to see new talent emerging and I love to be able to share my skills and face new challenges. I have a balance between my day job and producing my own artwork thanks to the pikaland bootcamp. I love working at the school it would be a hard decision to leave if there came a time when I was too busy to do both.

  32. John S. says:

    In 15 years of being a freelance technical illustrator I’ve always mixed it up with other kinds of illustration work – and I think my illustration work has benefitted immensely. Never turn down a job – not only because of the money, but because you never know what you are going to learn from it.

  33. I teach english to 3-5 year olds at the English Art Club. We get to paint and create with them every afternoon! At least I get to use that artistic energy with them and gives me a financial stability while I study and create at night-time.

  34. Claire says:

    Great article. I’ve suffered with the ‘fallback career’ syndrome my whole working life, and my CV looks terrible because of it! I’ve done shop work, worked as a milliner, office work, mac-monkey work, sweeping floors, the lot! Whilst it’s not earned me even enough money to get by at times it has given me many transferable skills, skills I put to use this year as I set up my own online arty-giftstore (The Curious Pancake): a proper ‘fallback career’ I could well and truly get my teeth stuck into. I’m enjoying meeting artists, sourcing cards and beautifully illustrated gifts and it has given my own work a new dash of inspiration. We’re undergoing a small facelift on the site at present but we’ll be live on Dec 1st for hopefully a few Christmas orders (we ship worldwide). Hats off to all creatives who work a second job, it can sometimes bring inspiration (as well as occasional dashes of despair) but will always bring money which equals creative freedom!

  35. I think it’s great that someone finally said this out in the open. I don’t think it’s a shame to work a job on the side so you can do what you really love! Just realistic 🙂 great article… always nice to know your not the only one 🙂

  36. Amy says:

    John S – you’ve hit the nail on the head as well — it’s not just the money, but the experience you can glean from it that makes it worthwhile. I’ve learnt so many things that I would never have known had I not gone out and stretched my horizons!

  37. Bethany says:

    I left my first job as an Art Teacher to pursue my freelance illustration career. I ended up working as a secretary at a beverage distributor to earn an income and for health insurance! I quit that job and decided to do temp work… which led me to my dream job at an ad agency! They placed me for two weeks as a receptionist but after meeting people in the Creative Dept., they asked to see my portfolio and I was offered a position. I was able to build my portfolio with high profile clients, and then later could pursue freelance with a better background. Currently my “job” is being a mom but I get freelance work now by word of mouth and later will pursue what I want to do when my kids are grown. I’ve learned a lot from working at lots of different positions— even at a ski resort!

  38. Sommer says:

    This is a great dialogue to be having! love it! I have also done many random jobs… from substitute teaching, babysitting, french tutoring… but now I work part-time at an independent gift store (Trohv) in DC… a few days a week… and also just got an Etsy shop to help supplement 🙂 Life is never boring, that’s for sure 🙂

  39. Heidi says:

    I agree. I’ve had a bunch of part-time jobs like clothes shop assistant, admin in a retouching department, post person, credit control clerk.. even one day drilling holes into metal sheets. What I learned from these jobs & the people in them is invaluable for my illustration work – as important for building characters as these jobs were character building for me!

  40. rebekah says:

    I agree, I’m far too stressed without a stable income to create anyway! I’m a pottery teacher to special needs kids, I work full time.I’m just busy busy! I like it though, I get bored far too easily being at home!

  41. serena frati says:

    Hi! Great blogpost. I totally agree. I worked as a waitress after school, just to have enough to have a roof & a meal on the table, but when I went to job interviews the people there told me (yes that happened more than once) that I wasnt aiming high enough, working as a waitress…! In other words, they meant that if you dont have rich parents that can pay your rent you should just give up trying to work in the creative fields… I didnt quit my dayjob, and eventually I found a place to work where the people weren`t so narrowminded 🙂

  42. I work almost full time as a freelance graphic artist to pay my bills. I live in NY so I need the money that is for sure.

    I used to work 3 days a week and I must say that did work a lot better for my creativity. But the place I work now works with my schedule, pays well and I never have to work late.

  43. I wait tables and take freelance jobs when I can. While not always easy maintaining creative energy, it’s steady work with a lot of flexibility. I can work on personal projects for my website and not worry about how I’ll pay my bills each month.

  44. Maya says:

    How true, but sad – as some people’s life is about creating, they need it like air. Also, I’m very disappointed that art, in general, cannot be a paying job, as other jobs are. Why should artists cannot be paid as waitresses – by the state, or by private groups? After all, they pay taxes like everybody else.

  45. Jessica Pollak says:

    Thanks Amy! It’s somewhat reassuring to see there are others in the same boat. I’ve noticed that friends from art school seem to fall into two categories: they work a creative day job or they work a number of part time jobs to support their own art. Many of my friends that have steady 9-5 jobs seem too drained to make art at the end of the day. (many of them aren’t completely happy at work either) The people who work part time jobs have little downtime and are often broke. I fall into the second category and I feel like I can’t stop thinking about work and relax. Taking a part time job has helped though with a little financial security and helping me schedule my time better! My part time job isn’t draining and I still get to be creative!

  46. Maeg Yosef says:

    Amy! This is such a great post. Thank you for sharing honestly about your own work outside of Pikaland—I’m always surprised sometimes to find out about the side gigs of others, but I have one, too! I’m fortunate to have a PT (can be FT) job painting signage for a large company. I get to paint and draw in a pretty chill environment and get benefits for my family (oh, I’m a mama, too!). I do my art biz as well but we really depend on the steady paycheck and benefits.

  47. lea says:

    i work wednesdays in a butchers,where the boss subjects all the staff to ritual humiliation and verbal abuse(all in front of customers too!)ladies and gentlemen-its the grit in my oyster-i work twice as hard atmy art-had to give up my shop/studio after 18 years due to the economic climate but I WILL NOT GIVE UP MY ART!!!
    keep going and keep happy-and keep painting!
    lots of love from lea in the u.k.

  48. Stephanie says:

    to fund being a textile artist, by day i’m a nursery assistant, but a year ago had about 5 paid and unpaid jobs to help me get one better paid job to help me have a roof and food whilst creating. yeah the day jobs demanding ask anyone who looks after 4months -2yr old children, but the inspiration and fun i have make up for the lack of my own creativity but i know that after a few weeks of not doing my art i’ll have a outburst and create. if you want to be creative you will but having a support base makes it easier.


  49. Emilia says:

    Great post and comments!! I’m glad to have found this. I am graduating with an MFA at the end of April, and am already transitioning into a full-time ‘creative’ job as Programming Coordinator of a university arts/collaborative space. There is a lot of dialogue amongst my peers about what happens for us as artists after grad school. Part of my decision to take a full-time job is financial (of course)- I have loans to pay off, luckily not too many, but enough to make me hesitant to not have anything. Another reason I took the job is because I think I will meet many creative people through it, and will have the opportunity to be creative and learn from it- someday I would love to have my own interdisciplinary arts organization, and I think through this experience I’ll gain some helpful skills. But my biggest fear? Of course, not having enough time to make art. Up until this point, I’ve always juggled various part-time, flexible jobs that allowed me to work around my own creative schedule. I feel limited by the fact that 3-month residencies now seem impossible. The prospect of being so tied down to something is scary. The best way to encourage myself in it is to know that it’s not a forever job. I’ll do it for a couple of years, perhaps more, perhaps less, and go from there- hopefully by that point, debt-free. I do think that many of my most creative moments came out of experiences with jobs that I hated- that’s where all the real-life ideas come from!! Sometimes removing oneself from the world to live at a perfect artist residency sounds to idyllic… but I’m sure at some point I’ll change my mind about that. I’m still really torn about it, but for now I guess I just have to go with the flow and see what happens.

  50. It’s good to know that there are a LOT of others out there having a side job. For me, I’m working at a department store for about 28 hours a week. I usually have one day in the week for illustration and I use the weekend and some evenings to work. But it’s not enough, to be honest. I’d love to have a job where I can schedule my hours myself, or where I could have two continious days off so I could actually finish something instead having it wait till the weekend.
    On the other hand: I can turn down clients, I don’t have as much stress of it, I have money for decent promotion and for nice goodies. And even when I wouldn’t find it a problem to be working at home, it’s good for me that I’m actually a part of a working team and meeting people in real life.
    But I’m not saying it’s easy though, my wish is that either I could be a full time illustrator, or have another sort of related business, like running my own shop…something that I like.

  51. Barbara says:

    Thank you for this post and to all of you for sharing your experiences!! I am an artist in my free time and always daydreaming about leaving my day job. I always feel like I can never call myself an artist if I stay in a day job. Maybe I shouldn´t be so hard on me. I AM already an artist, but don´t make a living with it. Where´s the difference? To read and to know that many out there have to occupy their time with other stuff is a great reveal. Besides I am working in an event/travel agency. Fact is this is what I´ve studied, although I am not identifying with this industry at all. But I can give myself the permission to be also an artist!

  52. Briana says:

    Great article, I work two jobs, one as a horticulture specialist in a plant nursery, another as an administrator in a Tai Chi School/Tea Bar. Attached to my administration position is graphic designer. I am the in-house artist which makes the job fun. Although I am not living off of my art, I know the opportunities are there. I just have to be patient and strive for them.

  53. stephanie marvin says:

    really interesting article i try to be a textile artist but working full time as a nursery assistantmakes it challenging. even finding a full time job since i graduating in 2009 from a ba hons in textile art, has been hard (no one at uni prepared us for the hardships of real life and being an practicing artist). i found it difficult to find a job within the arts and when i decided to go into teaching i started to look for positions within schools as a teaching assistant (to get the feel for the job before enrolling on a teaching course and also to gain experience with children) but also found that hard to gain a paid position due to having no experience so for 3 years after uni whilst trying to be creative ,i worked as a waiteress and temporary nursery asistant for a living the in what free time i had voluntered at schools, i think at one point i had 7 part time jobs. it wasnt untill 2011 that i got a full time job as anursery asistant that i could try and become creative again which i found hard (its far easier to help 3years olds to be creative and arty then yourself) so last week i found the courage and set out time and enrolled on a free boost your creativity e-course with the hope that reigniting my creativity will help in finding the balance between work and wanting to be a artist selling work. steph

  54. Tiffany says:

    Thanks so much for bringing this up on your blog! I am also an artist with a full time “day job.” (In fact, I’m at work right now!) I am a receptionist, and what I like about my job is that at the end of the day, I’m done. No papers to grade or projects to take home. My studio is a few blocks away from where I work, so I have no excuse not to paint. Another nice thing about working in a corporate environment is that I meet executives who can afford to buy my work. I even sold 3 paintings to my previous job.

  55. Evan Smith says:

    I trained as a hairdresser before deciding to do my art foundation and graphic design degree, my aim is to work as an illustrator/graphic artist. I have had a number of jobs to keep me with an income, I have worked in retail and am now in a full time position at a hairdressing salon as a stylist. Art and Design will always be my focus and passion though even if I’m creating in my spare time.

  56. moira says:

    wow this has made me feel so much better. I always felt like I failed at my art. I am a single mum, sons grown up now, but i have to support myselt. I have a different problem. I have fybromyalgia and arthritis. I can only work when I am well enough so want to go self employed as an artist. The t rouble I have is that the job centre have no in between. you are either poor and on benefits or rich enough to support yourself. I am trying to sort it out, but its a long job. I have always worked, brought up a family, and painted house portraits years ago. I was a van driver 40 hours a week, but after a bad fall I was unable to work full time.
    I am so glad to see, that not all artists have welll paid husbands to support them, or well off parents. mine said I would never manage to get a job in the art world and had to get a proper job. I am so glad that my father lived to hear mynews this week, as he was not allowed his chance to be an artist either. He is very proud!
    thankyou for this blog.
    keep your eye on the goal everyone, I have just been invited to exhibit in a London gallery which has been my dream for the last 35 years!

  57. Elina says:

    I used to work in magazine , and radio back in my country .
    Now I teach English in Istanbul to support myself .

    Thanks a lot for your article , it made me feel much better when I saw all these artists are like me : )

  58. Loz Dudek says:

    I’ve now been working 2 separate jobs for 3 years in order to keep me in paints, canvas, and all other mediums I may need. I may not make much (if any) each year from my art, but each of my jobs has given me ideas to work on and keeps me wanting to keep producing work.

  59. Kazz says:

    I needed your blog post!
    I only came across it about 3 months ago, and I was in the middle of trying to work out how to progress with my creative career, thinking it would class me as a ‘failure’ if I just got a ‘normal job’.. and I was worried that I would lose the motivation/freedom to make my artwork if I was working elsewhere.
    However the intense pressure of having to earn money just meant that I was stuck in a infinite cycle of doom-and-gloom with my artwork. I started to hate my creativity because I wasn’t ready to hone it into a money-earner.

    Reading your post made me think “actually, I’m not a failure as an artist, I just need to take the pressure off, step back, relax and re-evaluate”. Now I’m a barista/waitress and my confidence is through the roof, and it has given me a load of perspective which I will hopefully be able to utilise in my creative life.
    Funnily enough, the coffee bar I’m working in has put up a load of my artwork, so it has opened up doors in both of my worlds!
    So thanks for your honest blog post, it confirmed a little quiet voice in my head and has helped me immensely 🙂

    Of course the next stage is finding the balance between having a job, and then finding/honing my creativity when I’m away from work.. it’s only been a couple of weeks so far, and I’m still finding my feet with the job, but hopefully soon I’ll find the balance 🙂

  60. Le Chan Nhu says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. You don’t know how much this post means to me. This is the word: ” enlighten”. I feel like I have the answer for the question that I have asked myself and long for.
    And I do waitress while making art (:

  61. cotey bucket says:

    Another amazing and timely post. Well maybe not timely enough for me. I was stuck in a job and an environment that sucked most of my creativity away, for almost two whole years, so I had to leave. unfortunately (maybe?) I had no (exact) back up plan.
    All I knew is that I wanted to be my authentic self, make art, help people, and feel free in the world.

    Now I’m living the vagabond life style (AKA homeless), trying to remember all my art school skills, create an online presence, and figure out what it is I’m offering to the world all at the same time.

    This isn;t the easy way to go, it’s not for the faint of heart but I will say this; when all is said and done, if I haven’t turned to a pile of bones under some bushes somewhere, I’ll have some amazing stories to tell and some wonderful art as well.
    Everyone feel free to stop by and say hi,

    1. amy says:

      Cotey, hang in there! It’s not too late to put things into motion, or as the Chinese say – to put more grease under those wheels! I’m sure you’ll have lots of amazing stories to tell of your experience, but at the same time it’s ok to admit you need a bit of help. We’ll be cheering you on!

  62. James Adams says:

    I work in warehouses doing manual labor, while I get good enough to sell my illustrations. My art style hasn’t caught on yet. But, I’ll keep trying to improve my skills until I stir interest in my work. I’m 44 now. I believe I should have an art career by age 60. Then, I’ll be one happy bugger.

  63. Great post!! I worked as an illustrator for a few years on a newspaper, did comics, concept art for films and childbooks, and about 8 months ago tragedy came in form of death an money, so I moved to another town and I’m working as a night auditor at a Radisson hotel. The money it’s not bad, it’s bad to my feet! and I can’t avoid thinking I’m wasting my life, but well, these happens even to rockstars and every artist should be prepared for stuff like this. At the end art is in you, hope fully it’ll come out to the light once in a while giving you money, happiness and great times at exhibitions and cons!! I always will remember how good it was and that gives me hope to keep drawing…for now I’m saving good money though! 🙂

  64. Nancy says:

    I still work full time as a web person at a local university and illustrate early in the morning and late at night! I would like to transition to part time, though.

  65. Amber says:

    I am a full-time graphic designer, aspiring to be an illustrator. I would LOVE to be a full-time freelance illustrator, but the reality is, I have to pay my student loans and bills.

    Sometimes, the day job can be draining on my creativity, but not all the time. It’s not the most exciting place to work, but it’s not the worst, and I do get to go home at the end of the day at 5pm. Also, I can sometimes find time in the day where I jot down doodles and illustration ideas in my sketchbook.

    This article, and reading the comments really helped take some of the pressure off. I want to be a successful artist, but I also don’t want to stress out about creating art…so I’m trying to find a happy medium I suppose. It might be retirement from my day job before I become a full time artist. But as long as I continue to grow as an artist and share my art with others, I guess that’s ok. 🙂

  66. Silvia says:

    Dear Amy, Thanks for writing this post! Sometime I’m feeling a bit disconforted!
    It’s since a lot of time that I’m studying on my own illustration. It seems that now, after like a decade I started getting interested in this working field I’m having some sactisfying results (a project that sprung on my own initiative; an illustrated book coming out this may for a little pubblisher), On one side I’m feeling proud of myself, on the other one it’s hard because I don’t get any or very little of money with this activity, although I have high hopes for the future.

    In the meanwhile I’m looking for a job too: I won’t hide you that sometimes is very difficult and it’s very heavy for me ( I live with my parents that support me a lot)! But still, talking about keeping busy, I discovered the joy of teaching as a volunteer at a school for immigrant people: you learn a lot from them, I do also care for their children, teach them drawing and, when it happens, give private lessons of english or german. I hope that those experiences will help to follow some good.

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