Life as an Artist: Update 8: make art, not war

{poster by Shepard Fairey, available here}

It’s been quite a while since I wrote my last “life as an artist” update—the series I started, to talk about the reality of making your life about making art. In fact, this is a pretty perfect time for me to be writing this particular post because it has been almost one year since I started this series to write about my adventures in making a living as a full-time artist.

If you’ve been following my blog since then, you know that the last year has been a grand adventure for me. To recap in short: I quit my “day job” and started doing art full-time in October 2009, then due to financial issues, I decided to look for another part-time job starting January 2010. I was absolutely terrified about getting another job, as I had had many soul-killing jobs, but in February 2010 I found a job as a courier for the city. My courier job {that I still have} turned out to be a great fit—I get to spend every morning working on art, and I courier in the afternoons {during which time, I let my mind wander as I deliver mail in the city’s Toyota Prius}. On top of everything, it seems like the minute I started looking for part-time work last winter, my art sales went up, and now I’m making a pretty steady part-time income at it.

This leads me to what I really want to talk about here in this post: despite the balance I have struck between working for myself and working a side job to make extra cash, I have still been creating bucket-fulls of struggle about being a full-time artist. You know—that endless stream of shoulds inside your head—that voice that tells you, “If you were serious, professional, etc, etc, you would be doing this, this, and that?”

I’ve grown very tired of that voice, and tired of beating myself up about all the things I’m not doing, in order to become a “full-time artist.” So, last week, I started wondering, “what is this all about? Why am I doing any of this?” And the answer is: I just want to make art—I just want to make lots of expansive art—play around and by doing so, inspire other people to do the same.

And the reality is: I AM! I make art every day. I spend 20+ hours every week playing around, making art, and creating my art business. So, in light of this realization, I wondered again, “What if I already am living my ideal life? Couldn’t I want to be, and strive to be a part-time artist and a part-time dabbler in other jobs?” These questions made me feel like the sky opened up and the sun started beaming into my brain.

I realize that to some, this could seem like a cop-out—“when all else fails, give up”—but is it? I think that being a full-time artist is a very worthy goal, and I say “go for it,” if it sounds expansive and wonderful and you love what you’re doing to get there. But for me, I realize that if getting there feels like striving, and putting my nose to the grindstone, and working really hard {and all of the neuroses that I seem to create along with it}—then, that really just sounds too much like “work” to me {the opposite of play}.

Yes, I am admitting here that I don’t want to work hard. This does not mean that I don’t want to do my work, but wouldn’t it just be a whole lot nicer to work softly? Do the work that you find beautiful, compelling, inspiring, gorgeous, and just forget about all of the other junk? Of course, there will always be bookkeeping and lugging large tables to craft shows, but, want to know something weird? I actually like doing the bookkeeping for my art business—I find it fun to crunch my numbers—I know, I really just lost you on that point, but—wouldn’t it be nice to just follow the dream part and drop the drudgery?

The phrase that keeps popping into my head about this is from the gorgeous poster at the top of this post that I always have in my studio area, designed by Shepard Fairey (and I believe I’ve shared with you before). It says, “Make Art, Not War.” While I think that the intended meaning of the poster is a bit different, for me it means: I’m here to make art, not war inside myself. I’m here to lead a life of wild creativity, not a life where I make even my wildest dreams into some version of the hard grind.

So, here I am saying I would like to work softly at being an artist—I would like to make art with as much whimsy and light and play as possible, and I would like to continue to work a random string of odd-jobs to make extra cash—who knows which odd-job could be around the next bend—it could be exciting {for now my courier-ing continues}!

My grand goal is to continue living the life I’m living right now, and enjoy every last second of it, and see where it leads. And even when I’m frustrated, I would like to enjoy that too {if possible}— can’t I enjoy being frustrated? On that note, I think I’ve revolutionized my thinking enough for today, and I will go forth and continue working away at art as softly as I’d like, or even hard when I feel like it. Thank you for sharing this adventure with me! Happy dreaming!

12 Responses to “Life as an Artist: Update 8: make art, not war”

  1. 1 tiffany October 8, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Thank you for this post! And I can say that I really feel the exact same way!

    I’m going to look into the courier stuff, too!

    • 2 Nicole Docimo October 8, 2010 at 9:11 am

      Thanks Tiffany! I’m so glad you found a bit of yourself in this post! I’m definitely pro-couriering {especially if you get in with a low-key place like I did}! Good luck!

  2. 3 Leah October 8, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    I like your interpretation of “make art, not war”. I am going to add that to my list of personal mantras! Thanks. :)

  3. 4 Emma October 9, 2010 at 4:07 am

    Wow, I LOVE this.

    Of course this can be your dream life! We can love something without doing it all the time. In fact, I think there can be benefit to that. (Like you said, your courier time lets your mind wander…a necessary part of art, I think.) If you’ve found a balance that works for you, that is all that matters.

    This is the path I am headed to, as well, I think. Right now, I am doing creative stuff (or just lazing about) all the time. In a few months, I will probably work a part-time job. I will NOT work a soul-crushing part-time job (I totally understand that fear you mention), but my part-time job may also have little to do with art. I think that’s OK, as long as it feels OK to me. (Actually, I’d love to have that part-time job be at a bakery or something similar where I could be creative in a different way.)

    Anyway, thanks for sharing all this!

  4. 5 Laura October 11, 2010 at 3:20 am

    I really enjoyed this post- I recently (wait, is 3 months ago “recently”?) quit my 8-5 job and I’m having such a hard time wrapping my brain around not working a “regular” job and making art instead. I’m trying to shift my thinking as to what a regular job is to me and reading posts like this helps so much! Thank you for giving me a renewed sense of hope!

  5. 6 Meghan October 13, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Oh, I really love the idea of working softly! It’s going to be my new mantra. It’s been so hard finding balanc after having mr t (in fact, I’ve been catching up on your blog while feeding him at night), and what I really need to do is let go and work softly, not work so hard. Growing up, my dad always made a distinction between “working at” and “working on” something, and I’ve definitely just been working away AT my life, not making a lot of progress (at least in the direction I want to go). I think letting go of working hard will actually open a lot up for me.

    I really love these artist’s life posts!

  6. 7 Kerri October 14, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    You know what’s crazy? You are an artist full time because YOU are an artist. Do you stop being an artist while doing your job? No, you are still you. You are a full time artist with a part time courier job. I don’t know why I never thought of this before! It is actually impossible for you to be anything other than a full time artist while you are alive. Let it go and let the soft work begin. P.S I don’t want to work hard either!

  7. 8 Quinn W February 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I love this, Nicole!

    This line pops out for me: “What if I already am living my ideal life?” We’ve been exploring this in my yoga training lately. Saying “when x happens I’ll be happy” or ‘when I’m like x I’ll be happy” is merely deferring our happiness to a future moment. But if we can’t be happy now, there is no possibility for happiness. Why? Because now is all there is. Now. and Now. and Now. The future is only an idea, but the experience we have right now is only right now. Everything right now is perfect because there is no other way for it to be.

    And honestly, I think inspiration for our art can be found anywhere…even in acting as a courier!


    • 9 NicoleD February 21, 2011 at 10:32 am

      Hi Quinn! I just popped over to your blog—we have so much in common, and I look forward to following your blog! I couldn’t agree more about what you say here: all there is is NOW. It can sometimes be hard to remember, but everything gets a lot easier when you do!

      • 10 Quinn W February 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm

        I’m glad we could connect as well! It definitely is a lifelong practice to live in the Now and embrace it for all that is brings forth. Something is revealed to us everytime we can live from that place!

  1. 1 Finding a Job that Jives with your Creative Practice « blue bicicletta Trackback on October 12, 2010 at 9:56 am
  2. 2 When I Grow Up – The Blog » Blog Archive » Finding a Job that Jives with your Creative Practice Trackback on November 4, 2010 at 10:18 pm

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Hello there! My name is Nicole K. Docimo, and I am an artist and writer from the U.S.A. but currently residing in Zurich, Switzerand. Thank you for visiting my blog!

Some Thoughts

"Be thirsty for the ultimate water,
and then be ready for what will
come pouring from the spring."

{from "Joy at Sudden Disappointment"
translated by C. Barks.}

~This Work ~

Unless otherwise noted, all images and writings on this blog were created by me, Nicole K. Docimo aka Blue Bicicletta. If you would like to share anything you see here for inspirational purposes online, I just ask that you kindly let folks know where you found it. If you are wanting to share/reproduce any of my work in any other way, or have any questions about how you will be sharing the work in relation to copyright, please contact me directly at nkdocimo {at} gmail {dot} com. Thanks!

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