Why I Stopped Creating Art for a Living

From a young age I heard from nearly everyone in my life, “You should be creating art for a living.”, and for a long time, I did. I drew portraits. I created knitting patterns. I made soap. I wrote. I utilized my creative skills in a way that paid the bills. I was unhappy.

People are multifaceted, and if you start doing what you love for a living, it can quickly become all you do. Truth is, I have more interests than I have time to explore them and I’m never bored because I’m always doing something.

When I started creating art for a living. I went through a phase where I felt like I’d finally made it. This was it. This was my time. This was what I was meant for. Every time someone placed an order for a portrait I got a rush. Once the novelty wore off, I felt unfulfilled and as I churned out portrait after portrait, my passion for the pencil started to slip. It wasn’t long before what I used to love doing started to feel like a chore, so I changed gears.

Sisters

“Sisters”; charcoal on paper.

I started doing a few other things to make money from home but I got burnt out doing them as well. At one point I’d turned each of my hobbies into a source of income but I still wasn’t happy.

I started ghost writing articles. I freelanced, and I got a ton of work because I was so fast. I made a lot of money. I made more than I ever had in my life. Over time, I started to hate the work because I was being told what to write and it felt disingenuous.  The work started to feel cheap and I felt like I was lying to people. My creativity seemed to be wasted and I knew that if I was going to write, this was not the kind of writing I wanted to be doing. I wanted to write for me again.

A few years ago I stared at my computer screen and wondered what was wrong with me. I’m creating art for a living and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I should be happy. I thought for a long time that maybe I’d never be happy career-wise. Had I ever been happy? Yes! I recalled my first years after high school when I worked in a call center. That sense of purpose and being an adult I had. That feeling of being a part of something. Having a schedule, a set of directions, being forced to practice my social skills, having coworkers and making some of the best friends I ever had, drawing or writing for the sake of it and loving my output, being challenged. Challenge. That was it! I wasn’t being challenged when I was doing these little commission jobs where I was basically just filling in the blanks. I was doing work that I wasn’t passionate about, because my goal was ultimately to please someone else rather than myself.

Violent Devotion

“Violent Devotion” watercolour on paper.

As soon as I let go of the idea that I had to be a paid artist to be happy, a world opened before me like a blossoming flower. It took a long time for me to get used to the idea of a life doing something other than art for a living, because for so long, I’d felt like that was what I should be doing.

I still create, but I’m not pressuring myself to turn it into a career. It’s the best thing I could have done for my creativity, because now when I finish something I can actually be proud of it because it is 100% me right there on the page. I don’t even post advertisements on my website because I never again want to get the feeling that I’m being sold and that my work is suffering because of it. If someone wants to consume my work, I want it to be on its own merit and not some glazed over superhighway lined in billboards that will only distract you from my core message – which, basically, is love.

When I look back now to the years I spent creating art for a living, I realized that what was missing was that I was still working for someone else. It cheapened the experience for me and I was finding it harder and harder to find myself in what I was producing. In the grand scheme of things, I was still doing work that was dictated, which took a lot of the wind out of my sails.

Now I work in a Mental Health Clinic, where I still do something that I love, and on the side I still create. I create because I have to. I create for myself before anything else, and that has made all the difference.

Wendy V. Blacke

Artist. Mother. Space Vampire. Horror Buff. Knitter. Makeup Enthusiast. Matriarch. Bookworm. Writer. Lover of oddities and genuine weirdo.

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