Friday, March 20, 2009

What Do Artists Do for Money?

I first posted this on Feb. 27.  A couple of weeks later I unposted it. I got self conscious about it.  But, after reading Katarina Wong's blog posting, "The Day Job-or-Would you like fries with that painting?" I decided to repost it.  I realized this was my own way of expressing money concerns Ms. Wong expressed so well in that piece.

What Do Artists Do for Money?

I first thought about a career in any form of art when I was 12 or 13.  I told my parents, “I think I’d like to be a writer.”  Without missing a beat my stepmom said, “You’ll never make any money.”  I marveled that parents could exist with such misplaced values.  But, you say, the 13 year old Manuel didn’t see the whole picture.  Well, maybe after being laid off I see a greater piece of it.  Now I’m in the position of coming up with that flash of inspiration, and conjuring that next career.   

What do artists do for money?  

Gauguin worked on the Panama canal for a week or two.  Nah.  That’s been built already. Or, maybe, I could get the U. S. Government to pay me not to plant potatoes.  Nah. Obama's on the case.  I'd never get away with it. 

Well, I knew a painter named O’Donnell, who was loathe to get a job.  He had the idea to found The O’Donnell Society.  He would charge membership fees to its members, who only had to own an O’Donnell painting to qualify for admittance.  I tried to imagine the society’s activities: sitting around rubbing elbows with the great O’Donnell himself.  Or, even, just staring at him adoringly.  Maybe I could start my own society. 

Or, maybe, I could take a page from the great merchandizing campaigns of such franchises as Star Wars.  Could I sell Manuel action figures?  Manuel mugs? Manuel, Action Painter posters?  How about ballooons with my face on them?  Manuel, Superstar Artist board games? 

How undignified.  Could one’s honest art ever be valued by society?  I admit it: there’s a little self-pity going on here.  I guess this is my moment to feel down.  But, in the long run, the only way to survive this horrendous time we’re all living through is to keep a positive outlook, work hard, and be very clever and inspired.  Even the 13 year old Manuel needed to have that ingenuity.  We need it even more today.

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