Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Artist's Life

Many folks think of artists working alone in their drafty studios all hours of the day or night. It's a romantic life. And while it may be hard to make ends meet, the sacrifice is worth it for the art.

Here is one of my favorite artists, Frida Kahlo painting a portrait of her father. Frida lived an amazing life that can't be distilled down to one image, but this photo is an example of the stereotype of an artist at work. Her space is peaceful. She is concentrating on creating a meaningful image and she is paying loving attention to the details.

Here is a more modern photo of another of my favorite artists, Sophie Blackall. She is painting a long image of characters riding the subway that was featured in the New York subway cars a couple of years ago. I love this painting, and I love how focused she is. The light coming in through the window, her sweet outfit and hair tied in a bun, and the tiny bit of watercolor mess make this a classic studio shot. Don't you wish you could step right into this photo and sit down to paint a picture?

All of us artists wish we could lead the perfect life full of peaceful time creating, lots of paying customers, and just the right amount of recognition to keep it all rolling. Of course the evenings could be dedicated to family or social life. And if you added a little bit of reality to this fantasy, there might also be some time handling email and business, and maybe some rushing to meet an important deadline.

Ha! Here's me at work! Very few artists are able to support themselves doing only artwork. Most of us piece together all sorts of different jobs- art related or not. And our lives are just as hectic as anyone else's. We juggle family, chores, errands, work, business, and just try to squeeze in some time for our personal art projects. People have always commented about how much artwork I produce, implying that it's a lot. I feel like I barely ever get anything done! But really it's probably somewhere in between those two extremes.

This morning my husband walked by the table, laughed, and said, "give me your phone I have to take your picture." I said, "No, my hair!" And sort of straightened my hair (hard to believe, eh?) then handed over my phone for this photo. When he handed it back he said "the artist's life." I do have a sense of humor so I could immediately see how funny this was. But it led me to thinking about how we artists lead our lives.

It's easy to get sucked into wishing for the idealized artist's life with a perfect studio and time to create. But don't waste you time wishing! And don't let anyone else dictate how you should work as an artist. You can create anywhere that works for you. You can spend hours at a time getting absorbed by a project, or only work in tiny bursts when you have a few minutes to spare. We create because it is what satisfies our soul. We create our lives with our families, our pets, and our friends. We create our artwork to share with the world, or just to bring us peace. Our lives are complicated, beautiful, and full of art. Now go and create- wherever you are and whenever you can!


  1. Lovely post, Jill! I can totally relate! :)

  2. Thank you Nina and Melissa! I know you ladies know all about the artist's life. :)

  3. Such a beautiful post, Jill! Thank you for sharing these great pics and sentiment. You and your sweet little one look great! Happy, and that is huge for an artist!

  4. Nice post, thanks for the reminder that we all do what we can and when we can!

  5. What would you trade for what the other 2 ladies seem to have . . . Love, Aunt Sandy PS: like the books in the mix of the things you have to make you happy . . . .