Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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04/28/2005: "Time to wonder again...Is being an artist worth it?"


For the longest time my life has consisted of painting every night and most of every weekend. Since deciding to take some time off from exhibiting the amount of time I spend in the studio has plummeted. Instead I work in my garden, meet friends after work for drinks, read a book, you know...have a life.

I finally have time to get my sailboat hauled so I can scrub, bottom coat it, and change the zincs. I ran into the skipper of the Haiku at the neighborhood pub tonight and he got me all excited about getting out on the water, best of all, now I'll actually have the time to do it.

On Sat. morning I'm going to the women's hockey try outs. I have close friends playing hockey already and the rink is just 2 blocks from my house! I thought I'd never have time for it but maybe I do?

Plus I've been enjoying myself so much lately; cooking these great healthy dinners...no take-out in weeks. For me, being an artist isn't something I can do in a balanced way. I'm either obsessed with it, working constantly and fuck all else...but as soon as I start to spend time just hanging out and relaxing, it's hard to get back into the monolithic mind-set I need to really produce my best work.

Worst of all, Iím not sure I want to. I don't know if it's the sunshine, but sometimes I wonder if I'd be a healthier and happier person if I just quit. I know realistically that I could never do that, but artists walk away all the time, right?


Replies: 15 Comments

on Friday, April 29th, Dio said

Its a tricky one, but being out of it a lot more than you for a lot longer, I can only say it niggles me and scratches the back of my mind all the time...

on Friday, April 29th, RR said

Sounds like you need a well earned break. Why not take the pressure off yourself and keep the social life up for a while and only do the painting when you feel like it? Then assess how you feel in a few months time. You are too good to give up all together and there are plenty long winter nights to do the art work in. Enjoy the real people while they are enjoying your company.

on Friday, April 29th, Elise said

You know Dio, you're working on creative projects all the time; doing art doesn't only mean painting, look at all the amazing photos you continue to take, for example.

And RR, I think what worries me about taking time off is that I actually have a business and I have to show that I'm seriously attempting to make a profit (by exhibiting etc.) or else the IRS will come after my broke ass.

Maybe I should just quit "the business". It's so much work, keeping track of inventory and every little receipt and filing quarterly sales tax returns and filling out the schedule C and buying a license and resale number etc. the list goes on and on, and because I've invested so much into it, taking time off doesn't seem acceptable if I want to stick to my 10 year plan of becoming a full-time artist. It's like you have to envision yourself that way or the illusion will fall apart.

Damn this sunny weather! It's so much easier to stay inside and paint when it's raining outside. One of the perks of living in a rainforest!

on Friday, April 29th, Marja-Leena said

It seems to be the eternal dilemma of the the artist, doesn't it!? Yet, I believe having a life is important to your one's mental and spiritual health and growth, and will actually inform one's work with a sense of maturity and depth. The difficult part is finding the balance between work and living. Keep trying & good luck, Elise.

on Friday, April 29th, Elise said

Thanks Marja-Leena,
I know it's something probably every artist grapples with, doesn't make it any easier. If I could find a way to quit my day job I'd probably be able to find time for both but that may never happen. I can barely make ends meet even working full-time.

on Friday, April 29th, holly said

See, what you need is a patron- a duke or a baron who would keep you out of the poorhouse, but allow you to paint fulltime. And when you felt like dicking around and having a life, you could throw a tantrum and tell him he's interrupting the creative process. Or maybe I'm projecting...

I don't think you could walk away from it, Elise, but you shouldn't deny yourself some fun and a real life- that's how you grow and and your art grows with you. Enjoy the sun!

on Friday, April 29th, Elise said

That reminds me, when I was in college I briefly dated a sculptor until he told me he was looking for a sugar mama to pay for everything so he could just concentrate on his work and I said "hey, that's what I *I'm* looking for too!" We knew then and there it was never going to work.
:laugh:

on Saturday, April 30th, RR said

Yep that sounds like the way forward Holly, I'd go for that option Elise :-) In fact, maybe I'll go for that way forward too!!

on Saturday, April 30th, Elise said

Which way forward is that RR? Finding a rich patron? or just trying to find a balance between being an artist and having a life?

I prefer the rich benefactor option personally.

on Saturday, April 30th, holly said

The one and only artistic talent I have is that I know how to make illuminated manuscripts- I gild, I paint, I do calligraphy (with quills I make myself), I bind. You people who paint at least have a chance of selling your work. The cost of what I do is so outrageous that I really would need to have a duke or something to commission works from me. I've been wishing for one for years, but I think the age of illuminated manuscripts has long since passed. Where the hell is the directory for art impaired nobility?

on Saturday, April 30th, greg said

Gadzooks Holly! I can't imagine the time and cost involved in what you do - that's some serious design work ... not to mention the mess involved in slaughtering the sheep and preparing the vellum! Amazing!! ;)

Elise - I just read something I wrote in a journel once during a major LULL in my creative efforts: "The silent measure of the symphony" ... I think this meant that sometimes a pause in the music can be used for a dramatic effect. Remember that we still need experience in life to grow and deepen our artistic character.

Hang in there and dont give up ... just take another nap! :D

on Saturday, April 30th, Elise said

Yah, I can imagine there is a pretty limited market for illuminated manuscripts these days but who knows...everything old is new again? You could do contemporary ones depicting social issues and be the toast of NY and Paris. By the way, how crazy expensive is it to make one from start to finish?

And Greg, what you're referring to sounds like a caesura. In music it's a "pause or breathing at a point of rhythmic division in a melody".

Very apt in this case. Perhaps what I need is a lengthy artistic caesura.

on Monday, May 2nd, holly said

The major cost (depending on how much gold you want to use) is the vellum- most places sell it by full skin, which is sold by square foot. That adds up to about $250 per skin (for a nice calfskin, not that much less for sheep), which will make maybe 3 gatherings for a nice readable-sized book (so ultimately, about $500 for the vellum alone). You can get away with less if you're making a diminutive little book of hours type of thing, but then you have to make up for it with lots of gold (sold in books of 25 leaves measuring about 3 x 3 inches @ $50). It adds up (plus the time commitment is insane). Need nobles!!!

on Monday, May 2nd, subi said

yesyesyes!!! it's worth it!!!! Now, get back to work! ;)

on Monday, May 2nd, Elise said

I know what you mean about the time commitment. If I calculated the price of a painting based on the hours I spent on it, I'd probably be making about .10 cents profit on every painting I sell.

Still, the illuminated manucripts you've worked on sound really cool. Do you have pictures of them posted anywhere?

And Subi, yes, I'm already back to work so no worries there!