Katherine, your real gift is in art and painting. Why don’t you do that full-time? You would make a fortune!
First, no I wouldn’t, trust me. Ever heard the expression “starving artist?” Well, there’s a reason for that! Very few artists make a real living from their art. Most of them have a “day job” or have some other source of income to supplement. In most cases, except for maybe the lucky few like George Rodrigue, if an artist’s work is going to become truly valuable, it’s not until after they’ve died. I mean, what is the fun in that?
The amount of art I’d have to put out to make painting into a career is physically impossible for me to handle. It’s a matter of stamina, or lack thereof. It’s physically demanding for me to paint even though I do mostly small paintings. My hand, arm, shoulder, and back can only handle so much of the repetitive movement in the same position required to paint the detail that I do. I’ve actually broken ribs and collar bones from the physical stress of painting too many hours several days in a row. So yeah, there’s that.
Also, if you know me, you know I get bored pretty quickly. As much as I like fine art and painting, and I like painting animals and people’s pets, doing the same thing over and over again does get a bit monotonous. I like to switch up my mediums, so going from painting, to jewelry, to design is a good way to keep my brain working on different levels.
Graphic design and painting are VERY different even though they are both creative activities (though not always both considered “art”). I see graphic design more as a game of problem solving rather than free creativity. As a designer, you are working for a specific client with a specific image that has to fit in a specific area (whether that is in print or on the web). You are generally working within a pretty strict set of guidelines, and not following one of those guidelines can easily blow the entire project. A lot of the design work I do is corporate, meaning that it involves portraying a professional company’s purpose/mission visually. It often determines people’s first impression of a company and whether or not they want to do business with them.
Painting, especially non-commissioned painting, is a much more mentally relaxing experience. If I draw a pelican and a few feathers are not exactly like the picture(s) I’m working from, who cares? No one is going to know except me! As long as the painting looks okay and believable in the end, it really doesn’t matter what I do. It’s art–everyone is going to interpret it differently anyway. The only caveat to this comes with commissioned pieces where I have to paint a specific animal. If Susie commissions me to paint Fido and Fido is black and white, Fido cannot be brown and white in my painting. I have to pay attention to exactly the look on the pet’s face, the markings, colors, coat direction, etc. All of these things make Fido “Fido,” and not some other black and white dog. And of course, Susie is paying me to paint Fido and not a random black and white dog. I’ll talk more about “work painting” versus “fun painting” in a coming blog, but you get the gist for now.
So I guess the answer to the original question is two-fold. 1) It’s not financially possible for me to have a career solely in art and 2) I would just get too bored and hate my job. I think the reason I can say I’m happy with my job is partly because there IS a decent amount of variety in it, and I’m virtually never bored. Sometimes the other side of that is that I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions all at once, but hey, you can’t have it all, right?