Monday, April 5, 2010

Under the Influence of Expendable Income

To be successful as an emerging artist, I decided to plan for my desired future in a number of ways. First, since the age of 13, I devoted myself to the study of what I love most: drawing and painting the classical human figure. Second, on the advice of my mentors, I submitted work to every show possible. Though I knew my work was just in its beginning stages, I also knew that, as long I was proud of the work shown, it would not hurt my career to start to have my name seen around the city. My art was showcased on t-shirts, catalogs, and even, when I was 15, a poster plastered around the Seattle streets. It seemed like a promising start.

After a year of college in Southern California, I decided to return to Seattle in 2006 and enroll in the classically based (non-accredited) atelier program, which not only gave me a solid foundation for my work, but also gave me certain tools to succeed as a professional artist. Key among these were the networking connections my ever-growing skill set attracted. I caught the attention of figure drawing greats such as Steven Assael, Dan Thompson, and, even more notably, Robert Liberace, and, of course, my mentor since childhood, Mark Kang O'Higgins. These artists have found a way to make a dying (some would argue-already dead) art form their profession, without resorting to making art their 'hobby,' and because of this, I have the utmost respect for each of them.

On Mark and Dan's advice, I started showing in more professional venues, such as the Elka Rouskov Gallery and Seattle Town Hall, and suddenly, my art was in demand. At the gallery, my forty minute drawing (to the left) was priced at $900, yet, even without this professional debut, people were clamoring for my business cards and my website. At auction, just the promise of a commissioned portrait sold for $800 (a price substantially more than the gallery, considering their 50% marketing fee). I was beginning to accomplish everything I had ever dreamed of and more.

Yet, there was one factor I did not take into consideration: the failing economy. When people started to struggle to pay for food and gasoline, they obviously no longer had the means to buy my work; with no more expendable income, sadly, art became expendable.

I took a part time job in a deli so I could continue my education in Seattle, and eventually, through various fortuitous circumstances, was able to come here, to Lawrence University, to finish my degree. Because, for the time being, my art (and therefore name as an artist) is directly connected with being able to sell my work, I felt that the time was right to continue my studies in a more conventional way: especially one that would help me get to grad school, continue my networking, and eventually provide another way to achieve my dream.

For now, I can only hope that the economy picks up and art is once again in high demand so that I can continue what I have already began...or, even better, that by the time I finish grad school, I will have been able to brand myself as a 'non-expendable commodity,' creating art which is seen as essential, regardless of one's extra income. ...One can only hope!

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