We artists must be careful about accepting advice, because we might end up following it. Irony aside there is no shortage of advice, free or paid for. Artists are prime targets for consultants, advisors and marketing gurus since we tend to be thrown about on the winds of outrageous fortune. Any snake-oil salesman appears welcoming when we are low in confidence. What 10-point plan for success are we going to receive today? Granted there are a few who do know their way around the no nonsense paths of common sense. For the rest - run for it.
However there is also the advice received from people we know that makes us pause. If this is a family member then things can get very personal. Let me get to that shiny nugget of negative advice. The big kahuna that is designed to take the wind out of your sails and leave you dazed and full of questions about your own sanity. The one that says:" You cannot make your hobby into a career." This chestnut coming from someone you trust and may also love you can be the clincher. It sounds sensible too. It does not forbid you from doing your passion work. It just says keep your job and fiddle with your hobby after hours like "other people". Secure and comfortable and everyone can sleep better, OK?
What a stupid comment to make. Why not encourage people to do what they love as a career. Many people already make a living from their passion work so why not you? Why must your painting remain a hobby so that you remain in a cubicle until 65? I have been on the receiving end of this advice so I know just how insidious it is. It still rankles. Tell me my art is rubbish and I can shrug it off because everyone has their own opinion. Tell me how to make a living and there is trouble in brewing.
Let me add my own take on this thorny issue. Yes you can make a career from your hobby, but you cannot run your career like a hobby. See the difference?
Oh! the cynic will say: "Very well Mr Clever, but what if your hobby is not engineering? What if it is ... butterfly collecting eh? What then"? Very well I like a challenge. Let us think laterally. Are there other butterfly collectors in the world? Yes - then lets move on. What is linked directly and indirectly to butterfly collecting? Think of all the kit required, books, DVD's on the subject, naturalists, holidays for fans, B&B's near places where butterflies migrate, clubs, eco-tourism and so on. I am pretty sure Sir David Attenborough collected butterflies and he seems to have done very well for himself.
Point is what these cynics are trying to say is they do not believe that you will make buckets of money from your chosen path. This too is simply a product of their own limited thinking.
So why do we not encourage people to do what they love for a living? One of my earliest memories is one of being complimented by a stranger over a cartoon that I had drawn. I was six or seven and I distinctly recall how pleased I was at the time. A drawing book has accompanied me since then. My school books were doodle ridden things. Anyone who knew me knew that art was numero uno in my life. Even at varsity I was the guy designing the residence T-shirt and the varsity bumper stickers. I studied law by the way - typical!
There is always time to discover that your passion is meant to be your life too. Thankfully I have had that opportunity and so can you.
Let me know what you think - can we make our passion into a respectable living too?