The one “downfall” of being an artist as that you are never really “not working”. Every time you open your eyes, there’s a chance that your creative senses will tingle at any moment, and a brilliant idea for a masterpiece will form inside your head. As with professional writers, you must drop everything and jot down a few notes, or sketch a little example of what you envision your next work of art to be like.

When an artist travels abroad, they usually take their supplies with strong intensions of capturing some of the beautiful scenery, architecture, and historical landmarks. As rewarding as this can be, it makes a trip all the more exhausting as we rarely experience any down time to chill out, relax, and enjoy a glass of wine accompanied by cheese without picturing how it would look in pink and purple colors of abstract art. Yes, the artists’ mind never sleeps. Relax at the beach? Forget it! After laying in the sun with a towel over my face for eight minutes, I hear too much noise happening around me to miss an opportunity to capture something beautiful. Even if all around is peaceful and the air is silent, the silence itself can speak wonders about the visual beauty living around me.

Most tourists like to go sightseeing so they can take a picture to later show their friends back home, eat the signature local cuisine, and of course purchase a tacky souvenir to prove to house guests that they are world travelers. But not me, Henry Walters, and not many artists I know do any of those things. Instead of spending the day in Rome fitting in as many sights as possible and visiting every hot spot featured on prime time TV, artists will likely scope a new place for about an hour, and then park themselves outside one particular building or landscape and spend the whole day trying to recreate the sight with their own interpretations onto canvas. When I went to Florence in Italy, I spent 40 minutes with a guided tour group before separating and choosing to spend the rest of my day capturing the masterpiece of architecture known as “Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Fiore”. Of course, our guide wasn’t very pleased when they came back and found me sitting on the steps with my sketch pad two hours later, but hey, I’m an artist; don’t hate.

Another detail about the artist when travelling abroad is that 98% of the time we travel alone. I have a beautiful girlfriend of three years, Cynthia, but there is no chance I would ever take her on holiday to a place like Europe or Asia, or anywhere my creative juices would be ready to burst with inspiration. When Cynthia and I go on vacation, we stick to all-inclusive resorts which all look alike with countless buffets, white sand beaches, and a pack of flamingos roaming the lobby. These trips give Cynthia and I the break from creativity we so desperately seek. She is a travel writer; therefore she often travels alone for her work too. Meeting on a beach after a tiring “work” vacation is often just the thing we need to recuperate. The artist is a unique creature. Though we enjoy our moments of solitude where our inspiration can flourish, we do enjoy the company of others just the same as people in careers of other professions.

Careers and Compensation of a Professional Artist

Art” is such an ambiguous word, as the Oxford Dictionary defines it as “ the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” This means art can be in many forms such as visual arts, dramatic arts, musical art, graphic arts, fashion, photography, sculptures and pottery, animation, and even sometimes culinary canal be seen as a form of art. The art I speak of generally pertains to visual artwork such as paintings and pictures, but I also expand my artistic abilities to photography and metal sculptures.

I have gotten lucky (or maybe I’m just talented) and been able to land my dream job as almost a full time professional artist now. But for many, art will always be a hobby or a passion on the side. Artists who choose to pursuit art as more of a hobby tend to settle in careers in the medical, financial, educational fields…anything really. Those who eat, live, and breathe art will try to find a job that incorporates at least some of their creative skills.
Here is a list of several art-related career paths you might want to check out if you are an aspiring artist looking for a day job:
• Graphic designer
• Fashion buyer
• Animator
• Architect
• Set designer
• Interior decorator
• Painter (painting houses not pictures)
• Pastry chef
• …and of course you can always teach high school art 101….

There is no limit to the possibilities of what you can do with your creative skill set and imagination. It just depends on what you’re willing to receive as compensation for what you believe is your masterpiece. As a professional artist, the price of a particular work of art can range from $5.00 to millions, and everything in between. Successful artists who make a realistic wage can average around $2000.00 a month. However, an artist’s salary is based on commission by what they sell, and some months will be more successful than others. Designer jobs with an annual salary are much more reliable as they do not usually deal in commission, unless you are running your own business of course.

In the world of fashion, pattern markers and tailors typically make an hourly range between $12-18, whereas fashion buyers are paid salary and can make a comfortable average of $66,000 a year. Of course, if you’re really skilled and become a fashion designer, you can earn almost $75,000 a year, granted you are highly successful.

Graphic designers are more realistic in their career paths, as graphic design is the foundation of the marketing and advertising industries, which in turn becomes the foundation of almost every type of corporation since all seek to utilize advertising and branding strategies to increase their business. If you’ve got a knack for the Adobe Creative Suite, you are on the right path to a career in graphic design. They make a healthy average range of around $40,000, give or take, depending on whether they are salaried or freelance and how much work they get. Working in interactive and computer media pays more handsomely than a career in print. Animators and multimedia artists with a salary can earn an average of $56, 000, and those who make it to be art directors average $75,000 with the potential to make over 100.

Architecture and physical design is where the money’s at. If you want see a paycheck with six figures then be prepared to invest several years of your life and many of your hard-earned dollars in an education necessary to be a successful architect. However, all the hard work does pay off, and you get to breathe life into your creations which become not only artistic masterpieces, but also the important places in the everyday lives of ordinary people. That and being able to take the family on vacation twice a year is not a bad deal for an artist. Of course there is a rule here: the more mathematically complex of a job you have as an architect or physical designer, the more you can expect to fill your wallet. Art is never easy, but architecture, well that’s just difficult!

So don’t be bumped out if you aren’t like me and don’t end up with your face on the cover of NY Arts Magazine. There are plenty of career paths to choose from where you do get to utilize your creative skills and training while simultaneously being compensated for what you do. And maybe if another industry is more suited to you, you can organize the post-its and pens on your desk by color and design yourself a super work space!

1. We do look down our noses at amateurs:

Although we were once all amateurs at some point, once accepted into the elite society of professional arts and culture, it’s hard to look back at those still struggling and see yourself in their shoes. It’s almost as if once you receive a white and gold, personalized invitation to the grand opening of “Le Beau Art Gallery”, suddenly your past as a starving artist eating Ramen noodles and fiddling with a coat hanger TV antennae vanishes from your memory; every time you look in the mirror you only see elegance, poise, and importance staring back at you.

The other day I was walking through the Lower East Side, on my way to the Scaramouche Art Gallery, when I passed by a young man, a few years my junior, who was selling oil paintings in front of a Chinese Laundromat. Instead of buying one of his paintings he sold for a pittance, I threw him some change and continued on my way. Heartless, I know, but it is fire which sparks the creativity in a professional artist’s soul!

2. We are not all as classy as we make out to be…

As a professional artist, mingling amongst the most prestigious and respected talent in New York City, there is this unwritten idea implied that we must do nothing that is not seen to be pretentious, exclusive, important, or dignified. One professional artist can expect to run into another in places like a fancy bistro, a black-tie event for sick children, eating lobster at Midtown 1015, or maybe Health Foods for provisions should there be an occasion where we do not dine out.
It becomes quite an embarrassment for both parties when you spot one another out in a place like a bowling alley, back alley pizza parlor or heaven forbid out in the suburbs at Walmart! Although you are both guilty of the same exact crime – not living up to your prestigious reputation of elegance and pretention at every waking minuet- you will do anything to hide your face behind the first large woman and her shopping cart that comes along.

3. We don’t have a strong opinion on every piece of artwork

Professional artists, like myself, are notorious for engaging in heated discussions about paintings, sculptures, models, and art displays on a regular basis. We each have a slightly different opinion on what this manically depressed painter was thinking about when he created The Crying Moon. We can provide reasons for our opinions and back it up with facts, but the truth is, sometimes we are just indifferent about the painting. We neither like it nor loathe it, and we really don’t care about the unusual habits possessed by whoever was worthy enough to end up as part of our discussion. The trick is that professional artists can craft a formal opinion of any artwork by piecing together a string of opinionated comments told by others at another art exhibit who sounded intelligent, and then apply their comments to the visuals in the art being discussed.

Sometimes in my spare time, I like to sit at my Macbook Pro with a hot cup of tea and some shortbread biscuits, surfing YouTube for videos about famous artists or art exhibitions. A few evenings ago I came across a very interesting short video about the Picasso exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which ran between April 27th and August 1st 2010. The film itself was entitled “Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: A behind-the-scenes Tour with the Director”, which is twelve and a half minutes in length and has over 73, 500 views. The popularity of how many times a video has been viewed is always an indication to me as to whether or not I want to proceed to watch it. I know that is fairly narrow-minded of me to admit, but then again, I am far too busy to waste time watching amateurs discuss fine art.

Tom Campbell, the museum’s director, and Gary Tintero, the curator of the Picasso exhibition discussed the exhibit which contained over 300 works of Picasso which were organized in chronological order from the start of his life in Paris. This was fascinating, as they showed his older work, the less abstract pieces which he painted during more serious and unstable times in his life. I also learned that Picasso developed a morbid fear of blindness from diseases present at the time, which can be seen through his paintings in the post-1901 collection which were all predominantly blue. I can understand, as a fellow painter, why the fear of blindness could impose such a terror in our lives. Vision allows us to see beauty, and the world has so much of it to offer. Needless to say that by watching this short film, I learned a lot about Picasso and even more about myself as an artist.

A true, passionate artist cannot selfishly confine themselves to their own masterpieces. In fact, masterpieces are not born by pulling out puzzle pieces from thin air; they are the conception of inspiration and creativity. That is why I do my research on a weekly basis to discover the hottest trends in modern art, black tie art gallery openings, and of course, the most unique art exhibitions the city has to offer.

1. David Salle – “Ghost Paintings” (1992) at Skarstedt Gallery

I came across a very original collection of paintings called “Ghost Paintings” done by David Salle in 1992, which until now have never been on exhibition before. Although he is widely regarded as an appropriation artist, his paintings are actually staged photographs of most of the figures featured in his work. Salle is one of my most important inspirations at this time, as he combines a passion for visual art and photography in order to create something culturally unique. I plan to attend this exhibit so I can stand several feet back from the picture of a nude dancer, tastefully performing improvised movements under a sheet, while sinking in the intellectual ambiance of only New York’s finest art experts.

2. Willem De Kooning – “Ten Paintings” (1983-1985) at Gagosian Gallery

I studied Willem De Kooning during my senior year in high school when I took Advanced Visual Arts. Mr. Rockwell had said that a painting I produced early in the year reminded him of De Kooning, and so I began to research his work and wrote a final paper tracing his changing style between the early and later stages of his artist career.

I found my own paintings to resemble his later collections, and share striking similarities with the “Ten Paintings”, so I am very excited to see this rare exhibit live and in person. Art by Willem can only be appreciated by those with an eye for visual arts and graphics, such as me, as we enjoy dissecting every technique the man used in his paintings from feathering, to glazing, to scarping, and puckering. One which I find to be his most admirable piece is The Privileged (1985). The shapes may not be defined in a way which speaks directly those viewing, but with the right imagination you can see the harmonious, beautiful world Willem was hoping to embrace.

3. “Ink Art: Past and Present in Contemporary China” at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art

To be a true New York City artist, one must be fully acquainted with the Museum of Metropolitan Art. It was one of the first day trips I did when I first came to the city, and now I am such a frequent attender that I bring Doug, the security guard, a double-double and honey crueler every time I come by. When I first saw the article about “Ink Art”, I was automatically drawn to the face of a Chinese man with small Chinese “hanzi” (the name for Chinese characters) drawn in ink all over his face.

The exhibition will be on display in the museum’s permanent galleries for Chinese art, and is best understood as part of the continuum of Chinese culture. Although not all ink art is displayed on skin like the picture I first saw, in this exhibit over 70 works by 35 artists will be on featured on display in various types of media including paintings, calligraphy, photography, sculptures, and video. I really like the idea of ink art, because it is a unique and unfamiliar form of art yet to become popularized by the hipster culture of New York City.

4. Dante Ferretti – “Design and Construction for the Cinema” at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

I am an artist who likes to challenge my abilities to read new forms of art, so last week I went to visit a type of exhibit I had never gone to see before: a film exhibit featuring the works of the famous director, Dante Ferretti. The exhibit was set up like a labyrinth where attendees could wander between the rows of screens showcasing clips and pictures of some of the artist’s best work. Until visiting Design and Construction for the Cinema, I had not really developed a strong interest in film. There is something, however, about cinema as an art form which really speaks to me on a level which is both creative and intellectual. Maybe I will expand my horizons and try directing a short film in the near future!

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