Lucky, lucky, lucky

This blog is going to be a tricky one because I do hate to sound like someone who is having her cake and eating it, especially since to have cake is to eat cake as far as I am concerned, especially in cold weather.

I recently had a conversation which ran along the lines, familiar I imagine to most artists, makers, writers, poets, craftspeople etc, of ‘Oh so you are an artist?’ (last word pronounced in the sort voice people use for mythical creatures – though more unicorn than troll I’m pleased to say). ‘You are so lucky doing that and not going out to work’.

This is it is a conversation that crops up very regularly, especially when I open my studio to people. Let me say that yes, I am very lucky to work from home: where else can I work in pyjamas with the cat on my knee and not worry about using a stanley knife straight onto the work surface? That I agree is a privilege, but isn’t not exclusive to artists and indeed, when I was a credit controller wheedling photography professionals into paying their bills (not a huge success, I made too many friends) I did it from my spare room pretending to be wearing a suit while sitting, feet up, on the bed. Anyone who works from home is lucky, but also, if they do actually do the work, has drive and self discipline.

Then there’s the sting in the tale: is being an artist work? I think it is. It is work I love, but I don’t love it any more than the shopkeeper passionate about his news agents or the accountant fiercely happy balancing books. Truth to tell, so much of my work is admin and teaching (if I tack ‘teacher’ to ‘artist’ it often solves the problem because teaching is a real job, though conversely many creatives see it as a major cop out), meetings, visits etc that it begins to look pretty much like standard work. The difference is that the whole enterprise balances on me managing to put colour and line down on surfaces in a way that people will not just pay for, but pay enough to make it worth my while.

So yes, I am lucky to be working at a job I love in a place where slippers are dress code, but that sort of luck applies to many people, not just us artists. In answer to the statement I quoted the famous ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get’ which surely applies to everyone?

Author: Laura

Laura Boswell is a printmaker working exclusively with linocut and traditional Japanese woodblock printing. She has a degree in Art History/Visual Art from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and has been elected to the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers.

6 thoughts on “Lucky, lucky, lucky”

  1. Hi Laura! I agree with all you say, people have strange perceptions of what being an artist is, but only after becoming one I understand better what being on the other side is like. I have a ‘real’ part time job and do art on the side, so people always say ‘how lucky you are that you have time for a hobby like art, it must be so relaxing! I consider myself as having two jobs, which can be very tiring. Many people think of being an artist as a hobby, something that it is always easy and fun, and we do always because we want to and enjoy every minute of it. However, there are struggles, frustrations and ups and dows and of course some addictive feeling of greatness when a piece comes out as we thought of it or even better!
    I follow the pijama rule when I am at home working on my art, but have you noticed that many of the ‘old and famous’ artists would work in their suits? I find that observation fascinating! Best regards!

    1. funnily enough my son, who has just graduated as an illustrator, often wears a jacket and tie, knitted, and likes the rather more formal look this gives. I’m not sure what the ‘ladies wear’ version is to this?

  2. I have ‘worked from home’ since the end of 1958 when I was sacked for being pregnant and threw in my lot with Brian which was a lot more fun. We once had an unsympathetic bank manager who told Brian he should go out and ‘get a proper job’. We changed our bank. It has always seemed to me that working from home means you have the right to work seven days a week and every hour of the day – but only if you want to. If instead, you prefer to pack a bag and a passport and go to Paris for a few days, you can do that too. It’s freedom.

    When I was at school, I used to look with envy at the people in the street who seemed to me to be free. When I became a student I was free. My very first day in my very first job, I looked out of the window at the people in the street and I thought ‘Trapped’. Now, I consider I’ve been free for fifty four years.

    The only downside is friends and neighbours who consider that if you ‘work from home’ you are fair game for coffee at any moment – however busy you may be and whatever deadlines lurk.

  3. Something that tends to go with the ‘you’re so lucky to do something you like’ comments: the view that work is something undesirable and to be avoided. It took becoming a full-time printer and reading Eric Gill to realise that work can, and should, be great.

    1. Hi Phil – it’s interesting how work is viewed. I know I go downhill pretty fast if I don’t work and I do mean work. I guess if work means a rotten time spent doing something that bores or scares you then it must seem best avoided. It’s just trying not to mind the implication that it must be easy or a hobby! I had a neighbour who liked to preface his conversations to me with ‘For those of us who live in the real world’ – rude old man that he was…

  4. However agreeable it may be working from home, luck doesn’t really come into it. You make your own luck by deciding the direction your life is going to take – it doesn’t happen by accident!
    What it does take is commitment, application, skill and nerve, with perhaps just a tiny pinch of luck…

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