The Artist Hustle

My friend responded to my blog post Creative Loitering this last week. Our history started when I was the arts education coordinator at Great River Arts, in Little Falls almost a decade ago. She was in pottery classes, while attending (maybe just finishing, if my memory serves) nursing school. We had talks about this whole art thing back then, and still today. Out of sincere concern she said, "There's a part of my brain panicking and wondering how you do this without a brick and mortar job. So fun to read about the lifestyle..." 

She is one of many friends who are always concerned about my livelihood, and I guess I don't mind knowing that people care. Depending on the day, I may be matter of fact, flippant, or defensive with my response. But today, I will share a well edited, slightly poetic, response:

The Artist Hustle is a reason to get up in the morning. It is assuming your clothes are covered in your craft, and that you only need coffee to survive. It is new ideas that may not happen today, but end up in a sketchbook or researched until a later date. It is ideas in the making and never really knowing the right time to implement.

The Artist Hustle is often unexpected, yet hard, because you must throw your body and soul into work when that time presents itself, so you must be ready. It means you have to condition yourself so you can perform like an athlete, even if it is only a few minutes in the limelight. 

The Artist Hustle is years of official and unofficial research. It is knowing that if you are ridiculously obsessed with a specific idea or object (in my case, industrial architecture, grids, and pigeons), then there must be a reason for your obsession. It means that you need to keep your eye on those subjects, in both real time and historically, so that you can respond when the time is right... essential... and the artistic voice is the only way to communicate an idea.

The Artist Hustle is always looking for a place to showcase your work, talk about your ideas, and apply for things that you may or may not get accepted to... It is about letting the failures inform you and your path, and the successes feed you hummus and pretzels, and hopefully, some rent money. 

The Artist Hustle is a lifestyle, not of extravagance, but of elimination: Eliminating unnecessary obligations, crap, or concerns (except for those you are inspired by and drawn to). This elimination allows for space and time to create things out of nothing. This elimination allows for you not to fret over spilled ink, or scratched table tops. Those are just tools that help you move forward. (I take that back, spilled ink sucks.)

The Artist Hustle makes people nervous. Like my friend, it causes concern for those who hope I feed my children, stay sober, and build a retirement. #1, My kids are fine, and pretty happy. #2, I don't drink and draw. and #3... what's retirement? Isn't this my retirement?

The Artist Hustle does not necessarily mean disengaging from reality. The daily needs to get bills paid, savings in place, and business plans implemented are all part of that hustle.  It means I have to call someone who owes me money, needs to sign a contract, and needs to commit to a meeting. It is about organizing your world enough to make time for what you are called to do. If you deal with that part, you have more time for making something out of nothing.

Four Artists and Their Shoes , at a fundraiser, talking about the loss of another artist, Prince. It was a good night, but we make space for this reflection, and miraculously, turning it into collaborations and more art.

Four Artists and Their Shoes, at a fundraiser, talking about the loss of another artist, Prince. It was a good night, but we make space for this reflection, and miraculously, turning it into collaborations and more art.

The Artist Hustle is not easy, because it is about balancing all the parts of a moving machine. It is a small business, that could become a big business, and then small again, just as the day goes by. The artist often has to make their own box to stay on course, because distraction is ever constant. Because, frankly, it is a fun lifestyle, for the most part. But it is still work.

Back to my friend's concept of a brick and mortar job. Man, I wish I had a studio instead of traveling all over. Yet then again, I am going into crevices of my home state, learning about those things I obsess over, and getting back to the easel and making works that reflect that story. I'm a traveling hat salesman. I am a gypsy on the riverbank shore. I am invited into homes of the rich and the not so much. I am cared for in a really interesting way, by strangers and loved ones, alike.

What are your thoughts on this? I invite artists and non-artists alike to respond and start a conversation. Thank you, Kelly, for caring and panicking enough to write this piece. Now I have to get back to work. Cheers! -heijeu

The Artist Hustle (Shoes View)