Major breakthrough time.
Which means major letting go,
coming to terms,
etc.

Lindsay Adler must be my soulmate, because she has this freaky tendency to reach out to me at pivotal moments. I had just finished yoga and was sitting back down to write when I see a text from her. It simply said:

“How are you? Something made me think I should call you or text.”

I responded quickly, flippantly almost, saying that I’m good. And then, before pressing send, I added this:

“Just doing lots of writing and trying not to worry that I’m solidly not doing anything that makes money.”

Casual.

Writing those words opened up a can of worms in my brain. I hadn’t really said that out loud until that point. I knew I was making a big shift in my business/career, I had discussed pay decreases with my husband, but I hadn’t really acknowledged that the fear I feel with my new creative endeavors is rooted in money.

I know, I know. Money is just NOT COOL to talk about when you’re an “artist”.

Whatever.

It’s a fact and a stress and it is necessary. So be it.

Our ideas of success are wrapped up in it. Our confidence is wrapped up in it. Sometimes, even our reputations.

Let me be clear about some things. My business makes money in multifaceted ways, from teaching and motivational speaking to print sales and licensing, and more. I’ve always excelled at diversifying and branding. But, for the first time since starting photography, I mentally ditched that. Even though I still have revenue streams, even though I’m doing fine, I stopped associating with money.

The last time I did this was 9 years ago when I started photography. I was fresh out of college, 21 years old, and just starting photography. I knew I had to make money, but I never considered that photography would be the way to do that. It was fun and exciting and I didn’t put any expectation on that.

Photography grew to be my career, unexpectedly.

And now, 11 years later, and nearly 10 years after starting my business, and 7.5 years since learning to rely on it for money, I’m slowing it down. I’m pursuing writing, and it feels just like before – when I started photography…

…with one main difference. I make a living for myself now. Back then I was fresh out of college and had no house, no income expectations. This time I do. I’ve taught myself, as we do when we become adults, to rely on ourselves to make money. We learn to measure our success in our bank accounts.

I’m not trying to say that I have lost any joy in photography or teaching, or that I personally put my confidence and success in money, but that it is tied together even when we don’t realize it. I’m just ready for change.

I’m overjoyed about dissociating my passion from my income. It means that I’m back to passionate basics. I’m doing something because I HAVE TO. Because my soul is pushing me to do it. Because I feel a calling to write this book.

If I am ever to do it right, I can’t let money be a thought, or success, or reputation.

None of that matters in passion.

What matters is that I put aside my former expectations and learn a new way of living, one that does the deed no matter what. Just like I did with photography, and just like I will do with writing.

One day I will tell the story of how I put all else aside – my fears, insecurities, doubts, and expectation – to write the novel of my dreams. It will be a beautiful story to tell.

So, Lindsay, to answer your question…

I’m doing freaking fantastic. I really am. Thanks to you and your perfectly timed text, I’m finally feeling free.

  • February 28, 2020 - 3:09 pm

    ANNE PARSONS - For such a wee lass, you have an enormous spirit and a beautiful ancient soul. I cannot wait to read the novel written by a creative who never stops inspiring me.ReplyCancel

  • February 29, 2020 - 7:57 pm

    Gallagher Green - You gotta love good friends with such a connection that they know exactly when to see how you are even from thousands of miles away.
    The short story series I am writing now is odd, I already finished a trilogy of it. But now I am starting another trilogy in the same “world” something about this “World” keeps pulling me back I just love writing in it. Last night I was trying to finish a photo and after I was done it was 11:40 pm, but I really wanted to write a little on this story. So I thought that I would just get a few hundred words down, I ended up writing over a thousand words and not going to bed until almost 1:30 am! LOL This is when I realized, that the “World” this story is in has become a full-blown passion that I didn’t expect!
    I can’t wait for your story to make it out into the world, I know it will be grand. ReplyCancel

I debated doing a full black and white challenge, but my heart wasn’t in it. I have a soft spot for those who feel their work needs a color. Even if it’s just one. I create a lot of monochromatic images, especially sepia/yellow. This challenges centers around images with no color (black and white) or with just one, like a sepia-toned image.

The subjects are endless here – just make sure the lack of color fits with your concept and overall feel!

I’ll pull some of the art that I see this week to feature!
Use the hashtag #PromotingPassionChallenge so I can find you!

Here is some food for thought. Enjoy the challenge, and remember to push yourself creatively!

I know they are all nude, but that is how monochrome works best in my imagery!
  • February 23, 2020 - 9:15 pm

    Gallagher Green - My mind never thinks in terms of monochrome and B&W, but I do love trying it and it has been something I want to improve at.ReplyCancel

  • February 25, 2020 - 2:34 am

    Sankha Roy - Lovely images. Love the way you toned your black and white separations.ReplyCancel

I have to let you in on a secret: the veil in my Begin Again series was actually just a curtain from Goodwill. I couldn’t find a veil in the style I wanted that looked antique enough. So, I went to my local thrift store and perused the bed sheet and curtain section. When I found the perfect little curtain I bought it for just a few dollars even though it was bright white and new.

When I got it home I brewed a giant batch of tea and soaked the cloth in there for hours and hours. The curtain I got was a synthetic blend and not absorbent, so it took a long time of dying to get anything to stick. Here’s an example of the veil from the series after it was dyed and photographed:

Tea dying is the art of antiquing fabric on the cheap. It doesn’t take a lot of effort or a lot of money to make the new look old. Here’s a breakdown of how to do it. If you try this, please share pictures of the results!

Materials:
Black tea
White fabric (preferably cotton)
Pot + water

Step 1: Unpackage about 20 tea bags of generic black tea. Alternately, you can use loose leaf tea (I might have done that if all that I had was pretty expensive to replace). Use more tea bags for a darker look or less for lighter.

Step 2: Boil a big pot of water, large enough for your fabric to be submerged.

Step 3: Put your tea bags in and soak for a few minutes.

Step 4: Turn off the heat and put your fabric inside the pot with the tea bags. Let the tea bags remain inside for the duration of the dying process. I recommend using the lid so the heat stays in.

Step 5: Wait until your fabric turns the color you want. I recommend at least 30 minutes which will yield the following results:

Step 6: Hang to dry.

Step 7: Use in your gorgeous photography! And show me!

  • February 22, 2020 - 9:20 am

    Gallagher Green - You can also get a nice earthy brown with black walnut hulls if you have a tree in your area. But be warned, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES AFTER TOUCHING THE HULLS it will burn like you wouldn’t believe for hours!
    I never manage to make it to used store, my wardrobe is always a black shirt and blue jeans, if it is cold then I wear a gray long sleeve shirt. I feel like the wardrobe for conceptual photos with men is so limited, and then you through my above average size in on that and finding something like a cheap used suit or something is impossible. I also need a better budget too, but I will get there on that. ReplyCancel

What an incredibly fun challenge. One of my favorites. There are so many ways we can make masks for our art. There are even more ways we can use the mask as a symbol – for what, that is up to you. Identity. Hiding. Pure creepiness factor.

Get creative! I can’t wait to see what different types of masks crop up!

I’ll pull some of the art that I see this week to feature!
Use the hashtag #PromotingPassionChallenge so I can find you!

Here is some food for thought. Enjoy the challenge, and remember to push yourself creatively!

Even something as simple as a deck of cards can be a mask.
This mask was only $2 from a craft store, but it works well because it is so nondescript.
A bird mask can easily be crafted out of papier mache!
My most recent mask image in my new series, Begin Again.
Even the simple hiding of the face can be considered a mask.
  • February 16, 2020 - 9:27 am

    Gallagher Green - The last challenge was totally not my style, which is why my photo stunk for the challenge.
    But I figured this week would be better, then it is “Mask” possibly the only theme that is even worse for me! I have no idea what to do, and I personally hate wearing any type of costume for the most part including masks.
    I going to have to really think hard about this one to even get a lousy idea. But, I will try.ReplyCancel

I think the term “sell out” was largely created for artists by other artists who never achieved as much success. That might sound harsh, but so is calling out a fellow artist for making money. 

Are there people in the world who make beautiful, incredible, amazing things and then go on to create less amazing, less beautiful, less incredible things for the sake of money? Absolutely. 

But…and do I even have to ask…why shame them for that?

We love the stereotype of the starving artist because it keeps artists where they “belong” – that is, in a place of desperation, and therefore, perceived inspiration. The notion of an artist is a romantic one – fraught with insecurities and tribulations, making art out of the pain. 

Where does the pain go when the money starts rolling in? The vision is a tad less lusty, isn’t it?

Who wants to envision a rich artist in a fancy house happily writing the deepest poetry, or creating deep images. We work to immortalize the vision of the starving artist because that is the romantic version of an artist. And don’t we love some romance?

But as an artist, I take pride in specifically not starving. I take pride in making money…dare I say…from my art!

I subscribe to a common feeling about artists: artists should create first and foremost for the self. If no one ever saw it or bought it or commented on it, I like to know that an artist still would have made it.

But, having made it, I’d also prefer they profit from it.

First, we can compare art to any other job. It requires long hours of study (often of the self, which is some of the most difficult work we do in this life). It requires long hours of practice to become studied enough in the art of your craft. And it requires many, many hours of failure, often publicly, in order to find the good stuff. 

Art is a job, if you choose it to be. 

I know so few artists who make money solely from selling their art. They work other jobs, they diversify their business, and they make ends meet. 

If I see someone create for the benefit of someone else, I don’t see a sell out. I see someone who understands that art does not have to be for the few, it can also be for the masses. Art is not meant to be hidden; there, it decomposes and falls to ash. It is meant to be shared, handled, observed, digested, spit out, and transformed by the human experience. 

If someone can parlay their talents into a more commercial realm, good. I hope every artist with something important to say finds a way to fund that voice of theirs. Art is not cheap. It requires resources. 

And if someone begins to create commercial work and never, ever goes back to creating solely for the self, then we can consider that person lucky for having found something that fulfills them even more. We can’t pretend that their path is the same as ours.

Rather than use the word sell out, which is derogatory and mean, let’s start congratulating artists who are able to make ends meet with their art. Let’s applaud those who figure out how to continue navigating life while creating art, because we know, it isn’t easy. 

And for goodness sake, let us never put down another soul who is so bold as to create from their heart, even if they do not exclusively create from their heart. 

That is the difficult work of humans.
It is the important work of the world.
May we all find a way to sing that song,
no matter the means.

P.S. If you ever want to have an honest conversation about money + art, diversification of income, cost to create art, or anything else you can think of that people don’t talk enough about for the “shame” of the topic, trust me – I want to have that conversation.

  • February 14, 2020 - 1:25 pm

    Gallagher Green - I love this! I have a very good friend who is a co-author for an extremely successful novelist, she wrote a few novels herself and they did okay but not great. So she got the opportunity to co-write, he sends a (very) rough draft/outline and she writes it one chapter at a time and sends them to him, then he sees if they are what he is what he had in mind for the story.
    Even though she loves it, says she doesn’t want to write her own stuff at all, has lord knows how many NYT bestsellers, and she pays more in state tax than I make in a year, people still give her and the writer she works for a very hard time because of the fact it is co-writing. Just because they make a lot of money they are instantly written off as no good, or sell-outs. I wish I had a fraction of the writing skill that either of them has!

    Great post that I whole heartily agree with, I don’t know why people think it is so bad that we want to live a comfortable life and be an artist.ReplyCancel

  • February 15, 2020 - 5:40 am

    Daciana Lipai - I had a recent talk with an old friend, and she says to me: “hey, you already tried 2 or 3 times already, you cannot really say you haven’t tried. It is time to stop dreaming and accept the facts.” This was told to someone who made a 600 rejection goal this year. Can I count this as one of the rejections?
    She told me this when I was just about to let all go and move on, but she didn’t know that because she didn’t ask how I am or how am I doing. It was all about her, I suppose.
    I used to think that a little talent, hard work, believing, and a strong will can get you anywhere, but that doesn’t pay the bills. You need a lot of money and support to succeed.
    I moved to Spain more than a year ago hoping for a better life, but shortly I hit the harsh reality.
    I heard a lot of people that they could only succeed if they could start over, from zero. Well now, with no money, alone, in a foreign country, where you don’t know the language, and nobody knows English. Really puts things into perspective. A few years back, I started to learn English, because manuscripts in my own language couldn’t bring me money. Tried different genres of photography, design, moved to several countries, learned that you need a substantial budget just for acceptance/validation (publishing, contest, award, grants, even all the supporting emerging artists, I am not even mentioning here exhibitions, fairs, reviews, workshops), I’ve learned how to write and publish and learned that you are expected to pay to be published, not to be remunerated for your work, and finally learned how much you earn publishing a book, as a writer. But the truth is the same, everywhere. You need money to make money. And nobody talks about the expenses.
    I agree when you say “Art is not cheap. It requires resources.” It is so true.
    I will have this conversation any time, so thank you for talking about this subject.ReplyCancel

  • March 13, 2020 - 6:55 am

    Passion-Based Branding » Promoting Passion - […] we are all acting in order to get attention. Branding makes artists seem like sell-outs. This is a topic I feel very strongly […]ReplyCancel