The place for original handmade prints and printmaking courses taught by Carol Nunan

Life as an artist isn’t that easy

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People have this misconception that just because you’re an artist life is one walk in the park – I mean who wouldn’t want to make pretty pictures all day. That’s not serious stuff right? I mean that’s easy to do, right? You don’t take it seriously do you?

Well yes, I do actually, I’m trying to make some form of income from it. No, it is not all frivolous colour and paint and ink and drawing, and making stuff that looks good. It is frigging hard work. Here are some of the hats I wear:

  1. Artist
  2. Marketer
  3. Administrator
  4. Book keeper
  5. Researcher
  6. PR officer
  7. Project manager
  8. Sales rep
  9. Social media co-ordinator and website administrator
  10. Delivery (wo)man
  11. General dog’s body.

The list does not stop there and as you can see, while artist is at the top of the tree, it forms a very small part of what I need to do to get my work out there … and THAT interferes with my primary purpose. I am constantly trying to find the balance between creating and the rest.

Right now, I’m feeling stuck. I have lots and lots and lots of ideas. Images invade my sleep, my brain is in overdrive and I end up completely stumped. Where do I start? What should I do? WILL IT SELL? SHOULD I EVEN CARE IF IT SELLS OR NOT?

It would be nice to say it doesn’t really matter. Just follow my heart’s desire. But then there’s the real world. There are bills to pay and kids to support through university. Therein lies the rub. I want – possibly need, to play with lots of different types of media, printmaking being one of many avenues. I also want to paint, to explore photography, to make things. What I don’t know is, if I indulge myself and play will that in turn, lead to something far better than anything I’ve done to date, or will these things just turn out to be a distraction from where I should be concentrating my efforts.

Aunt Ursula Series 1 3Aunt Ursula Series 1 12127/STL-HexhamAbbeyHarpistAnd even if I stick to printmaking the thing that completely stymies me is does it matter if I’m working on totally abstract subject matter one day, floral monotypes the next day, prints based on Hexham Abbey the next day, playing with pattern or natural materials the next and so on. How consistent does my subject matter have to be? It’s so BORING isn’t it to keep doing the same thing over and over again just a little bit different … isn’t it?

There are times when I’m tempted to just walk away from it all … but I can’t … being creative is an integral part of who I am. I am simply incapable of not creating art for better or worse, whether anyone else wants it or not. Trouble is I’m not Picasso. I believe he used to simply move out of his apartment in Paris when there was no more room and start again. I don’t have that luxury.

And my apologies if all this sound like one great whinge. That is not my intention. It’s a bit like thinking aloud. Sometimes you have to put it down on paper, (or not he computer screen) to help figure out WHAT …. WHAT AM I MEANT TO DO? I know I’m not alone in this. My good friend and artist, Michelle Milburn has put out a post on the same subject today. It was her post that inspired my to write mine.

There must be others out there. If you are one of them perhaps you might leave a comment below or on my Facebook page. I’d love to hear your take on it.


  1. Michelle February 2, 2015 Reply

    With you every step of the way and then some Carol. Some days it’s just easier to say f**k it and walk away. Painting is in my blood, it’s my life force, it’s my reason for getting out of bed int he morning. Its also the most distressing difficult mind warping bloody job on the planet and it drives me crazy.

  2. Sarah Morpeth February 2, 2015 Reply

    Oh that’s all so true Carol. I have all that buzzing around my head too; constant tension between having to find that niche – the work people know you for and you’ve built up a bit of a following for – and the new different work you want to make! I want to be drawing, painting, printmaking, doing ceramics…..I’d also add photographer and stylist to your long list of hats – I find I spend such a lot of time photographing my work ….Then there’s the ongoing problem of how to get people to understand the time and effort that handmade work takes and then to be prepared to pay anything close to what it costs. I now have half the time I did have to work in because of my Mum’s illness – so I’m having to be much much more focussed. Trying to get some control over my time, have a daily to do list that incorporates some of the admin. as well as some of the making and not spreading myself too thin. Allowing myself a little time each week to play and explore, because you have to feed your creativity, but realising that it’s too easy as a creative person to explode with ideas and lose focus. I also remind myself that every job involves boring aspects – and I’d rather be self-employed doing some boring stuff than back being a lawyer and hating every minute!

    • Author
      admin February 5, 2015 Reply

      Thank you Sarah. It would seem this post has struck a chord with several of you not to mention those who replied to Michelle’s original post that inspired mine. It’s good to know one isn’t alone in all this.

  3. Donna Cheshire February 2, 2015 Reply

    So eloquent, same thoughts go through my mind daily! And I’m fitting it all in between 9-3 when my two are at school. I always say it’s the best job with the most awful pay and conditions!
    I read somewhere that French Artists get paid by the state! Wouldn’t that be amazing?
    I flit between making large pieces and small, I’m trying giclees of some bigger images and trying to get better at self promotion – my brain is on constant overload!
    Can you book yourself a bit of time to try new ideas – time limited exploration might give you the insight? A day a week/month as a reward for doing all the admin stuff? Have you read the Artists Way books by Julia Cameron? She talks about going on an ‘artist date’ with yourself – I’ve tried it a few times and it did feel great…but then it’s back to panicking about fitting everything in;)
    Keep at it – it is worth it!

    • Author
      admin February 5, 2015 Reply

      Yes Donna and in Ireland (possibly not now but for a long time) if you are/were an artist, writer, musician you didn’t have to pay tax. I think the law has changed now because it gots U2 in a lot of trouble when they moved their money out of Ireland to avoid paying tax.

      And yes I began reading Julia Cameron’s Artists Way a few years ago when my husband was made redundant and then found a job that involved being away for the bulk of the week. That made it easier to write morning pages because I had a lot of time to myself. Much harder to do right now but that is probably just a case of making the time. Must revisit it and see if I can get any further with it.

  4. Sue Malkin February 2, 2015 Reply

    You nailed all the dilemmas, Carol!
    For what it’s worth, I think it’s valuable to strike off in different directions, but probably more productive if a new field of exploration can link in with some area or subject-matter or technique that is already in one’s repertoire, even if the link is a tenuous one.

    • Author
      admin February 5, 2015 Reply

      I agree Sue, and I’m trying to do that.

  5. mandy walden February 3, 2015 Reply

    All I can say is “ditto,ditto,ditto”! I sometimes think how nice it would be to go back to working full-time so I could see art as just a hobby to play with…..then I give myself a kick up the ***** because really we’re incredibly lucky and I would hate my life any other way….and who needs money anyway!!! Spring will be here soon and back will come the positivity. Be proud of what you’ve achieved. I shall just continue to muddle along!

    • Author
      admin February 5, 2015 Reply

      Yes we are incredibly lucky nevertheless.

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