Artists’ Day Jobs – What’s Yours?

Before going to bed, I read a chapter or two of Julia Cameron’s Letters to a Young Artist.

I underlined this passage:

I don’t know where we got the idea that being a full-time artist meant no day job. Being an artist is a matter of consciousness. Having a day job doesn’t alter that. I have seen more artists damaged by unlimited time than limited time.

So, I started wondering what you are doing to supplement your art income. I asked the question on Facebook.

Here are the responses I received (with apologies to anyone I missed):

Julie Robertson Receptionist – boss lets her make art at her desk and gives her studio space.

Cathy Pierce Payne custom frame designer

Frances Vettergreen Visual Artist self-employed medical professional

Mark Scantling Heavy diesel mechanic

Ann Marie Scott Part-time at corporate law firm – great benefits

Caroline C. Blaker Web development – developing the designs of others

Suzanne Utaski Gibbs Full-time wife and mother as well as a part time art teacher

Alyson Champ Farmer

Ann Cook Interaction Designer

Joanne Vallee Brunelle Full-time owner/framer of gallery and frame shop

Creative Stash Graphic Designer

Sikiu Clay Designs Office manager, marketer, and more for husband’s house framing business

Heather Dakota Writer/Editor/Graphic Designer

Don Scott Store manager for a family-owned chain of camera stores.

Kelly Darke – Fine Art art therapist

Patt Scrivener Aifd Home stylist and floral designer

Fine Art By Vanessa Turner structural engineer

Christen Caudle Benat Stylist with Stella & Dot

Mantel Amey Case manager for kids with behavioral issues

Wendi McGowan Marketing Director at a mobile apps development company

Cindy Eley Cradler audiologist

Elizabeth Wocasek Library media technical assistant

Alexandra Gerull Mom

Sarah Snavely Part-time library director

Hollie Taylor Full time Mixed Media Ceramics teacher at local high school.

Lori Anne Boocks Director of Marketing & Communications full-time at a non-profit

Ashley Kiefer Coffee Bar Manager

Elissa Campbell Owns 2 part-time businesses: One as a bookbinder and the other as an online marketing/social media consultant

Theresa Rojas Graduate/Phd student in English. Teaches writing and Women’s Studies

Angeline Marie Martinez Nuclear analyst-program coordinator

Kelly Dombrowski Full time mom, caregiver, minister, graphic/webmaster

Judy Jacobs VP of a commercial real estate development company (part time)

Rachel Thadal Senior advisor (Performance management) at an health and social services center, Mom

Michelle Zacharias Language consultant: technical writer, translator, and teacher

David Bender Personal Trainer

What’s your day job?

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119 comments to Artists’ Day Jobs – What’s Yours?

  • I work part-time as the art director for a coporate art consulting firm in metro DC. This question is so interesting because we have had a thread running on this very subject for some time now…….

    • Gallery owner and part time PR writer/photographer for an alternative energy company, the latter only since the financial meltdown in 2008.

  • Teach textiles and drawing at two different universities and also teach private workshops.

  • Mother of two children (5 & 2).

    This is an excellent question, Alyson. I often think I am the only one creating under a schedule of madness. I wonder how people manage their two lives. Now seeing all these repsonses I wonder if colleagues on one side know about the other artistic life? How is that received? Curious.

    • It is generally received with wonder. Both “Wow, you can do this as well as what I knew you can do” and “Where do you find the time for this?”

      • Diane Harper

        Now that I am “out” at work as an artist, I end up the party planner, bulletin board maker, and I decorate crazy trees every month or more for holidays such as “Woodstock Anniversary Tree”, and “I Love New York Tree.” We will have a purple tree for someone’s 60th birthday entitled, “Bring a Dinosaur to Work Birthday Tree.” (staff to bring a dinosaur toy from kids/grandkids toy chest and stuff it in the tree). Everyone is getting into it. Believe it or not, it increased my scores on my “teamwork” section on my evaluation. They actually mentioned the trees. It’s been very interesting, and although silly, it helps integrating the basic “who I am” into my work life in the medical field. We need a little creativity in the hospital.

  • Diane Harper

    Medical Social Worker, soon to be part-time, pursuing art degree since 2002. Decided I would have that art degree by the time I was 50 – I’m 49 as of yesterday!

  • Part-time Arts administration job with non-profit arts organization

  • Great question. To support my art habit I’m a higher education administrator (I direct the University of Wisconsin System Women’s Studies Consortium 75% time). This is a great job for someone whose art is often focused on issues related to women’s lives, and its as much an avocation as a vocation.

  • AB

    I have found that I must keep my day job secret from those who I wnat to recognize me as an artist. Whenever I have told people what I do to support myself as an artist, I stop being an artist in their eyes and I become the waiterclerkcorperatebusinessman, etc. and that is what they want to talk about.

    I have also found that if I tell people at a party I have just met that I am an artist, they start looking for someone else to talk to.

    • AB:
      There is that double-edge sword…but I prefer to say “I am an artist,” and perhaps if they ask “the habit is supported by a day job.” Usually, most drop the negativity. 😉

      • But you responded on my FB page. Did you think of it as less public?

        • To AB, i have found the absolute opposite. When i tell people i am an artist that are intrigued, and a little envious. They often start telling me about their secret desires to be more creative and ask to come to my studio and join in for a day. Sometimes in life our responses have more to do with our own view of ourselves and the reflections that others show for us in regard to that?

  • I’m a contract attorney. As a matter of fact, I just wrote a post about this very subject on my blog:

  • Great subject! I’m building a volunteer & public policy engagement programs for a local non-profit. I wouldn’t mind downsizing my day job to 1/2FTE to be able to dedicate more time to creating, but I’m pretty certain it would not be productive for me to be a FT artist.

  • Thank you for posting this Alyson. I have struggled with this whole term “full time artist” for a long time as I also have a “day job”. Being an artist is who I am and my work is something that I do. But, my work has afforded me funds to pay my bills, buy my supplies and travel. My work as a counselor and an art educator also has helped me “pay it forward” and give of myself. I find if I have too much time I get less done and I am too focused on myself. I need both to be balanced. But it is a struggle to juggle it all as I am also getting busier with my art and that makes me really happy. I’ve decided that I will tell people I’m in a trasition stage of my life.

  • Bookkeeper and problem solver for my husband’s dental practice. I also spend time at the barn riding and caring for my horse.

  • Well, my “day job” (and sometimes my evenings, nights, and weekends job) is writing software, in my case artist’s business management software called WorkingArtist. I’m hoping that at some point, I’ll be able to get back to my “other” work (photography). As I think I’ve written here in the past, I doubt that I’ll ever be as good a photographer as some of the truly great nature photographers, but I can help the art’s community with my software (because one thing I am is a good software guy), and that’s my way of being a part of it.

  • Alyson,
    Thank you for the shout-out.
    We are a talented, we artists!!!

    To Ron Gafron:
    Your software is mentioned often, with good comments. Balancing photography and software development is something I admire. Thanks for your work!

  • bonnie jean woolger

    I am a digitization tech in an academic library.

  • Until last June I worked as the Director of Creative Media at a small University for nearly 30 years. Now my only job besides painting is being an adjunct professor in art at the same school teaching just a few hours a week.

  • This is absolutely fascinating (as well as encouraging). I appreciate the spirit of honesty in this post. – Thank you, Alyson for getting this ball rolling.

    Brennen McElhaney – Illustrator, Art director

  • A roll-call of hardworking passionate artists, I love it!

  • I teach pre-calculus and advanced algebra at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. Academics are in the morning so I have my afternoons free to paint.

  • My day job is also a night job and doesn’t pay anything. I am the primary family caregiver to my mother who has Alzheimers as well as some other ailments. I do have occasional supplemental income as an adjunct assistant professor in astronomy and physics for University of Maryland University College (online) and occasionally get a physics or natural science lab from Quinnipiac University (f2f).

  • I really appreciate this perspective on this whole “full-time artist” thing. Thank you !!
    I am a self-employed Interior Design Seamstress which at least lets me play with my medium (fabric) in a different way than the Fabric Collages I do as an artist. It also puts me in touch with Interior Designers who can be ( and have been recently) a source of potential clients. (see http://www. Thanks for letting me chime in with this community of multi-talented artists

  • Just retired (maybe) after a successful career as an Occupational Therapist where I had the joy of incorporating art as a modality to improve fine motor, sensory motor and visual-perceptual skills. It’s only been two months and I’m enjoying the freedom and time to expand on my art….but I’m not sure I want to totally put OT on the back burner yet!

  • I create architectural ornament for historic restoration of terra cotta building facades. And new historical pastisches for Las Vegas.
    This work has paid the bills (until the economy crashed) but it has also greatly increased my skills and knowledge and technique for use on my own sculpture.

  • ABOUT TIME! One of the things I’m often having conversation on. I’m working on another career move right now while I am continuing my art business. I don’t want to only do art, and I’d feel terribly lazy if I didn’t do all the things I wanted to. I need social interaction and environments that take me away from the art just as much as environments that bring me to it. People forget how important that can be. VARIETY!

    One of the things I was lectured on in my college writing classes on how many successful authors had other careers. One was a Dentist. I love the idea of doing other things and not remaining completely dependent on my artwork for a financial source.

  • I am a full-time wife and mother of two (4yrs,18mon) and also take art classes for children.
    I totally agree with “artists damaged by unlimited time than limited time”…..and considering my roles other than as an artist my mantra is “do not waste time and stay productive”…

  • I am an Escalations Consultant for a team of Technical Support Analysts. How artistic!

  • I drive a transit van part time, as much to remember how to behave in public as for the small income it provides.

  • 1st Asst. Director- TV…just enough each year to keep me vested and take care of my medical insurance (3 to 5 mo a year)….i live on Kauai and my art studio is here… so i fly to the mainland once a year to work…..

  • web designer/developer

  • I am actually a full time artist and support myself primarily through making and teaching art. But if I had a penny for every time someone told me I ‘don’t have a job’, I could support myself on that instead quite easily.

  • Beth West

    I’ve loved reading about everyone’s “other” lives. I’m a homeschooling mom of 8, 6 of whom are still at home. My children think I’m obsessed with painting. They could be right 🙂

  • Full time call center rep, wife, and best pal and trainer to my dog Harley.

  • I teach English as foreign language (currently in Middle East), which means I can travel for my art.

  • I help charities with fundraising and developing/ writing applications to grant-making organisations.

  • I wish I was a farmer.

    I’m an ad man this year. Last year I painted houses.

  • Long ago while in art school in Holland, I played pro tennis, part-time in the summer months.
    Now I make art and live off sales of it supplemented by a very light teaching program.

  • Rita Gilbride

    I am a bookkeeper for a wild and zany pizza &entertainment microbrew bar/restaurant (30+ hrs/wkly) AND a yarn spinner in a local spinnery (12-18 hrs wkly).

  • 24/7 painting watercolors

  • Me too, I loved reading about all these artistfriends’ other job:) My dayjob : part-time administrative assistant and translator in an international association for photographic art.
    Thank you Alison, for this post. I so agree with J. Cameron, unlimitied time is not a guarantee for artistic production. 2 hours of painting/creating each day can make a great body of work at the end of the year:)

  • Terri Godfrey

    Part time office manager for son’s transportation business. In the process of making a space for my Fresh Thyme Design Studio. Paintings, art workshops, pillows, painted furniture.

  • I have always worked 2 full time jobs: art, and whatever job supported my art habit. Fortunately I love sharing the creative process and I have had an incredible amount of fun teaching art to kids and adults. I still adjunct a few classes in a local college and teach in my studio.

  • I work as an administrative assistant in the Development and Alumni Affairs at an international school which allow me to use a little creativity (creating invitations, flyers for events) and meet people from all over the world. Another perk of this job is the 8 weeks vacation. Evenings and weekends are for my art and I manage to be quite productive. I also teamed with another artist: we work together on the same theme, sometimes same support. It takes great communication and sharing but the end result is worth it.

  • I worked as an executive assistant for a hospice program and have worked
    For the same company for 23 years. I need the distraction of a day job to
    Keep my art fresh and productive. I paint more than some full-time artist I know.

  • Wow this is cool – love reading all the jobs the comments! Having “another” job sure takes a lot of financial pressure off. When I was a very young artist I was deeply influenced by hearing about artists & writers who had other jobs and got to make their work too.

  • Office worker for a government agency

  • My day job is as an IT Business Analyst at the Houses of Parliament. What’s that? Well, I act as the interface between the business and IT, turning business requirements into IT systems. I often liken my job to that of a translator, as I have to speak two languages; business speak and IT jargon.

    • Elana

      I do the same thing, only for an oil company and I have always thought of it in the same way as you described – language translator.