LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF BEING AN ARTIST
I’m an artist and I’ve been performing on stage for several years under a pseudonym Mr Li. I’ve created a character of a drunk illusionist, hich has been noticed and appreciated by viewers of Polish TV stations such as TVN, TV4 and Polsat. In 2017 I won first prize in the nationwide festival of comedians One Man Show organized in Koszalin.
As a professional magician I’ve performed both: during elegant banquets or corporate events, and on the street. Thanks to my professional skills I earn decent money. However, as an artist, I’ve also experienced financial problems.
Today, I’d like to write about the consequences of choosing such a life path. Referring to my own experiences, I’ll try to list pros and cons of my job.
To be an artist – what does it mean?
It’s difficult to characterize a profession of an artist. It’s said that as far as art is concerned, we don’t talk about a job but about a calling. One thing is certain, no matter how you define it, one has to work really hard so as to deserve to be called an artist. Artistry is a connection of creativity and craft. It demands years of practising, experimenting and making sacrifices.
According to ordinary people being an artist is something really cool. In pop culture, performing arts is identified mainly with fame, wealth and great fun (maybe not necessarily in the context of magicians but definitely in the context of actors or musicians). However, an average performer, sculptor or a writer can barely make ends meet. The truth is that only a small part of artists is able to earn a living thanks to their art.
As an artist you have to take a risk that the world won’t appreciate you. The best example proving this is a poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid, or a painter Vincent Van Gogh. Both of them were poor when they were alive. They gained recognition only after their deaths. And how many artists have you never heard of?
An artist’s life not only consists of positive sides but there are also negative aspects. Here I present: lights and shadows of being an artist.
1. Independence. You decide when and with whom you want to work. You paddle your own canoe. You don’t have a boss and for instance, when others prepare another report in their offices, you just get up from your bed. You don’t have fixed working hours. You can fulfill your duties for half a day, or one weekend a month, whereas an average person has to work 40 hours a week. How many times have you heard people saying: “Oh no! It’s Monday tomorrow”? And I personally love Mondays, because this is usually when I finally have time to rest 🙂
2. You make money doing what you love. As a famous quote says: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I can’t fully agree with Confucius. Although magic is my passion, I have to admit that learning magic tricks is a hardworking and time-consuming activity and performing on stage can be tiring. However, nothing gives me more satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment than my job.
3. No routine. As an artist you develop yourself in many directions. You create, but at the same time you are in charge of marketing, logistics and business. You specialize in many different activities and you do various things every day. That’s exactly what I missed when I worked “nine to five”. I was fed up with monotony at work.
4. You take part in interesting projects and initiatives. As a magician, I’ve been invited to different TV stations. In last few years I performed in Poland Got Talent, I took part in Gwiazdy Kabaretu (it’s a comedy show broadcast by TV4), I also appeared in a music video.
5. You can earn more money than when you do a regular, full-time job. A few years ago, when I decided to resign from my full – time job, I didn’t expect that thanks to performing magic tricks I’d be able to earn a few times more.
6. You meet a lot of interesting people who you wouldn’t probably meet if you worked in a corporation. You get a chance to stand face-to-face with your idols and people who inspire you. Thanks to my job, I met comedians from Paranienormalni (a very popular comedy group in Poland). Therefore, they invited me to perform with them during Paranienormalni VIP Tour in 2019
7. If you are (just like me) a performer it means that you travel a lot. To me, travelling is a value in itself. Whenever I have an opportunity I try to combine “business trips” with going sightseeing and resting. Thanks to that, I have visited a lot of interesting places. For example, on the occasion of my performance in Polanica Zdrój, I additionally visited Karpacz and Szpindlerowy Mlyn. I live at the seaside so I don’t have too many opportunities to go in the mountains.
8. You can also use your art and popularity in order to support charity actions. Remember: when you help people in need, you make the world a better place. As a magician I’ve taken part in charity events plenty of times. I’ve performed to support WOSP and in nursing homes. Once I did magic tricks for a disabled little girl from Braniewo. It’s a huge pleasure when you can bring a little bit of joy in somebody’s life.
SHADOWS (CONS OF BEING AN ARTIST)
1. There is no guarantee that you will succeed. Success depends on many factors and you don’t have influence on all of them (factors like: demand for a particular trend, a geopolitical situation in a country, suitable acquaintances, or just a little bit of luck).
A lot of people have told me that my illusion show is extremely amusing. If hadn’t taken part in One Man Show Contest in Koszalin, I wouldn’t be in a place I’m today: I wouldn’t perform in TV comedy shows like “Gwiazdy Kabaretu” and “Kabaret na żywo”. Basically, I helped my luck because I presented my magic show in the right place and time, which resulted in my cooperation with television stations.
2. Lack of a regular monthly salary and financial fluency. A lot of creators work as freelancers. However, self-employment may connect with lack of retirement, holiday pay or maternity leave. Some artists take on extra job in order to increase their income. In this way, they get financial security ,but at the same time they can realize their passion.
Remember: The lack of financial fluency isn’t only the result of the lack of job offers. It can be also a matter of delayed payments you get for your services. Today you are doing well, but it may change in half a year. Even a top-earning artist cannot expect that their run of good luck will last forever.
I’m so lucky that I can do what I love for a living. Although, I can’t complain about not getting enough job offers, I have sometimes problems with financial fluency simply because somebody is late paying an invoice for my services.
3. Lack of regular, fixed working hours. Longer absence from home may affect your family relations in a negative way. As a magician, I perform in community centres, theatres and also TV stations, and therefore travel around the country. I provide people with entertainment during company parties and other events. My job is connected with constant travelling and living out of a suitcase. Especially at weekends. Even if I have a show not far away from home, I usually start it in the late afternoon or in the evening so as a result I miss a lot of family gatherings or meetings with friends. When they have free time, I work and the other way round.
There’s one more “trap” related to freelancer’s life. As a freelancer, you have to discipline yourself to work. If you lack time management skills and you only live from one job offer to another, you stop developing. And soon after you’re out of game.
I’ve devoted thousands of hours to learning magic. I know many magic tricks and I already know how to entertain and amuse people so I actually could stop at this level and do my job for next years. But I’m still learning new things. I have this natural curiosity and strong desire to become a better performer and it motivates me to hard work every single day.
4. Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan – when you become popular, there are a lot of kind people around you. But who will stay by your side if you fail? Choose people surrounding you sensibly – this rule applies to both: professional and personal relations.
5. The risk of burnout. What if one day you feel that there is nothing more you can offer as an artist? Do you have any other idea for yourself? An actor Marek Kondrat imports and sells wines, Adam Nergal Darski, a front man of a music band Behemot owns a club in Sopot. Karol Golonka (from Kabaret Skeczow Meczacych) founded a nursery school. He explains his decision in the interview for Echo Dnia “I’m trying to invest in my future wisely, there will be time that my professional career comes to an end, but you will still have to make a living”
In my free time I learn how to edit videos. The effects of my work you can find on a website: www.panli.pl, in a website tab Offer, where I attached short videos made by myself. Who knows: maybe it will be my backup plan?
6. Fame. The more popular you are, the higher price you have to pay – especially for your privacy and security. There are many cases of celebrities who have been stalked by paparazzi or stalkers. One of my friends who is an artist was stalked by his psycho-fan and he finds this experience rather unpleasant.
7. People judge you, accept it. Nobody but you knows how much effort you’ve put to become an artist. A viewer sees only the final effect of your work and doesn’t think about the entire process: how much work you’ve done in order to achieve the effect.
For your own sake, accept the fact that there will be always more people who will be ready to criticize you than those who will praise you.
I’ve experienced this myself. Remember that people tend to judge not only what you do but also who you are. As an artist you evoke strong feelings: not only admiration but also jealousy.
Artists are associated with certain features and going beyond this vision can have a negative influence on them. As Gombrowicz wrote: “It’s easier to hate someone for picking his nose than to love them for creating a symphony.”
A creator of art, just like any other human being, has to eat, drink and sleep. He or she pays his/her bills, picks up a child from the kindergarten and does shopping. He or she has heart problems, gets ill or mourns after the death of a close person. An artist sometimes gets angry or swears and sometimes he needs silence or loneliness. In other words, an artist has the right to have a bad day or to be in a bad mood. But critics don’t justify artists. There’re plenty of people who only wait for an occasion to defame an artist.
As you can see, a profession of an artist has its lights and shadows. Sometimes it gets really hard but despite this I wouldn’t change my job for any other. Every single day I give up my comfort and security in the name of art. Nevertheless, I do it because I strongly believe that this is the only way I can find fulfillment, satisfaction and happiness. I have to admit that in my case it works.
And how do you perceive artists? Maybe you’re a creator of art yourself and you exactly know what is an artist’s life like? Let me know.