I am an independent artist. And I do many things to make a living in the arts. I paint commissions. I write. I freelance as a photographer. I make theatre. I sing. I create websites for other creatives. I edit the work of other writers. And I work full time as the Operations Director for StateraArts, an incredible nonprofit dedicated to gender equity in the arts. All of these things are connected. Each informs the other.
I love doing this work and I’m really skilled at it.
Because I work independent of a large corporation or institution, I have to create my own workspace. I work a 40-50 hour week just like the next guy, so I need a flexible space where I can paint, write, attend video meetings, design, hop online, edit photos, read, and ship artwork.
I have a 120 square foot shed that serves as my studio and meets all of my work needs. My morning commute is about 28 seconds from my backdoor to the door of my studio. A home studio works best for me as I am also the mother of two children under age 12. My youngest is a stroke survivor living with Cerebral Palsy and Epilepsy. He requires a lot of attention. My partner, Jack, is 100% an equal partner and his total involvement in all things domestic means that I can work as a professional artist and support my family. This life doesn’t happen without my partner. But the beauty of working independently in my back yard means that I can hop back into family life at a moments notice.
How can I afford to work as an independent artist? First, my family and I moved out of the city to a remote part of the country where the cost of living is low. Second, my partner and I live on tight budget. (Artists are not widely known for this, but the majority of us make our money go a long way. For more on this topic, check out this great video and also this video about living simply by my friend and independent artist Gwenn Seemel.)
Other cost saving habits: We cook rather than eating out. We keep our grocery bill low by trading locally with farmers for organic produce, eggs, and grass-fed meat. We are also frugal when it comes to travel, entertainment, and clothing. Our low income means that we make use of low-cost, state-run health plans.
But I don’t see these cost-saving behaviors as limiting. Being a professional independent artist means that my family is also independent. We are living outside of the box and making the most of our time together. And I place a very high value on that independence. In this way, independent artists like me and many others are mirroring back to our audience a fresh and invigorating way to live, think, interact, and connect.
When you support independent artists, you are supporting independent thinking. When you donate to independent artists, you are saying that you believe in freedom of thought and freedom of choice. When you buy artwork from local and independent artists, you are affirming your own ability to live out loud and lean into your own authenticity.
The people who have supported my work by either buying my art and prints, attending productions of plays that I write, sharing my work on social media, or patronizing my career via Patreon are forever lodged in my heart. My patrons are my life blood and they inspire me to keep moving forward - to continue creating new pathways for thought and connection. I wouldn’t be able to exist as an independent artist with an independent space and an independent family without them. I am so grateful for my patrons.