Representing the creative future

How does it feel when everyone looks at your job as a hobby?

With the rise of artistic activities as hobbies, we are investigating the effect of “art is for everyone” on the realities of professional creatives

In the times of COVID-19, the internet suggests that art is the hobby that should cure your lockdown angst. Art should help you stay sane in quarantine. One can learn how to become a calligrapher in the morning, master ten ways to tie dye a T-shirt around lunch and enrol in an Illustration Online Art Course from London Art College just in time for dinner. But how does it feel when the whole world uses your job as a mental getaway?

Art is the core characteristic of any culture and thus, a common denominator of collective identities. Still, culture’s creators experience social marginalisation. 88 percent of our audience affirmed the question of whether they have ever felt their career choice or profession being looked down upon. Besides, one’s occupation owns a primary part in identity formulation. The social devaluation, thus, creates a feeling of otherness. No one doubts the hard work required to create. But hardly no one considers creating a severe profession. Slovene Fine Arts student Ava Tribušon Ovsenik puts this phenomenon in a nutshell, “There is a clear difference between a doctor and someone looking through a microscope as a hobby. With fine arts, unfortunately, there are too few people to tell the difference between a professional and a layperson.” The underlying psychology piles on the pressure to prove oneself.

“There is a clear difference between a doctor and someone looking through a microscope as a hobby. With fine arts, unfortunately, there are too few people to tell the difference between a professional and a layperson.”

Linnea Andersson in her studio

Further, with the rise of mass media and eventually digitalisation in postmodernism, everyone with a laptop is given the tools to call themselves an artist. Creativity as a hobby is considered “cool”. Creativity as a profession is considered pitiable. As a general belief artists should find satisfaction in choosing their passion over financial well-being or broad recognition. Up until today, this association appears applicable. Providing insight into the artists’ reality, Linnéa Andersson, a Swedish visual artist and illustrator, says, “Stepping outside of our bubble, I experience that many people don’t realise how much work I put into my creations. They look down upon my achievements because I ‘only do something you think is fun’. At times, even actual clients don’t want to pay me for my work because of the same reason. That can be really frustrating.”

Joey Yu in her studio

You are more likely to get a job with a high school degree than graduating from college with a major in Fine Arts

Deciding to study an Arts Degree takes courage or great self-confidence. Studies show that the unemployment rate amongst fine art majors is often higher than for high school graduates. Thus, you are more likely to get a job with a high school degree than graduating from college with a major in Fine Arts. The London-based professional illustrator Joey Yu explains, “At university, we never learned about the business side of being an artist. Every job that I got in the years after graduating taught me how to price, how to write a contract, how to read contracts, invoicing.” The lack of business education during Arts studies is aggravated by the insufficient support system in the industry. “I did not know where to look for help or who to talk to,” reflects Yu. “It really takes strength to keep pushing forward and keep doing the things you love.”

The pandemic might now even add to the dilemma. Online tutorials, talent scouting and platforms unleash the utopian possibility of getting to popularity by sheer chance. Educational training becomes redundant to digital amateurism. The self-made artist is on the rise, even if the part-time hobby doesn’t pay. In the meantime, the trained artists struggle with finding time to create next to the side job paying most of their bills. The resulting psychological effect on professional artists, who depend on their art being the primary income, is as diverse as it is a paradox. Respondents to our poll describe their feelings towards the increasing number of hobby artists from scary and isolating to being a relief. The relationship between art and artist is as individual as taste.

"The misconception of art as work" by Ava Tribuson

“I had stopped drawing for myself to the point of never picking up the pencil because I actually wanted to”

But there is a different dedication shown to creating for pleasure and professionally working as an artist. The clients’ vision has to become the creator’s vision. “If you come from a Fine Art photography background or documentary it can be tricky to align your work with a brief when it comes through,” admits professional photographer Polly Brown. “Learning how to work both independently and then collaboratively with art directors and clients is a balance which continually needs addressing.” Having to distance oneself from the profession-turned passion is a challenge many creatives face when starting in the industry. The resulting regular discrepancies can even lead to a questioning of one’s career choice. “I had stopped drawing for myself to the point of never picking up the pencil because I actually wanted to,” admits Joey Yu and voices the change of relationship many artists witness. The bristling paradox of art as work and its recondite relationship with money can cover its social value. Art is first and foremost a subjective reflection of the world with a subliminal search for an audience that resonates with its depiction. Its non-exclusive character is what makes the craft valuable: anyone can create anything and as such, connect with everyone.

Photography by Polly Brown

Art should never be confined to those who are lucky enough to go to art school or choose it as a career.

“It’s nice seeing people use their time to be creative,” says Anderson about the increasing number of hobby artists in lockdown. “My career started as a hobby after all, and I don’t see any harm in other people having the chance to find a similar path as I did.” The pandemic is a double-edged sword. As much as it incites economic insecurities, it implies a genuine chance for change. “The more people embrace photography and the arts the more understanding they are of its importance,” emphasises Brown, “Art should never be confined to those who are lucky enough to go to art school or choose it as a career.“ The pandemic might actually help to create a stronger support system for the industry through a mutual appreciation and endorsement of its value. Especially in times of physical distancing, creating can move people closer together. “Art is like medicine, “concludes Joey Yu. “More people getting into it means that more people are getting into the right mindset. It can make them more empathetic. And maybe, after the pandemic, they value the creators of music, literature, photography, and painting more.”

Photography by Polly Brown

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