There is often the assumption, by people I know, that because I work for an artist, all I do is sit around and, oh, color in coloring books all day. Ho hum. That and eat bonbons. We started talking about this yesterday while on the job, and apparently it's something we've all experienced. I've heard it referred to as "my little art job." Granted, I'm not the CEO of Boeing, nor do I slug it out all day on a mechanical production line. I don't inhabit a cubicle amongst an ocean of cubicles. Neither do I sit in front of a computer screen every day for eight hours. I am actually quite fond of my job. I have the privilege of working with paint & colors most days, the daily banter is nearly always hilarious, rarely dull. I like most of the music to which we listen. My co-workers are all artists in their own rights, and educated, liberal, bohemian. We're all foodies. It's a great scene, but it's still work. For me, full-time work, with a 40-mile round-trip commute at rush hour.
It's exacting, and it requires a critical eye and steady hand, hour after hour. Some of the techniques take months to perfect, and they're ever-evolving. There are long hours with the hands in hot water, leaving fingertips and nails abraded and tender. Additional hours wearing a respirator, which leads often leads to intense claustrophobia, especially in very hot weather.
Lots of heavy lifting and maneuvering large boxes through and around crowded spaces. It takes balance, strength, endurance and patience. I leave the job most days feeling pretty much spent.
Nonetheless, I like my job. It often engages my brain in new ways, challenges me to find solutions to dilemmas I would never have imagined the previous day. Working with color, although sometimes confounding & vexing, is generally a glorious experience. We joke about "color therapy" -- but the intense pleasure to be had from a pleasing palette of colors at my fingertips is not a joke. It's real, and it makes the heart sing. (Except for the color Lamp Black, which makes me scream.)
So "my little art job" is indeed a real job, with its share of challenges and frustrations. I've spent a lot of hours this past week training a new person, and whenever I do this, it's apparent to me just how exacting the work is, and how difficult it can be to learn. But still, after 3+ years, I still, every day, pick up a piece and say, "My god, this is SO beautiful." My artist-employer seems to have successfully weathered the economic gloom, with an overfull production calendar for the remainder of 2010.
I'm lucky. People close to me have been job hunting for months, when I've had to add hours to my work schedule. My commute has become an hour+ out of every day that belongs to me only. It's my meditation time, when I can listen to whatever music I want to at however loudly I want it. Or I can listen to nothing, and the muffled drone of traffic becomes a kind of om.
Yes, I work for an artist. Yes, it's groovy. And yes, it is indeed real work.