Nothing like starting your day with a good laugh. Last week, I heard a joke on National Public Radio. I agree with you: NPR isn’t famous for it’s hahahas.
What does the artist say while working? “Would you like fries with that?”
I just laughed and laughed, especially because at the time I was just parking my truck at the restaurant where I hostess part-time, and I’m an artist. They say the trick to good joke-telling is timing. You betcha. Another time, I might have reacted differently.
But, I love my hostess job. I work for and with dear friends. I meet the nicest people, and I get to be the resident artist — I get to paint on the walls! And, I get paid. Oh, those pesky mortgages that simply won’t go away.
Anyway, the joke put me in mind of two groups of artists. One group has never been able to put their craft aside. They are more than willing to accept the sort of jobs that don’t require extensive training, have flexible schedules, travel well, don’t follow them home, are seldom admired, but leave them with plenty of time and space to pursue their artistic endeavors. Besides, someday, at the pinnacle of an artist’s career, that long-ago summer job loading bales of chicken wire on ox-drawn wheelbarrows will be nothing more than a witty rejoinder for cocktail parties.
The second group finds the obligation to family support paramount. They work towards advanced degrees and apply themselves diligently to careers that have great opportunities for advancement, or at least viable security. Then, when the kids are grown with families of their own, the mortgage is paid; the vacation home purchased. Only then do they return concentration to that first love: art.
Can you find one of these choices more honorable than the other? Of course not, and neither can I. It’s that whole follow your happiness thing. Both require a great deal of sacrifice. The first will sacrifice financial security and maybe the chance of having a family. The second, well, the second says goodbye to their own artistic expression for perhaps decades. In my experiences, I’ve seldom met one who would, or could, trade places with the other.
I applaud anyone who is brave enough to explore and indulge their creative soul — whether they start at 22 or 62. It’s the right thing to do.
A fellow artist once walked into the restaurant where I hostess and expressed surprise that I worked there.
“For three years,” I explained.
“I’m so sorry,” she said (knowing how much an artist craves to be at their easel).
“Don’t be,” I replied. I’m so thankful!” (My apologies to my artist friend, if she’s
reading this; no harm done, none intended.)
My “Artful Life” has been a wonderful journey, and I appreciate every job that supported me along the way. And, if you ever see me at a cocktail party, feel free to ask me about some of them…you’ll just laugh and laugh.
Tara O’Neill, a lifelong, award-winning, artist has been an area resident since 1967. She holds degrees in Fine Arts and English from the University of South Florida and is currently represented by Blue Mangrove Gallery on Marco Island. Visit her at www.taraogallery.com.