Let’s talk about money…

Last month, I was one of 31 creatives invited by fellow artist, Eli Trier, to take part in her community project, Naked Money. The purpose of the project was to get creatives talking about the sticky subject of money. The project was an eye-opener. Subjects covered included how we make money; how to value our work; our money blocks and money breakthroughs and a wide variety of creatives at many different stages of their career contributed.

Seeing how each of the essays opened up new thoughts, ideas and conversations around cash, I felt that I wanted to share my contribution to the project with my community and Eli kindly granted me permission to republish my post here. I would totally recommend you sign up to receive the ebook Eli has created from this project. You can do so here. In the mean time, read on… and if you have any questions on money, art or how the two fit together, don’t be afraid to ask!

Creating Gratitude Cards

Creating Gratitude Cards

Eli’s invitation to contribute to the Naked Money community project felt timely as, only that morning, I had been taking audio notes on a subject that had popped up regularly on my radar over a period of months and which was relevant to my current personal situation around creativity and cash. The subject in question was JOBS… the payroll kind. Yes, as a freelancer of some 20+ years, who used to baulk at the idea of a regular role, I have, for almost two years now, been working a 4 day a week “good enough job”*, and it has had the most unexpected impact on my creative output.

When a freelance contract that had provided a healthy chunk of my annual income was not renewed two years back, I surprised myself by starting to think about looking for a job. The unpredictability of my other self-employed income streams had created a lot of anxiety around money, but it was not until l had been in a regular job for some time and the pressure lifted, that I realised just how much this fear around not having enough money month to month had distracted me.

When you rely on creativity for your income, you can find yourself creating what you think people will want and therefore buy, rather than what you want to be making.

As a freelancer, I worked for an art magazine, curated exhibitions of other artists’ work, ran online courses, as well as in person workshops and classes. Some of these I have continued since starting my day job. But all the while, I had never really taken the idea of making money from my own art seriously. Even now, I can’t quite tell you why. I offered a handful of works on Etsy and on my own website, but my marketing was minimal to say the least and I sold just two pieces. I guess I was embarrassed about trying to make money from my art. Something to do with that little voice that tells you you’re not good enough.

Of course, the fear of failure played a part. If I didn’t put myself out there, I couldn’t fail, right?

Wrong!

I failed to take my art seriously. I failed to give myself the chance to try enough things that might have worked in order to discover what did. I wanted to be making my art, not promoting it, though now, of course, I realise that in simply sharing what you’re doing with an open and genuine heart, you can build a warm and wonderful audience of people who take pleasure in seeing others do what they love and want more of that.

Truth is, it’s often not what we think people want that they actually crave and some of the most successful artists I know of are those who make the art they love and want to create, without a thought for what potential customers might buy. When you make work you love, that love shines through and people want a piece of that. 

The total freedom to create what I wanted when I wanted had, for a period, stifled me. I’m sure you’ve also experienced the feeling (hopefully in the distant past) that you have heaps of ideas, but when you do, you have no time and when you have the time to create, the ideas seem to dry up. I know I did. But that pattern of thinking was also a habit and what I actually needed to do was just start.

As a creative being, joy, freedom and connection are vital to me. When I started working my day job, free time became more precious, so it’s now much more important to spend that time wisely on things I really want to be doing. Aside from spending time with my love and my sons (connection), those things are sailing (freedom) and making art (joy). The story of the job itself and how I landed it is an interesting one, which I will go into in more depth on my blog. But what I lost in free time, I gained in a sense of urgency to create which has grown into a desire to finally offer my art to the world, now that the pressure to make money from it is off.

When I started making art for myself, I made art that I loved and wanted to live with. I put two pieces I adore onto Red Bubble and whilst I have only sold two stickers so far (bringing in less that £1.00 profit), there’s a cushion with my art on it on my sofa which brings me joy daily and am enjoying trying new things and putting my work out there and seeing what happens with no strings attached. I am fully aware that it’s still an experiment. An experiment I’m in for the long term.

I have made one of my paintings into an art print and, as I write this, I am just back from the post office, having packed up my first print sale and sent it off. No profit as yet, as I paid to print a small batch up front, but from payment on this first sale, any prints I sell now will bring in profit.

Money can’t buy that glorious feeling of knowing that someone will receive my work tomorrow, frame it and put it on their wall to enjoy. 

I want to share my art with the world because creating it brings me joy and if I can brighten people’s lives with my art, then I want to do more of that. There is enough darkness in the world right now and if the sight of a joyful painting can brighten someone’s day, then I want to share that as widely as I can.

Profit is also on the way with two sales of my Good Day Cards so far. The second sale was a repeat sale, so I already know that I have one happy customer and that feels so good!

One of my paid work roles (either side of my desk time) is walking the office dog (freedom). I love variety and for two hours each day this role affords me dream time in the woods where I make fast art (usually 3 minute faces) with the leaves, sticks and stones that I find. This brings me more pleasure than I can describe (joy). I often speak my thoughts, feelings, poems and bits of blog posts and newsletters into the voice recorder on my phone as I walk. This saves me time sat staring at my computer screen, as out of doors, I always feel more inspired. I also take photographs that inform and inspire my art. I share these on social media, growing my tribe as I walk. It’s a slow burn, but I’m in it for the long haul.

In addition, I continue to run my after school art clubs every week during term time. The inspiration for our projects often comes from my walks and I have used left over materials from my day job in my classes. The classes are of a size that I am able to speak in depth with each child about their art (connection). I learn as much from the kids as they do from me. On occasional Mondays, I now run a fabulous project called Interpreting Collections at the Wellcome Trust. Here, I support artists to research works in the collection and encourage them to interpret their research creatively. This, I LOVE. It is me in my element! I work directly with artists and gallery staff and we get to go behind the scenes and ask questions and have meaningful conversations. One day of this work, pays almost what I earn in a week at my day job. It’s one of those “am I really getting paid for this?” roles which again ticks my connection box and totally lights my fire! I am working on turning this project and its offshoots into something longer term and more regular.

I would be lying if I said I don’t dream of making lots of money from my art and my other passion projects, dropping the day job (apart from the dog walks) and being free to do whatever I want. But right now, it all works together and the truth is, I feel blessed to experience either joy, freedom, connection (or all three) in every area of my work. And importantly, the pressure of money is lifted, leaving me free to create the work I want.

As I look to the future (I am now 45), my desire is to continue making meaningful connections with other creatives, to supporting them in living their best lives and in doing so to live my own. I would like the freedom to follow my heart… to sail and make art, both with paint on canvas and out in nature, just as I do now. But I know that freedom requires an income. So I am working towards getting paid more for the roles that feel like play and if a house in the woods by the water, with a studio, a mooring and a sail boat are part of that playful future, I hope you will come join me for a creative retreat there.

*The phrase, “good enough job” came from Barbara Sher’s book What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything. The good enough job is one that pays the bills and affords you the freedom to do things you love.

Art Club creations

Art Club creations

This article was written for Eli Trier’s Naked Money community project. To read the contributions of 30 other creatives, click here.

You can find me online at: www.BeCreativeDaily.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julia.elmore.9 and https://www.facebook.com/BeCreativeDaily/
On Instagram: @juliaelmore

Living life as an adventure

It is 18 months since I started this blog and when I look back, I realise that so much has developed in that time. This particular adventure began on May 1, 2012 with a 30 Day Challenge when I committed to my creativity for one month and started documenting it here. Little did I know that this would lead me to teaching art to children, running workshops for adults, painting on the pavement outside my favourite Indian restaurant to celebrate Diwali and to this month sitting on the other side of the 30 Day Challenge fence as a Screw Work Let’s Play team member and 30DC Genie. I love shining my own light and carrying the torch for others and their talents, so this feels like the perfect role for me.

Following my own creative path and being open to whatever may unfold has really allowed me to enjoy life as an adventure this past year. At the start of the Summer, I exchanged my Tesco clubcard vouchers for a flight to Glasgow where I enjoyed an art-filled weekend in a city I had not visited for 20 years. Last week, I hopped on the Eurostar to attend an Outsider Art Fair at a Paris hotel and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the magazine Raw Vision at the Halle Saint Pierre where I co-curated an exhibition of British Outsider Art in 2008.

Giving myself permission to live life on my terms, embracing my creativity and allowing daily life to become an adventure is what it’s all about right now. It was this spirit of adventure that led me to having my hair cut in the street outside the Centre Pompidou by the Hair Cowboy last week… the same spirit of adventure which led me to write a love letter to Dishoom and to my collaborations with them… the same spirit of adventure that seeks out the people who inspire me and the places I love and leads me to connect these dots whenever I can. This past week alone, I have hopped on the back of a horse for the first time in 20+ years, created a giant self-portrait in the sand and strolled the streets of Paris in search of art.

Right now, it may not be bringing me riches, but I am living a much more fulfilled life. The next step of the mission is to encourage others to live a fulfilled and adventurous life created on their own terms too… Kickstart Your Creativity begins here at home tomorrow… let’s see what unfolds.

What one thing can you do today to make your life feel a little more adventure and less mundane?

With love,
Julia x

How lucky I am…

Wednesday is Art Club day at school.

As 3.30pm approaches and I am preparing the room, moving tables and chairs, choosing music and building up to two hours of teaching, I am never quite sure what to expect and feel that delicious combination of nerves and excitement, reminding me that what I am about to do is both a challenge and something I love that means an awful lot for a number of reasons.

Some days, all goes well: I don’t lose my voice; great art is produced; everyone leaves with a smile.
Other days, I am faced with challenges: paint-splattered uniforms; lively mischief; tired, hungry kids.
And sometimes, I leave on a high: inspired by my students; proud of what has been achieved; thrilled by the possibilities.

Today was one of those days… an exhilarating day to remember.
Today, I walked out of school with a smile on my face, thinking HOW LUCKY I AM!
And as I walked, it struck me that some of the things that challenge me are also the things that excite me. I thought about the lively class; their voices raised in playful banter. I thought about the mess they made; the fun they had making it. I remembered the hug from the liveliest class member before he went home; his way of thanking me for the lesson he had so clearly enjoyed. I smiled as I thought about the conversation about art which I had shared with one of the students as he worked a little late, keen to finish what he had begun.

In class, as I tried to keep the volume down, my perspective shifted, in a moment, from frustration to elation… those were excited voices, the laughter and sounds I hear coming from my own children’s mouths as they anticipate some fun activity or outing.

As I tried to tame the mess, something changed in me and I chose to let it flow, to deal with it later, to let the experiments get a little out of hand… what else is art about if not pushing things further; taking things to the next level; playing freely with paint and paper and whatever else is at hand?

Watching the artworks unfold, I became more animated as I acknowledged that all that was happening was all that I wished for… the children were experimenting freely, playing, exploring, creating original works of art and feeling good about themselves, gaining confidence in their abilities and letting go of ideas of perfection.

How lucky I am…
To be working with a group of children who are lively, playful and open to new ideas.
How lucky I am…
To be learning from the children I am teaching; sharing my love of art and watching theirs grow.

Last week, on the boarded up wall of the classroom, we installed a hanging system – a simple hook and eye contraption on which I can display the work and cover the wall. Our art class is now becoming a gallery too… living with art is as important as creating it. I want these kids to share their art with pride.

I love to witness their first experiments with new techniques and see their joy as they realise they did well.
I love to 
see that pride as they spot one of their artworks on the gallery wall and show their parents what they have created.
I love to
watch their eyes light up as I tell them how brilliant they are, how original, how creative.

I love art and it is a privilege to share it.

How lucky I am.


A perfect working day

Yesterday, I skipped out of the door, Summer dress on and a big grin on my face. After dropping the boys off at childminder and school, I was off to do what I love.

The morning began with a trip to see an artist friend to discuss a potential exhibition. A visit with John is always a pleasure as new paintings appear on such a regular basis that I see something new every time I go to his art-filled flat. He has decided to let go of his work. He wishes to free up space in his home. A compulsive creator, he is barely able to move in some rooms for art work. We are looking for a venue and funding to exhibit hundreds of works before releasing them out to the world, to new homes, to begin new lives.

Popping in on a friend round the corner, I was taken round the other corner and introduced to a chap who runs a cafe with two wonderful empty walls. He is installing a hanging system and will soon be seeking art to fill that space. A lively new venue for art. It is exciting to have a few little potential exhibition spaces in mind. Come September, I should have little windows of time to go back to curating and look forward to filling some already buzzing places with inspiring art.

In the afternoon, I met with my Step Up researchers at the Royal Academy of Arts. Six artist researchers are working with an audio describer to create an audio tour for an upcoming show at Pallant House Gallery. I am in my element… leaning new skills in a wonderful Museum with fabulous people.

I slotted a little visit to Child Hood – a Kids Company exhibition – into a window between  meetings in town yesterday. I was moved, inspired and filled with all manner of thoughts and emotions that are rarely raised in me during art experiences. These thoughts may make up a future post. I was filled with ideas for the school art club and was reminded of the great healing power of art. Many of the children whose work was exhibited here have had lives you would not wish to imagine, yet they have created art that goes beyond words. If you have the opportunity, I urge you to go. Experience if for yourself, but be sure to take a hanky!
My working day was chaotic, but fun. Art, artists, trying to make a little bit of difference where I can and bring in some £ at the same time. It’s a challenge, but one that I enjoy! My group and I got to see behind the scenes at the R.A. school. I felt so privileged. We walked the corridors with eyes wide and gained special entry into the iconic Life Room, unchanged from its inception in the eighteenth century and normally only accessible to students of the Royal Academy. It was here that celebrated artists such as Turner and Constable would have sat.

Life Room at the Royal Academy Art School

Summer had passed by the time I left the Royal Academy and so, in my Summer dress and sandals, I stepped out into puddles of rain and took a brisk walk to just north of Oxford Street for a glass of wine and a catch up with a curator friend. His flat was almost empty. Packed up as he is decamping to Trinity Buoy Wharf; a thriving creative community which exists on the opposite side of the Thames to the 02.

Anticipating a great day, I had posted my gratitude list and returned home satisfied with a good day’s work and determined that days like these should be more frequent in my working life as I move back into the world of regular employment, albeit on a freelance, free-range basis.

What would your perfect working day be? What would you be doing? Where would you be? Who would you be working with? How would you feel?

Yesterday came close to being mine and it sure felt good.

Spend a moment dreaming up your ideal working day. Live it in your head.
What single, small step could you take right now towards making that happen?

Here’s to working days like these.

Resolving the restless


The urge to create has been strong this past week.
I have a feeling that recent activities at art club may have something to do with it.

Last Wednesday’s after-school art club was another break-through lesson. A few weeks ago, after a particularly frustrating class of restless children unable or unwilling to sit still, I was feeling rather flat and in need of a big change to keep my enthusiasm for the club alive. The following week, I arrived at the hut, ready to set up the materials, but was faced with a room with no tables. Slow rain had just started to fall, so my ideas for getting the children up and out of the classroom looked less than promising. However, I decided to go ahead with the plan to get the children making wax rubbings from the textures around the class. What fun! As they were moving around, seeking their own inspiration and enjoying this new process without the constraints of sitting at a table, there was a distinct shift in behaviour… for the better. Why did it take the absence of tables and my choice not to put out chairs for me to realise that children do not want to sit down at the end of a long school day?

This week, with large-scale painting and restless children in mind, I chose to work in a different way again. I stretched lengths of plastic along the floor, put tables behind them, brushes, water, mixing palettes, paint. On entering the class, each child was asked to lay down on the floor whilst another child, my assistant or myself drew a rough outline of the child’s shape with pencil on lining paper. With the paper taped to the wall, the children were able to stand face to face with their outline and create a self-portrait of their own desire… either realistic or imaginary.

The children seemed to enjoy working on the wall and those who did not or could not, were happy spread out on the floor, some working collaboratively, others alone. The results were impressive and most were only half-finished by the end of class, so some of the children requested the chance to work again on the same piece the following week.

Not once, in that lesson, did I have to ask for calm and quiet… everyone, myself included was excited and productive in their own way. Thrilled to have stumbled upon this new way of running the class, I don’t think we will be going back to sitting at tables after school before the end of term.

Having seemingly resolved the restless, we can now get on with creating great art.