Artists with Intent: A brief reflection on contemporary creatives

As a creative professional, I am constantly finding ways for my creativity to be utilized in a way that is both fulfilling to my personal expression, as well as results in a profit I can happily put towards next months rent. I work in a salon as an assistant to a master stylist, I take clients as a hairdresser, I have my own swimwear line, I operate this website, and organize all of my photoshoots/e-market inventory. I work on my days off.

It’s the New York City Hustle. 

It’s crucial that in my somewhat contemporary bohemian inspired professional path, for me to be my own light. My own pat on the back. Falling to self doubt and fear are not options. 

The phrase and title of “I am an artist.” Is thrown around so often, especially amongst circles in New York. Mainly in my opinion by younger types looking to make it as professionals in whichever creative field they are submerged in. It’s more often than not said with enthusiasm. I admit I have somewhat of a disliking for people who use this phrase occasionally. Not because I have cynical tendencies, rather because it is often said when having an intentionally alternative (contrarian) view to the status quo, being late for meetings, or as a round about way of saying that they are unemployed. However, when I say “I am an artist” the phrase carries more weight. To me, the phrase says, I am not only creative (which, in my opinion is not hard), but I am also a business man (Or at least I strive to develop a business mind set in the very least.)

Being an artist for me not only means having a vision, but also pairing this creativity with a drive fueled by an entrepreneurial mindset, so that this creativity results in a profit. I’ve always believed that in the modern age, art without intent of profit is therapy. The number of creative people who rely on their creative gifts to pay their rent is getting lower and lower due to increased rent costs and the glamorization of urban areas. It is known. 

(Side thought: It’s also somewhat of a self inflicted situation. Because, I obviously could move to Detroit and make art for cheap—-the only downside is that I would be in Detroit) 

I think the reason why self proclaimed artists of today have such a bad rep is that If one has so much time on their hands to create, yet not sell, they must be living a life of leisure. A lifestyle that despite being resented by working professionals, is also admired on a society that values public glamazons like the housewives and Kardashians. The irony. This hypothetical example is all to often a reality in New York. We all know the trust fund kids, and the wives who are so busy, yet spend most of their times at their manicurists. I won’t deny that even I have friends who fancy themselves as self proclaimed “creative types”, yet their day consists of a two hour yoga class, and a one hour phone conversation which ends in anything but a pay check. But, I also know creative people who are excelling in their fields because they work twice, or three times as hard while juggling multiple creative gigs. I am one of them, and these are my people.

(Yes that sounds self glorifying. Because it is.)

People often criticize New York for losing its artists. And it’s true, the number of people here who make a living off of creating is lower and lower. BUT- the people who are still afloat in this city in creative fields, are the creative individuals that make things happen, because they have to…Or because they inherited an artists commune in the east village and can spend their days smoking cigs and drinking coffee while reminding us that they were here when New York was raw and edgy (rolls eyes). But even they are becoming scarcer. 

My message to you, my reader, is not to make note of different tiers of New York artists, nor is it to mock the blasé conversations of New Yorkers who complain that New York has lost it’s edge (because it lost that a long time ago).. It’s to tell you to keep going. To keep working hard and juggling your jobs, website, Instagram, and which ever platforms of tomorrow that can elevate your exposure. As a creative professional, you will have to work hard and take a lot of shit for it. There will be times when you feel like a million bucks, and times when you need to budget extra. Don’t be swayed by bitterness of colleagues. You create your destiny, and be your own light. 

There are others like you. Network. Support one another. Commission each other. Become a part of the new artistic community in New York. 

You’ll be surprised, your people are still out there.

Nathan Ayon