Recently, we spoke with Harriet Wood about what life is really like as an artist. Harriet is a graffiti artist, regularly delivers workshops on business plans with us and is passionate that you CAN make a living out of being creative.
Working for “exposure” is perhaps the most well known myth; you can’t pay rent with exposure I’m afraid!
But we wanted to find out what it’s really like, and some of the things that people don’t realise when they dip their toe into the world of art…
1. “Business plans are just for people in suits”
A business plan is one of the most valuable things you can create as an artist. Because it helps you work out what you want to do and how you’re going to make it happen. It should have everything you need, from what you’re creating to who’s going to help you get there. From when you’ll hit your deadlines to what materials you need.
It’s about taking your creativity and using practical steps to get it to people. You could be so talented but stuck in your bedroom and nobody would know about the amazing work you were doing.
Using a business plan means you can take what you’re doing to the people you want to reach.
2. “All artists are starving and don’t earn any money”
People think that you can’t make money from being creative, when you can. Some of the most wealthy people on the planet have earned their money from their creativity and artistic value.
You accept working for free to get there though, and nobody else does it. Why should something as special and valuable as your creativity be undervalued so much?
3. “Women can’t be graffiti artists”
As an artist that paints under the name “Hazard” it means that people don’t often know that Harriet is a woman. The graffiti scene is male dominated and therefore, as a woman, she has to fight to ensure that she’s seen in this industry.
“The most common sentence that’s said to me is “did you do all of that” when I’ve clearly just been painting. It’s ridiculous that people struggle to believe everything I create comes from me.”
4. “You can only do one sort of thing”
Harriet does murals, graffiti workshops, enterprise workshops, blogging, graphic design, illustrations, tattoo designs, label designs and she loves it all!
Being creative means that you can be versatile in the work you do, and pick up different things, sometimes from week to week. Sometimes you have to!
5. “Mistakes are bad and you should avoid them at all costs”
Plot twist: it’s actually okay to mess things up sometimes. You don’t learn unless you make mistakes. Whether that’s not charging enough or doing a job you hate – which we’ve all done! Making mistakes only makes you better at what you’re good at.
All the people you look up to have been in the same position before they became the person you look up to. Some of them are still getting things wrong even now.
People just don’t share that side of their work.
6. “Oh you’re so lucky to be able to do this”
It’s not luck, it’s hard work. Being an artist takes a lot of work, and it’s not an easy ride. People think that opportunities just land in your lap, but it’s never that simple. People don’t see all the hard work you’ve put into positioning yourself to get opportunities – it’s not easy. You need resilience.
You’re fortunate that you can do something you love, but luck doesn’t come into it.
“It’s the best job in the world, but it’s not an easy ride!”
The arts are always worth going into – no matter what people say. It might not work out how you think, but with the right support, we can dispell even more of these myths.
Harriet Wood is a freelance graffiti artist and workshop facilitator. For more information about her and her work, visit https://www.hazardone.co.uk/
PAPER Arts offers support for young creatives on how to build a creative career and navigate Bristol’s art scene. For more information about the work we do, please email [email protected]