What's it really like to be an artist in Dublin? How do you make ends meet? Professional artist Liz Jackson -Walsh explains all...
Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci was a vegetarian and animal rights activist? Or that Vincent Van Gogh had an older brother who died at birth? Liz Jackson-Walsh, a professional artist from Dublin, recently gave her thoughts on the arts and what it's like to be an artist living in Dublin.
Liz explained some of the views and opinions she had about the tax laws for artists:
“It was a scheme where artists were exempt from paying tax, I never had that myself, when that law was in existence I was still in college and I never applied for it. I don’t think that it exists anymore or if it does it’s for people who are earning more than about thirty grand a year on average as their job as an artist,” Liz said.
“I thought it was a really good idea as I thought it benefited those with a low income as an artist but I think that if you are working you should be paying tax no matter what job you have if you’re an artist or not.”
According to Visual Artists Ireland only an artist’s “creative” earnings are exempt and artists are not unique in getting a tax break.
Ms. Jackson-Walsh confirmed that being an artist is not a sustainable job for the majority of people.
“Out of a hundred artists I would say that five per cent of those artists are actually making a living from their job,” She explained.
“Most artists would do their own creative works in their own time and they would have to have a job to support that and most artists end up teaching to supplement their career as an artist.”
Liz discussed at length the reasons why she chose to be an artist:
“I just always enjoyed drawing and painting since I was a kid," she said.
“My dad really helped and encouraged me along in that respect because he would buy me pencils and paints and all different kind of arty materials. I probably ended up becoming an artist because I didn’t pay too much attention in school and I was too busy drawing and doodling all over my books,” Ms Jackson-Walsh said.
“I remember when I was young going to work with my mum and finding an easel in one of the rooms. I spent ages pretending to paoint and still love the small of paint to this day.”
Liz told me that being exposed to lots of experiences when travelling to different countries with The Irish Camping And Caravaning Club as a child helped shape her creativity as it was then that she started to think about drawing and painting.
“One of the support groups is called Visual Artists Ireland and they have a huge network of artists on their books. They send out different bulletins every week that are full of opportunities for artists like jobs, internships and workshops in pricing your work,” She said.
“While the VAI is a good resort for artists to tap into the majority of artists support, help and encourage one another.”
Ms Jackson-Walsh confirmed that ten per cent of artists teach and a lot of people teach at the beginning of their career to make ends meat.
“It’s hard work, you end up giving away most of your ideas and then you spend less time doing your own work and more time teaching.”
Many artists end up having to resort to teaching workshops just to get by and make a living. The career of an artist is difficult nonetheless but there are many ways that artists can help kickstart their career and earn a living from it.
They can be working freelance, self promoting their work, networking, taking on internships and networking.
Teaching workshops is just one of the many ways that they can do this. When artists teach workshops not only are they getting to exert their work they are getting to do what they love and share their gift with other artists and young adults who are hoping to become artists.
Liz explained what it is like to be an artist living in Dublin.
“Ten years ago when I was living as an artist in Dublin I would have definitely been a lot poorer,” Liz informed me.
“It’s really hard to make money but socially it’s a really good thing to do because you get to meet various types of people and you get to go to lots of exhibitions. I don’t think that artists who are living in Dublin are rolling in it that’s for sure so it’s tough.”
“If you’re really going to go for it you have to have a bit of money stored up as a back up and take a studio and get out and meet other artists,” she said.
“Just experiment. Don’t expect to make loads of money in the first couple of years. It’s really about the love and just get out to exhibitions and network and show people your work, the more that you are known you will be more likely to get an exhibition.
“Get yourself into group shows, start applying for exhibitions, start making work and try have a little back up plan because you’re not going to be happy making anything when you’re poor and starving so you need to have one to pay the rent,”she said.
Liz also enthused about the idea of street art, and the good it brings to a city.
“I think that a lot of it is really good, It’s great to see a bit of colour on boarded up buildings and places that just don’t have any colour and look really drab,” she explained.
“I think it’s great to see some really interesting art, it makes art accessible to people who are socially excluded.”
The world of art is forever changing, evolving and making a difference throughout the world. Art has the power to change and give people a voice.
Without art the world would look dull and bleak, there would be no colour and no hope and every street would be dark and gloomy. Art brightens up the world that we live in and without it we would be clouded in darkness.
Many artists were told that they would never be successful and that they could never make something of themselves but look at Vincent Van Gogh who was not very successful when alive but is now one of the most famous artists in history.
Look at Monet who was told that his art was a mockery and a sham and now his art has sold for millions of dollars and is hung in some of the most prestigious institutions in the world.
I wrote this article to give the future artists of our generation a look at what the career of being an artist is like and how to get by as an artist in Dublin.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Every artist was first an amateur.”
Photo: William Murphy/ Flickr