December 20th, 2011


san diego as an artist.

today i thought about how i've lived in san diego for over 6 years now. i love our home here in san diego and i love our neighbors. day to day, life is so fulfilling here, between the sunshine and our little bungalow and the coziness of our neighborhood. i love the friends we have made, and how we're always discovering new corners of our amazing city.

on the other hand, i'm having a really hard time here as an artist.

  • there is no local store that wholesale orders from me. [i do see my licensed work out and about at times, but alas, i can't afford to live off licensing alone. my online shop / wholesale orders provides me with stability in between illustration gigs, art shows and licensing]
  • about 2% of my holiday orders were purchased by people local to me, around the same number of people purchased my work from ann arbor, michigan.
  • a few weeks ago, a customer threatened to sue me for having a credit card minimum at a craft show i did in town. at that craft show, *one* person i know came by to see me.
  • i rented a desk at a shared studio space for about a year, ending this past july. when i started there, i was one of 3 visual people out of about 60 who rented there. the person who worked next to me sold insurance. another loudly talked on the phone about surfboard racks throughout the day. i was the only person who didn't work with a computer. i frequently came and went without anyone saying hello to me. months after leaving the space, i continued to get emails from management, who apparently never noticed i left.
  • an art show just happened this past weekend with dozens of local artists, and i just heard about it. after it happened. i know the organizers. they run an art organization whose mission is to promote local artists. feeling pretty left out on that one.
  • i didn't make it into a single local gift guide, and did not hear back when i contacted 3 local stores and two media outlets about working together as a local artist.
  • when i signed up for an artist grant application seminar the day it was announced, i was told it was already booked (in just a few hrs!) and "sorry" - i was told the same thing regarding a craft show last year, before the application period had closed.
  • there are three local art supply shops, none of which sell titanium white gouache [really, a staple], one of which doesn't even sell paintbrushes.
  • several months back, i met with the only local gallery that exhibits artwork along the lines of what i make, and they didn't want to book a show with me but suggested i bring by some "cheap paintings that would sell" to display in their window. [paraphrasing]
    the next time i ran into the curator and said hello, he didn't remember me or he pretended he didn't know me.
  • i was hired once - one time - as an illustrator for a san diego publication three years ago. i have contacted them [and others] several times since and haven't heard back.

    as i mention the things above, i think to myself: it is POSSIBLE that i am just the world's most annoying person. maybe all these things happen because i'm unbearable and that's why no one wants to work with me or acknowledge me as a local artist. this is possible. or maybe my work sucks, and is totally unappealing to all of the above.

    it is also possible that i am extremely forgettable.

    but also, as a reference point for all of the above, i am VERY shy about talking about my work or promoting myself outside my facebook or email list, where people are already there to hear about my work. so, it is a big, scary risk to me to contact local shops, local media, etc to be like "hey, here i am! i'm local! i make stuff! let me be part of your community!" and to be ignored or let down or just to feel like i don't belong is pretty harrowing / discouraging.

    it could be me or it could be san diego. either way, it is hard.

    it's almost the opposite experience from providence, where i lived for nearly 8 years previously. in providence, i felt like on a social level, people were just downright mean. it was physically impossible to go anywhere without running into a thousand people who would either pretend they didn't know you even if they did, or people that you would just NOT want to see and running into them created an instantly awkward encounter. socially, people were just awful to each other. i have so many examples but better to summarize: it's a city of everybody shit talking everybody else for no reason at all.

    providence is a city of straight faced head nods instead of smiling hellos.

    it was a very lonely place to live and i was happy to go when we moved. but, the art opportunities were ABUNDANT. the art supply shops i could spend hours in. off the top of my head, i'm thinking of four very big ones, but i'm sure there were even more.

    by the way, san diego is four times the size of the entire state of rhode island.

    in providence, if i wanted to throw together an art show, there were plenty of spaces willing to give it a shot with me. local stores did carry my work. i was hired (and continue to be hired) as an artist for local publications there like providence monthly and rhode island monthly. i feel like i was offered constant opportunities and felt like part of a community as a local artist, even though i was unhappy [socially, personally] while there.

    i would never want to go back to living in providence, it really was awful and there is a meanness in the community that i could never get used to, but i'm just noticing the reversal that happened. since my work is my life and my life is my work, it kind of sucks that they can't both just harmonize in the city i live in.

    i wonder when [if ever] i will feel like a san diego artist rather than an artist living in an art-unfriendly city which happens to be san diego.