I am an artist

I'll say it again to anyone who will read or listen. I am an artist. For my whole life I've been beaten down for this by a variety of people who will remain unnamed publicly. The message as to straighten up and fly right any time I was pursuing who I am. I have found that when I work day and night on my calling and expect to earn a living from my work that people don't quite respect what I'm doing and tell me to "get a real job." Well, I have a real job. I am an artist. And I always will be. Nobody is going to change that. It's like asking a gay person to be straight (or, for that matter, a straight person to be gay). I can act like a non-artist (and believe me, I've tried) but an artist is who I am. When I try to be anything else, bad things happen.

That said, I'm very angry and resentful this morning. Why? Because my commitment to my art led to the end of my marriage, just as I was recovering financially from the recession. I was 100-percent faithful to my wife, and I was a good father. Fortunately, my children love me because I've loved them and I have set them an example that has been a top priority for me to set: How to be who you are. When I was young, I was berated by the message to leave childish things behind, childish things defined by others to mean art as serious work. I wanted to major in music in college, but every time I brought the subject up I was told to "go get a good business degree so you can earn a living." I succumbed and majored in advertising, as at least that was somewhat creative. But it put me on a path in the early 1980s to a corporate world in which I had what I call my "22nd floor epiphany." I was on the 22nd floor of the Georgia Power building in Atlanta in 1997, pitching some campaign to Georgia Power executives and I have a panic attack. It was like the Talking Heads song, "My God, what have I done?" Two weeks later, I quit the ad agency and moved to Asheville, NC, to freelance and pursue my music.

Since then I've tried to slowly make the transition from creativity for the sake of business to creativity for the sake of creativity. Every time I bring up the subject of my music with family and some friends, they reply, "Yes, but what about your work?"

I have found in conversations with my fellow artists, be they musicians or dancers or visual artists or what have you, that they've experienced the same thing: That in the mainstream, somehow our work has less value, and we should get a "real job."

I'm not an artist because I want to be. I'm an artist because I have to be. It's what I am. Without my music, I do not want to live. Other than my children, nothing is more important than music to me. And, as I've alluded to above, I believe I am being the best father I can be by pursuing my art and being who I am at all costs. If I'd done this earlier in my life I wouldn't be struggling so much today emotionally, spiritually, mentally and yes financially. And whether they choose to be teachers or lawyers or cashiers or painters or baseball players or doctors or whatever, I just want them to know early that they can be what they want to be and who they are. I wish someone had gotten this message through to me when I was young—to all of you young readers out there: Listen to me. If I get through to you then my life was worthwhile. I don't want anyone to suffer like I have.

Which brings me to the point that was inspired by what I've gone through over the past two years and the incredible mistakes I've made in the interest of wanting to be loved and being a nice guy. Life is about the experience, not the money. But money matters in a certain way.

My point: I have an opportunity to reconnect with my 17 year-old daughter this week, who has been invited to be for the second year in a row a prestigious musical theatre workshop in New York City. This month I learned that my writing client who provides most of my income will not pay me because he didn't close a deal. I found myself without the money I needed to make the trip so I put all of my talent and creativity and technological resources to work. I made music available for next to nothing. I redesigned my websites. I finished an ebook and audio book and put it up for sale. This week, I spent hours and hours going through 10,000 of my original photographs to select 42 prints to sell online.

Yet except for a few people (you know who you are, and thanks!), all I hear is the crickets. I know I'm good at what I do—many musicians and designers and music critics I respect have told me so and written great things about my work and professionalism - just look at my websites to see what folks are saying - www.daveturnermusic.com and www.daveturnercreative.com. I know my stuff is not everybody's thing, but unless people are lying to me, I produce excellent work. But kind comments aren't helping me. And in America it seems that art is undervalued. And it shows.

But family isn't undervalued to me. So the reason I put my photographs up for sale was as much for family as it was for me. A writing client who provides most of my income couldn't pay me this month because of a yet-to-close deal. And now in this challenging month I have the chance to reconnect with my wonderful daughter Gracie—I am supposed to take her to New York Sunday for a theatre workshop she's earned a place in for the second year in a row. She needs the experience in the theatre and with meand I worked my tail off to put my photography online to sell. So far it's generated $20. That won't get me to downtown Asheville. I've heard mostly silence. Nobody seems to understand that this opportunity with my daughter isn't a pleasure trip to New York. It's a chance to have something real, something that transcends money.

And I believe that people would think differently of me if I was struggling as an unemployed accountant, or an out-of-work retail clerk, or a down-on-my-luck mechanic or engineer—pick a career. But I've been toiling away as an artist. And therefore, by many definitions, I haven't delivered any value or done any real work.

Why is it that folks think nothing of spending immense amounts of money on cable television or $30 entrees or $100 bar tabs on a Friday night, but that it's so outlandish for me to ask for something in return for my music, writing and photography? I've been called irresponsible by many people who think I should abandon my career and toil away at something meaningless. When I put a collection of photographs together to raise money for something that means so much to my exceptional daughter, I hear virtually nothing.

I may be burning bridges with this post—and under great stress I've posted things online that have been unwise and damaged my reputation. I've made mistakes that I have to take responsibility for. But much of what has happened to me over the last two years is not my fault.

I hope I leave for New York this Sunday with Gracie. Take a look and my music www.daveturnermusic.com and my photography at www.daveturnermusic.com/photostore.cfm. If I'm not delusional and you think it's good (I'm not and it is), how about sending me some love in the form of income for something that will give you pleasure, so I can show my daughter some love in the form of my being with her for a week and continuing in my quest to show her how to believe in herself and follow her dreams? Beyond my art, family is the most important thing of all, and I'm here for my kids in the best way I know how.

I'm not asking for a handout. I'm just asking folks to consider the value of my work, and if you consider it valuable and would enjoy having it in your world, please buy it.



Leave a comment

Add comment