I remember after completing my undergraduate degree, I felt as if I had missed some key information. How was I supposed to take all the techniques I had honed in school and turn them into a paying profession? I worked within the art world for two years after graduation, piecing together a couple of part-time jobs as an artist's assistant and as a sculpture conservator. I wanted to create more of my own art, but I didn't know where to begin. I knew HOW to make the work, but I didn't know what to do next. I felt like the secret was out there, but I kept hearing things like "you're too young" or "you should just continue working for someone else." For me, that was only motivation to take what seemed like the logical next step: grad school. I had moved to California with the intention of attending graduate school, so I began the arduous task of visiting and applying to programs.
It's been two years since grad school and another two years of piecing together part-time employment. While I do not feel that I have advanced my career opportunities by much, I do believe I have gained insight into some of the questions I had surrounding how to be an artist. The secret, as I found it, is that no one knows. No one tells you how to be an artist because most people are still figuring it out and struggling in their own ways. Even college professors, who are supposed to be more experienced as mentors, can't give any generic advice as to how to "make it" in the art world. To be an artist is more than to simply make artwork - it is to learn to live with constant uncertainty, to balance one's passion to be successful (however that is defined) with one's desire to indulge in seemingly impractical endeavors, and to believe in yourself until you either drop dead creating art or give up for a more lucrative profession.