“The working artist’s rag”: Survival options | Artist-in-residence Tim Dingman

Read the first installment of “The Working Artist’s Rag” here.

One of the good things about daylight savings time is that, when I start work at 5:30 AM, it’s beginning to get light outside.  I have  occasional (but always temporary) flashes of reality: Why am I working on art projects at 5:30 in the morning?  Hmm…oh, yeah, the 85/15 rule.  As stated here earlier: As a working artist, you need to spend 85% of your time promoting yourself and your work and 15% of your time eating, sleeping and making art. Worse: I’m working  at 5:30 AM because I’m getting email from other artists about projects and collaborations, new of ongoing.

Right now, I’m deep into the 15% mode.  Right now, I am intellectually and creatively, well, fat.  I have multiple long-term projects ongoing. I have offers and requests to collaborate with artist and social activists in Newark and New York City. I just finished my two-week stint as principal photographer for the Newark Art council’s “Open Doors” week. People on the street downtown recognize me and say, “Hey, photographer.”  (That’s weird.)  I’m the freaking artist-in-residence at Brick City Live.  Now all I have to do is figure out how to do the eat, sleep, and make art part of the equation.

Working Artist’s Survival Options

Minimum wage, part time, seasonal work.  Minimum wage in New Jersey is $8.25 an hour. If you work a 40- (or 37.5-, or 35-) hour week, you net about $240, or about $12,000 per annum.  Rents in Newark for warm, safe spaces run about $850 a month or about $10,200 per annum.  So, let’s figure $2,500 annually (about $48 a week) for “other.”  Get another job?  Sell equipment?

Priorities. How do you divide up $48 a week?  Food, cell phone, internet, utilities?  Medication, glasses, dentistry?  Ink, paper, batteries, companionship, alcohol?  So far, I have traded albuterol sulfate for ink and clonazipam for paper. I don’t have anything to trade for rent, but I don’t care much about food.
Sudden offers. The offers you get by just “showing up” cause other problems.  Tuesday, I was invited to participate in a pop-up show on West 13th Street in New York City. Now. Do I jump into more paper, ink, and batteries to bring loose prints to sell at $50 to $75 apiece, or do I buy…albuterol inhalers? Got to pay the rent.  What next?

Below: Tim photographs poet Shye Sales

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Tim Dingman is Brick City Live’s November “artist-in-residence”.


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