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© 2018 Alexander Reynolds

Trusting The Hustle

I have talked about it before with my friends and family so many times that I am sure they are sick of it at this point. It is something that I still struggle with in my own life.

The most confidence I remember having about being an artist was when I was still in undergrad at MICA. I was sure of myself as an artist. I was validated in an enclosed academic space. It wasn't until I had to derail everything upon graduating to figure out how I was going to create a life for myself post-graduation. I was 400 miles away from home, and I had no intentions of going back.

Art school was over. It was time for real life. All I knew was that I had to do the best I could to acquire as many skills as I possibly could so I could at least have a shot at a decent job. (This was the 2014 - 2015 school year by the way.) I just finished my junior year, and I was about to be a senior that was going to graduate in the spring. I quickly turned to websites like (which fortunately was free since I was a student), YouTube, & to find as much information as I possibly could about graphic design, web design, and coding. I spent countless hours on my laptop trying to learn as much as I could in the short time that I had.

I never declared graphic design as a second major or even a minor. I was still considered a painting major at the time. I finished my prerequisites by this time aside from thesis and a couple of theory classes, so I had the room on my schedule to take these courses.

Most students didn't have 19.5 credits their senior year. The norm was to try to take it easy with the course load because you already had the thesis project. Why on earth would you add more corse loads on top of that? I was thinking about stability. I was thinking about trying to make money. I was panicking. I realized my time as a student was about to come to a close and I didn't have any sign in sight that said I was about to be an instant success as a painter. This journey was about to get significantly more laborious than I once thought. I should have known better.

I was fortunate enough to get my first job as an entry level web-designer at a furniture company 20 minutes outside of the city of Baltimore making 15 an hour. (I was significantly underpaid, but I had no experience, and I was just happy to have a job). I don't want to get to into my experience here because it goes outside of the scope I want to talk about in this blog post. My time there came and went, and I hopped to my first couple of freelance gigs to the job I have now. I must say that it was no easy feat. (I fell on my face a couple of times) I am glazing over my experiences at these places of employment. I will probably talk about them later.

Time goes on, and I continue (to this day) to feel like an artist masquerading as a graphic designer in a corporate environment. I guess you could call it imposter syndrome, but it is the role I feel like I have to play until I can finally figure out how I can make a living doing what I love to do, and that is to create paintings and drawings. I can't be that much of a fraud because I get paid to do it right?

I want to have that gorgeous studio with potted plants and natural light. Canvases are sitting on the easel waiting to be painted. Several shows are lined up with multiple clients ready to give my paintings a home. (That's not too much to ask for right?)

So many times I felt I have lost track of what I was put on this earth to do. As corny as it may sound, it boils down to purpose. I don't know of anything else I have done as confidently as making paintings and drawings, but I never was able to figure out what was keeping me from profiting off of my efforts. I am starting to realize that I, alone was in my way.

I had difficulty being flexible with the details of my artistic practice. The big picture stands, but "how" I got there, I was always very particular. I don't know how, but I stopped just making the art. I didn't know how to anymore. I could say (to make myself feel better), that I had to go through all those years of uncertainty to have this clarity about myself at this moment. (I also have to say that I hope this clarity lasts because I can't afford to be uncertain anymore). I should probably explain what I mean about my sense of clarity. I feel like I know what kind of work I want to make now. I don't feel like I have to sweat the details as much anymore when it comes to how I share my work. I also realize I have to do more to strategize to have the career I want. I was waiting and watching far too much.

I have learned a lot in school and since I graduated. The rose-colored glasses are long gone, and I have to see things the way that they are while still being optimistic about the future. I had to learn how to work smart and not just hard. A lot of us already know how to work "hard," but I am starting to realize without some strategy in place, it is only going to lead to an inevitable burn out, and there were so many times that I felt close to just giving up altogether.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that throughout it all my love for creativity when applying paint to canvas has always stayed with me. It is the only thing I feel like I do well and confidently. I have to remind myself of that as often as possible.

When that internal dialogue starts to say "you can't", "you shouldn't", "why would you", and "that's not reasonable" I have to shut it out the best way I can, because I would be betraying myself if I decide to let those voices persuade me otherwise. I am trying to be better about it.