Monday, December 15, 2008

Number Crunching

With the clock ticking on the AOA proposal I finally sat down today to some hard paper work - and I don't mean drawing. In fact my mantra is "no fun drawing or painting until the bloody thing is finished"

I sketched out the narrative section a few days ago and, while it needs major rewriting, the ideas are coming together and it is burbling along. I figured it would be a snap to write down the specifics of the proposal - sizes of paintings and such - pop some numbers in and tie the whole thing up in a neat parcel.

Here is a question: will I ever get it that the fact that something seems clear in my imagination doesn't mean that the translation to reality will be simple? You would think a lifetime of painting would have taught me that but, no, harsh reality comes as a complete surprise to me time after time - like one of those cartoon characters that never realize they are never going to catch the bird, or the wabbit, or whatever.

As soon as I started to attach numbers two things happened: 1)the whole structure began to wobble as I tried to figure out how to make each of the three proposals seem reasonable (but, of course, the 40k, the most reasonable...)

and

2) It struck me in a new and thoroughly unpleasant way just how little money I make for the work I do. This disagreeable fact is usually hidden from me since I don't routinely calculate expenses for each painting. In real life, my husband, who is also a painter, and I spend money on art materials and frames in bulk (huge bulk) and collect money (um, much less bulk) when they sell. When I sell a painting I rejoice in the income and don't stop to contemplate how little of the cash is profit; since Tom does the bookkeeping I never have to put two and two together and find they make three.

Tom and I have been scraping by on painting sales alone for fourteen years. Every now and then we think it is all over; that one of us is going to have to bite the bullet and find a job, but somehow we always manage to pull through. It seems like yesterday that we were young folk just out of art school living in our studio and thinking about nothing but painting. Now we are twenty-odd years older, have a house attached to the studio, and still think mostly about painting. Despite a lifetime of tight budgets, we count ourselves incredibly lucky to be painting every day. Which brings me back to Vermont. One of the things that makes me feel at home here is the presence of the farmers. I don't know many of them - they work all the time, and so do I - but I am comfortable in the knowledge that there are people around as ridiculous as I am, people who spend their whole lives doing something that doesn't pay well just because they can't give it up; it is the life they love.






4 comments:

Susan Abbott said...

Well said, Elizabeth. Though one difference is farmers often end up needing hip replacements and hernia repairs, and with us, it's our fragile egos taking a battering.

Eulalia (Lali) said...

And you can stay inside in your lovely studio instead of slogging to the barn to milk. That said, however, the similarities are real.

With every post of yours I read I am struck by the depth of your feeling for Vermont.

Elizabeth Torak said...

Amen, Susan. More and more I feel my ego being worn smooth as a pebble...

Elizabeth Torak said...

Lali, thanks.

Actually, I am surprised at my depth of feeling about Vermont; In fact I was unaware of how deep my affinity for this place ran until I began the AOA project and was forced to think and write about what it is that I find compelling about life in the state. If you had asked me six months ago why I live in Vermont I would have said it is pretty (pace your last post Susan!) quiet, and close enough to New York City to make a round trip in one day.