Surviving the Pandemic as an Artist

Self Portraits 2020 by Tony Sobota

2020 started off so promising.  Our son had a meltdown-free 1st birthday party, the Titans kept Tom Brady and the Patriots from another Super Bowl, and by March I was having my best year of art sales on record.  A little over two months later, 2020 has been canceled.  Our son now eats adult amounts of food, Tom Brady broke up with Bill Belichick, and like many full-time artists COVID-19 just deleted half my income.  So far.  

While surviving as an artist under normal circumstances invites challenges, the pandemic has multiplied them.  I rely on art, music, and street festivals for a majority of my annual income, so every cancelation brings greater urgency to change my business model.  However, I also need to keep the lights on in the meantime.  I’ve had several commissions come in to help me break even, thankfully,   but since these projects require the bulk of my time I’m currently in a sort of catch-22.  I’m struggling to pivot my business while simultaneously paying the bills—not to mention keeping my “inner artist” from burning out.

Read More

The Last Minute

“It is within my power either to serve God, or not to serve Him. Serving Him I add to my own good and the good of the whole world. Not serving Him, I forfeit my own good and deprive the world of that good which was within my power to create.”
—Leo Tolstoy

“If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.”
—Homer Simpson

I love the last minute. All the high stakes moments in sports happen in the final seconds: the buzzer beater, the shootout, the hail mary. Also exciting: barely making it through the yellow-turned-red light, the climactic movie scene, witnessing the countdown to LIFT OFF. The last minute provides a rush of adrenaline that my otherwise jittery attention span locks onto.

I’m sure this “rush” is the only conceivable explanation for procrastinating so badly on a recent challenge I accepted. The task was simple: take $100 and see how much you can multiply it for good in a year. The possibilities of multiplying $100 looked bright at the dawn of 2017, but each week I tallied the same dim result: nothing risked, nothing gained.

Read More

God in the Process

St. Augustine once wrote that he carried a “question” with him at all times: “My question was the attention I gave to the world, and its reply was its beauty.”

Beauty—no matter our taste—demands our attention.

This past summer I began looking again at my new surroundings: the city of Nashville. In hopes of recording some beautiful “answers” with my paintbrush, I’d get up early and catch the morning light as it woke up the world. One such morning I sat down on a curb across the street from a hilariously pink Mexican grocery, and began to paint. That hot pink screamed for my attention!

Following my habit I started working quickly to capture the essence of the scene, when steadily—one by one—construction workers began setting up on the street not five feet in front of me. Workers. Cones. A truck. Another truck. Boom! Construction blocked!

“I can’t go anywhere in this town without running into construction,” I huffed, packing up my supplies. That’s when the lightning bolt struck:

Construction is everywhere.

From roads to skyscrapers and traffic cones to tower cranes, the multicolored landscape of construction had one thing in common: my attention.

But could it be beautiful?

Read More