so, you want to take your secret passion (writing, painting, cupcake baking) and make it your full time gig? except it’s really hard and scary to actually, you know, do that? kenT understands your pain and that’s why he wrote this book. read it and then follow his wise advice: “don’t wait. every day you wait is a day you won’t get back.”
this book will remind you that you have the power to make art – and create all kinds of exciting surprises in your life – right now, today. what’s the hold up? why wait? grab your tools and create.
author, writing coach, blogger at alexandrafranzen.com
be something. if you want to make something is a pop top energy drink spiked with caffeine laden words that are calming to the soul, while at the same time capable of spurring volcanic eruptions of energy and frenzied moments of accomplishment
be something. if you want to make something encourages makers to stay in the moment and allow ingenuity to be the pace car. each short blurb hands over an uncooked account of an artists rocket fuel fast, can’t stop, won’t stop lucky, sometimes mixed martial arts bloodied adventure. it humorously highlights the speed bumps that were approached way too fast and encourages the reader to push past the exit ramps desperately calling for companionship and accelerate toward the reward on the horizon.
this book runs over the big scary words of the business world like “copyright” and “business plan” and spits out what makes real sense in the life of doing more of what you love for a living.
pull back the tab and sip a bit . . .
i don’t know what to be /
i’m kenT, and i’m an artist. but not the tortured kind.
i think i’ve always been an artist. at least since people in social settings started introducing themselves and asking me what i do. but i was way too scared to say it so simply. i struggled to tell people who i was and what i did. i felt so compelled to validate myself that i crammed everything i had ever done or wanted to do into my basic description. i would probe into what i thought someone might need me to be before giving a full answer.
it often went something like, “i’m a graphic artist with a background in interior design, exhibit fabrication, painting, set design, marketing, and branding.” a long-winded, confusing, and skeptical description of a design superhero. a sort of captain brand o’ maker.
i had friends who would chuckle each time they heard me change my job description based on who i was talking to + what i thought i could get them to hire me for. i was so undecided in my own journey that i made it confusing for others to see what my particular set of skills actually were.
like a young boy raised by wolves, i believe much of this was forged by my surroundings. i had moved to a location where i was struggling to find full-time employment, was just starting out on my own, and was trying to make a name for myself in the community. i figured if i was everything to everyone, i would be much more in demand.
my family and i stayed afloat. it was a roller coaster ride of jobs and money coming in and propelling us to the top of the tracks, only to plummet, hands clenched on the bar, when there were no payments flowing in.
i took a night job and answered phones until odd hours in the evening while i worked on starting a design business during the day. i took not so glamorous jobs, such as marketing potatoes and made corporate flyers for convention-goers. i hustled + sold myself out to just about any job i could get. it was the part of the story no one wants to read. it’s the part where you are not sure if it will all work. where you wonder if you are good enough. if you have what it takes. it is the part where the negative part of your thinking-path often winds and curves around the positive thoughts that keep you going. the thoughts that help put one foot in front of the other in hopes of a big break.
hard work and persistence would occasionally get us riding back up the big hill and every so often the tracks even seemed smooth.
more than once i experimented with peeking into the corporate world and scanned job boards for full-time creative positions.
eventually, we made a big move from the midwest and headed south to take on a position of creative director for a new design firm. funny thing was, much like i was in my previous career, this firm was a bit undecided as to what it would be as well.
to make a crappy story seem a little less bathroom-like, i’ll just say that within a year i was back on my own trying to find work as a graphic artist with a background in interior design, exhibit fabrication, painting, set design, marketing, and branding. i even added house painter, wallpaper hanger, soccer coach, and general do-anything-errand-boy to that list.
cue soft depressing music, perhaps with the gruntal twang of gavin degraw.
i had been painting for quite some time and had sold a few pieces to friends and family members, as well as participated in a couple of local shows. to be honest, most of my work was hanging in my own home or stashed away in the garage i occasionally used as a place to paint. i would fulfill a commission now and then, but honestly never answered the dreaded “what do you do?” question with “i’m an artist.” even my neighborhood friends struggled to understood what kenT did for a living.
my neighbor, two doors down, had a summer get together one beautiful carolina summer evening. the kind with lemonade for the kids and lemonade with the good stuff for the adults, along with grilled meats, corn on the cob, and a vicious game of kick ball in the back yard. one of the party goers was the neighbor’s best friend since high school and a self-proclaimed artist agent. i met her showcasing a notebook of images from one of her artists (who is now a great friend as well). somehow i managed to get her to walk down to my house and take a look at our walls. about all i remember saying to her was that i have no idea how to sell my work, where to sell my work, or how much to sell it for. but that i did know that those who saw it really seemed to be drawn to it.
she got me started. it was super small-scale. super sketch. and often intimidating. one small school fundraising show led to another. then a gallery show. and before long i was selling paintings to more than friends, family, and a handful of local fans.
local sales turned into national sales. national sales turned into licensing deals. bulk orders from national retailers came knocking, along with flash sales at various .coms, pops-ups in people magazine, and flattering attention from a couple of those “home makeover” reality tv shows.
one day, i woke up and realized, “huh … guess i’m a full-time artist, now.” whoa! there i was. an artist.
if only it were that easy. you know. . . meet someone. fall in love. live happily ever after. or in this case, meet someone. have them assist you along the way. soon you are off and doing what you love to do everyday.
i could fill a book with stories of both success and failure, as well as busts that through no fault of my own turned into an accidental success. it would include winning a blue ribbon for best booth, but not selling one item at the first art show i ever attended, or forgetting i was the live entertainment at a wedding and nearly missing the event entirely. in fact i did fill a small book with such stories. be something if you want to make something is really a guide as to how i went from selling at one small school show to national sales, licensing deals, works in national publications, and more. i continue to learn every single day.
your dream is delightfully do-able. this is one of my favorite quotes on a set of art prints i collaborated on with the supremely talented writer alexandra franzen. do-able. perhaps not a proper word, but it captures the most important part of your dream.
it’s the do-ing.
dreams are easy. i have lots of them.
unfortunately i didn’t put in the time to learnt to hit the curve ball, no one wants to hear me sing or see me dance, and i’ve been told i’m too nice to be on reality tv. i could work on those things over and over again, but churning that type of cream repeatedly would never produce any butter. to be honest, all the quotes on hard work and hustling look great on your wall or in your social media feed, but they will not make you a pop star either. i know a lot of hard working people that struggle mightily. you may be one of them. at times, i am too.
as i stood and chatted with folks at those first art shows about what i paint, why i paint, and how i paint, i realized something. if i wanted to be an artist, i needed to be an artist. it was about be-ing. not just do-ing.
is there a difference?
i think so. i can “do things” all day long. i can make lists. i can do invoicing. i can do packing and shipping. i can do the laundry. that however, does not make me an organizer, an accountant, a shipper, or a dry cleaner.
if you want to be an artist, a maker, a creator, or a fill in the blank, you have to be one with everything you have. it is not a job. it is who and what you are. it is your obsession. if you want people to be so obsessed with what you do that they are willing to pay anything for it, you sure as heck had better be over the edge, strung out on exhilaration, and obsessed with what you do.
so you want to be an artist? me too. i’m kenT, and i’m an artist.
the following are few verbs of being that will set you on your way. some of these i am naturally gifted at. most of them i am not.
it’s time to be. /