MSB brainstorming

03 March 2019

Dr Great Art Podcast Episode 48: Artists' Side Jobs

Dr Great Art Podcast Episode 48, "Artists' Side Jobs." This podcast episode concerns something important to many artists, yet seldom openly discussed. That is, what "side jobs" artists have to do to stay alive. Many do not want to admit to this AT ALL. But it is amazing what artists do and have done, from prestigious to mundane, from silly to profound.


Dr Great Art Podcast 48

Artists' Side Jobs

Hi this is Mark Staff Brandl, with the 48th "Dr Great Art" brief podcast. I hope you enjoy it and come back for each and every one.

Today my Artecdote concerns something important to many artists, especially I have noted, in Switzerland where I live, but also other lands, like the US where I am from. That is, what "side jobs" artists have to do to stay alive. Many do not want to admit to this AT ALL. There is a rather petit-bourgeois fear of not being an immediate and total monetary success in, and solely in, ones artworks. But what does THAT mean anyway?

I recently polled my friends on Facebook and Instagram as to what jobs they had had during their art career solely to stay alive. Just for money.

One Swiss artist wrote concisely that:

"In the Swiss Art scene [other places as well, but particularly there], there is for sure the sense that admitting that one can't live off of ones art means being a failure as an artist. It's especially absurd because nobody takes into account that almost everyone who doesn’t have a job, has family money to support them."

Indeed. And there are other levels of hypocrisy as well, or at least unclear thinking. I have heard accusations from Neo-Conceptual artists that painters and other object makers "sell out" because they try to sell. Beyond the fact that most sell seldom anyway, this is a nonsensical division. When you spend all your time collecting grants, you are selling YOURSELF, which is just like selling objects. Even MORE Neo-Liberal in fact. We all live in a rather twisted form of capitalism. Europeans do not value teaching as "real," yet think design work counts as part of their art. That is reversed in the US.

Most sales of art nowadays occur only for a mere handful of star artists from an even smaller handful of star galleries. Celebrity artists — Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter, etc. The result of all of this is that a small group of collectors pay astronomical prices for works made by an even smaller group of artists, who are in turn represented by a small number of high-profile galleries. Meanwhile, lesser-known artists and smaller galleries are increasingly being left behind. Galleries are having a very hard time and disappearing even. One study found that more galleries closed than opened in 2017-till now, and most were solid "middle range" galleries working to develop the careers of their artists. That's over.

And do not believe the auction house hoopla. The money generated from those huge sales goes to the work's previous owner, not to the artist who made it. (Artists profit off their own work when it's sold on what's known as the "primary market," i.e., directly from a gallery or from the artist herself. When art is sold on the "secondary market," however — meaning that it's sold by a collector to another collector, either privately or at an auction — only the seller and the auction house profit.

The Venice Biennale last time around had almost 100% of the artists from only five galleries. That is NOT the world. But possible replacements for the Zombie High-End artworld, will be the subject of other podcast episodes.

Artists have always worked FOR someone, the Pope, the Cardinals, etc. etc. etc. But some systems allowed artists to live with enough work, especially when we had Guilds, much like Unions, to regulate the commissions.

Since it all works so poorly in Late Corporate Capitalism, artists generally work at a wide variety of "side jobs," trying to balance finding enough money and enough time to create, while not being sucked completely into another career when a success at that side job, or becoming depressed by mind-numbing jobs on the other hand. This is difficult, and needs to be openly addressed, not hidden as if some skeleton in ones closet.

I will list all the jobs from wild and wacky to mundane which about 50 international artists openly told me.

As one UK artist wrote: "Great thread --- it always seems that other artists are living from their work and I am the only one juggling finances daily. So it's good to know I am not alone."

Another European artist added: "It's extremely important for artists to be forthcoming on this issue. It never occurs to many of us that we're not playing on a level field and that parental largesse (a middle class version of which [he says he] benefited from in rough patches) often determines career success."

I have avoided names here, as I am aiming at the content, and do not want people to be "outed" in disparaging ways.

It all leads to an important observation, it seems to me, that was expressed by my cousin, a world-renowned Macroeconomist and culturally cognizant person (a sometimes actor), Dr Professor Michael Brandl:

"This thread is strong evidence in favor of the need for a universal income. Imagine how better off we would be if artists were allowed to be artists. BTW - the argument that not being able make a living as an artists is evidence the person is a failed artist, assumes that the art market is perfectly efficient --- it operates flawlessly, makes no mistakes and prices reflect the true 'value' of the work. This is what in economics we call a "heroic assumption" in other words: laughable."

Now on to the list. It could be dry, but listen carefully, it can also be exciting. It is amazing what so many artists have done and still do. And many are quite successful in both those jobs and art. This is mostly in English, but a handful answered in German and I left them so (often they are repeats of similar jobs named in English):

Museum Technical Assistant, Diorama Builder, Illustrator, Sign Painter, Land Surveyor, Department of Transportation Worker, Pizza Cook, Bartender, Record Store Employee, Chocolate Factory Cleaner, Art Teacher, Language Teacher, Art Historian, Professor, Stock Boy, Paper Boy, Shoe Shine Boy, Clothes Presser, Air Force, Taxi Driver, Shoe Salesman, Mental Health Worker, Concert Production, Cheese Packer, Delivery Driver, Shop Assistant, Gallery Assistant, Curator, Construction Worker, Photo Sorter, Moderator, Fair Salesman, Teacher, Cable Puller, Lehrgangsleiter, Waiter, Cook, Caterer, Editor, Arbeit im Heim, Blindenheim, Altersheim, Werkheim, Kino, Kinderdorf, Born Wealthy, Roofer, Ditch Digger, House Painter, Dishwasher, Sommelier, Drawing Teacher, Kommt von Geld, Cocktail Waitress, Carpenter, Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Art Advisor Assistant, Interior Designer, History Teacher, Musician, Truck Driver, Ehepartner Geld, House Cleaner, Palliative Care, Bus Girl, Short-Order Cook, Cleaning Apartments and Houses, Checking Hydrolics on Motor Vessels, Cleaning Kitchens and Restaurants, Novice Nun, Stipendiat, Data Entry on Telephone Poles, Recreating Wallpaper Patterns, Cut-and-Pasting Adverts, Composer, Menu Designer, Museum Guard, Art Residency Program Director, Organizing Festivals, Art Restoration. Maximum Security Prison Art Instructor, Smiling Art Holder at Auction Company, Mountain Guide, Shepherd, Theatre Hand, Gärtner, Retail, Uber Driver, Color Separationist, Pattern Catalogues Designer, Assistant to a Famous Artist, Sesame Street, Arts Writer, Post Office, Night Shifts Hauling Packages, Teaching Japanese and German, Writer for Magazines, Guiding Tourists around Japan, Shooting Weddings and Corporate Videos, Managing an Arthouse Movie Theatre, Managing a Cultural Magazine, Casting Cement Street Light Posts, Trying to Escape from Being an Artist, Teaching Elementary School, Substitute Teacher, TV Producer, Graphics Coordinator at TV news, Preparator, Coffee Shop Employee, Art Store Stock Boy, Published Editions of Prints, Yoga, Pastry Chef, Construction, Art Dealer, Model Scout, Art Director, Sanity, Office clerk, Anything for Healthcare Benefits, Production Expediter in Printing Plants, Copy Machines Employee, Word Processing, Selling Cameras, Legal Secretary, Dog Boarding Business, Language Tutor, Magazine Trainee, Gallery Intern, Working at Art Fairs, Translation, Factory Worker, Photographer Assistant, Pizza Delivery, 1 Hour Photo Processing, Retail Manager, Ticket Sales, Internal Postman, Digital Scanner, Dishwashing, PA for an Art Critic, Proofreader, Photoshop Renderer, Professor at Art Academy, Singing Telegram Delivery-Person, Cocktail Waitress, Flower Delivery, Telemarketer, eBayer, Event Planner, Shopkeeper, Sushi Chef, Office Temp, AV Tech, Trade Show Demo Girl, Artist Model, Psychi Pfleger, Reinigung von Tennisplätzen, Reinigung von PCs. Statistin bei TV, Verkäuferin, Dekorateurin, Porzellanmalerin, Assistentin von einem Bildhauer, Kunsttherapeutin, Receptionist, Copywriter, Bookkeeper, Front Desk Manager at Museum, Art Restorer, Money from Home, Marriage Partner Money, Loss Prevention in a Department Store, Chemist, Factory Worker, Janitorial, Landscaping, Dump Truck Driver, Hardware Salesman, Newspaper Stringer, Polished Safes inside Banks, Drug Dealer, Trading Sportsbook Prices on Betfair, Cleaning Big Boy Restaurants, Driving School Busses, Hotel Desk Clerk, Photo Retoucher, Assistant Dairy Manager, Mr. Sketch Marker Demonstrator, Mural Painter, Set Designer for Films, Set Decorator, Production Designer, Selling Art Supplies, Hertz Girl , Mannequin Stylist, Knife Demonstrator, Railroader, Fitness Instructor at a Gym, Cabinetmaker, Furniture Maker, Portrait- Painting Commissions, Diplomat, Coiffeuse, Tätowierer, Tattooer, Custom Framer, Home Renovator, Film Extra, Clerk-Typist, Gravesite Tender, Registered Nurse, Vocational High School Teacher, GED Instructor, Grant Writer, Massage Therapist, Tribal Librarian, Government Grants, Corporate Grants, the Dole, Schweizer Sozialhilfe, Optician at Handmade Optical Places, Medical Illustrator, Literary Editor, Cartoonist, Caricaturist, Commissions, alte Banners reinigen, Rock T-Shirt Designer, Cookie Painter, Floral Designer, MTV Animation Production, Babysitter, Mask shop in Bourbon Street NOLA, Answering Service Operator, Dog Walker, Child Care, Health Food Store, Silk Screener of Posters, Mostly Jobs from times I was too exploited and exhausted to do anything but work, Any Work I Can Find, Zinc Ingot Production, Stacking, Pouring, Skimming, Fruit and Vegetable Picking, Feeding Cows in the Winter, Chaining Felled Logs, Interior Architectural Design, US Marine Corps, Custom Millwork, Assistant to Master Lithography Printer, Sculpture Patina Cleaning, Waxing and Restoration, General Manager Veterans Art Museum, Load Foreman for a Mine, Gas Pipeline Construction and Repair, Being a Total Whore for Art, Temp work for Corporations, Tour Guide, Pop Music Star, Selling Fish Bait, Dustman, Council Gardener, Warehouse Labourer, Council Labourer, Putting up Residents Only Parking Signs, Cleaner at British Museum, Clerk at Canada Dry, Server in a Fish and Chip Shop, Picture Restorer, Art Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Art Columnist, TV Presenter, TV Art Critic, Restaurant Business for Gratuities, Real Estate Broker, Greenhouse Worker, Bouncer, Warehouse, Movie Theater Usher and Projectionist, Liquor Auditor, Mystery Shopper, Day Trader, Maths, Stagehand, Sorting Files for the Government, Art Teacher Middle School, Making Porn, Prostitution, Blow Jobs, Burlesque, Unterricht, Graphik, Webdesign, Information 411 Phone Operator, Deliveroo Rider, Master of Pilates and Fitness, Eisverkäuferin, Verkauf, Farbberatung, Ausstellungsaufbau, Franz Conv. Unterricht, hüten von Kinder, Hunde, Katzen, Kioske, Kinder grosszuziehen, den Haushalt zu schmeissen und als Künstlerin irgendwie Karriere zu machen, Go-Go Dancer, Vegetable Picker, Head Start Teacher, Mover and Hauler, Fashion Editor for a Women's Magazine, Conference Founder and Director, Army Illustrator, Social Security and Annuity, AHV, Giving Away Free Coffee Samples, Wall Street Commodities Broker, Assembling Lab Equipment, Operations Manager for Tech Co, Worked on Wall Street, CFP(R) financial planner, Hausfrau und Mutter, Arborist, X-Ray Photo Lab Assistant, Greenskeeper, Handyman, Fish-Cutter in a Fish Packing Factory, Janitor, Leathersmith, Support Worker for Mental Health, High-School Art Teacher, Stonemason Restoring Historic Buildings, Deejay, Cabin Boy on a Barge, McDonald's Worker, Wal-Mart Employee, Ticket Sales at Museum, Conservation Tech for PMA Objects, Wood Sander, Summer Camp Teaching. Renting part of My House, Dancing for Weird Al Yankovich, Antiques Conservator, Landlord, Cosmetics, Packing Shelves in Supermarkets, Receptionist, Beauty Salon, Packing Vitamins into Bottles, Teaching English, Filing, Data Entry Clerk, Familienmediatorin, Busker, Guitar Teacher, Performer, Picture Framer, Art Handler, Colorist for DC comics, Photoshop and Illustrator Instructor, A Few Big Grants, Window-Cleaner, Decorator, Floor Tiler, Security, Shoveled Salt at Morton Salt, Color Mixer Tile Co, Throwing and Stacking Boxes, Storehouse Clerk for Railroad, Maître D, Customer Service Rep, Peace Corps West Africa, Soccer Coach, Managing Supervisors Dispatching Power Plants for Local Utility, Compiling Statistics for Horse Racing Gamblers, Selling Auto Insurance Over the Phone, Growing and Selling Plants, Start Ups Creative Think Tank, Stage Production, Casting Manager, Nanny, Alternative Medicine, Musician, Recording Artist, TV Pop Star, Hairdresser, Sound Person for Documentary Filmmaker, Lehrerin für Bildnerisches Gestalten, Designing Women's Fashion Ads, Administrator, Book Mender, Legal Center Advocate for Disability Rights, Vista Volunteer, Fair Housing Tester, Nachtarbeit auf der Bahnpost, Kellner, Ablösungen in einer Galerie, Nachtportier in einem Hotel, Hilfsarbeiter in einer Druckerei, Reiseleiter, Heimerzieher, Strassenarbeiter, Verkehrszähler für den Kanton, Ferienablösung als Zustellbeamter auf dem Betreibungsamt, Solex-Kurier für eine Clichee-Firma, Verkäufer in einem Warenhaus, Ersatz-Schlangensteher vor dem Schauspielhaus, Hausmann, Hausaufgabenaushilfe, Arbeit im Werkheim, Altersheim, Blindenheim, verschiedenen Arbeiten für Hausbesitzer im Garten, für Messen, Arbeit im Kinderdorf, Empfang Spital, Marketingdirektor, Werbeleiter, Redaktionsassistent beim Frückstücksfernsehen, Bauzeichner, Lindenblütenpflücker, Babysitter, Ausstellungsbauer, Berufsschullehrer, Architekt, Schreiner, Elektronikreparateur, Hüttenbauer, Au-pair, Dozentin, Garderobe, Jugendarbeit, Tanzlehrerin, Tänzerin, Teaching Tennis, Telefonabosverkäuferin, EventassistentIn, Verpackerin, E-Commerce/Bloggerin, Statistin, Probandin, Putzfrau Kantonspital, Heimarbeit, Klassenhilfe, Heilpedagogische Schule Klassenhilfe, Hilfskraft Asyilheim, Hausmeisterin, Eisverkäuferin, Farbberatung, Französisch Konversationsunterricht, hüten von Kinder, Hunde, Katzen, Kinder grossziehen, Haushalt, Werklehrer, Grabungszeichner, Museumspädagoge, Kunstvermittler, Comiczeichner, Comicslehrer, Chauffeur für eine Bäckerei, Food Taster, Topless Dancer, Carpenter, Deputy Public Conservator, Mechanic, Plumber, 2D Designer

And more.

That was Artists' Side Jobs.

Thanks for listening. Podcast number 48. If you wish to hear more cool, exciting and hopefully inspiring stuff about art history and art, come back for more. Also I, Dr Mark Staff Brandl, artist and art historian, am available for live custom Performance-Lectures. In English und auf Deutsch.

I take viewers inside visual art and art history. Entertainingly, yet educationally and aesthetically, I analyze, underline, and discuss the reasons why a work of art is remarkable, or I go through entire eras, or indeed through the entirety of art history, or look at your desired theme through the lens of art history. The lectures often take place with painted background screens and even in my painting-installations.

Some recent ones were on the entire history of Postmodernist Art from 1979 through today, and on Mongrel Art. Coming up is a taster of many of my themes and one on Jan Petr Brandl, the Prague Baroque artist and my distant relative.

You can find or contact me at

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