Painting for cash


«Hi. My name is Penelope. I'm an artist.
When I was in art school, I had such romantic notions about art that I never even imagined being able to make a living at it. But I’ve been lucky: I’ve had solo shows in galleries around the country, have received a number of commissions and have even on occasions been given money for work before I started painting it. The pay is decent and the hours are amazing.

There is one catch: I paint pictures that people use to decorate their homes – decor art. Some of them are actually beautiful, though, in their own way.

Right after I graduated from art school 13 years ago, I came across a classified ad in the local paper for an artist’s assistant. I bought one of those huge fake-leather portfolios, filled it with my best drawing and printmaking work, and took the bus to a dirty old warehouse on the other side of town. My interview consisted of a thin, peasant man holding up one painting after another, asking, Can you paint like this? The whole thing was pretty much a formality, as all new artists were given a two-week trial period. You were hired only if you could learn fast and prove your talent.

Penelope, «Paintings for cash, the confessions of a marketable artist», in Esopus, nº 8, 2007, pp. 58-65.

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