Artist

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Julia, 29

How do you define being an artist?

Everything about Julia is artistic. From her jet-black hair that she trims herself, to the self-designed and handmade leather jewellery around her wrist, and her innate sense of fashionista style. "You don't choose to be an artist," Julia says. "You either are an artist or you're not." Her studio is a creaky elevator ride to the sixth floor of a 1920s Gothic Revival arcade in Melbourne's CBD - the building is a beehive of artists and designers.

Argentinian-born Julia is primarily a painter. To keep the cash trickling in, she also makes jewellery and works in an artists' co-operative one day a week. "Artists are the people who talk about money the most," she laughs, "Because we don't have it! But when you do get money out of your art, it's more enjoyable than making money from anything else because you know someone is enjoying it. And it feels really special."

"An artist is someone who is being creative and trying to make something that no-one else is doing. It's about expression. You never know what's going to come up when you start painting, you just have to follow it," Julia says. "You can't try to make a product."

What does a typical working day involve?

"There's isn't really a typical day," she says. "But usually I get up late. It could be about 11am, but I might have been up painting until 4am. Then I'll plan my day. I may have commissions [a specific work that is funded by an organisation or individual] or I'll put myself to work to make samples of jewellery or try different painting techniques."

She works a 40-hour week from Monday to Sunday, painting pieces for an upcoming exhibition for around 20 hours a week, making jewellery and working in the co-op for the rest of the time. "But you never really stop if you're an artist. You never 'knock off,'" Julia says. "When I've got enough pieces to show I'll book a gallery, which can be a year or so in advance. It can take ages to find a space," Julia says. "Then about two months before the opening, I have to organise invites and all the media, and work out how to frame the pictures," she explains.

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

"Freedom." She pauses to think of more positive aspects. "And freedom," she laughs. "You're never doing the same thing."

"Lows are feeling like you don't have a place in society and that you're useless," she says a little dejectedly. "You don't know what's going to happen next week - that can be a good thing if you're feeling positive, but sometimes if you're feeling down it can break your nerves. You need to know that you can pay rent."

What are some of the skills and qualities that you need to be an artist?

"Constancy. Keep working," Julia says, "and never stop. There is always someone who's going to like what you make and someone who's going to hate it. But you have to keep making art." She also mentions self-discipline, talent and being honest with yourself. "You have to follow your instincts and be hard on yourself. Know that you could always be better."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).