Segmentation of Yourself as an Artist

Work vs Artistic Practices vs Other Artistic Practices vs Personal Life

This is something I find myself consistently thinking about and am grappling with currently in wanting to represent myself musically. I realized that there are likely many shades of opinion on the matter and I’m intested in what you do and why you chose that.

Being a working photographer and designer I have very purposely chosen not to represent my professional work online outside of my portfolio on my website. I do however hold a social presence and represent myself by posting my personal photography and more recently my music. I just finished an album and will soon likely be releasing it separated from the rest of my photography “audiance” if you will as I generally keep these practices segmented from each other to maintain focus and allow those audiences to get “what they signed up for” if you will. I also feel like this seperation allows me to not get as in the weeds into the process as I otherwise would as they stand on other own as opposed to being a single “project”.

And I guess that brings me to the questions. How to do you keep your practices seperated? Why? Why not? How does this inform your creation process across mediums? Do you only work with sound? If so do you keep it seperated from other aespects of your life intentionally or unintentionally and what do you think those effects are?

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Up until recently, I spent most of my free time running. I raced XC and track in high school, college, and post collegiately. I did this at the expense of most other personal endeavors. Last year I became parent which meant I couldn’t leave the house as often to run. I reacquainted myself with playing and writing music, which I haven’t done since 2006. I have played music (piano, guitar, bass, banjo, really anything with strings) casually but not as a creative endeavor. I don’t really separate myself personally from my music writing, but I also don’t have any other creative outlets (aside from personal woodworking projects). So it’s easy for me to focus on this one outlet. But, I write and play a wide variety of music. Everything from classical piano, to bluegrass/old timey, to electronic, to alt rock. All genres are kept in the same silo. At least for now. As I said, I’m only just getting back on the horse, and with little direction. That may change as my work grows, but I intend to keep all my creative musical works in a single silo for as long as seems appropriate.

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Right now I have very little separation between all the things I do. Which is both good and bad.
I’m a designer with a background in illustration who happened to end up doing a lot of user interface design for musical instruments. So my professional life is strongly intertwined with my two passions: music and drawing. Music is a passion I pursue in a totally non-professional way, and I also often draw for the fun of it (even if less than I used to). And then there’s of course other aspects of personal life: family, kids etc.

There’s of course art and there’s one’s profession. In some cases your art might be your profession. I don’t personally see what I do as being art. Design is not art, even if boundaries can be very blurry and part of it is probably to be considered art to some extent.

Things can get pretty intricate and it’s not always easy to separate things even if maybe that would be the better thing to do. So for eg. when working on a module, my activity as somebody who makes music inevitably becomes part of the process and not just when testing prototypes, just as my passion for retro sci-fi horror illustration ended up in more than one communication concept for people I work for.

There’s aspects of my work that are definitely just work. Others are more related to art and others are kind of in between. The first ones I have become pretty good at separating from the rest of my life. I turn them on when I enter the studio and I turn them off when I leave. It’s a matter of keeping yourself sane I guess. But the art-related part is not something I can turn off.

Can you separate art from life? Can you separate life from life?
The way I see it, art needs to be part of life, segmenting things too much will just remove it from the bigger whole and put it into an artificial place where it will wither and die away.

Talking about personal life, also check this: Music & Family

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Very interesting, I don’t think my intention was to ask if you’re separating yourself from your work in a way that it’s not “yourself” but more what do you switch off within your process and how you represent it?

In the example, I’m not sure what your profession is but if it was computer-based doing coding or something along those lines, are you cranking out max patches or very intentionally avoiding them kind of deal.

Seeing as its a newer rediscovery the progress and how your outlook changes on it over time and you hone in on a focus(or not) is something that I would think could be either interesting to reflect on or maybe not be important at all. I try and be conscious of my decisions and look back to help inform and learn from often. It’s for sure a different strokes situation.

My life is currently completely segmented. My work has absolutely nothing to do with art, but in my personal life I try (oh how I try) to do exactly the opposite. Work life balance for me is a constant saw wave.

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Same.

The important thing is to try to work on something every day, ideally at a certain time. And for me, I don’t like to work on the same project every day, or I obsess over details and never get anything done.

Children also mean that you have to segment yourself. I prefer the late night hours for personal work.

I actually know a designer who is really a painter. Design work can sap his creative energies, but it’s a source of money to support his real work.

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In my case – complete separation. It’s not a healthy circumstance and has led to a lot of negativity.

Work is probably the easiest element to separate. Long ago I was fortunate to find something that I could do. While I never really had an interest in the work, it allowed me to escape from some really difficult circumstances. Sure, it’s tough dealing with the “true believers”, but as long as I don’t confront the horror of looking too far beyond the present, I can manage.

The idea of going back to school and pursuing something I actually care about is too remote, so I try not to think about it. I remember where I came from and why things ended up the way they did.

Outside of work is where things get really difficult. I’m split between communities that simply don’t communicate due to deep-seated cultural issues, and I feel inadequate to the task of opening up ways of communication. And then I’m forced into the mode of constantly having to think through these broader issues, which essentially becomes a third thing.

Indeed, I really could simplify things by giving up music. Something, however, keeps calling me back, and that something is not exactly hope. Rather than give up music entirely, I’ve more or less taken it “private”, if it ever was anything more than that.

So I can’t offer answers – I can only describe challenges and the ways in which I’ve failed so far to address them. Hopefully others fare better, and I can learn something from them.

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I’ve been a musician since the mid 60s. I also work in graphics, video, coding, and architecture. While I am a professional musician, I also have a day job. I have been a professor of architecture for thirty odd years… and I’ll probably die on the job😁
Before the professorship, things were pretty much in their various silos. Since, they flow together in one big mix of ideas. Architecture is one of the areas where there is a long history of blending influences from all over the art and technology worlds. I’ve been lucky.

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As a student of (partially) architecture I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts on how music and architecture intersect (but maybe that’s better in another thread?)

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Sound is everything for me. I’m an acoustic engineer by trade. For hobbies I do post-production for audio projects and podcasts. I also release modular synth albums and have a youtube channel about modular synthesis. Each one of those rolls into the other in some capacity.

All of those things are facets of me as a person, they’re all mushed into one melange of my life. My theory is that the outside world can take bits and pieces as they wish. There are a few people at work that know about my artistic endeavors. They generally write them off as eccentric at worst, so I’m not too worried. It’s all “me”, I don’t feel any compelling reason to separate them out. I don’t do much on social media, if that matters.

The interesting part of the original question is that it seems to be concerned with the perception of external parties. Maybe I’m being glib, but that’s on them.

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Perception of others can have material consequences though.

In particular, those of us who have always had to rely on back channels, who’ve always had to negotiate various forms of precarity are often made intimately aware of this.

Sometimes the proverbial tomato is actually a stone, and they do hurt.

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Definitely think about this constantly. I’m a graphic designer/creative director (like many here it seems!), visual artist, and musician, and while my career only occasionally incorporates the latter, it still happens from time to time. So for me, the distinction is less between the disciplines I work in, and more from the standpoint of the context of any creation. I don’t have a separate portfolio for the things I’ve made in my professional career and my personal, artistic career, because my philosophy is that if I represent myself precisely and solely in the way I want to (and, as a freelancer, the kind of work I want to do), then I will gradually inhabit only those modes of working and making income. Of course I frequently work on things at my job that I don’t care about or aren’t proud of, but I simply don’t show those as “my” work. But I am also keenly aware that some of those projects are of more interest to some people, ex. more in business contexrts. It’s a constant negotiation. But when I can, I try to be only me, and represent only the person I hope to be. Slowly but surely I’m finding that things are drifting in that direction.

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I’m genuinely interested to hear more about this so I can understand it better. (I’m also not familiar with the tomato aphorism.)

I’m wrapping up a 35+ year career in mainframe programming and my primary artistic outlet over these decades has been writing (mainly poetry), and photography. The beauty of the poetic muse is that it can alight at the most unusual moments. Many a poem has been written at my desk, or out in a hallway at work. Photography can be pursued in small segments during the workday if the inspiration is there and the object of photography is nearby (I’ve shot architectural photos on my lunch hour). Music, which has captured my soul late in life cannot be pursued at work. Requiring instruments (mine are modular in nature), they beg to be handled, and thus cannot be pursued at work, or during the workday. So, I’d say music is quite a silo. It requires a focus of time and effort and remains in its own domain. My hope is that retirement will bring a greater integration of music and lived experience.

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I think this aspect varies depending on the platform and context, for example sure, if someone signed up to your mail list for project X then they may not appreciate suddenly receiving info about unrelated projects…

Social media is a little different - I find following brands to be less interesting as they tend to always stay ‘on message’ (maybe in fear of your concern about what their audience signed up for, or maybe in fear of over sharing)

I much prefer following interesting people. People who share more diverse ideas than just promoting their project. If a band or muso follows me on twitter I will check their feed and more often than not it is just 100% full of promotion of their project and nothing else. No personality, no inspirations, no other interests. I am as interested in the how and why, their ideas and process etc than just the end result.

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This is on the money… I am constantly repulsed by the endless shilling and shameless self promotion of some artists… particularly on Facebook…

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Maybe another thread is better… but a couple of things to google.

Check out Iannis Xenakis, both as composer and architect. There is a whole lot there.

https://www.iannis-xenakis.org/xen/works/catalogue.html

Here is a link to a paper on rhythm in architecture…

This Ted Talk by David Byrne covers some interesting ground as well.

There is a ton more, but this should set you on the path.

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I went to school for art, got my BFA, and haven’t made much “art” since graduating. I’ve worked in various galleries, museums, and art centers for most of my adult life, and every time someone asks if I’m an artist too, my usual response is “I don’t make enough art to feel comfortable claiming that title.” I’ve struggled to find the sort of work/life balance that would accommodate both an art-world job and art-making itself, and I’ve also changed my focus considerably since school ended, being much more interested in sound and process-oriented art-making. (Which is probably how I ended up arriving in modular synthesis.) I don’t consider myself a “sound artist” or a “musician” at this point either, since I don’t even own a portable recorder or any sort of recording interface to facilitate realizing any of the “art” or “music” currently floating around in my head. I suppose that’d be the first step toward feeling like I could claim and honor the title, wouldn’t it?

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I can for sure see the separation going both ways. Music and to a lesser extent my personal photography, are not “professional” as well, albeit I try and practice them like they are. The practices of my profession and art are certainly intertwined in a way that I wouldn’t be able to separate my experiences, abilities, taste, etc just as you’ve said. My personal interests have worked their way into my professional work on occasion with the correct client but that is fairly rare and I often don’t see it going the other way around. i.e. I have a photo client that does dog boarding/daycare but in my personal time, I don’t tend to photograph dogs as fine art projects.

Do you tend to subscribe to the “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” ethos?

That being said from a process perspective if I dig down into a project and start creating but then think of all the other aspects at the same time, it slows me down to a point that I get stuck. Thus this more voluntary separation that I’ve created that I’ve so far found helpful. ie. Making branding for my music endeavors, album cover etc.

I wholeheartedly agree that design is not art, although a creative practice for sure. The turning on and off in the studio is something that I think I generally try and do as well.

I’m reading through the Music & Family currently, it seems to run along the work-life personal time balance thread which is very insightful. For the sake of maintaining focus, it does make sense to kind of bar that from this as it can be a whole separate discussion(as it already is).

First, howdy neighbor haha. Seeing as your work is separated do you feel like that has driven you to try and incorporate everything together? I too struggle with the work-life balance aspect as I’m sure many do.

@Joseph
I do try and give myself at least an hour on my setup an evening and come away with a recording and unpatch afterwords. This seems to be a part of what the Music & Family thread discusses in length. Seeing as I am currently not in the same boat with children I can’t comment on how it informs what I do but I do try and be mindful of the time I spend with my wife as well as friends and other family members. I also agree with the design work sapping creative energies. It can happen, then again burnout can happen with anything.

@ht73
I can say I separated my personal beliefs from work to progress my career for a while and it was for sure detrimental to me in the long run. The “true believers” comment really is relatable. That being said those experiences helped me grow in a way that was exceedingly positive as far as my skills within my career go so it’s many shades of gray I suppose.

I’m sure being split between communities is something that is challenging although I do not have any personal experience to be able to relate. With that being said acknowledging the challenges you face is an answer at least in that you are considering and looking to figure something more out.

@hermbot
I’d say it is in concern with the perception of external parties as well as how you separate your process from other practices in the actual act of creation. It seems that you’re all sound all the time albeit different practices. Which isn’t exactly the same as I work with different mediums visual and auditory. So in regard to the perception of external parties I’m not as certain they all fit under the same roof, I mean they clearly could but do I want them to? How would that effect the people viewing it? Would it be beneficial to them?

@jrdnrndl I’m not a freelancer(although I do pick up side gigs often) and work in a corporate environment. I make plenty I’m not interested but fit professionally and is good work, thus I ended up making a separate professional portfolio. As you said they are of more interest to folks in business contexts and I try and display it in a way that is defined for what I can do professionally. The negotiation has been real.

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