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Married to Someone Creative? Join My Support Group!

April 16, 2012

Okay, I’m turning the blog over to Amy today. Before you read it, though, you must know that I have imposed my creativity on Amy, to the point that she is now doing art shows on her own, of her own paintings. This Friday, 11am-2pm, at the downtown SLC Deseret Book, Amy will be the guest artist for the Lunch and Learn series. Pop in and say hi to her! Oh, and here’s her website.

And here’s Amy:

Married to Someone Creative? Join My Support Group!
by Amy Tolk Richards

Kirk asked me to write a blog entry about whatever I wanted. I’m not a strong writer, but I accepted the challenge because I thought it might be therapeutic for me, and maybe helpful to a few other artists’ spouses out there. We probably need to have our own support group (if you’re interested, let me know!). I’m married to a creative person who makes a living doing what he loves. On that note, I wish everyone could make a living doing what they love, and feel joy and purpose in the work they do each day. Some choose not to follow this course because they don’t want to ruin their passion by putting a price tag on their gifts and creativity, which they prefer to keep as a hobby or method of relaxation. Others choose not to make a living doing what they love because they believe it’s not possible, or that the sacrifice and burden placed on their family is too great.

Kirk and I have been creatively self-employed since our marriage in 1999. I came from a family with a steady and substantial income, from employment, and for me this new life was a shock. I knew nothing about business (I majored in History and English at BYU) and I had an extensive learning curve ahead of me. But, I recognized Kirk’s talents and believed the mountain of trial and error ahead of us was definitely worth the climb. I don’t pretend the path to where we are today was without great frustration and tension. I was quite out of my comfort zone, not knowing each year how much money would be coming in. My need and passion for planning the future was at times impossible to fulfill. I am someone who likes to be very involved in our livelihood–I can’t sleep well at night without having a hand on the pulse of our business. The unpredictability of our small business caused me strain, but simultaneously forced me to loosen up my need to control every detail of life.

In the beginning, I watched with envy and embarrassment as I saw my siblings and friends with more conventional career paths heading towards a certain, successful end. It was hard to stomach that our intelligence and hard work weren’t paying off as quickly, towards our uncertain end, as we forged a path of our own. Thank goodness we have been blessed to have encouraging and loving families who have been supportive along the way.

I decided I could contribute by learning about the business of art, and about how to run a small business. I took financial planning classes. We lived frugally and I tracked all our financial details. I also talked to other artists about the practical aspects of making a living. And Kirk, in addition to creating, wasn’t afraid to market his own work. We set up many of our own art shows and entered local juried shows.

Being business partners hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are not just business partners, but we are also husband and wife! Add kids into the mix, and the juggling act gets pretty complicated at times. Since we work at home, it can be a challenge to separate work time and family time.

Our greatest asset (aside from Kirk’s talent) has been our patience. We were willing to live humbly and sacrifice for a better future. We kept our expenses low. We didn’t spend money on movies, restaurants, new clothes, or trips. My generous parents and siblings saw this and treated us to a few of these things along the way. Our income has grown slowly and steadily for thirteen years. Kirk’s more expensive work has gone from $10,000 a piece to $36,000 a piece. He has gone from finishing twenty paintings each year to finishing one hundred paintings per year. We’ve slowly been able to create a more comfortable lifestyle. We have control over our business and don’t have investors, etc. placing pressure upon us to compromise the integrity of the art. Kirk can paint what he loves, even if it is huge painting that doesn’t sell for five or ten years. Kirk has the flexibility to take artistic risks.

J. Kirk and Amy Tolk Richards, at Kirk's Dixie exhibition, 2010. Photo by Rachelle Sherman

So, what’s my point? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for all people and their creative spouses. This is just our own situation. Sometimes supporting someone’s creative gifts is a mission that pays off financially. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it pays off in other ways. I can definitely say, we have seen miracles along the way as we have stuck with our goals.

Was it worth it? For me, yes. I’m enjoying my education in the various facets of the small creative business. I’ve learned that patience is a powerful tool. It’s rewarding to see something work that we’ve put so much time and energy into, and have our kids close by to watch. Probably most importantly, I’ve seen the impact that Kirk’s art has had on many people. I’m not saying that the whole world is in love with Kirk’s artwork (although I think they should be 🙂 ). When I see tears come to a viewer’s eyes at an art show or read emails about how an image has strengthened someone, I feel that our sacrifice has definitely been worth it.

I wish anyone else with a similar career path the best of luck and success.

My name is Amy and my husband has been a professional artist for thirteen years. Join my support group!

23 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2012 1:57 pm

    Oh Amy! I feel like I could just say “AMEN!” It IS such a love/hate life with definitely more love than hate, but struggles and success thrown into the mix. Here’s to all wives of artists…
    You have not helped my cause one bit though… Howard is constantly begging me to paint with him. I have stood firm that we have enough creativity in the partnership already, I need to just focus on supporting the business end.

    • April 16, 2012 8:58 pm

      Thanks for your “Amen.” It’s good to know I’m not alone. Sorry to be a thorn in your side about pressure for you to paint. The only time I paint is when Kirk plays Mr. Mom and takes care of kids and housework. Maybe you could try this out on Howard, and pretend to paint while really just relaxing (which I’m sure you very much deserve), and he does all of your motherly duties . . . the Emperor’s New Clothes approach to art:) Good luck, and hopefully we’ll bump into you guys at Women’s Conference? Amy

  2. April 16, 2012 2:25 pm

    Amy, That was an excellent write up. I know the life of an artist may not be as stable as a salaried employee with a “regular” job, but I didn’t realize how stressful things have been for you. I think that’s kind of ironic since I have always admired and even been jealous of your success and wished I could do what you guys do. (The grass is always greener…) Anyway, I’m glad you guys have moved on up like the Jeffersons. I’m afraid we are not artists so we probably don’t qualify for your support group, but we’d love to hang out whenever possible. I’m proud of both of your efforts, hard work, and talent.

    • April 16, 2012 8:45 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Tom. I hope I didn’t sound like a whiner. You are welcome to attend our support group meetings any time! From Amy, not Kirk

  3. Melissa Nelson permalink
    April 16, 2012 4:35 pm

    I admire both you and Kirk for making your passion into a career. You have a beautiful family and I’m sure that is what has always been your focus. Congratulations on your success, it is well deserved.

  4. April 16, 2012 4:44 pm

    Wow, Amy. I could learn a lot from you! Thanks to both of you for sticking it out. I consider the work that you are doing precious beyond measure. I mean that most sincerely. It also gives me hope.

  5. Anne Stewart permalink
    April 16, 2012 8:18 pm

    Oooh! Can I join?

    • April 16, 2012 8:40 pm

      Yes, please do! And no annual fee. Meetings will be held annually in various exotic locations around the world! Wouldn’t that be awesome, and we can have bake sale/car wash fundraisers:)

  6. alice hemming permalink
    April 17, 2012 2:28 pm

    We feel so lucky to have two of KIrk’s paintings and hope to be able to add to them in the future. We are in awe of his creative energy, not to mention the integrity of how he lives his life. Amy, I love your blog and hope that we will have the chance to meet you some time. You will be welcome in our home whenever we are in Maryland, or Ivins, Utah.

    • April 17, 2012 10:17 pm

      Thank you Alice. I haven’t met you but feel like I know you, from all of the wonderful things I hear about you from various sources. Hopefully I’ll get to officially meet you some time soon!

  7. Jen Tolk permalink
    April 19, 2012 7:32 am

    Thanks for sharing this. And I beg to differ with your comment about not being a strong writer. Well done. We are grateful for the uplifting influence both of your artwork – and especially of our associations – in our home and lives. Congratuations on your continuing success and momentum – you and your family rock!

  8. Angela Brickey permalink
    April 25, 2012 11:53 am

    Hey Amy,

    Even though I don’t know you very well, after reading your write up I feel we actually know a lot about each other on many levels! Seeing strength in other artists’ wives gives me strength. Good luck and keep it up!

    • April 26, 2012 9:12 pm

      Angela. Thank you for your kind response. It’s been fun to see new friendships come out of the word work (is that the expression?) since writing/posting this, as many isolated artists (and spouses) have similar feelings. You guys are in New York doing a masters program, right? When do you come back? It would be fun to have you here at BYU’s Women’s Conference this week. Now there is a definite art support group right there. Best of luck to you guys, and it will be fun to see what Joe is learning/working on, some time in the future!

  9. April 30, 2012 9:24 pm

    Amy, this is wonderful! We’ve been at the same kind of thing for almost five years now. Your family is inspiration for what we can become in eight more years, and beyond. Not just financially, but artistically and individually. I’m so happy to know you! To think that it all started with a little 3×5 card on the board at the Wilkinson Center… did you ever know that’s how we found you? I saw a card and gave Christine the info. I love life.

    • May 2, 2012 9:28 am

      Camille, thank you for your kind response. It’s good to know that there are other creative risk takers out there! It would be fun to get caught up with all of your projects some time. And thank you for finding our 3×5 card and uniting us with your wonderful family! Amy

  10. Amanda Childs permalink
    May 14, 2012 3:15 pm

    Casey just pointed out this post to me. It definitely resonates with me, too. After only almost 3 years of being a full-time artist’s wife, I’ve come to a point of frustration (among other things). I’ll be emailing you, Amy. I have many questions. Oh, and I definitely need to join the support group! 🙂

    • May 18, 2012 11:00 am

      Thanks for your response, Amanda. You’re extra tough, because you took the leap of faith after having a steady income (isn’t that right?). We never had a steady income, so that is amazing to me that people can make that shift. I hope that Casey’s influential people in history project is going well. His art studio furniture that he builds is awesome. Feel free to email or call any time. Maybe we should start an actual support group with meetings, food, yoga, etc. Have a great day! Amy

  11. May 16, 2012 3:16 pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I NEED A WIFE! Seriously. You, Amy, and Shari and all you super involved wives of artists are awesome. You remind me of my mom. My dad wouldn’t have amounted to much without her. Anyone want to take a hand in running my business??? You can do some cooking and cleaning too?!?

    • May 18, 2012 11:06 am

      Emily. You’re amazing that you juggle it all! And you don’t have kid or house help? Kirk might get jealous if I “cheat” on him and become someone else’s wife/artist assistant, but I’ll think about your offer:) Your mom (and dad) are a big inspiration to me, and it was refreshing to talk with them at the Mormon Arts gathering, and to know that even James Christensen has insecurities about his art. Good luck with your continued juggling. Your art rocks! Don’t give up… Amy

  12. November 9, 2012 9:47 am

    Amy, I would join your support group in a heartbeat! I remember meeting you last year at a Lunch & Learn where we bought one of Kirk’s prints. I admire your work and especially your support and teamwork with your husband. I find myself in a similar place of learning to support my husband’s creative needs. As young college students, John was worried about providing for a family and became an architect instead of an artist. Now 18 years later he’s trying to pursue his dream while I figure out how to be supportive of our bedroom-turned-studio and figure studies. Just knowing someone else who has made it work is such a blessing and I would sure love to get to know you better. 🙂

    • November 25, 2012 10:00 pm

      Liz, sorry about the late response. I’m not very tech-savvy! I feel for you, and it is also exciting that John is wanting to pursue his dream. It would be fun to talk to you guys and find out more about the path you are forging/wanting to forge. Each artist’s path seems to be so different, but we can definitely be a support group to each other. I love attending art show events where there are other artists and their wives present, and I can “pick their brains” about what they are doing and what is working and what isn’t working. There is so much to learn from everyone, regardless of their artistic style/approach. I have taken on the business end of the art (and some the creative end with my own art) and I really enjoy it. Other spouses of artists don’t enjoy being involved and probably shouldn’t be if they don’t enjoy it and it strains the marriage. I guess we all just have to find what works through trial and error. If you guys are ever down this way or want to come down this way, feel free to visit!

  13. May 13, 2013 1:12 pm

    Hah, I found this article actually LOOKING for a support group for wives/spouses of artists! Wish there actually was one!

  14. May 14, 2014 10:20 am

    I too came here looking for an actual support group. I am engaged to a creative and I’m already seeing that I will have to be doing much more than being a loving wife. I’m going to have to be his anchor and his commander in getting projects completed. He has new ideas for projects every couple of weeks! I love him dearly and in no way want to hamper his talent. I just gotta know that his scattered ideas are things I can help him with, that and home organization of the new projects cropping up. I’ve never been involved with a creative to this level. I need to learn what’s the best way to deal with his personality so he can go higher and higher in his craft. Please help.

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