Culture Herd We Hunt – You Gather

Survivor: Chris Sheridan

"Survivors" is an interview series highlighting artists that maintain a "day job" to pay the bills. To shed some light on the techniques and methods of coping and succeeding as an artist. But also bring us all a bit closer by showing we all share the same struggles and challenges.

Chris is  a shining example of what you can accomplish if you harness the power of ADHD to master multitasking. He's also tireless Artwalk Presenter and Pioneer Square Patriot. In an earthquake, he'd run to try and hold the crack in the 619 building together without a thought for his own safety. Actually, he'd probably find a way to multitask while he was doing it. Maybe call and check in on Kate or hand a fleeing patron one of his flyers.

His insight below ranges in topic from VooDoo dolls to fancy fanny packs. But what you really need to know about him is that his studio is in the middle of the 619 western building and he (in my eyes) is the hub of what's great about the pioneer square artwalk.

1. What (other than art) do you do to pay the bills?

    I have voodoo dolls of all of my creditors, I give them “money” and the big guys think we’re good; wouldn’t that be rad? Gumption, it’s all about gumption. There are a ton of things you can do to pay the bills, and things you can trade to save money for bills. I build shipping crates for people, do freelance art installation, sell things I don’t really need (although I really miss my kayaks—a lot—suck it I.R.S.), and I often lend a helping hand to peeps in my studio building for a burger and a beer, thus saving greenbacks for the man. I’m also a “manny.” A “manny” you say?” Yes. The kids weren’t really feeling the Mary Poppins things when I showed up, so they call me the “manny.”

2. What else would you do for money?

    Be awesome, I don’t know, anything really; perhaps not anything, but close. Hell I’d play the double for Chuck Norris’ chin if I had too. On a serious note though, a lot of artists do graphic design, web design, T-shirt design, design-design, etc; I’ve discovered pressing and shaping long board skateboards by hand. It’s really gratifying to make tangible things, even more so when a good friend steps on something you made and bombs a hill with you. I wouldn’t mind making money doing that. Truth be told, I actually like the woodworking better than the painting, but don’t tell painting, she’s really sensitive sometimes; but that might just be because the wood lets me manipulate it, whereas the paint and I tend to manipulate each other. Guess I have control issues. So money, yes, I’ll do things for money.

3. What's the hardest part of having a day job while you build an art career?

    The fact that it all takes time. Art is a full time job, marketing your art is a full time job, cataloging your art is a full time job, attending art shows (both yours and others) is a full time job, finding ways to create and sustain name recognition is a full time job…and although I only work my “day job” part time, it finds a way of creating interesting time dynamics with all my other full time jobs.

4. Have you ever gotten in trouble at your day job for promoting your art?

    Yup who hasn’t? As with most things, sometimes a conflict is going to arise and you have to make a decision and take responsibility for your actions. It can be tough being a manny. It’s not like you can call in sick and a coworker shows up and shuttles the kids to one of the many activities for the day; it’s you, or kids sans activities. At the end of the day though, the whole manny thing is what allows me to continue being an artist, not vice versa; and I’m lucky enough to have a real flexible gig on most occasions.

5. What would you say departing your day job for the last time?

    Ah yah, so do you think I could get a ride home?

6. Hours per week at your day job?

    Roughly 20 give or take.

7. Hours per week making art?

    It depends. From the end of July to December I was averaging 70 – 80, but I’ve only been in there a few days since the first week of December. After the new year begins, I have a lot of shows lined up including a big solo show in D.C. in June, so the studio and I will be as one. We’re going to have to come up with some Mr. Miyagi wax-on-wax off juju to keep us both sane.

8. Who are the people in your neighborhood?

    Well I live in Alki, so there are all sorts of people. Some of the stand outs: 1. Opalescent green, ridiculously large tires, white rag top, hydraulics, 68 Impala, gang banger guy. 2. Crazy over-excited, up with people, gum smacking, talks so loud on the celly one thinks perhaps she had a bull horn implanted in her throat, P.D.A. (get a room level) with costumed pug lady. 3. By far my fave from the other day, bundled up like an arctic explorer on top yet short wearing, three pairs of multicolored wool socks, bright yellow crocs with a single yaktrax installed on one foot (for those not privy, yaktrax are like snow chains for your feet), old yellow lab walker lady. 4. Almost forgot really expensive running shoes, really expensive running shirt, really expensive running glasses, fancy fanny pack water bottle holder with really expensive running aide drink mix stuff, dolphin shorts, free ballin’, sweating profusely, big gut, out of shape, boardwalk runner guy.

9. What's the least amount of sleep (hours) that you need to get through a busy day?

    I’m getting old, so I need more and more all the time. But if the deadline calls for it, a couple.

10. Please list the following items in order of "most-neglected" to "most-attended".
Sleep, Food, Sex, Art, Day Job, Friends, Health, Bills, Mom

    Today it looks like this: Health, food, art, friends, sex, mom, day job, bills.
    Last Monday it was: Bills, sex, sleep, friends, health, food, day job, art.
    At the beginning of Sept it was: Art and that’s about it.

11. How did you end up in your day job?

    I spent a lot of years trying to work jobs that I thought would allow me to come home and paint: art stores, ice cream shops, art handling, galleries, even art chop shops; and when I got home, the last thing in the world I wanted to or had time to do was paint. At the time, I was working at a really high end gallery on the Upper East Side in NY. It was the type of job where I’d show up and a Dürer would be on my desk waiting for me to re-frame it, where one day I found a Picasso test print on onion skin paper that the Met never knew existed (and quickly bought), where I wasn’t allowed to hire anyone to help me move 700lbs of Frankenthaler madness from Connecticut to NYC, to Connecticut, and to NYC again. Thought for sure all the inspiration around me would create an abundance of art, but between the hours I worked and the damn commuter train from Brooklyn to the city, it didn’t happen. One day I was on the commuter train—you have to keep in mind these trains were so full it was possible to travel 5 or 6 stops with out your feet actually touching the ground—and I got off at the Lex and 53rd stop and started the rush up the escalators. Now being commuter train savvy, you know there are unspoken rules: where to stand in the train, where to walk, where to run, where not to stop and talk on the phone, which end of the platform to stand at to guarantee the fastest route to the stairs, and especially which side of the escalator to stand on and which side you run. I had become such a drone that the day a lady was standing on the wrong side of the escalator with a suitcase (you see, regular folk stand on the right, the “important” people know enough that the only way to make the connecting 6 train is to run up the left side) I proceeded to scream in her face about how much of an idiot she was. That was it. I enjoyed NY, but it had turned my soul black, I was angry, I was unrecognizable to my old friends, and I had no art to show for it. It was time to leave. I quit a month later and headed to Seattle ‘cause I had never been there before, and Kate had a sister there; she offered me the manny gig so I could get back into making art. And I did.

12. How would you measure the amount of success needed to quit your day job?

    By having enough success to not have to have my day job.

13. If your art was an animal, what would it be?

    A human child: it makes leaps and bounds in its abilities, has a knack for figuring out things, even a strong personality, gumption, and desire, but it has a long road of learning ahead of it.

14. Where can people find your art online?

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