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Survivor: Jon Peck

"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.

Jon Peck spends his time playing with computers and swords and gets paid for both. He's a mild mannered computer professional by day and the consummate choreographer of fighting and acrobatics by night. It's a dichotomy most would find peculiar yet somehow very understandable, just keep the swords away from the monitor Samurai Peckson. And thanks for answering my questions!

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

  • I have a degree in computer science, and the majority of my income comes from three sources right now: I create research-oriented software and websites for a Boston-based nonprofit hospital, I teach software development classes for a local community college, and I also work as an independent consultant for anyone who needs a website or custom software (mostly artists and nonprofits, when possible).

2. What else would you do for money?

  • I would do -- and have done -- a variety of paid arts-related work, from choreographing stage fights to acting as a Halloween tour guide. I'm increasingly trying to move behind the camera, nd have recently been filming and editing corporate videos

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

  • When you work independently, as I do, you get very good at juggling multiple tasks and make a habit of prioritizing your
    highest-paid and highest-profile jobs first. Artistic endeavors are almost always last on these lists: we don't get paid much, if at all, for the work we most love...and we're lucky if we touch more than a few hundred people with any one piece. My biggest problem, right now, is remembering to set aside a separate time and space for my own art, regardless of its economic or self-promotional value.

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

  • My primary employer is amazingly understanding, and my independent clients don't see or care about the specifics of how I allocate my time, so long as i get the job done.

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

  • Let's keep in touch; I'm always available if you need my help or advice in the future.

6. Hours per week at your day job?

  • 30-50

7. Hours per week making art?

  • 20-30

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

  • I can survive on 5 hours for one or two nights running, but prefer 6-7 on a regular basis. I'm rarely able to sleep more than 8 hours at once (unless I've been up for several days straight).

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

  • Sleep, Health, Mom, Food, Friends, Art, Day Job, Sex, Bills (wow, you wouldn't think a simple question could be so revealing)

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

  • Instead of just quitting my job and trying to find another, I sat down for a chat with my boss. We decided that it would be more cost-effective for him to keep me on as a telecommuter than it would be to train a new employee. If not for this instant -- a particular combination of the flexible nature of my work, my refusal to follow the mainstream path, and my manager's open-mindedness -- I wouldn't be
    able to do most of what I do now.

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

  • I'd be able to quit my job when the work I can expect to get from them, on a regular bases, exceeds my minimum income requirement by about 30% (it's good to have a buffer). Of course, given the nature of my day job, I might stay on but just cut down on my hours, if possible.

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

  • Yeast isn't technically an animal, but I'm running with it anyway: my art starts small but grows quickly, and builds a diverse set of products from the same base ingredients.... like beer, it can be intoxicating; like handmade bread, it can be rough around the edges but hearty on the inside; and, occasionally, it falls completely flat and needs to be baked again from scratch.

12. Who are the people in your neighborhood?

  • Neighborhood is an abstract term. Physically, I'm near a few other artists (Jessica Day & Aaron Samuels are just a few blocks away), but the virtual neighborhood I live in goes way beyond Wedgwood (Social Networking). Mentally, I think of my neighborhoods as "the stage fight community", "the film/video club", "the live-theatre peeps", and so on -- and I'm excited when I see people from one of these neighborhoods wander into another.

12. Where can people find your art online?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Delicious
  • MySpace
  • Share/Bookmark
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