My Life as an Artist.
Making a living as an artist isn’t always easy—but most of you know that already. But it’s also not impossible!
I’m here to tell you that it can be done.
I was working at the fire art center yesterday and I had the opportunity to talk to a group about my art and my process. Afterwards I was chatting with one of the group participants. We were having a nice conversation about this and that….what he did for a living, etc. And then he asked me, “So what is your day job?”
This question always takes me aback. Why oh why is it always assumed that artists can’t make a living on their work? I know plenty of artist who do just that. And I’m one of them. Now I know that many, many people who make art don’t set out to make a living at it. And that is perfectly fine. But the perpetual notion in society that to be an artist is to be a starving artist is insane.
I will suggest however, that to be successful and indeed make your living as an artist you need to have some business savvy and an entrepreneurial spirit. Art can be a hard product to sell—and I know that some of you just cringed at the very mention of the word “product”, but let’s face it—art is a product. But I’ll save that for one of my soapbox rants another day.
I’ve been an entrepreneur for a lot longer than I’ve been a working artist. So I love the business side of what I do. In my world I try to spend 40% of my time creating, 40% of my time getting the business, and 20% of my time on admin (which is getting less and less now that I’ve got an amazing virtual assistant helping with the admin….therefore leaving me more time doing the things I love to do.) It’s a formula I strongly believe in, and a formula every artist should consider if they are not doing so already.
Some artist teach and others do not. My master plan includes teaching, and I do it for a myriad of reasons. What I love most about being an artist and a creative entrepreneur is I get to make the decisions that are right for me and the life I want to live. Teaching allows me the freedom to get out of the studio, meet an array of people, and see places I haven’t seen before. It allows a new perspective and I always learn something along the way.
But the crux of being an artist is making the work. Being in your own personal creative zone. There is nothing like it in the world. And I savor those moments….when I’m shooting 200 horses running at me, creating my backgrounds and letting the wax and brush strokes flow, or finishing up a piece that you know is in your heart is good. That’s what drives me as an artist.
Last week I was at a luncheon and introducing myself to the woman next to me. I was enthusiastically telling her about making paintings with photography and beeswax, my morning at the barn, and my upcoming workshop where we’re going to be photographing horses and creating paintings during a week at a dude ranch in Wyoming. She looked at me and dryly said, “I sit in an office all day looking at spreadsheets.” It hit me hard. One of those pivotal moments. I knew as difficult as it may be working as an artist—it’s a life I wouldn’t trade. It may have its challenges, but it’s so worth it.
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
With all good wishes,