Monday, August 5, 2013
How to Make a Living as an Artist
Recently, I read an article in the Washington Post about professional artists working in the United States. As a full-time artist myself, this gave me something to think about and I wanted to share some of my thoughts here on the blog.
Except for the blue chip artists at the top (who also started at the bottom), making a living as a full time artist over a long period of time is incredibly difficult in many ways. Keeping the work relevant, fresh, honest and true for decades is the main challenge that professional artists face. And this doesn't even begin to address the issue of making money as a full-time artist.
It takes an odd combination of business skills and personality traits to develop and maintain relationships with galleries while also building a market and following for the work. The right attitude is sometimes difficult to maintain. The "art world" can be brutal in terms of its fickle way of treating artists, which is also a challenge.
Finding a balance between working in the studio, other life interests and staying connected to the world as well as people is important and different for every artist. It takes a deep commitment to the work, discipline and a constant curiosity about the world around us to maintain a consistent studio practice over many years.
This is a serious endeavor. Art is work...that's why it is called an artwork. For all artists there are times when interest in the work wanes and one must continue working. There is really very little support for artists in this country except for the commercial marketplace. Because of this, making a living as an artist for an entire career is extremely difficult. That is why the percentages in the article are so low.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to continue to make a living working in my studio. It is a hard won dream come true that could not happen without a few things. First are the galleries that I have worked with. Carol Stein at Cumberland Gallery in Nashville has believed in my work, exhibited and sold it for twenty five years.
Then there are the collectors who have supported my work over the years. I appreciate them immensely. There have been a handful who have continued to build significant holdings of my work, for which I am very thankful. These are relationships that are very special and an integral part of continuing to work in the studio and support myself.
Life as a professional artist has a certain ebb and flow. I would never want to discourage anyone who is considering pursuing the artist's life...but it's important to know going in what to expect.
I'd like to close with a quote from Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art.