Sunday, August 23, 2009


How do artists make a living?
Besides the selected few who actually make a living from their work, how can an artist afford to be an artist?
The bottom line is: should art pay for itself? Should it be efficient in an economic sense?
Most practicing artists either have money from their day jobs, or from their families.
The funny thing is: the first group seem heroic, and the second - fakes.
Why? Why is there so much resentment towards people who decide to spend the money they have on doing something they love?
Is it because we, as the public, feel betrayed, as if they stopped playing the game with their audience? After all, if they don't care about (our, or government - which comes out to the same) money, aren't we left aside?
(What's wrong with being left aside? Hm. Of course, this modernist idea can come in handy. But I've been writing about it elsewhere.)
Come think of it - would we feel it wrong for a rich person to buy an expensive car? A big house? So why do we want him to feel guilty for spending the money into something we might actually appreciate? It turns art into a hobby, you say? So what?

Below, completely unrelated (at least not that I know), is the work of Paulo Ventura.


chook said...

I find trying to make a living from my art gets in the way of the art. You put yourself in clients' shoes instead of staying in your own. I also notice when I am earning a living away from my art a certain amount of incubation happens and I see it with new eyes.
However they must be parallel not seperate entities.
Speaking of planes, you might like the work of Donald Buglass on my latest post.

M said...

You might find this book on the subject interesting;

Hans Abbing - Why are artists poor?

Best, Michiel

Linaka said...

I understand one of the reasons most artists cannot make a living from their work is because the clients don't appreciate the training and the amount of work that the artist does in a piece. You spend 200 hours doing a painting that later is sold for 300 pounds. Its criminal. Clients need a better understanding of the effort that goes into art.

Alexandra K. Goodall said...

The Gift, by Lewis Hyde, is wonderful and along those same lines.
thanks for the blog- enjoy reading your posts very much!

Andy Joe said...

When Columbia U's Research Center for Arts and Culture released of study of 213 NYC-based visual artists over 62 years old (average income $30,000/yr) NPR did this story.

Katheryn said...

I don't really think that being an artist is really good money but as long as you enjoy it then it's alright. I love drawing on my tablet and posting art onto the internet with this:

vvoi said...

Thanks for all the comments - and the ones with the great reading references deserve a special thank you!

anja said...

If you ever find out how artists make a living from their work - pls tell me.
bte nice features in your blog here.

Ben Gage said...

I don't know many people who make art for a living, they're lucky to become a teacher somewhere, in my circle they can be art handlers or gallery/ museum specialists. Art provides a life and that is the living.

killianfallon said...

I love the paintings by this artist, I love subtle surrealism and when there's something just a little off. Particularly love the one of the soldier and the horse, great concept!

AMNE said...

The one of the "bird man" in the wintry woods is AMAZING

Anonymous said...

I think the resentment some people feel toward rich people using their money to make art is spurred by the same reasons artists with day jobs are so heroic. It is hard to make art. It takes time and money, things most people don't have. But it's not a normal luxury like having an expensive car. It incurs passion. It's something some people can't do without. And some of the most talented artists are unable to make art because they can't make a living at it. Because they don't have time. Because they can't buy their supplies, organize their portfolio, network, and take time to get their art into galleries. It's hard work that is rarely rewarded with a living wage. People who are of the means to spend their time making art avoid this struggle. They are like the rich legacies who get Ivy League educations with questionable transcripts. It's just not fair, but that's how it is. If rich people get all these privileges, can't the rest of us at least retain the right to question them over those who had to scrap and fight to make, develop, and work 5 times as hard to do the same thing?

zf_1221 said...

nice post.
it's very useful for me.
thanks. :)

Fauldsie said...

I agree with Chook. I think that if you cater to the buyer's needs then it takes away from your own self-expression. I actually signed up on a new website called Art Traffic and left them to sell my artwork after they were recommended to me by a friend who knew the owners and I've sold a few pieces without really putting in any extra effort. It's to anybody who's interested.
Anyway, back on the topic, I think artwork can only be true to the artist if it's created without looking to sell it. Sell it after you've done it, for goodness sake! It makes sense!

Megan Styles said...

I think that to do really good art you need time.
To have time you can't nessisaraly have another job.
Therefore sometimes, if at all possible, it is best to make your art profitable.
One way I do am starting to do this is to create a website.
I am not making any money off it yet, but it does still have some good articles and stuff on it. Is this what you are doing with your blog?
It is a pretty untapped resourse, maybe cause older artists haven't the skill set.
Don't really know, but it is quite an interesting consept.
I was reading a thread reasently that was discussing what made good or bad art. One person thought that if you did art purly for comersial perposes then it was bad.
I think that this may be true, but if the person who buys it likes it, then is it not art to them?

Any way if you want to have a look at my blog its,

I like your articles, do you like mine?

pop art said...

People who dedicated themselves in art can make other things feels different. I like the picture very much.
Where did you get them??

olivercloke said...

I have always asked myself that question. Does suffering for one's art. Or not living the life that we are accustomed to mean that we are 'proper' artist? I am currently trying to juggle an MFA with work and life. Not making Sale able artwork means that you just have to keep on ploddding along, enjoying every minute. Please check out my website

olivercloke said...

I have always asked myself that question. Does suffering for one's art. Or not living the life that we are accustomed to mean that we are 'proper' artist? I am currently trying to juggle an MFA with work and life. Not making Sale able artwork means that you just have to keep on ploddding along, enjoying every minute. Please check out my website

dhedgegrove said...

A call to the sacred;
bird spirts are real;

Susan Van Sant Gallery said...

I agree with Chook, that when I try to make a living from my art, it gets in the way of my creative spirit. This quote sums this issue up for me:

"It’s also possible that if an artist has too much feedback, they may try to please the fans. It’s my belief that being an artist is largely about being selfish and expressing that self. This, for me, is the distinction between an entertainer (cater to an audience) and an artist 
(create your own audience)." ~Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree

jennifer hales said...

It is a difficult balance to find. When people don't appreciate your work it is often because they are outsiders trying to understand what is going on inside your mind. But for me the idea of art is to be able to communicate with the people outside your mind, what is important to you, in ways that words don't really work. If you are unable to communicate it properly to people, so that they can understand what it is you have done, then your art is therefore noneffective. If you art is effective and can communicate what you are speaking in it, that is when you become successful, because then the people there to see it will be willing to invest emotionally and possibly monetarily in your art.

As artists I think sometimes we are resentful of people who are successful, and make money on their art because, simply, we are not successful. Jealousy can have a profound affect on people to make them see things in a negative light. Those we despise for being "sell outs" may just be more successful at speaking through their art then we are. They make a better emotional connection with their viewers than we have. you must at that point decided if what you want in your art is to communicate better with your audience, or if the art you are doing is simple to communicate with yourself. If the first is your intention then you must consider that your art itself is in effective and needs to be rethought. If the second then you must be content if you don't make any money at all because you have made art that doesn't have that intention.

Either way I do not believe that it is our place to judge whether others are sell outs or not, because we cannot determine for them what the intentions of their art was.


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