Social Question

ldeb's avatar

Is it possible to make a living as an artist?

Asked by ldeb (268 points ) February 21st, 2010

Since selling work is not feasible, does today’s job market value creative thinkers?

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13 Answers

Zen_Again's avatar

Let’s see some art and then I’ll tell you. Some make a living. Depends on what you got – and how you choose to market it.

lillycoyote's avatar

You could be an art teacher. Earn money that way, and have time to do your own stuff too.

Vunessuh's avatar

Of course it’s possible, but it depends on how good you are, how hard and intelligently you work and how much passion you have for what you do.

ldeb's avatar

<- this is a composite photo/x-ray I made

KhiaKarma's avatar

You could also get a job at an art gallery, or try to get one at a museum. “local flavor” shops to see if they will display your stuff. (but even then, it’s not such income)

iphigeneia's avatar

It’s possible to make a living from anything, if you’re a good enough businessperson.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Why,yes,it is. ;)

MissAusten's avatar

My husband is an artist, but he mainly paints what other people pay him to paint. He’s had a decorative painting and mural business for about ten years now. It pays well enough to support a family of five. He also teaches classes for other decorative painters, produces and sells instructional DVDs for artists, and has written a business book for artists. He works very, very hard! Besides all of that, he developed and runs an online forum for decorative painters. He gets to use his artistic abilities plus his business sense and people skills. Not having a boss to report to is one of the reasons he loves what he does. Once in a while he does something incredible, like artwork for Extreme Home Makeover or Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. He did a lot of work in one of “Judge Judy’s” many homes, and met her a few times in the process.

His schedule doesn’t leave much time for painting for the sake of painting, but he does a few pieces a year just for himself. He’s recently been painting some really interesting portraits from photos he took of people while working on a big project in NY. He’s had a few inquiries lately from galleries, but feels like he doesn’t have enough work to show at this point.

I should mention, however, that the first year or so he didn’t make a lot of money. There was a gradual process of building a clientele base, finding good designers to work with, and bit by bit working up from modest homes to mansions. He has always been very good at getting local newspapers to feature his work in a new restaurant or a particularly extravagant home (free advertising). He’s also not afraid to take any opportunity to pitch his work to people he’s just met if he things they’d be interested. Once he met a woman while we were in the ticket line at the airport. She took his card, and not long after hired him to do a lot of work in her home. Eight years later, she called him back and he’s currently working on several projects in her new 10,000 sq ft home. He’s a talented artist, but he’s also a talented salesman. It’s a good combination.

DarkScribe's avatar

You can make a living at almost anything as long as you are adept within the particular field. Art tends to be all or nothing – some make a great deal of money, most starve.

stevenelliottjr's avatar

Not sure. But it seems really hard. But then again, anything worth it is hard. If you love what you do and are driven to succeed then anything is possible.

onesecondregrets's avatar

I’m just starting, by word of mouth really and I don’t know if it will last if I find a career in the arts that makes me happy. I do as MissAusten’s husband does..moreso what people want me to design or make for them rather than selling my own artwork from my imagination but it’s better than nothing. I have ideas of making a business out of it, or promoting myself but I haven’t built enough confidence for that. It’s possible if you keep trying, it really is. Always plug yourself too though, in casual conversation. Just don’t be pushy. You really do have to sell yourself, at least at the beginning I guess.

skfinkel's avatar

It’s always hard to make a living as an artist. I always think of Van Gogh. Yet, if you have to be an artist, you will—and the day job will keep you alive. Good luck.

Dog's avatar

Being an artist gives you a lot of different ways to make a living but you must be a self-starter and be willing to paint for the market.

1. Murals and decorative art: Great market but you must be skilled in faux finishes and build up a following and resume. You need to be able to understand what the client wishes and be able to change it as many times as necessary to make the client happy.

2. Fine art- Getting into galleries. This is the artists dream. Be represented in galleries and sell at a high market value.
The economy is closing many brick-and-mortar galleries. Those that are thriving have an established clientele and are often themed. You will need to build a body of work that is uniform and consistent. You will need to be able to visit your galleries and keep books to be certain you are paid for work sold. Depending on the gallery you may be required to have your work framed first. You may need to paint what is more upper-end trendy rather than from the heart.

3. You can be a self-representing artist. Selling on venues such as Daily Painters Ebay Bonanzle Etsy
(that is only naming a few- there are literally hundreds of places that you can try to sell your art through.

You are suggesting that today’s market does not allow you to sell your work. It is true that sales have slowed but by no means have they stopped. I still sell my work off my own private blog and client list as well as off Daily Painters and one random painting sold off Ebay a couple of weeks ago. Sales are out there. You need to be set up and out there.

Recommendation: Set up a blog. Post new art on it regularly. Keep prices consistent. Keep your style consistent, set up a client email list that sends out a preview of newly listed work. Join one or more of the above venues. When listing keep fees to a minimum.

4. Teaching. You will be competing with a lot of others and will need a degree. Chances are that once you start teaching you will have very little time to create your own art.

5. Licensing for product. This is a tricky field. You need to be able to understand trends, design, color and have an ability to create work that is in complete sets and meets a need. Your work should be designed with the product in mind and you need to be very well versed at computer programs such as Photoshop so that you can adjust your work to meet client need. From the time a contract is signed till you get a royalty check can be up to 2 years of more.

6. Work as a hired employee- all your art created while under employment is the property of your employer. You will be told what to create. You have no royalty rights but are getting a regular paycheck. Many support their families this way.

(Others may be able to add to this list and I encourage them to do so- I am heading to the studio and these were all I could think of right now)

In answer to your question YES you can make a living as an artist. It takes time, patience and dedication. It takes a lot of work just like any other profession. Most of all it takes never giving up and adjusting to change.

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