There is a question that I get asked very often by people interested in turning their art into business: “Is it possible to make money from art?“. I always answer yes and start naming all the ways how someone can earn money with their art.
But, I’ve learned that by asking this question people usually really want to know something like this: ” Is it possible for me to make money with my art without having to compromise my artistic vision and integrity, without having to turn into salesperson, business savvy or even worse become a sell-out?“.
Well, yes, it is possible but it takes some soul-searching, decision making and honestly answering two obvious, simple yet important questions do I really want to be an artist? and do I really want to sell my art?
It might sound over-simplistic but you would be surprised how many people wanting art career actually feel uncomfortable calling themselves artists or feel anxious at the very thought of trading their art for money.
So, first and foremost you should decide if you want to be an artist at all and if you do then you should acknowledge you are an artist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a studio, if you don’t own any high-end expensive tools or if your retail or teaching job is paying your bills. You ARE an artist.
Describing yourself as an amateur or a hobbyist, saying you’re just taking pictures when you really want to be a photographer, gives you false sense of security.You might be afraid that, if you call yourself an artist openly and then don’t go creating/achieve anything amazing (in your own opinion) you’d be a failure and people will consider you pretentious, arrogant or just think less of you. The truth is critical, negative people will always find some reason to put you down or proclaim you failure even if you end up earning millions or having shows all over the world.
Now, if you like to paint/draw/make prints just for recreational purposes and you are truly happy with being it merely a hobby, that’s perfectly fine.
But if you’re calling yourself an amateur when secretly longing for being a real artist and waiting some sort of outer conformation, for someone to discover your work, to get some sort or permission to call yourself an artist I think it’s time for a change of mind.
Nobody else can give you permission to be an artist, and no outer validation will ever be enough for you if you don’t give yourself permission to be an artist first.
I really believe that becoming an artist is not something that magically happens to you, it takes a conscientious, unapologetic decision on your behalf to pursue art.
In case you’re wondering:
*yes, you’re still an artist even if you never sold any of your work*
*yes, you’re still an artist even if you never got published or had a show*
*yes, you’re still an artist even if you never went to art school of any kind*
*yes, self taught artist are artists as well*
*yes, you’re still an artist even if you’re very, very young*
*yes, you’re still an artist even if you discovered art later in life*
*yes, you’re still an artist even if you haven’t found your unique style*
*yes, you’re still an artist even if you still haven’t developed your skills or technique to the fullest*
Once you acknowledged yourself as an artist, you should ask yourself do you really want to sell your work. Many people instantly say they do, while secretly the very thought of the business side of art makes their stomach churn. It’s normal reaction because most of artists are not natural business people, they don’t know much about marketing, many of them are introverted and playing the role of sales person doesn’t make them too happy.
Art is business and there’s no point it denying it but just like any other business you can choose to do it on your own terms, you don’t have to make compromises that truly make you uncomfortable just because “everyone is doing it” or ” that’s the way things are done“.
You may need to step outside your comfort zone when first starting selling your art but you don’t have to do anything that would jeopardize your integrity or creative vision or become completely different person.
Experiment with various ways of earning money through art (and there are many but that’s topic for another post) and find the ones that suit you the best. You may not find them fast or easy but if your persistent you certainly will.
Ask yourself what kind of actions and compromises you’re willing to take in order to sell your work, and go step by step choosing options that seem best for you.
Because what’s the point in earning tons of money if you’re hating the way you made it? You’ll end up frustrated with your work not wanting to create at all.
And if there currently aren’t any suitable options for you to sell you art without feeling like the worst person in the world, then wait and keep your eyes open for new possibilities.
Not selling your art doesn’t make you any less of an artist :)
I think, if we want to be successful in something, to reach a goal (in this case to make money with art) the most important thing is to be honest with ourselves on who we are and what exactly we want to achieve and if we become aware of that eventually we can find practical ways of making our goals happen without feeling bad or compromising our deepest dreams and visions :)