note to self

Does Your Authentic Self Include Making Art for Money?

Many artists dance around the subject of making art for money.

There is among some, in and outside the art community, a persistent and pervasive notion that making art for money is somehow a bad thing. Really! Why? If you look at it from within your authentic self, it likely making money from your art is an integral part of the equation of being an artist — and without question of being in the art business.

What is your authentic self?

Let’s start this post with a look at what the heck is your authentic self. Here is a good description from Wikipedia: Authenticity is a technical term used in psychology as well as existentialist philosophy and aesthetics. In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures, and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. A lack of authenticity is considered in existentialism to be bad faith. 

A true believer has never been used to describe me.

I am far from the most profound person you will find on the planet, or possibly in a random room with ten other people. So, I’m not going to be inauthentic and pretend I ponder existentialist philosophy often. It is more accurate to say that as with many things, I have a casual interest in philosophy, existentialism, and aesthetics. I am writing this from Sedona, Arizona where interest in topics such as being your authentic self is higher than most other places. Many consider Sedona an intensely spiritual place and come here from all over the globe to experience not only its exquisite, majestic red rock beauty but also its mysticism as exemplified by its many vortexes.

sedona red rocks

Photo by Matthew Ronder-Seid on Unsplash

Sedona is a wonderful, weird and sometimes wacky place.

Read about the vortexes on the link in the previous sentence. It gives a scholarly explanation on why vortexes cannot exist from a scientific perspective, but ends with a discussion of how, as the author says, “Illumination comes not from the outside, but from within ourselves.” I would argue this is the essence of art. When art moves us, we are illuminated from within; it stirs us in nearly intangible ways. Great art, whether prose, visual, performing or musical can tap our inner selves, touch us in places no amount of cadaverous spelunking will ever find. Every human instinctively knows this. It is part of our DNA. We can be moved by things beyond our comprehension.

Skeptical comeuppance?

I am pretty much a skeptical pragmatic who believes if aliens were to visit the earth, they would drop down on the White House lawn, in Cambridge Square, or at half-time during the Superbowl rather than a farmer’s field. So, more than ten years ago when visiting Sedona with my wife, I went along with the idea of a vortex Jeep tour thinking it a pleasant way to see the sights and entertain myself with the knowledge that the concept of a vortex is bunk.

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Without boring you with details, I will say I saw and experienced some things that day that seem inexplicable to a skeptically logical mind. In other words, I gained a new perspective about things that are generally inexplicable, but real enough to make a skeptic wonder more than. Maybe what I experienced was something in me, I don’t know and never will, it was just real.

Residing in Sedona, go figure?

I will not begin to explain it, but within a few short years, I found myself moving to Sedona. In the nearly two years my wife, Mary, and I lived here, I came to meet dozens of others who had such powerfully moving experiences, and were so energized by them they were forced to change their lives and relocate here. It is locally known as “Red Rock Fever.”  I never felt compelled to follow up on my experiences like so many others I encountered did. I never thought it was Red Rock Fever that pulled Mary and me to Sedona. We have traveled here numerous times over the years, and we had always felt it might be a great place to live.

Okay, I will give explaining the move to Sedona a try after all. I worked for Decor magazine for nearly 20 years. It was a terrible thing to witness the once mighty Decor, and the Decor Expo tradeshows implode. To see how a corporate buyout can take a thriving business that is good for employees and customers alike and turn it into a hellish nightmare shell of what it had been was beyond dispiriting. Then compound that with some seriously scary health issues, we decided to leave overcrowded, overpriced Orange County, California and try living in the higher elevation and clean air of Sedona.

What we soon found was Sedona is a much more fun place to visit than to live, especially if you are not entirely ready to give up decades of big city living. That epiphany is how we got to Phoenix. It’s plenty big, but nothing like living in urban California. Plus, it’s a short 90-minute drive to Sedona and many other Arizona wonders.

Proudly making art for money.

When I talk about embracing your authentic self and making money, I am serious. If you are at odds over the fact that you are a creative source that has the unique ability to make one-of-a-kind artwork and feel you should be ashamed for wanting to make money from your efforts, then I am talking to you.

Get down and examine yourself, your career, your motives.

  • Why are you creating art?
  • What do you want to happen once the art is made?
  • What is the outcome of making your art that would make you most happy?
  • Can you make a living doing something else and create art for the fun of it?

It is a rare person who makes something that doesn’t want others to appreciate the work. It is a unique person who creates something that is not desirous of exchanging the work they have made for money. Let’s face it. We all need money to survive. Whether you are a trust fund baby or clipping coupons, we all need money to manage our lives. Thus, for the vast majority of artists, finding effective ways to sell your art at the best prices is part of your authentic self.

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Producing art on a schedule.

Embracing making art for money might further extend to how you make your art.

  • Do you agonize over your art to make it perfect? Is this necessary?
  • Do you sabotage your productivity due to perfectionism?
  • Do you think you are trapped where you can only create so many pieces in a given time?
  • Do you believe hiring assistants to help you create your art devalues it?

Getting yourself together in the most authentic, genuine way.

I believe if you are genuinely aligned where both your self-image and public image are in accordance that your values, beliefs, goals, actions and behavior, it will be evident to all who know you. Part of your authentic self should have or be at work on building the confidence that your work has value and that it deserves your asking price.

When you have such confidence, you can be humble, yet proud and never made to feel you are anything, but an authentic artist whose work deserves respect for its unique creativity and a fair price for another to own it. Being your authentic self to me comes down to saying what you do and doing what you say. So, go out there and make fine art, the most exquisite art you can, and do excellent business, too. Make it so you make a living you deserve from creating your art.


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