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? Look at it from within your authentic self. You likely will find 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. As such, I won’t pretend I often ponder existentialist philosophy. 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 post 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. They come here from all over the globe to experience it. Not just for its exquisite, majestic red rock beauty but also its mysticism as exemplified by its many vortexes.
Sedona is a beautiful, 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, it illuminates from within; it stirs us in nearly intangible ways. Great artwork, whether prose, visual, performing, or musical taps our inner selves. It touches us in places no amount of cadaverous spelunking will ever find. Every human instinctively knows this. It is part of our DNA. Things beyond our comprehension can move us.
I am a skeptical pragmatic. So, I believe if aliens were to visit the earth, they would drop down on the White House lawn. Or, perhaps in Red Square, at half-time during the Superbowl rather than an isolated farmer’s field.
On a trip to Sedona with my wife many years ago, we took a vortex Jeep tour. I thought it was a pleasant way to see the sights and entertain myself with the knowledge that the concept of a vortex is bunk.
Without boring you with details, I will tell you I saw and experienced some things that day that were inexplicable. In other words, I gained a new perspective about things that are generally impossible to explain, but real enough to make a skeptic more than wonder. Maybe what I experienced was something in me, I don’t know and never will, it was just real.
Me residing in Sedona, go figure?
I will not begin to explain it, but within a few short years, I found myself moving to Sedona. Mary and I lived there for nearly two years. We met 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. Maybe I was lying to myself. 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 experience a corporate buyout take a thriving business—one that was good for employees and customers—and turns it into a hellish nightmare was beyond dispiriting. Couple that with some seriously scary health issues, and 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. This experience is especially true 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.
Are you proudly making art for money?
When I talk about embracing your authentic self and making money, I am serious. Do you struggle with being a creative source who has the unique ability to create one-of-a-kind artwork, but feel it’s wrong to make money from your efforts? If so, 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.
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 when you genuinely align your self-image, and public image is 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. You will never be made to feel you are anything, but an authentic artist — one whose work deserves respect for its unique creativity. Work offered at 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 great business, too. Make it so you make a living you deserve from creating your artwork.