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What Is It Truly Like to Be an Artist? The Truth About Success and Money


Art is a gift to the future. It nearly always outlives its creator who used it as a means of leaving a mark that says, “I was here and I saw the world this way.” — Barney Davey

Everyone is an artist of some sort and many people desire to be an artist. The reality is only a few choose to live the life of an artist. Some don’t feel the calling; others are fearful that they won’t make it. They worry before they start that their art won’t be good enough or they won’t find buyers for the art they create. Some refuse to give up their day job, which is often the right decision as they need the job to provide income and stability for themselves and their family.

While such worries are legitimate, there are many reasons to embrace living the artist’s life. You don’t have to sacrifice to be an artist. Choose what works best for you and stop worrying about what other people think. Their opinions only matter if they are paying your bills.

What It’s Like to Be an Artist?

While some artists create art for themselves, exclusively, making art for people who will buy the work is a common practice borne from a centuries-old tradition. Typically, operating a business is an essential part of being an artist. One of the biggest challenges is finding ways to make desirable art and presenting it to buyers and collectors. As such, for the majority of artists, success means getting artwork into the world so people can appreciate and buy it.

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A question that begs an answer is, “How do you sell your art?” If one is trying to get their art seen and sold, it’s a good idea to know how to get the work sold and how long it takes to get to a point of making sales regularly. Results differ from artist to artist because there are so many factors that affect the outcome of selling artwork. But one thing remains constant, which is this. Working to get one’s art seen by legitimate prospects with frequency is the best way to make sales occur predictably.

Does this sound familiar? Some days I can’t stop creating art, and other days I get so distracted by the minutiae of my life I have no time for marking art. Every business owner has distractions, but outside of artists, few of them must first conceive and create new products for every sale they make. That’s an extraordinary burden on right-brain business-challenged creators who would rather be in the studio.

The Reality of Success in the Arts.

If you desire to be an artist, in most cases, you must take risks. And you don’t have to gamble quitting your day job. But it helps to believe in the value of what you create. Your art business need not compete against your earnings in a 9-to-5 job. You can keep your day job and still be a successful artist because you determine what success as an artist means to you. That means you can decide it’s okay if you don’t sell all or even much of your work. You can decide your rewards for creating art aren’t measured on sales.

Since art is entirely subjective, it usually is best to make art you love and find buyers who agree with your vision. But the reverse is also a viable option where you intend to create art based on market demands. There is nothing wrong with taking advice on what is selling now in the marketplace. It’s inescapable anyway. We don’t live in a bubble, so influences get through even when we think we avoid acknowledging them.  

You can choose to be a commercial artist who creates art on spec. That is fulfilling the needs and design specifications of another person. Illustrators, professional photographers, graphic designers, and decorative artists are examples of artists working under wage or contract to create art on demand. If another artists makes fine art and sells only originals it does not make them more of an artist. There is no such thing. An artist is an artist. The quality and type of art can vary widely but the work always comes from the hand and mind of an artist.    

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You Can Be An Artist and Other Things Too.

Your vision of success will be unlike any other artist. What works and is good enough for you is the only measure that matters. If it is critical for your family and you to have the security that comes with a day job’s benefits and income, it has nothing to do with you being an artist or the value and quality of your work. Being an artist is not an exclusive “in or out” proposition. You can have multiple occupations and responsibilities, including being an artist all at once.

On some level, artists must take a chance on themselves and their talent. Realistically, the only way to know if one’s artwork will sell and find admirers is to give it a shot. Putting art into the world requires a level of confidence from artists in themselves and their abilities, even if they are scared to death when they try. Usually, pushing all-in is how to reach true potential and make being an artist most rewarding. It removes the doubts and endless “what if” questions that come with hesitancy. But there are no rules that going “all-in” is the only way to go.

The Reality of Money in the Arts.

Artists who go all-in must consider they will need to sell their art to survive and make a living. When and if one chooses to make a full-time go at being an artist varies. A middle-aged artist with a family has more factors to deal with than a 20-year-old living on odd jobs and Ramen. Likewise, older artists whose full-time careers are behind them have fewer obstacles in the path toward making it financially as an artist because they have less pressure to be profitable quickly.

Regardless of your situation, finding buyers for your art is part of the process. Even artists who are not selling right now need to work on their craft to make it commercially viable later. If the words “commercially viable” sound like curse words, choosing to be an extraordinarily talented amateur is an excellent option for you. Some artists rightly decide the last thing they want to do is turn their hobby into a business.

Choosing not to pursue making money and sales does not diminish the quality of one’s work or stature as an artist. Anyone who tries to argue otherwise is spouting misguided opinions that matter only to them and lunkheads like them. They have a right to their opinion but they only matter to you if you let them.

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We love overnight success stories, but mostly they are traps to avoid. Building anything worth growing takes time. It takes time to build up the talent, skills, resume, awareness, and body of work that demands attention. For every story of instant success, there is a back story that tells a different tale. It says there is more to the story than meets the eye. For each such story, 10,000 other artists build a thriving career based on hard work to realize their needs, abilities, and desires. In the end, there are no poor choices. There is only acceptance of what is and work toward what can be.

Why People Are Afraid to Live the Artist’s Life?

The artist’s life isn’t for everyone. There are many different facets to it. The creativity and craftsmanship, the business, administrative and, sales come with the art business. For some, the responsibilities of managing all these facets are too much. Others are unwilling to make the sacrifices that often come with pursuing a full-time career as a professional artist. Sacrifices don’t mean professional art careers aren’t rewarding because they are—enormously so in some cases. It’s just that not everyone is willing or capable of doing the necessary work.

How does one become successful as an artist? The truth about success and money is nearly all artists make art for the love of making art. They know that there are chances their art won’t be commercially successful. But the knowledge of the situation doesn’t stop them from trying to make it. There are always struggles, always challenges, and many laments about what could have been. Don’t feel bad if you have had such experiences and feelings because they describe most people’s lives, including those who don’t think of themselves as artists.

Life is full of ups and downs. It’s the natural ebb and flow of uncontrollable conditions that push us around. When you have balance in your life, you’ll find the high and lows are less extreme and easier to live with the results. That balance empowers you to live the artist’s life you want. When your dreams align with your goals, resources, and situation, you will find yourself living in a joyous, well-lived artist’s life.     

Why We Should Encourage People to Live the Artist’s Life

You can live your life in style and comfort while becoming the artist you want to be. You will never need to feel like a failure because you keep a 9-to-5 job as your main income source. You can keep your day job but it’s worth saying that earning a living from your creativity is indescribably awesome. If your goal is to create great things, and if you turn your passion into a thriving business, you can enjoy great freedom—the freedom to do what you love with your schedule.

For some, being an artist defines them. It’s not a matter of how much success and sales they make. It is about seeing the world through the eyes of an artist and interpreting what they see.  They know the world will not end if they don’t sell anything now or ever. It’s not that they don’t want to sell their art, it’s a matter of having the skills and desire to make it happen.

For others, living the artist’s life is not about living up to the goal of becoming rich from being an artist. They instinctively know the right attitude and actions are what frees them to pursue other things besides making art. Their diversified attention does not make them less an artist.

The reasons to encourage people to live the artist’s life are many. The thrill and expression of creativity. The chance to evoke thoughts, feelings, and actions and the opportunity to wield influence are powerful drivers. Making money, gaining fame, and creating a legacy are all valid reasons to be an artist.

Conclusion

Once you understand the benefits and other potential obstacles that come with living the artist’s life, it’s time to act. Are you ready to take steps and commit to doing what’s best for yourself, your family, and your career? If so, you should join the Art Marketing Toolkit Project.

The project is a platform for learning all about marketing art. But it’s also a forum for an exchange of ideas, a place to find like-minded artists where one gets support. It is a judgment-free zone where you are encouraged not just to figure out what living the artist’s life means to you but, more importantly, to find ways to make living your best artist’s life into reality.

The fact that joining the Art Marketing Toolkit is only $4.99 per month with no contract lets you know it is an artist-friendly community that wants you to succeed at living your artist’s life on your terms as it should be. You choose what that means for you. We are here to help you fulfill your dreams by making intelligent choices and living in a state of being where your art-life, dream-work balance stays in alignment.

We wish you to make art and live the artist’s life you want. We seek to support, encourage, and help you enjoy a balanced well-lived artist’s life. Check us out because our plan is to give artists a good deal. When you join you have virtually nothing to lose and so much to gain. I cordially invite you to join us and experience the benefits of belonging to the Art Marketing Toolkit Project for yourself.

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Get your free checklist. All help. No pitch.

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