The fantastic thing about making art is that there are no rules. There is no one-way, there isn’t even a hundred ways. There are infinite ways. And this is what is so expansive about the whole enterprise of art making. It has to be malleable. It has to be different for everyone because every individual artist is utterly unique.
We all know art can look and be a gazillion different ways and whether you like it or not, it still falls into that big category called Art.
However in talking and listening to so many artists, it still feels like there are vestiges of limiting beliefs about the way that an artist, if she is to become successful, significant, and considered serious, should do their careers. An old school kind of a thinking… it is almost a cliché of a career path for artists. It goes something like this… no recognition early on, limited financial resources… starving for possibly years, refusing to compromise, and then possibly getting discovered by a prestigious gallery that champions your art which will leads to museum shows and significant fame and recognition possibly, but probably not, while you are alive to enjoy it.
Not only is this depressing, but it is also not how it works out for the majority of people I know who make art. It certainly hasn’t been like this for me.
Today, thankfully, surviving as an artist can look an infinite number of ways. And I say surviving to mean financially, emotionally, physically – there are a lot of challenges to pulling off a career as an artist – all doable, but a degree of stamina, endurance is required.
Artists survive financially from selling their art. But today, they also sell prints of their work, they teach, they do some art they are not as excited about that sells well to make money to afford to make art they love, they have a separate career that supports their art, some artists sell at local art fairs, some sell their work in restaurants, some in gyms, some on Facebook. Some artists make t-shirts and sell their art that way, some print their art onto products like bowls cups and scarfs. Some even make wallpaper, greeting cards and even coloring books. Some price their art ridiculously cheap as they love to make it affordable to sell it to as may people as possible, others only sell through agents or galleries charging a premium. Some barter with it, others sell it only to friends. Some don’t sell their art as all.
Do you get it? The under underlying criteria, the thing to not have any judgment about- and I am speaking to artists reading this as we all carry too much of this limited thinking about what is possible for us- is how we sell our art, and in general, how we individually survive in order to make art another day.
For years I made art for business applications…book covers, annual reports, and magazines – it is called illustration. I have made and sold prints of my work. Lots of them. I even started a company that took my art and mass-produced my art on gift products… things like trays, decorative boxes, and even paperweights.
And you know what? I loved doing all of it. I put as much of myself into all that work as I do my large abstract paintings I am currently making. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with selling your art anyway you like.
Because at the end of the day the whole point, the whole reason for creating a financial flow from sales having to do with your art is so you can keep moving closer and closer to doing exactly what you want as much of the time as you can. In other words, making art you love.
That is such a noble pursuit. So don’t let the means tarnish, at all, the results. Every day that you can afford your studio, your art supplies, your free time so that you can make your art is a tremendous accomplishment.
It is all about staying in the game. No matter what, keep going. Keep following what you already in your heart of hearts you already are, what you have always been. An artist.