Let’s talk about it, shall we?
Despite all the stupid stereotypes about artists, we are anything but lazy and unmotivated.
In fact, I think that is one of the BIGGEST MISCONCEPTIONS about artists.
It comes from the assumption that money is the driving force behind what we do. When you look at artists (or anything for that matter) from a single dimension, what you get is a shallow and superficial view. That view has no depth, it doesn’t take into account any of the other nuances that drive our decisions.
The logical fallacy goes something like this: Art is a career many people choose. A career is a path to making money. The single metric to determine success or failure in a career is money earned. And so the assumption is, that money should be the driving force behind a career or business.
Something along those lines, right?
But there’s a conflict.
Most artists are not driven by making money yet we need money to survive.
In reality, most successful entrepreneurs aren’t either but that’s another conversation. I just mention it because this “phenomena” is not restricted to artists.
The difference is artists make no attempt to hide it. We’re pretty blatant about that fact. Which makes it difficult to put us neatly in a box.
That confuses and frustrates people. Especially in a country like the United States, where much of the cultural identity centers on building wealth.
And because money clearly is not the driving force for artists, it’s tempting to put artists into the box labeled: LAZY PEOPLE WITHOUT AMBITION.
Because a career is all about making money. So if you’re not focused and driven by commerce, something is wrong with your business or with you.
If you look at an artist’s career through the filter of ‘money is the driver’, our behavior makes no sense.
If it baffles everyone else, that’s nothing compared to the confusion and contradiction among artists.
We need money.
We need money to buy our paint and canvases, yes, but more important, we need money to STAY ALIVE.
And yet within the art world, the response to making money from your art ranges from, “Artists should not dirty themselves with marketing and sales” to “If you’re not selling your work, and making 100% of your living through the sales of your original painting, you’re a hobbyist, not an Artist (with a capital A). Stop deluding yourselves.”
It reminds me of how women have been typecast. They’re either saintly virgins or manipulative, deceitful, treacherous whores. There’s very little in between.
(Harsh, I know. But it needs to be said.)
The problem is the refusal to acknowledge the gap between the ‘pure artist’ who wouldn’t degrade himself with the business of art (ugh, even that word is disgusting!) to the sellout who lost his soul the second he agreed to sell prints – (which we all KNOW is the gateway to selling t-shirts, mugs, and licensed bedsheets for $9.99 at Target).
Meanwhile, society tells us if we don’t sell our art, we’re lazy parasites.
Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
On the one hand, we need money to survive and to have a fulfilled life, yet we are told that asking for money in exchange for art is tantamount to prostitution.
No wonder artists are so messed up when it comes to making money.
No wonder we agonize over pricing, make half-hearted attempts at getting our work out, and then feel guilty for the slightest success.
No wonder we sabotage our relationships with galleries and collectors by “forgetting” to follow up after they ASKED to hear back. (Yeah, I know. You were busy in your studio).
No wonder we constantly bitch and moan about money but never do anything about it.
We are seriously messed up.
Let’s just admit it.
Because when we admit it, we can FINALLY lay our cards on the table and do something about it.
Needing money to live and using your skills to make it does not mean that you’ve sold your artistic soul to the devil. It doesn’t make you any less of an artist.
What makes you less of an artist is crossing your own boundaries.
What makes you less of an artist is not having boundaries in the first place.
If you don’t want to sell your art, and you don’t need to, then don’t. Use your advantage to speak your truth and raise other artists with you. You’re in an amazing position. Yes, I’ve heard all the trust fund jokes and snide comments about “those artists” who have no talent but get by on money. “Must be nice.”
If you want your art in the home of collectors and want to do more than scrape by. Sell your art. Discover how your art fits into the lives of the people who love it. Build the skills you need to sell your art in a way that is authentic to you or find someone who will do that for you. Selling your art won’t turn you into a bad person. It won’t make your art any less. Yes, someone somewhere will criticise you.
People do that.
Get to know yourself and your relationship with money.
Get to know yourself and your relationship with selling your art.
All that angst about money doesn’t make you a better painter. It just makes you miserable.
Get rid of it.